Welcoming the 2017 INSPYs Judges

Now that the advisory board is (nearly) done with the task of shortlisting the books nominated in the 2016 INSPY Awards, the advisory board is pleased to introduce you to our 2017 panels of judges. We now hand the job of choosing the winning novel over to them. The INSPY Advisory Board thanks each and every applicant for their enthusiasm and is thrilled to announce the judges for 2017. The shortlists  are coming your way. They will be announced on April 30! Once our judges receive their respective books, they then have the task of narrowing the list from five novels to the one worthy of the 2017 INSPY in each category.

We enthusiastically welcome these judges and thank them for their time and service.

Contemporary Romance / Romantic Suspense Judges

Becky Ritta is a thirty-something single girl from small town Nebraska. She’s been a voracious reader ever since the moment she realized c-a-t spelled “cat.” By day, she teaches journalism and manages the website and social media accounts for a Christian high school. By night, she reads, blogs, experiments with gluten free baking, and binge watches ’90s TV shows. Becky began blogging on MySpace back in 2006; in 2008 she moved over to Christian Chick’s Thoughts  and posted her first book review. She loves interacting with authors and other book lovers, and her favorite part of reviewing is discovering great new (or new-to-her) authors.

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Karen Weido, Ting’s Mom Books, fantasizes about a place where her task list only includes sitting in the sunshine and reading books. But since that is not a reality, she spends her days juggling wife and mom duties while squeezing in books any chance she can. Karen has been writing Christian fiction reviews since early 2014, and loves discovering new authors and characters. Outside of her blog, you can find Karen on her other addiction – Instagram. There she shares her adventures with her husband, two children, one dog, and lots of books. Karen and her family live in South Arkansas.

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Bree Herron is the blogger of Bibliophile Reviews. A mom to a young daughter and a student working on her second Bachelors, Bree finds reading to be her relaxation. Books are a source of inspiration and happiness, giving her mind a break from the studying, and every day life. A passion for reading is one that Bree intends to hand down to her daughter, books are the future of our present.


 Historical Romance Judges

Annie LOVES books – the look, the feel, the smell and the words. She’s an avid reader turned blogger reviewer. She dabbled at sharing her thoughts on her blog, Just Commonly for years (very sporadically), and only since 2015 have she focused on reviewing what she loves best, BOOKS! A widely known book nerd, once you get her started on a book, she might talk your ear off until you just had to get your own copy. She’s a big fan of all Christian fiction, as well as books in the Young Adult, Middle Grade and even Kids Fiction genre. She’ll test out recipes from cookbooks and share thoughts from biographies to books on nutrition, spiritual help or just any book that struck her fancy. Being a speed reader, she’s happy to be able to immerse herself in more books than normal. Next to reading, her other interests includes spending time with friends and family, eating and somehow challenge her non-existent athletic abilities to improve (tremendously) her tennis and golf game.

Annie is proud to be one of the founding stewards of the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat. Christian Fiction Readers Retreat (CFRR) is a one day event gathering of Christian Fiction readers and authors, 2016 being its inaugural year. The event’s theme is “Honoring God through Christian Fiction” and will feature speaker sessions, author panels, breakout sessions, prayer & worship and author signings.

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Maggie Boyd has been an avid reader since the second grade when she discovered the riveting Billy and Blaze books. She found out about Inspirational romance in seventh grade and has been hooked ever since. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two sons and when she isn’t reading she is often writing about reading at either Heroes and Heartbreakers or All About Romance.  The things she looks for in a novel are originality, whimsy and a soul deep connection between the hero and heroine.

Maggie is an active member of her church Care Ministry team as well as being part of the meals ministry. The book she has read cover to cover most often is the Bible and she collects prayer journals and bible studies at an alarming rate.

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Beth Erin is a Christian fiction enthusiast, book reviewer, and blogger. She strives to edify and connect with readers and authors through her blog and on social media. Beth is passionate about promoting authors and their entertaining, encouraging, and redemptive stories.

Beth lives with her husband and their four children in a close-knit rural southern Illinois farming community. They love their laid back lifestyle and small country church family. When she isn’t reading, Beth enjoys indulging in a favorite show or movie with her family, completing DIY projects with her husband, and seeing the country on long family road trips. She blogs at Faithfully Bookish.


General Fiction Judges

Kristi Morgan works in retail management but my passion is reading. I have been reading since before I started kindergarten and always have a book with me. I love to blog about the books I’ve read and will talk books with anyone who will listen. I live in Indiana with my husband of 23 years and our spoiled rotten Sheltie and two equally spoiled cats.
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Carrie Schmidt is an avid reader, book reviewer, story addict, KissingBooks fan, book boyfriend collector, and cool aunt. She loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Carrie lives in Kentucky with her husband Eric and their quirky dog Zuzu and is a co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers’ Retreat. She blogs at Reading is my Superpower.
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Alyssa Washburn is born and raised in the West, but Southern at heart. Alyssa currently lives in the mountains of Northern California amidst Gold Rush country and former Maidu and Miwok territory. She began her reading journey with Nancy Drew and the Lord of the Rings at an early age, and never turned back. Alyssa also loves to write, classic films, music and all things vintage. She’s also very involved in her church as a Sunday School Teacher. She has a passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Pro-Life Movement, Politics, Personal Freedom, and an advocate against Human Sex Trafficking. Alyssa is also an amateur Genealogist and has found her ancestry to have everything and the kitchen sink. Her stories are a mixture of truth and happily ever afters because this world could use more happily ever afters.

