Standards Of Award-winning Christian Fiction

sarah-arthur2I highly recommend this recent article in CT Magazine written by Sarah Arthur, a judge of their novel of the year contest. Thoughtful, even a little provocative because she bucks some of the recent trends in Christian fiction.

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Announcing the Finalists in the 2015 Clive Staples Award

Realm Makers is excited to announce the books that came out on top after the readers’ choice semi-final round for the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative fiction. The following three books haclive staples sealve advanced to the final round.

The Seventh Door by Bryan Davis

The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

Reapers by Bryan Davis

A panel of judges will independently score these books on their merit. The book that garners the highest point total from the judges will receive a prize of a commemorative plaque and $250 cash. Realm Makers is excited to sponsor this award that represents a cross section of both readers’ preference and professional artistic evaluation.

We commend every author whose books appeared in the semi-final round, as all the books involved had a healthy showing of votes, and the outpouring of reader interest truly spoke to the way even brand new authors are reaching their readers and garnering their loyal support.

Best of luck to Mr. Davis and Mr. Peterson. We look forward to announcing the recipient of the Clive Staples award for 2014 on August 7th, at the Quill Pen Editorial Awards Dinner, to take place on August 7th, 2015, at this year’s Realm Makers conference.

Three Books Lineup


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Announcing the Semi-finalists in the 2015 Clive Staples Award

clive staples sealThe coordinators of the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction would like to congratulate the semi-finalists in the 2015 contest. Readers have chosen the following twelve books to advance to the next round of voting.

Blood for Blood, by Ben Wolf, published by Splickety Publishing Group

A Draw of Kings, Patrick W. Carr, published by Bethany House Publishers

Golden Daughter, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, published by Rooglewood Press

Haunted, by Charity Tinnin, self-published.

Merlin’s Nightmare, by Robert Treskillard, published by Blink

Reapers, by Bryan Davis, published by Scrub Jay Journeys

Resistance, by Jaye L. Knight, Living Sword Publishing

Saving Yesterday, by Jessica Keller (Evander), published by Phantom Ship Press

The Seahorse Legacy, Serena Chase, published by Candent Gate LLC

The Seventh Door, by Bryan Davis, published by Living Ink Books

A Time to Die, by Nadine Brandes, published by Enclave Publishing

The Warden and the Wolf King, by Andrew Peterson, Published by Rabbit Room Press

The Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction combines both readers’ choice voting in the nomination and semi-final rounds with a judged final round to determine the winner. This year’s winner receives a $250 cash prize, sponsored by The Faith and Fantasy Alliance. The results of the judging will be announced at the Realm Makers Conference awards dinner on August 7th, 2015 in St. Louis, MO.

This year’s semi-final round contains a mixture of traditionally- and self-published works, which the sponsors feel indicates the current diversity of publishing in Christian speculative fiction.

As of June 1st, 2015, a new poll can be found here, where readers can weigh in on their choices for finalists. In order to vote, please note: voters must have read at least two books on the list.

Readers must indicate a first and second choice book to vote in the semi-final round. If they have read more than two books on the list, we welcome voters to make a third selection in the poll as well.

This semi-final round poll will only be open for ONE WEEK, closing on June 8th, 2015. At that time, the votes will be tallied and the finalists determined, to advance on to the judging panel.

This is your chance to choose your favorites and to tell your reading friends to have their say as well. Congratulations and good luck to the semi-finalist authors!


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The 2015 Clive Staples Award

RealmMakerslogoRealm Makers is excited to promote this year’s Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction. We will announce the winner  as part of the Realm Makers Awards Dinner on August 7th.

Similar to last year, the final winner will be decided by a panel of judges, so the award becomes a hybrid of “readers’ choice” and panel judging, which combines popularity and critical acclaim in the process. We’re very excited to be able to recognize the book that earns this honor, and therefore, the Faith and Fantasy Alliance is once again committing sponsoring funds to the cash prize that will go to the winner.

The nomination period is upon us and will be conducted via an online survey. If you would like to nominate a book for this award, please read the guidelines below before jumping to the survey.

Nomination qualifications

Eligible books must be all of the following:

  • Containing themes consistent with a Christian worldview, whether implied, symbolic, or overt.
  • Published in English.
  • Novel length–over 50,000 words
  • Written for Middle Grade, Young Adult, or Adult audiences
  • Published between January 1 and December 31 of the current contest’s year. (For example, for the Clive Staples Award held in 2015, entrants must have been published between, Jan. 1, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2014.) This date applies to any format. For example, if the book is available in print and electronically, the first format to be released determines the book’s publication date.
  • In the science fiction/fantasy/allegory/futuristic/supernatural/supernatural suspense/horror/time travel category, or any sub-genre or mashup of these.