Literature for Young People Judges

Katie is an avid book lover who can never seem to have enough books. The stacks around the house prove it. Along with reading, Katie has been blogging for 5 years about Christian Fiction at Too2017 Judge Katie Read or Not Too Read and can’t wait for another 5 years. Reading hasn’t always been easy, having been diagnosed with dyslexia, but with a determined teacher-mother and 8 years of homeschooling, Katie was able to graduate high school with a college reading level. Now in her early 30’s, she has a preteen daughter to share the love of reading with. Along with blogging, Katie is a library assistant. Books are in every aspect of life!

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2017 INSPYs Judge RachelRachel is a stay at home mom who LOVES to read. She enjoys good (clean) books of all kinds. However, she has a soft spot for historical fiction. There is something magical that can only be found between the covers a book. Her desire is to share that piece of magic with you.

Rachel has been reviewing books since 2014 and simply adores being immersed in the bookish world. Her husband and 2 beautiful children are her life and joy. Among the 500 things she does a day, she somehow still finds time to read. She blogs at Bookworm Mama.

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Tressa has been an avid reader her whole life. She grew up listening to her parents read the classics, which started her love for story-book worlds, especially the various challenges of characters and their happily-ever-after endings. She blogs about her love of books at Wishful Endings and is a tour co-host at Prism Book Tours. Outside of blogging, she’s active in her church, a total Marvel geek, Austen lover, has way too many hobbies, and enjoys hanging with the family (husband, four kiddos, and pup).


Mystery / Thriller Judges

Elizabeth Olmedo loves all things books. Whether reading or writing, she spends most of her waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours lost deep in the world of fiction, especially if they belong to the mystery, suspense, and/or romance genres. To feed her addiction, Elizabeth reviews books for Fiction Addict and Radiant Lit, as well as on her personal blog.

Elizabeth lives in Spain with her dog, Ari, and works as a freelance writer, editor, and social media specialist. When she isn’t reading, Elizabeth also enjoys writing, watching movies, and cooking (often while listening to an audiobook).

You can connect with Elizabeth on Facebook and Twitter, or find her on Eli’s Novel Reviews.

___________Jessica Baker

Jessica Baker is an avid reader from Cooperstown, NY. When she’s not busy working as a mortgage lender, wife and mother, she runs A Baker’s Perspective blog. It is here that she shares her love of books with others. Jessica is the leader of the young youth group at church and enjoys spending time with her church family.

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Born only a few miles from where Jesse James robbed his first train, Rachel Kovaciny has loved the Old West all her life. She now lives in Virginia with her husband and their three homeschooled children. In her free time, Rachel writes, reads, blogs, bakes, watches movies, and daydreams.

 


Speculative Fiction Judges

Ian Acheson’s debut novel, Angelguard, is available in the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK. This is the first release in the Angelguard Chronicles, a series of speculative fiction novels that explore the interconnection of the spiritual and physical worlds and the power of prayer. Ian reads a lot, and a lot, and a lot more. He reads widely in fiction, non-fiction, magazines, web and newspapers. He’s been telling and writing stories for most of his life since early childhood.

When Ian’s not writing he’s a professional strategy consultant having been in the Corporate world for the past 25 years. He brings some of this experience into his stories. He’s lives in Sydney, Australia, and shares life with his wife, Fiona, two adult sons and one gorgeous daughter-in-law. In addition, they have two adored dogs that keep them active. This will be Ian’s third year as an INSPY judge and he’s excited about getting his hands on the shortlisted finalists.

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Michelle R. Wood is a professional freelancer in theatre and web development. Her education included studies in Theatre and English, including classes in London and an internship with Walt Disney World. When not working backstage or on a computer, she continues to enjoy reading, a habit she learned at a tender age from her bookworm mother. Michelle’s personal musings and book reviews can be found at her blog, Distractions of Grandeur (www.woodmr.net/blog). She is honoured and excited to return as a judge in the speculative fiction category for her fourth time.

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Meagan Myhren-Bennett developed an early love of reading growing up in a family where books were the gift of choice. And when you move often books quickly become one of your best friends. This love was the perfect excuse to become both a reviewer and a librarian.

When not at the library, she can be found at home, which is a small farm in rural Northwest Central Wisconsin, spending time with her family or reading with some of the family’s 15 dogs, of which 13 are dachshunds who   

Meagan also leads the Page Turner’s Book Discussion Group in Bloomer, which is a monthly themed book club  Where she’s more than willing to help other readers discover her favourite authors.

This is Meagan’s third time serving as an INSPY judge and another great excuse to pick up her next great read. You can connect with her on her blog Blooming with Books, Facebook, or Twitter.

Judging Applications for the 2017 INSPY Awards are Now Open!

Not only are we turning the page on a new month – happy March 1st! – we’re thrilled to announce the 2017 INSPYs judging applications are now open. Bloggers, you can now apply to be a 2017 judge! We’re so excited you share an interest in the Inspy’s with us. Without you, this program wouldn’t work and we value your time, enthusiasm, individual perspective and dedication to these awards for the month-and-a-half you will be reading and critiquing the shortlisted novels with fellow judges. Before applying, we do ask that you carefully consider what is involved in judging and understand what you are agreeing to.

We have some upfront simple criteria that must be met:

• You must be a blogger.
• You must provide a link to a recent book review you’ve written.
• You must agree to our statement of faith. We are looking for judges who are people of the Christian faith.
• You must be willing to obtain all of the books if necessary.
• You must agree to read all five shortlisted books by June 14 and participate in an online discussion with the other judges to determine the winner.
• You agree not to blog/tweet/Facebook about the shortlisted books as you are reading them or discussing them. After the winners are announced, you are welcome to blog about them.

The judging for the INSPYs takes place in two stages.

First Stage Once the period for book nominations has closed, the INSPYs Advisory Board will review the nominations and create a shortlist for each category of five books each.  This will be a collaborative process and every effort will be made to read at least a sampling of every book nominated.

Second Stage The shortlists will then be passed onto the preselected judges.  All judges must be bloggers with some book reviewing experience.  These judges will consider the books and select the winner.

For more information on who and what we will be looking for in a judge and the application form, please visit our 2017 application page to apply.

We are so excited to find a fabulous panel of judges and look forward to working with you!

We will accept applications (via the application form) through March 31, 2017. Judges will be announced April 15, 2017 (and shortlists will be announced April 30).

Presenting the 2017 INSPY Longlists

Hello fellow readers, blogger and authors. Before we announce the 2017 longlists, we first want to recap our year so far. First we welcomed our newest board member, Kara and then announced the inclusion of INDIE novels to our nomination process. Like last year, the following nomination process applied to each of our seven categories.

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.

Due to insufficient nominations or ineligibility, some categories fall short of the requisite 15 novels.

From the lists below, the Advisory Board will be narrowing these respective lists down to five books per category which will become our 2017 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

A Twist of Faith (Firefly Southern Fiction) by Pepper Basham

Silence in the Dark (Revell) by Patricia Bradley

Step by Step (Tyndale) by Candace Calvert

The Wedding Shop (Zondervan) by Rachel Hauck

Just a Kiss (Thomas Nelson) by Denise Hunter

Can’t Help Falling (Howard Books) by Kara Isaac

Tell me Lies (Brown Girls Faith) by Michelle Lindo-Rice

First Crush (Bling! Romance) by Ashley Elizabeth Ludwig

Finders Keepers (Radiant Publications) by Sarah Monzon

How to Charm a Beekeeper’s Heart (White Rose Publishing) by Candice Sue Patterson

Christmas Conspiracy (Love Inspired) by Susan Sleeman

The Heart’s Hostage (Sheaf House Publishers) by Jen Stephens

Like Never Before (Bethany House) by Melissa Tagg

Her One and Only (Bethany House) by Becky Wade

You’re the One that I Want (Tyndale) by Susan May Warren

Debut Novel

Forgiven (Cerrillo Press) by Carol Ashby

Counted with the Stars (Bethany House) by Connilyn Cossette

Slender Reeds: Jochebed’s Hope (Shiloh Run Press) by Texie Susan Gregory

The Lost Generation (Elk Lake Publishing) by Erica Marie Hogan

Close to You (Howard Books) by Kara Isaac

The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (Thomas Nelson) by Celeste Fletcher McHale

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus (Tyndale) by Beth Moore

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations (WhiteFire) by V. Joy Palmer

Leaving Independence (Waterfall Press) by Leanne W. Smith

General Fiction

Land of Silence (Tyndale) by Tessa Afshar

Weighed Down (Elk Lake Publishing) by Laurie Bolden

The Feathered Bone (Thomas Nelson) by Julie Cantrell

Twilight at Blueberry Barrens (Thomas Nelson) by Colleen Coble

The Promise of Jesse Woods (Tyndale) by Chris Fabry

Forest Child (Woodhaven Press) by Heather Day Gilbert

Long Way Gone (Thomas Nelson) by Charles Martin

The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (Thomas Nelson) by Celeste Fletcher McHale