Nomination guidelines

  • Authors, agents, and publishers may not nominate books with which they are affiliated. Likewise, book authors or affiliates may not campaign for votes on behalf of their books. A conservative number of social media posts to make readers aware of the voting process is welcome. The contest committee reserves the right to disqualify any entry if it is determined a book’s affiliates have campaigned for votes.
  • Readers may only nominate books they have actually read.
  • Ebooks and books in hard-copy print are both eligible

Nomination instructions

  • Navigate to the nomination survey
  • Add between 1 and 3 books you’d like to nominate Please include the Title, Author, and Publisher (indicate “self-published” if that is the case.)
  • Submit your answers

After the nomination period is over, the award committee will tabulate the nominations and declare the semi-finalists.

Readers’ Choice Semi-finalist Voting

Voters will be eligible only if they have read two or more of the books nominated. We want this to be a selection by readers of Christian speculative fiction, not just the fans of particular authors.

Below are standards to consider.

Standards for Clive Staples Award books

  • Quality writing style and mechanics
  • Believable and well-developed world-building
  • Depth of characterization
  • Well-structured, original, and interesting plot
  • Deftness of integration of the worldview into the story’s plot and characterizations

Contest time line:

5-15-15: Reader nomination period begins

5-29-15: Reader nominations close

6-1-15: Semi-Finalists announced; second round of Readers Choice voting begins

6-8-15: Readers Choice voting closes

6-15-15: Finalists announced

8-7-15: Winner announced at the Realm Makers Costumed Awards Dinner, cash prize awarded

Thank you for lending your voice to help us choose the best speculative fiction out there. Spread the word that the contest is open, and good luck to all you authors.

Nominate books for the Clive Staples Award

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Bethany House Congratulates Carr

12464-CAST OF STONES congrats meme

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The 2014 Winner Is . . .

Back in February readers nominated thirty-two books for consideration as the best Christian speculative novel published by a royalty paying house in 2014. In March voters whittled that number down to three. From those finalists, the Clive Staples Award panel of judges picked a winner.

Here are your results.

Third place: Truth Runner by Jerel Law


From the judges:

“Interesting take on spiritual gifts”

“I can see how this will be valuable for young readers. Liked the spiritual battle idea.”

Excerpt 1

Jonah’s chest heaved in and out, and he tried desperately to breathe again. He leaned over with his hands on his knees, standing in the alleyway close to the street. He’d had to stop, finally, out of fear that his lungs might collapse under the strain. It hurt to breathe, and his heart was pounding too quickly. After a minute, he could finally stand up straight again, and he used up every ounce of courage he had left to peek around the corner, back from where he had come.

There was nothing there. Only the blackness of the city, the top of the Empire State Building set against the cloud-filled sky with a flashing red beacon at its apex.

But he felt it.

He didn’t remember how long he had been running or what had gotten him to this point.

Why am I here? What’s chasing me?

There was something there, his mind grasping at memories that were floating away like smoke from a fire. He focused, trying to remember, but it wouldn’t come to him, and he didn’t have time to think about it now.

It was coming again. He couldn’t see anything behind him, but he knew it was growing closer, closing in. That was the one thing he knew that was crystal clear. Whatever was after him was relentless. It wasn’t going to give up and wasn’t going to stop. It would not give in no matter how hard or fast he fled.

Jonah felt the rain begin to pelt down, stinging him in the forehead. It was cold and growing colder, and his hands shook, but not from the temperature. he was afraid, and he couldn’t remember ever being more scared than he was right now.

He pulled the hood of his weathered jacket over his shaggy hair and took off running again.

Excerpt 2

Jonah dribbled the basketball across the half-court line, surveying the defense. The ball thudded against the hardwood, but he could barely hear it in the noisy gym. Cheers echoed all around, solely coming from one side of the bleachers. He could hear two words rise above the rest. Shouts of “Peacefield!” mixed with equally loud screams of his name: “Jonah!”

Hearing his name being yelled by the high-pitched voices of high school girls caused a smile to creep across his lips. He had experienced moments like this before—but only in his wildest daydreams.

A loud series of claps from the sidelines drew his eyes. “Come on, Jonah! Let’s go!”

Coach Marty was still as round as a basketball and somehow had managed to squeeze his way into the head coaching position for the boys’ basketball team at Peacefield High. The boys on the team privately joked that they must have given the job to the guy who shouted the loudest. Coach Marty didn’t ever speak in a normal voice—he yelled.

Jonah looked down at the kid guarding him. The kid was crouched down, trying to look intimidating, but he couldn’t hide the fear in his eyes as he looked up at Jonah. Jonah wasn’t exactly surprised by that—he towered over everyone on the court now, having grown another three inches in the past six months.

Jonah made his move. In a blast of blazing speed, he faked to the right. The boy guarding him jumped. Jonah took advantage, pushing past him. The speed he generated with his first two steps put him inside the three-point line. He was almost a blur. Control yourself, Jonah.