The Alliance (Tyndale) by Jolina Petersheim

Of Stillness and Storm (Thomas Nelson) by Michèle Phoenix

Nor Forsake (Presley Publishing) by Julie Presley

A Portrait of Emily Price (Thomas Nelson) by Katherine Reay

Song of Silence (Abingdon Press) by Cynthia Ruchti

Lead Me Home (Tyndale) by Amy K. Sorrells

The Things We Knew (Thomas Nelson) by Catherine West

Historical Romance

The Thorn Healer (Vinspire Publishing) by Pepper D. Basham

The Thorn Keeper (Vinspire Publishing) by Pepper D. Basham

A Flight of Arrows (WaterBrook) by Lori Benton

The Lady and the Lionheart (Mason Jar Books) by Joanne Bischof

The Ringmaster’s Wife (Thomas Nelson) by Kristy Cambron

The Cautious Maiden (Whitaker House) by Dawn Crandall

The Captive Heart (Shiloh Run Press) by Michelle Griep

Newton and Polly (WaterBrook) by Jody Hedlund

An Elegant Facade (Bethany House) by Kristi Ann Hunter

A Heart Most Certain (Bethany House) by Melissa Jaegers

– Aboard Providence (CrossRiver Media) by Keely Brooke Keith

The Sound of Emeralds (WhiteFire) by Rachelle Rea

She Walks in Power (Ransom Press) by MaryLu Tyndall

A Lady Unrivaled (Bethany House) by Roseanna M. White

The Confessions of X (Thomas Nelson) by Suzanne M. Wolfe

Literature for Young Adults

Unblemished (Thomas Nelson) by Sara Ella

The Beautiful Pretender (Thomas Nelson) by Melanie Dickerson

The Silent Songbird (Thomas Nelson) by Melanie Dickerson

A Daring Sacrifice (Zondervan) by Jody Hedlund

I’ll Be Yours (Sweet Pea Productions) by Jenny B. Jones

Forever Doon (Blink) by Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp

Gilt Hollow (Blink) by Lorie Langdon

The Glass Castle (Shiloh Run Press) by Trisha White Priebe

One Paris Summer (Blink) by Denise Grover Swank

Siren’s Song (Thomas Nelson) by Mary Weber

Mystery/Thriller

If I Run (Zondervan) by Terri Blackstock

The Domino Effect (Bethany House) by Davis Bunn

Deep Shadows (Harvest House) by Vanetta Chapman

Dressed for Death (Bethany House) by Julianna Deering

Always Watching (Revell) by Lynette Eason

The Waves Break Gray (Running Girl Prodcutions) by Sibella Giorello

Tangled Webs (Revell) by Irene Hannon

Missing (Revell) by Lisa Harris

Conspiracy of Silence (Bethany House) by Ronie Kendig

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder (Harvest House) by Rachel McMillan

A Lesson in Love and Murder (Harvest House) by Rachel McMillan

Fatal Frost (Bethany House) by Nancy Mehl

When Death Draws Near (Thomas Nelson) by Carrie Stuart Parks

Cold Shot (Bethany House) by Dani Pettrey

The Progeny (Howard Books) by Tosca Lee

Speculative Fiction

Seasons of Glory (Blink) by Lisa T. Bergren

Light of the Last (Multnomah) by Chuck Black

The Shattered Vigil (Bethany House) by Patrick W. Carr

The Calling (Tyndale) by Rachelle Decker

Accelerant (Enclave) by Ronie Kendig

Merchant of Alyss (Revell) by Thomas Locke

Rebirth (Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing) by Amy Brock McNew

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer (Thomas Nelson) by James L. Rubart

Beast (Enclave) by Chawna Schroeder

A Branch of Silver, A Branch of Gold (Rooglewood Press) by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Far and Near (David C. Cook) by Amanda G. Stevens

King’s Folly (Bethany House) by Jill Williamson


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 2016.

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

Year Seven! INSPYs 2017 Nominations are Now Open

inspys-com-winter-nomination-featureHello, INSPY readers. The advisory board is excited to open year seven of the INSPY Awards, a program for the bloggers’ “best in fiction” award is welcoming a new year and opening the nominations for 2017.

The Inspys were created to select and showcase books with the highest literary standards that grapple with the Christian faith and were designed to help readers in their search for the preeminent faith-inspired literature of today.  This program is organized and judged by book bloggers who have considerable experience and knowledge of books published for both the CBA, general and INDIE markets.

If you haven’t nominated a book in the past year, please note, we’ve made a significant change to our nomination process. For you, the nominator, the rules remain the same, only difference you’ll note is the lack of a publicized long list. This is because the advisory board will be collecting our long list from the top 15 nominated novels in each category. So, even if you know someone else has nominated your favorite read of 2016 or you’re certain it’s already been nominated, go ahead and add your voice because that nomination could be the 15th vote that gets the book into the top fifteen.

Once the task of the top 15 is calculated and complete, we will publicize our long list, which will be then narrowed down to five books and from there, the same judging process will apply. For more information on the changes, please refer to our announcement post.

Please read through our Nominating Refresher post, and the nomination rules before nominating.

The dates of eligibility include books published in print between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016. If a print book was released as an ebook prior to 2016, it is ineligible.

Books may be nominated in any of the following categories:

Debut Novel

General Fiction

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

Historical Romance

Speculative Fiction

Mystery & Thriller

Literature for Young Adults

For more detailed description of categories please see the Revised Nomination Categories. If you’d like to read more about the nominating process, read our blog post with some tips on nominating the right books in their best categories. Pull out those lists and let’s begin!

The deadline to nominate a book is January 16. Winners of the seventh annual INSPY awards will be announced June 28, 2017.

To stay up to date with all things INSPYs follow along with us on Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Goodreads

Or email us with any questions: inspyawards@gmail.com

We look forward to your nominations. Besides nominating the best in faith-driven literature, another way to help today is to spread the word — blog about the INSPYs, tell your friends.inspy nominations

 

INSPYs 2017 | Nominating Changes and Reminders

INSPYs 2017 Nomination ChangesGood afternoon, readers. Today we have an amendment to our nomination process to announce and some helpful reminders to reiterate.

Earlier this month, we announced one of the changes to our Advisory Board. We said goodbye to a longtime board member, Stacy Millican and welcomed new member, Kara Boone. You can read more about this in our official statement.

Today we’re addressing new nomination changes. This year we are integrating Indie novels into our nomination process. We’re excited to open our nominations to the talented publishing world of independent novels, which has experienced rapid growth. Same as with all of our categories and nominations, there are some rules we ask nominators to apply to their nominations.

Rules Specific to INDIE Novels:

+ In order to be eligible for nomination, an INDIE novel must have a minimum 50 reviews on Goodreads.

+ INDIE books must have a four-star rating average on Goodreads.

+ The popular vote rule still applies; the top 15 novels from each category will constitute our longlists.

As an overview reminder, here is our book criteria (which applies to ALL nominations).

-The book must have been published in print in the United States between January 1st, 2016 and December 31st, 2016. Print books that were first released as eBooks prior to 2016 are ineligible.

-Reissues and eBooks are not eligible.

-The book must possess exceptional literary qualities including but not limited to: innovative, original writing, and depth of characterization.

-The book must respectfully grapple with some element of the Christian faith.

-The book must not have excessive profanity or explicit sex scenes.

Our categories are as follows:

Debut Novel: A debut novel (by a debut author) from any of the categories that is of exemplary literary quality. Unlike other categories, debut novels will be judged by the Advisory Board. Debut novels may also be nominated in their respective categories.

General Fiction: Realistic stories set in historical or contemporary settings that do not have plots with a central romance. This category may include literary and women’s fiction.

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense: The romance category encompasses all romantic contemporary and suspense subgenres, with the exception of speculative romance. In order to be classified as a contemporary romance, the novel must be set in 1960 to the present. The plot must have a central love story that commonly ends in a happily ever after.

Historical Romance: Any novel set prior to 1960 that includes a plot with a central love story usually ending in a happily ever after. May include elements of suspense and includes all subgenres, such as biblical fiction.

Speculative Fiction: A story with fantastical elements (this includes science fiction, fantasy, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, magical mysticism and alternate history). Middle grade and up.

Mystery & Thriller: Fast paced, action driven stories or mysteries, usually with a clearly defined hero against an evil villain. Includes cozy mysteries, police procedurals, legal thrillers, detective stories, gothic mysteries, historical mysteries, espionage, suspense, crime fiction, psychological thrillers, medical thrillers, and political thrillers.

Literature for Young Adults: Fiction books of any genre, with the exception of speculative fiction, written with a target audience of 13- to 19-year-olds.

You may nominate an Indie novel in any of the seven categories listed above. We ask that you please make note of the following criteria before nominating.

Below are a few reminders and refreshers which apply to ALL nominations. Please read through them carefully before you nominate your favorite books on December 27th.

+ When nominating a Debut Novel, please remember, this category is set aside for first-time authors. You can discover an author’s first publication by visiting their respective website or Goodreads page.

+ We reserve the right to move a book to a different category if we deem its nomination is in an inappropriate category.

+ Every nominator is allowed only one book per category.

+ Same as with INDIE novels, the popular vote rule is still in effect no matter the book; the top 15 novels from each category will constitute our longlists.

Nominations open December 27th. We look forward to discovering the books you loved in 2016.

INSPYs 2017 | Advisory Board Changes

INSPYs.com 2017
2017 begins the seventh year for the INSPYs Awards. Seven years ago, this journey began with a group of talented bloggers who led the way for so many of us in this blogging community.

As we roll towards December, the 2017 awards are entering a new season. This means changes accompany the start of a new year. One of these changes is bittersweet.

It’s with a sense of regret and gratefulness we adjust to saying goodbye to one of our veteran board members. The Advisory Board loses a champion in Stacy Millican. We graciously thank Stacy for her years of service and enthusiastic insight, and most of all, for sharing these talents with us. We wish her all the best as she focuses on personal commitments and pursues other projects.

On the heels of this goodbye, we are pleased to welcome new board member, Kara Boone. Kara has been a tireless champion of authors, fiction and book blogging since 2012. Her blog, Flowers of Quiet Happiness, is a testament to her vibrant personality and love of this community. We welcome Kara with excitement, and look forward to the perspective and valuable wisdom she will bring to the Advisory Board.

You can read more about Kara on our Advisory Board page. Please join us in welcoming her.

We will also be making nomination changes. An official announcement will be made in the coming weeks.

2016 INSPY Award Winners

INSPYs 2016-INSPY Winners Feature

Following careful consideration, our incredible judging panels chose the 2016 INSPYs award winners in our seven respective categories. Following months of reading (by the Advisory Board and later, our judging panels), planning, author interviews and emails in access, the INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce the 2016 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…


CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE / ROMANTIC SUSPENSEBook - The Dandelion Field

The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer: In a category full of wonderful contemporary romances, we had a tough choice to make! Ultimately though, The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer stood out from the rest with its character growth and true-to-life issues as well as the author’s expressive way with words. Each character in the story was intriguing – from Gin and her daughter Raine, to firefighter Dan and Raine’s boyfriend Cody, to Dan’s big crazy family, Cody’s mom Evie, and even Gin’s coworkers. The romance between Dan and Gin was sweet and built slowly (but not too slowly), and the obstacles between them felt genuine, rather than just thrown in to create conflict. The relationship between Cody and Raine also felt real and sincere. Throughout this novel, Springer deftly dealt with true-to-life issues like single parenthood, teen pregnancy, poverty, and judgment within the church, showing how God can work through the hard things in life to bring healing and beauty. Really, that “realness” is what makes The Dandelion Field a perfect expression of the Inspy Awards’ mission statement, and it’s why we chose it for the 2016 award for Contemporary Romance.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KATHRYN SPRINGER