A quick scan of the rest of the court let him know that two of his teammates were covered, but the other two were wandering free. Grant Newsome was waving his hands frantically; he was standing right underneath the basket. A pass to him would lead to an easy layup.

Jonah instead turned his eyes to the rim. Another defender had stepped in front of him, but Jonah turned his back and quickly spun away as the helpless boy lunged for what he thought was the basketball, but turned out to be an armful of air.

Ignoring his open teammates, he leaped from just inside the free throw line, trying to remember not to push himself off too high. He had to appear normal—human, like the rest of them.

– – – – –

Second Place: Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

From the judges:

“I liked the descriptive diversity”

“This had the best full-wrap ending of the three books”

Excerpt 1

The old scrubber was not permitted in the family wing of Gaheris Castle, but none were awake in the dead of night to shoo him away. So, on withered hands and bony knees, he scrubbed and shined each paving stone with the care a jeweler might take over a diamond. He had no a candle but worked entirely by the dainty light of the blue star shining through a narrow window.

An icy breath wafted beneath a certain door. The scrubber felt it and sat up slowly on his heels, every joint and bone creaking. He moistened his shriveled lips, which froze immediately after. Then he crawled closer to the door and put his ear against it. Closing his eyes, he listened.

He said, “Ah! There it is again.”

In the chamber beyond the door, he heard the beat of horses’ hooves.
Alistair rides in glorious hunt.

Out here, flying over the grounds of Gaheris beside the shining, twisting rush of River Hanna, the full wildness of spring bursting on every side, he is free. Here, the sun chases away all darkness, and he himself chases his prey. His dogs–sight hounds, scent hounds, and massive curs–streak before him, their voices raised in bloodthirsty chorus, singing out death-warnings to the wolf.

This is what it means to be Master of Gaheris. To protect his people and their flocks. Danger sets upon the village, and who would ride out and subdue it? None other than the lord of the Castle.

Flanked by his uncle’s huntsmen, Alistair urges his horse onward, pursuing the trail of the lone wolf deeper into the wilds of Gaheris’s estates, beyond the tilled fields and hamlets. His heart beats with a certainty that he never feels within the confines of the castle itself. He will be Lord of this House, he will be Protector.

And when the earls of the North Country offered Gaheris the crown, as surely they must, he will be king. He will hunt down the North Country’s oppressors and put them to the blade even as he hunts down this wolf!

The sun goes black.

It does not vanish behind a cloud, nor even sink beneath the horizon. It simply blackens, as completely as blown candle.

Alistair stands in darkness. He feels it crawling up his skin, beneath his clothing, sliding down over his ramming heart. Where is his horse? Where are his dogs? Where are his uncle’s huntsmen?

All gone. All devoured in the black.

He tries to take a step, but cannot see whether or not he has succeeded. He tries another, then another.

A white light flickers in the distance. And he sees the shadowy silhouette of the child.

He screams.

The scrubber drew back from the door, putting a finger in his ears as though he could rub out the ringing sound of Alistair’s scream. With a shiver, he turned around and went back to his work. Bending to the stone, he blew away invisible dirt. Then, dipping his soiled cloth in a bucket of soiled water, he wetted down the floor.

He muttered to no apparent listener, “His night terrors are getting worse.”

Through the window above, the blue star winked twice.

“The time is near, that’s what it means,” the scrubber said in answer to a question no one heard spoken. Then he whispered, softly:

“Starlight, starbright, guide her footsteps through the night . . .”

The simple children’s rhyme rolled from his tongue and danced its way down the dark, sleep-filled corridors of Gaheris Castle.

Excerpt 2

The Twelve came to the doors of Omeztli Tower and their voices carried from the ground to our high perch above.

“Cren Cru commands. Send us your firstborn.”

I clutched Tlanextu’s arm in terror. I could not bear to lose him! He took my hand and held me gently.

Then we saw a powerful form rising up from Itonatiu Tower. It was Citlalu, our father. He flew across the city, his wings like a griffin’s, like a roc’s, blocking the sunlight from view they were so vast! He landed before us, and I shivered with fear and love at the sight of him, for he was King. A true King.

Not like the foolish little kings we see nowadays wearing crowns, waving swords and scepters, ruling by feeble kinship-rights. He was King of Etalpalli, bound to the realm by his own blood, by the beat of his heart. He was strong as the nation itself, stronger, I thought. The pinions of his wings were like daggers, like swords, and he shouted down to the Twelve below:

“Be gone, back to your master! You will take none of mine into that Mound, not while I have life yet coursing through my veins!”

His voice shook the foundations of Etalpalli. I thought the Twelve would run, would scream with terror, would flee the storm of his gaze.

They did not. They merely turned and retraced their path to the Mound and the concentric circles of bronze.

But the next day, they returned. Once more they called up to the heights of Omeztli: “Cren Cru commands. Send us your firstborn.”

Once more, my father denied them.

– – – – –

CliveStaplesAward_2014_SmallThe 2014 Clive Staples Award Winner:
A Cast Of Stones by Patrick W. Carr


The Fate of the Kingdom Awaits the Cast of Stones

A-Cast-of-StonesIn the backwater village of Callowford, Errol Stone’s search for a drink is interrupted by a church messenger who arrives with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Desperate for coin, Errol volunteers to deliver them but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he’s joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.

Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom’s dynasty is near an end and a new king must be selected. As tension and danger mount, Errol must leave behind his drunkenness and grief, learn to fight, and come to know his God in order to survive a journey to discover his destiny.

From the Judges:

“I loved the staff work in Cast of Stones, and the story of wimp to warrior”

“The concept of carving and casting stones was unique (to me). Very cool.”

Excerpt 1

SMELLS OF EARTH and dung drifted slowly past the fog in Errol’s brain. His skin prickled with cold. Water and ooze soaked his threadbare garments and he shivered. Cruk had thrown him out of the tavern. Again. Hanks of brown hair dripping muck hung across his vision. The ringing of Liam’s hammer just across the street paused, then started again with light tapping blows, as if in laughter.

Cruk smiled down at him without malice. “Next time I’ll carry you out back and throw you in the midden.”

Dizzy from his flight and a little wobbly from drink, Errol picked himself up in stages. He closed his eyes against the glare of the morning sun, sluiced the worst of the mud from his clothes, and rubbed an aching hip. His tongue wandered the crevices of his mouth as he struggled to make it obey his commands. The effort made him reel.

“You didn’t have to kick me so hard.”

Tall, broad-shouldered, and ridiculously strong from long days working in the quarry, Cruk towered over him from his vantage point on the porch. As always, his face put Errol in mind of a sack of potatoes.

Cruk barked once in amusement. “I didn’t, you little runt. If you don’t believe me, then come back here and I’ll have another go at it. If Pater Antil catches you drunk at this hour, you’ll end up back in the stocks.”

Errol darted a glance over his shoulder at the rectory where Callowford’s priest lived, but the curtains still covered the windows and no one stirred. Still, Cruk’s warning made his shoulders twitch with remembered pain. “Do you have any work I can do?” He backed away from the look on the big man’s face. “Away from Cilla and the inn, I mean. I’m hungry.”

“Then stop spending what you earn on ale.” He pointed to Liam, who watched the exchange with a smile on his face. “Why can’t you be more like him?” A heartbeat later, the harsh planes of Cruk’s face softened and his shoulders dropped a fraction as he exhaled in resignation or pity.

“Wait here.”

He disappeared into Cilla’s tavern, returned with half a loaf of bread, and tossed it into Errol’s waiting hands. “Come ’round this evening. You can help clean up after dinner. Mind, you stay away from Cilla and her ale.”

Excerpt 2

Errol swam until spots danced in his vision, his body begging for air. With a pair of strokes he surfaced like a fish breaking water, darted a glance behind before sucking air into his tortured lungs and diving again, away from the figure in black.

The sounds of his efforts and splashing filled his ears, prevented him from hearing the scream of an arrow. He forced his trembling arms forward, jerked them back to his sides. Only the movement of water against his face told him he advanced. The far bank was still thirty feet away. Violent chills rippled the water as his body fought to stay warm. His shaking limbs lurched into a parody of his usual stroke. Bolts of pain shot through his calves and thighs. His legs refused to move. They hung from his torso, dragged him down. He reached out, struck mud. One shaking hand at a time, he pulled himself forward.

At last he broke the surface. His hands clawed forward until they brushed against rough bark. They clutched the thin trunk, locking around it as if it were his last hope. Water drained from his ears and he listened for his attacker. Nothing.

Errol’s body convulsed with cold and he clutched at the sapling, straining to move, turn his head, anything. His muscles refused to obey. His hands clenched the tree, refused to let go.

Above and behind him the wail of an arrow began. He willed himself to let go, roll over, but spasms pinned him to the spot, left him helpless. The arrow’s scream grew, its pitch rising until its keening filled his hearing.

Errol sobbed, tried once more to move and failed.

He clenched his eyes against the blow.

– – – – –

Congratulations to Patrick W. Carr.

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Introducing Our Judges: Karen Hancock

karenhancockbchristyawards2013_144_largeOur third 2014 CSA judge is multi-published, multi-award-winning Karen Hancock.

I first learned of Karen and her work in 2004 at a small American Christian Writers Conference in Anaheim, CA. One of the other conferees was reading a Christian fantasy, The Light of Eidon, if I remember correctly. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This was my genre, my type of book.