DEBUT FICTION

JadedJaded by Varina Denman: Representing the best in debut fiction, Varina Denman’s Jaded is a complex contemporary novel that goes against the security most in its genre exhibit. The faith issues it wrestles with, the efficient snapshot of small-town living, and the quiet yet meaningful prose collide to create a story with depth. The romance is refreshing, not because of the opposition it presents, but because of the characters. Its heroine, Ruthie is a beautifully flawed and relatable character, whose fall from grace makes the lessons of forgiveness impacting, a theme that will stay with the reader long after the final page.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH VARINA DENMAN

GENERAL FICTION

Book - Secrets She KeptOur panel chose Secrets She Kept as winner of the General Fiction INSPY award for its deep emotional impact and for the subtly powerful way its theme of forgiveness is threaded into the story. We loved the way the dual timelines interwove and built on each other as secrets from the past were gradually revealed to modern day characters and to readers. Gohlke’s vivid storytelling and close attention to historical detail immersed us in the historical time period with Lieselotte, even as we discovered with Hannah just how profound an impact the past can have on the present. We found the lead characters endearing, and gladly cheered them on – Hannah toward self-discovery and a better understanding of her mother, and Lieselotte in her perseverance in following her conscience despite danger, betrayal, and hardship. The story as a whole impressed us all, and we are delighted to give the INSPY to this title.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CATHY GOHLKE

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Through-Waters-DeepThrough Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin: Through Waters Deep was an inspiring story about two individuals who learn that they’re stronger together while trusting in God than they are going it alone. Loveable characters, some suspense and danger, an historical setting the comes alive, sweet inspirational moments, and a romance that builds from friendship, all combine to make a masterly woven story that is engaging from beginning to end. Perfect for Historical Christian Romance readers!Book - An Uncertain Choice

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH SARAH SUNDIN

LITERATURE FOR YOUNG ADULTS

An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund: An Uncertain Choice stands out with a breathlessly tangible medieval setting, vividly described characters that are constructed in such a way that invites readers to know them better with every page. The writing, the characters, and the romance; every nook and cranny of An Uncertain Choice was flawless! Every page is a masterpiece of relatable storytelling as expressed through its impactful POV. Beyond its beautiful prose, An Uncertain Choice boasts a delicious romance, with three dreamy and chivalrous knights (!).The novel has everything and more any reader could want in the YA historical, or any fictional world, genre!

Book - The Bones will SpeakMYSTERY / THRILLER

The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks: We chose The Bones Will Speak because it draws readers in from the very beginning. Opening a suspense novel should involve a riveting and twisting plot that will hold reader’s attention until the final page. The Bones Will Speak provided just that. Its suspense is top notch, but the main character Gwen Marcey is what keeps us flipping the pages. The nail-biting suspense keeps readers engaged and the shroud of mystery surrounding the real culprit keeps the whodunit a guessing game. Fine writing, complex characterization and a great story make this book a winner.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CARRIE STUART PARKS

SPECULATIVE FICTION

9780764213465The Shock of Night by Patrick Carr: This novel seamlessly combined the best of fantasy and mystery to create a unique story all its own. The complex tale described a world very much like our own: a nation grown complacent in its undeserved blessings, flawed characters who sometimes failed despite their good intentions, and yet, also, the redemptive work of God through his servants. The protagonist is a man mired by doubts and fears but unbroken by the darkness around and within him. Instead, he pours his heart out in honest, broken prayer, and takes the example of his Lord to heart by striving against the odds to bring good into a world that often does not recognize it. Engulfing twists, delightful wit, and authentic discussions of tough moral quandaries make The Shock of the Night a book not to be missed.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK W. CARR


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! 

A Conversation with Zachary Bartels

INSPYs 2016-Zachary Bartels Feature

Our second interview today welcomes author, Zachary Bartels. Zachary has been shortlisted in previous INSPY awards and this year, his novel The Last Con (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Mystery/Thriller category.

Today, Zachary shares inspiration for The Last Con as well as the most challenging factor of writing in the mystery genre. (Can you believe tomorrow we announce the 2016 winners!?)


Former con man Fletcher Doyle is finally home after six years in the pen. He’s working a menial job, regaining his bearings in the world, and trying to revive his relationships with his wife and Book - The Last Contwelve-year-old daughter. No easy feat.

But when Fletcher and his family go on a mission trip to Detroit—in the company of the condescending church leader who also happens to be his landlord—Fletcher finds his old life waiting for him. Within hours of arriving in the city, he’s been blackmailed into doing a job for a mysterious criminal who calls himself The Alchemist.

A series of relics hidden by the Knights of Malta, as ancient as they are priceless, are in the sights of The Alchemist. What he needs is a gifted grifter with a background in ecclesiastical history . . . what he needs is Fletcher Doyle.

Between hiding his reawakened criminal life from his wife and trying to hide her from their relentless landlord, Fletcher is ready to give up. But when his family is drawn into the dangerous world he can’t shake, Fletcher is forced to rely on his years in the game to save the only people who mean more to him than the biggest con in history. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH ZACHARY BARTELS

INSPYs: What inspired The Last Con?

I’ve always been interested in con men and grifters as long as I can remember. Books like Catch Me If You Can, TV shows like White Collar, and movies like The Sting and Oceans Eleven have always entertained the heck out of me and maybe ten years ago, I started reading about the real grifters of the 1920s and ’30s, who really lived these lives that sound cartoonish on one level, but were really an empty veneer of deception covering over something so complex. Fascinating stuff!