I soon discovered that Karen’s first book, Arena, a science-fantasy allegory, had won the 2003 Chrisy Award in its category. The Light of Eidon won in 2004 as well as did the next two in the Guardian-King series—The Shadow Within (2005) and Shadow Over Kiriath (2006). As I recall, the final book of the tetralogy, Return of the Guardian-King, came out the year the Christy Awards did not have a category for speculative fiction—which, in fact, was the impetus behind starting the Clive Staples Award.

Last year, no longer eligible to be nominated because of her four previous awards, Karen received the new Christy Life-time Achievement Award (pictured above).

My first interaction with Karen was as a member of a speculative community called Christian Fandom. We had the privilege of participating in an online interview which took place over a week, as I recall. I was a little star struck, to be honest, and very nervous about asking “somebody famous” questions. What I discovered was that Karen is a godly, intelligent, humble writer who likes a lot of the same things I like.

She was born in Pasadena, California, grew up in Tucson, Arizona and Danville, California, and presently reside in Tucson. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Wildlife Biology, is married to an engineer, and has one grown and married son whom she homeschooled for eight years.

As an avid defender of evolution at the time, Karen came to Christ after a discussion with a Christian apologist who answered her questions about the Bible and creation. Her life and views quickly took a 180° turn.

Re-released last year

Re-released last year

Besides being a wife and a mother, she is a keeper of hounds and a watercolor artist. She raised chickens, turkeys and goats, made apple cider, hiked the Grand Canyon in a day, snowshoed three times into the Sierra Nevada’s Desolation Wilderness (encountering blizzards two times), managed a stable of sixty horses, worked at Steward Observatory as an artist and in the Biology Department at the University of Arizona as a keeper of rats, mice and frogs for experiments.

She plays tennis, walks, journals, and sketches. She loves to read, and she watches a lot of movies, analyzing and discussing both to the consternation of her friends and family.

Of course all that reading and analyzing make her the perfect judge for the Clive Staples Award. We’re privileged to have her round out our panel of three.

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Introducing Our Judges: Keanan Brand

Keanan Brand Photography2In ten days the Realm Makers Conference will be underway, and during that first evening together the 2014 winner of the Clive Staples Award will be announced.

In many ways, the CSA is the premier award in Christian fiction. The process involves readers on the two fundamental levels—nominating books and selecting finalists. This method means that any book meeting the contest requirements is eligible, without requiring membership to a particular organization and without paying an entry fee.

At the same time, because of the support of Speculative Faith and the Realm Makers Conference, CSA offers a cash prize to the winner, along with a commemorative plaque and an award seal. What other award for Christian fiction does as much for their winner? It’s an honor to be a part of the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction.

It’s also an honor to introduce the judges who selected the winner from our finalists.

I’ve “known” Keanan Brand for at least six years though we have never met. He’s been a supporter of CSA since it’s inception and a long standing member of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour. Because of his participation in CSFF, I’ve read countless numbers of his reviews. He’s also worked as an editor, both for a small press and for his own freelance business.

“Keanan Brand” is actually the pen name of this writer, editor, and haphazard photographer (see picture above). His first published stories were articles in his junior high newspaper, and he later wrote freelance “human interest” articles for the local newspaper. Yet, despite his journalistic roots, he loved fiction more.

He has since published poems and short stories, and a serialized science fiction novel. His first fantasy novel is slated for publication in late 2014. Brand has also worked for publishers as a proofreader and an editor, and offers his editorial services freelance, as well.

He blogs at Adventures in Fiction, covering life, the writing process, and the occasional book or movie review. His SF serial, Thieves’ Honor, can be read there, as well.

Keanan Brand grew up on the West Coast then in the South, attended college in Missouri, worked many years in Arkansas, and now resides in Oklahoma.

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Introducing Our Judges: Rich Bullock

Rich BullockIn less than two weeks the 2014 Clive Staples Award will be presented at the Realm Makers Conference in Philadelphia. After readers nominated their favorite novels published in 2013 and voted for three finalists, the job of choosing the winner shifted to our panel of judges, a group I’d like to introduce.

First up is novelist Rich Bullock who I met some years ago in conjunction with the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. I’ve come to appreciate Rich’s analytic eye, insightful observations, and knowledge of fiction. In my mind, he is the perfect judge for a fiction contest.

Happily, he’s had significant experience, acting as a judge for a number of years in the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest.

Rich writes stories of ordinary people put in perilous situations, where lives are changed forever.

DesperationFallscoverPerilous Cove, a semi-final entry in the Zondervan First Novel Contest, 2009, is his first published novel and the first in the Perilous Safety Series. His second, Storm Song, won the 2010 ACFW Genesis Contest in the suspense category. And his third novel, Desperation Falls, released in January 2014.

He is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the local Quills of Faith writing group.

In addition to writing, he edits and critiques books, mentors new writers, and teaches an occasional writing workshop.

Fortunate to grow up in small-town San Luis Obispo, California, he developed an eye for settings that remind people of home. He now lives and writes in Redding, California, where on most days, he sees Mount Lassen, Mount Shasta, and the inside of Starbucks.

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2014 CSA Finalists

It’s my pleasure to announce this year’s Clive Staples Award finalists. Based on the reader’s survey, and listed in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name (with links to the CSA introductions), the top three books of Christian speculative fiction, published in 2013 by a royalty-paying house, are2014 CSA finalist covers

* A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr
* Truth Runner by Jerel Law
* Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

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CSA Finalist Voting Begins Today

CliveStaplesAward_2014_SmallAfter an unintended “dry run,” the Clive Staples Award finalist voting begins today.

Our original voting survey contained a flaw–not all votes were counted–which we only detected when various voters gave concerned feedback. After checking into the matter, we discovered the problem and determined that the only fair way to conduct the vote was to begin again. Consequently, until now, NO ONE has yet voted in the 2014 CSA finalist voting.

We are starting anew. The rules remain the same:

* You MUST have read AT LEAST TWO of the nominations.
* You may vote ONLY ONCE.
* You may vote for AS MANY AS THREE books you wish to see as finalists.
* Voting ends midnight Pacific time, March 31, 2014.

And now, the new 2014 voting survey: Vote for the 2014 CSA finalists

Please help us reach voters to let them know we have started anew.

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CSA Voting Halted

CSA voting re-do announcement

As a result of a number of questions about the CSA voting survey, we’ve halted the voting. It’s apparent there was a glitch in the survey and not all votes have been counted. Rather than continue with the corrected form, the most fair option seems to be to start the voting over.

We’ll count on you to get the word out that the re-vote starts on Monday.

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Voting For The 2014 CSA Finalists

Due to a survey glitch, CSA voting has been halted and will begin anew March 24.

Voting begins

It is time to vote for the 2014 CSA finalists.

We’ve made a major change this year because the 2014 CSA winner will be selected by a panel of judges. Consequently, readers are voting for the finalists from which the judges will choose. Therefore, rather than voting for one winner, you may vote for as many as three finalists.

Please follow these basic rules.

* You MUST have read AT LEAST TWO of the nominations.
* You may vote ONLY ONCE.
* You may vote for AS MANY AS THREE books you wish to see as finalists.
* Voting ends midnight Pacific time, March 25, 2014.

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Introducing Captives

Captives by Jill Williamson

Young adult dystopian fantasy

The Safe Lands series (Book 1)

In a dystopian future, eighteen-year-old Levi returns from Denver City with his latest scavenged treasures and finds his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed, and many–including his fiancée, Jem–taken captive. Now alone, Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Lands, a walled city that seems anything but safe.

Omar knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away, but helping the enforcers was necessary. Living off the land and clinging to an outdated religion holds his village back. The Safe Lands has protected people since the plague decimated the world generations ago … and its rulers have promised power and wealth beyond Omar’s dreams.

Meanwhile, their brother Mason has been granted a position inside the Safe Lands, and may be able to use his captivity to save not only the people of his village, but also possibly find a cure for the virus that threatens everyone within the Safe Lands’ walls. Will Mason uncover the truth hidden behind the Safe Lands’ façade before it’s too late?

What others are saying
“A dystopian look at a future America post-pandemic, the book has a lot going for it — interesting characters, fascinating setting, and a disturbing plot that feels both improbable and very possible all at once.” -B. Burnham, Amazon review

“Williamson is a master story-teller. Her characters grab you and pull you in – you don’t read about what happens to them, you experience it with them. There are lots of characters, but each so uniquely crafted that it’s never confusing. Her post-apocalyptic society is disturbing, but hopeful.” –Karin Beery

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Introducing Merlin’s Shadow

Merlin’s Shadow by Robert Treskillard

merlin's shadowGenre: YA Epic Fantasy



Book Two of The Merlin Spiral

After destroying the sinister Druid Stone and freeing his people from its dark control, Merlin finds himself to be a royal advisor without a king. Along with his friend Garth and Natalenya, his betrothed, Merlin treks north with the orphaned Arthur in hopes of keeping the young ruler safe from soldiers misled by their turncoat captain. Relentlessly pursued by his nemesis Vortigern, Merlin and his band make for the fortress of Dintaga.

But dangers multiply when Merlin realizes that Vortigern is not his only enemy. Even his own sister appears bent on Merlin’s destruction. As the threat on all their lives increases, Merlin discovers their only hope is sailing to the lands of eternal darkness and once again cleansing the world from an ancient and powerful evil.