The kernel of the story that became The Last Con came from a jail visit I made about a dozen years ago. Having done some prison ministry, I was used to being frisked, grilled, marched through metal detectors, etc. But once I presented my ordination certificate at the jail and got on the chaplain’s approved list to visit inmates, I was allowed to waltz right in and out without any of that. It got me thinking, what if there was a guy who used this loophole to run a business, smuggling items and information in and out of the jail? That role became the character Dante. From there, the rest of the crew sort of filled in themselves: Fletcher the brains, Happy the techie, Andrew the mentor, Marcus the muscle, and Meg who was just caught in the middle of it all.

With Playing Saint, I had woven in the characters from a screenplay I’d written, called The Jesuits. They were these Vatican agents operating in the shadows, searching for a hidden church relic. The publisher wanted a similar conspiracy/relic/secret society element for this book and I had been reading a lot about the Knights of Malta, so I decided to try bringing them together. Honestly, I can’t believe how easily and tightly these different elements all came together into one story, spanning centuries and continents, and yet the entire modern day story line taking place in Detroit over the course of four days.

Zachary's Study at his church, Judson Baptist Church.

Zachary’s Study at his church, Judson Baptist Church.

INSPYs: What are some of the challenges/benefits of writing suspense?

One of the greatest challenges of writing suspense, for me, is that I love reading stories that take their time developing characters and slowly-but-relentlessly unfold the conflict. With suspense, however, readers (or at least editors) expect more or less nonstop tension, nail-biting, and edge-of-the-seat sitting from the get-go. I have to force myself to write that way to meet the expectations of  the market. At the end of the day, however, it  works, so I’m not complaining.

As far as benefits, my favorite thing about writing suspense is to hear from readers that they were up till 2 AM reading, unable to put the book down because they had to know what happened next and how the story resolved. It’s humbling, but also the opposite of the humbling to be able to have that kind of an effect on someone, using only a story. Maybe because of this total buy-in from the reader, I find that suspense is also a great vehicle for introducing spiritual themes for readers to wrestle with.

Zachary's office coffee bar - a writer has to stay caffeinated!

Zachary’s office coffee bar – a writer has to stay caffeinated!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What Are You Listening? Andy Mineo’s “Uncomfortable” album, The Moth Radio Hour, ’90s Alternative Pandora station, and the Happy Rant Podcast.

+What are you watching right now? Rehab Addict, Better Call Saul, Voltron: Legendary Defender (with my son), New Girl (with my wife), Turn, Brooklyn Nine Nine, and binge-watching Grounded for Life on Netflix.

+ What are you reading? Tesla: Inventor of the Electric Age by W. Bernard Carlson, Unashamed by Lecrae Moore, Broken: Seven ‘Christian’ Rules Every Christian Should Break by Jonathan Fisk, and With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray.


Thank you so much for joining our author interview series, Zachary. It was a pleasure to learn more about the inspiration of your novel (all great inspirations!), and to read about the challenges of writing in this genre.

ABOUT THE AUTHORZachary Bartels

Called “the suspense author everyone is talking about” by Family Fiction Edge magazine, Zachary Bartels is the author of critically acclaimed supernatural thrillers. An award-winning preacher and Bible teacher, Zachary has been serving as pastor of Judson Baptist Church in Lansing, Michigan, for ten years. He enjoys film, fine cigars, stimulating conversation, gourmet coffee, reading, writing, and cycling.

His debut novel, Playing Saint, has been called an “intrigue-filled thriller” (Library Journal) and “a page-turner from the very beginning . . . gripping and realistic” (RT Book Reviews). His newest book, The Last Con (HarperCollins Christian Fiction, 2015) has met early positive reviews. He lives in the capital city of a mitten-shaped Midwestern state with his wife Erin and their son.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Katie Ganshert

INSPYs 2016-Katie Ganshert FeatureAs we come down to the final hours before the INSPYs 2016 winners are announced (Tuesday!), today we welcome Katie Ganshert. A multi-genre author who made the jump to Indie and YA fiction last year, Katie’s novel The Art of Losing Yourself (WaterBrook Press) is on the 2016 shortlist in the General Fiction category.

Katie shares more on the inspiration of The Art of Losing Yourself, and the challenges/benefits of writing organically incorporated faith. Plus, she’s a Gilmore Girls fan!


Every morning, Carmen Hart pastes on her made-for-TV smile and broadcasts the weather. She’s the Florida panhandle’s favorite meteorologist, married to everyone’s favorite high Book - The Art of Losing Yourselfschool football coach. They’re the perfect-looking couple, live in a nice house, and attend church on Sundays. From the outside, she’s a woman who has it all together. But on the inside, Carmen Hart struggles with doubt. She wonders if she made a mistake when she married her husband. She wonders if God is as powerful as she once believed. Sometimes she wonders if He exists at all. After years of secret losses and empty arms, she’s not so sure anymore.

Until Carmen’s sister—seventeen year old runaway, Gracie Fisher—steps in and changes everything. Gracie is caught squatting at a boarded-up motel that belongs to Carmen’s aunt, and their mother is off on another one of her benders, which means Carmen has no other option but to take Gracie in. Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole? – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KATIE GANSHERT

What inspired The Art of Losing Yourself?