What others are saying

“The travails of Merlin continue in this second book in the Merlin Spiral series. Having driven the sword into the Druid Stone, Merlin, Natalanya, and their small band must now protect Arthur, the heir to the throne. However, Merlin’s younger half-sister, Ganieda, is set on destroying both Merlin and Arthur. Merlin’s hope for continued success often wanes, but he is buoyed by his friends and followers. Readers who follow high-fantasy Arthurian legends (and have read Merlin’s Blade, 2013) will immediately become immersed in this sequel, but undertaking this dense tome as a stand-alone requires thoughtful concentration. Grades 7-10.”—J. B. Petty, Booklist

“The book’s main strength is its vividly drawn setting and atmosphere. The weather conditions, geography and physical discomfort the characters experience are brought to life on every page. (A scene involving an escape from a cockroach-filled dungeon is definitely not for the squeamish.) The characters, at least the main ones, are portrayed as real people, as opposed to stereotypical storybook heroes and heroine. They sometimes lose faith, even cry and stumble, but always get back up on their feet (even, as in the case of one, after falling into a corpse pit). The author also does everything to ensure that you can read this book without needing to read its predecessor: including a pronunciation guide, glossary of all characters, and as mentioned a brief “The story so far,” as a preface. Overall, it’s an engrossing read and an original take on a legend.”—E.M. Bristol, Amazon Vine Voice reviewer

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Introducing Merlin’s Blade

Merlin’s Blade by Robert Treskillard

Merlin's BladeGenre: YA Fantasy

Merlin’s Greatest Weakness Could Become His Greatest Strength

Book One of The Merlin Spiral

When a meteorite crashes near a small village in fifth-century Britain, it brings with it a mysterious black stone that bewitches anyone who comes in contact with its glow—a power the druids hope to use to destroy King Uthur’s kingdom, as well as the new Christian faith. The only person who seems immune is a young, shy, half-blind swordsmith’s son named Merlin. As his family, village, and even the young Arthur, are placed in danger, Merlin must face his fears and his blindness to take hold of the role God ordained for him. But when he is surrounded by adversaries, armed only by a sword he’s named Excalibur, how will he save the girl he cherishes and rid Britain of this deadly evil … without losing his life?

What others are saying
“In fifth-century Britain, during King Uther’s reign, the druids attempt to rise once again and overpower their Christian monarch. A strange and deadly meteorite, able to bewitch anyone who gazes upon it, becomes central to the druid leader’s plots. Only the mostly blind swordsmith’s son, Merlin, is able to gaze upon the stone and hold off its dangerous powers. Only he can see with a clear head the deception and plotting surrounding the High King’s visit to his small village. It is through Merlin’s actions that perhaps Uther’s family, including the young future King Arthur, can survive the pagan usurpers’ designs on the crown. Treskillard crafts a new and unique prequel to the King Arthur legend, one that is rich in atmosphere and detail. Fantasy readers will find themselves beguiled by the young Merlin’s story…Though somewhat lengthy, the blending of history and religious mythologies makes this the start of an interesting perspective on Arthurian legends.” –Book Verdict / School Library Journal

“A sweeping, deeply detailed fantasy that re-imagines the adventures of Arthurian legend … The author skillfully crafts intense action scenes and vivid settings.” -Publishers Weekly

“Treskillard tells a compelling story from various points of view and manages to hold all of his material together. Although he deviates from the standard Arthur/Merlin story, he brings in enough elements from the tradition to keep us grounded in the old mythology. Readers familiar with the Arthur/Merlin legends will recognize Uther, Vortigern, Igerna, Gorlas, the Lady of the Lake, and others. Treskillard also tells us a new story regarding the sword in the stone and works the red and white dragons into his tale. Reading Merlin’s Blade is like stepping into a familiar roller coaster at an amusement park that takes a whole new set of twists and turns. I can’t wait to see new twists Treskillard has in store for us in book two, Merlin’s Shadow.” -Jeff Chapman (via Goodreads)

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(ISBN: 0310735076)

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Introducing Dragonwitch

Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl


Fairytale fantasy

Tales of Goldstone Wood series (Book 5)

Submissive to her father’s will, Lady Leta of Aiven travels far to meet a prospective husband she neither knows nor loves–Lord Alistair, future king of the North Country.

But within the walls of Gaheris Castle, all is not right. Vicious night terrors plague Lord Alistair to the brink of insanity. Whispers rise from the family crypt. The reclusive castle Chronicler, Leta’s tutor and friend, possesses a secret so dangerous it could cost his life and topple the North Country into civil war.

And far away in a hidden kingdom, a fire burns atop the Temple of the Sacred Flame. Acolytes and priestesses serve their goddess to the limits of their lives and deaths. No one is safe while the Dragonwitch searches for the sword that slew her twice. . .and for the one person who can wield it.

What others are saying
“If you are looking for a new fantasy series, look no further. “Dragonwitch” by Anne Elisabeth Stengl is book 5 in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series, and is probably one of the most interesting Christian fantasy books I have read. There is much depth to it.” -Ashley Osborn at Loving Mommahood

“I loved the characters in this book, almost more than the other books in this series. (Alistair, Imraldera, Eanrin and Mouse, were my favorites). Ever since reading about the Dragonwitch in Moonblood (and later Starflower) I wanted to know her story in toto. Dragonwitch answered all my questions – artfully. Eanrin, whose wit I though had surely reached a max, was better than ever.” -Bree at God’s Little Designer

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Introducing The Sinners’ Garden

The Sinners’ Garden by William Sirls

Sinners Garden coverGenre: Contemporary supernatural


In the small Lake Erie township of Benning, someone is at work cultivating a supernatural garden …


Andy Kemp’s young life has been as ravaged as his scarred face. Disfigured by an abusive father, the teenager hides behind his books and an impenetrable wall of cynicism and anger.

As Andy’s mother struggles to reconnect with him, his Uncle Rip returns transformed from a stint in prison and wants to be a mentor to the reclusive boy, doing everything he can to help end Andy’s pain. When Andy begins hearing strange music through his iPod and making near-prophetic announcements, Rip is convinced that what Andy is hearing is the voice of God.

Elsewhere, police officer Heather Gerisch responds to a late-night breaking and entering in one of the poorest homes in town. She soon realizes that the masked prowler has left thousands of dollars in gift cards from a local grocery store.

As the bizarre break-ins continue and Heather pursues the elusive “Summer Santa,” Andy and Rip discover an enormous and well-kept garden of wildflowers that seems to have grown overnight at an abandoned steel mill.

Soon, they realize who the gardener is, and a spree of miracles transfigures this small town from a place of hopelessness into a place of healing and beauty.

What others are saying

“A story of hope, humor, forgiveness, and deep restoration…”—James L. Rubart

“This story, with a strong dose of inspiration, will certainly affirm your faith and touch your heart from the prologue, which sets the stage, to the conclusion. Sinners’ Garden is filled with rich and complex characters that are brought to life through the author’s skillful writing – he certainly spins a tale of emotions. There is also an added element of mystery, with a crescendo of suspense, as startling revelations unfold. And – a powerful and soul- stirring ending! 5 stars.”—WRB, Amazon reviewer

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Thomas Nelson
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Introducing Nightriders

Fantasy Western


Ghost riders, bird men, and justice in the killin’ fields.

Mack Cavanaugh claims to be a Nightrider, one of a band of infamous Texas outlaws from the late 1800s. Except he says they wasn’t outlaws, just men tryin’ to make things right in the unjust fields of Texas—the killin’ fields.

So begins a tale of the last years of the Texas Wild West – of oncoming civilization in all its savagery, a last ride by five vigilantes in the name of God, and a final confrontation with an evil unbounded by time or place.

What others are saying

It’s an intense book that pulls few punches. This isn’t the romanticized “singing cowboy” west, but one where injustice, racism, (often shocking) and crime exists openly. There’s a lot of regret at what a nation supposedly founded on the ideas of Christ has done. But the heart of the book is a great action-adventure between charismatic, even mythic vigilantes trying to serve God and save lives, and brutal enemies both human and non who want to snuff them for their own reasons.

This is a Hinterlands book, so expect adult-level violence and themes. It definitely keeps up to the standards of his earlier works, and begs for some type of visual adaptation, be it comic or movie.

D.M. Dutcher at SpecFaith

While there is plenty of pulse pounding action, including a rousing gun fight aboard a speeding train, the real action here is that of one man seeking to understand the human condition. If stories that allow a character to explore the darker side of his own nature make you uncomfortable, this one might be offsetting. But if you are brave enough to join Mac as he looks through an alien kaleidoscope to see what lies imbedded in the best of men, that act will offer some startling revelations.

Tim George at

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Introducing Sandstorm

Sandstorm by Steve Rzasa

science fiction

It’s been four months since the city-state of Perch turned away the invading army of its southern rival, Trestleway, and sent the dark forces of the Cythraul packing.

Thanks in no small part, everyone reckons, to Winchell Sark and his brother, Copernicus.

Word reaches Winch that an old friend is in dire need. Seems he’s come across a long-lost artifact deep in the Golden Desert that folk say can tear apart the veil separating this world from the one beyond the shadows.

But it’s not only Winch and company seeking this relic. There’s a new threat gathering, one that will stop at nothing to conquer the desert sands—and unleash the Cythraul on an unsuspecting world.

What others are saying
“The Sark brothers are back in a rip-roaring tale of archaeology and adventure. Winch is contacted by an old school chum who needs his help to find a powerful artifact in a distant desert kingdom. The request leads the brothers into a heart-stopping adventure in a great continuation of this steampunk series.” -John Otte (via Goodreads)

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Marcher Lord Press
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(ISBN: 978-1-935929-96-3)

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