This doesn’t usually happen for me, but it was a passage of Scripture—from Ezekiel 37. It’s when the Lord gives Ezekiel a vision, and shows him a valley filled with dry bones. And then the Lord asks, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I was so very struck by the passage and the question, and of course, God’s response. So struck, I wanted to tell a story about God’s ability to breath the dead back to life. In the Art of Losing Yourself, that dead thing happens to be a marriage, a derelict motel, and a woman’s faith.

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

Well, for this book, incorporating faith into the story was relatively easy, as the entire theme revolves around the main character’s faith, or lack thereof. I think the biggest challenge is making sure the faith-element arises organically from the characters and the story, instead of making it this painted-on thing just because the genre demands it. The benefits are numerous! Namely, hearing from readers who have been encouraged in their faith after reading the story. And, of course, being encouraged in my own faith as I seek God and His truth while writing the story.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

What are you listening to?

Katie Ganshert TBR

Katie’s TBR pile.

Mostly, Bible kid songs. We have a Jesus Loves Me soundtrack that plays on repeat wherever we go because my daughter loves it and it’s good for her to try to sing familiar songs, as she has a severe speech delay. Music aside, I love audio books, and am currently listening to Kate Morton’s The Lake House.

What are you watching?

A conglomeration of things—nothing new. We don’t have cable, but we do have Netflix and Amazon Prime. Right now, I’m watching Gilmore Girls and when I’m in the mood for a laugh, The Office. I’ve already watched both.

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

(See Picture) I’m reading 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult. It’s my first Picoult book and so far, I’m enjoying it. I’m also reading Forgotten God by Francis Chan. And up next is Becky Wade’s newest—Her One and Only.


Thank you so much for joining us today, Katie! We enjoyed learning more about the inspiration of The Art of Losing Yourself, and discovering what’s on your TBR.

ABOUT THE AUTHORKatie Ganshert

Award-winning author, Katie Ganshert, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her family. When she’s not busy penning novels or spending time with her people, she enjoys drinking coffee with friends, reading great literature, and eating copious amounts of dark chocolate.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Susan May Warren

INSPYs 2016-Susan May Warren Feature

Happy Saturday, INSPYs readers. Today we welcome the award-winning talents of Susan May Warren. Susan has been shortlisted in previous INSPY awards and this year, her novel The Wonder of You (Tyndale House) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense category.

Today, Susan shares about the inspiration of The Wonder of You as well as the most challenging factor of writing a closely-connected familial series. (Plus Ross Poldark makes a cameo.)


Mortified after her year abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough to embrace the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she Book - The Wonder of Youexpects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her place mean leaving home behind? – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN MAY WARREN

INSPYs: What inspired you to write The Wonder of You?

This story, and in particular, the heroine, Amelia was inspired by my beautiful daughter Sarah!  Sarah signed up for a semester in Prague. . .but when she got there, she realized that she was really a Baggins at heart – she didn’t want to leave the Shire, aka, our small town, or at least the safety of Minnesota.  This became a soul-wrenching experience as I watched her wrestle with her fears versus her dreams of seeing the world.  It became the basis for the story question:  What happens when you discover you’re not the person you thought you were?  More, she had disappointed herself… What happens when you fail yourself?  We often deal with characters failing others – like their parents, or their spouse, but failing yourself can be a much more devastating experience.  Sure, a character might be able to forgive themselves…but what do they do with the pieces of their failure?  And what if they fail again?

On a personal level, what does failure tell you about yourself and how can it affect your entire life?  Knowing how to forgive yourself, and what to do next are important – if challenging – life skills, and Amelia has to learn how to combat her failures as well as her fears if she wants to go forward.  So, the title is a double-entre…we are stronger than we realize because God is at work, in us.  It’s the wonder of God in us…to produce an amazing result.

INSPYs: What was your most challenging factor in writing a closely connected six-book series?

The Christiansen family series is a spin-off of the best-selling Deep Haven collection, a collection of stories about the townspeople of Deep Haven, Minnesota, a tiny resort town on the north shore of Lake Superior.  The original series started with a book entitled, Happily Ever After, and grew to include six titles.  However, one family began to stand out and I decided their story needed to be told. I wanted a series about a family with adult children, learning what it meant to carry on the legacy of faith into their lives.  And I wanted to write a series that would really let readers dig into the family, feel like they were a part of their journey.  The biggest issue was how to create both a stand-alone story arc as well as a series story arc that would keep readers glued to the drama of the series. I discovered that I really enjoyed writing this kind of connected series, where the events in one book push the events in the next.  However, I’ve discovered that readers need to enter the series anywhere without being lost—and that can be difficult in a closely connected series. The Wonder of You was a bridge book between two epic events that happen to the family, and the challenge of this story was to carry the story arc while giving the reader a story that could stand on its own.  I think Roark and Amelia pulled it off brilliantly.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+What are you listening to?

Pandora. The Chase Rice station (that I designed).  Contemporary country music.

+What are you watching?

Just finished season one of Poldark.  *sigh*

Photo: ITV

Photo: ITV

+What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand?

Just starting another fabulous Lori Benton novel:  The Wood’s Edge.  I’m a huge historical fiction fan. Okay, I’m just a huge fan of well written books, regardless of genre. 🙂

Thank you for having me!!


Thanks so much for joining us today, Susan. It was a pleasure to learn more about The Wonder of You and chat about your current read.

ABOUT THE AUTHORSusan May Warren

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning novelist of over thirty novels. A five-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.

A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!

She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter