Christian fantasy authors just scored three ACFW Carol Awards, at the Sept. 28 American Christian Fiction Writers’ awards banquet:
2019 ACFW Carol Award for best young adult novel
Nadine Brandes won for alternate-history fantasy Fawkes:
Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.
Despite the presence of potentially whimsical color magic, in this world the Thames still burbles with sewage, maidservants toss waste from windows, and even sincere men can believe and die for false religion.
This is solid, creative, and “useful” fantasy. It reflects the reality where hypocrites, abusers, and power-mongers can darken every point of the belief spectrum.
2019 ACFW Carol Award for best speculative novel
Morgan Busse won for Mark of the Raven:
Lady Selene is the heir to the Great House of Ravenwood and the secret family gift of dreamwalking. As a dreamwalker, she can enter a person’s dreams and manipulate their greatest fears or desires. . . . As she discovers her family’s dark secret, Selene is torn between upholding her family’s legacy–a legacy that supports her people–or seeking the true reason behind her family’s gift.
Raven is light on action but heavy on familiar-yet-complex character drama, mounting tension, and lush details. . . . Selene wants to protect her sisters, and also her own heart from the pain of wounding others, but at the cost of her own humanity. And all the while, their world is haunted by the whispers of some lost and ancient past, when every member of every House used their supernatural gifts for good.
Edit, later today: I reached out to Morgan Busse for her thoughts afterward.
“I never expected to win, so to have Mark of the Raven win the Carol Award feels surreal,” Morgan said. “It also makes me grateful that [Enclave Publishing owner and president Steve Laube] encouraged me to submit to Bethany House and for Bethany House to take a chance on my story. I’m thankful for all the people who helped bring Mark of the Raven to the world!”
2019 ACFW Carol Award for best debut novel
Lindsay Franklin won for The Story Peddler:
Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories–she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.
This story spins a perfect array of delightful characters living with complex magical abilities in a truly unique world. Its adventure, political mayhem, and just a touch of romance reach into the hearts of creatives whom God has gifted to use their talents to serve others.
I reached out to Lindsay for her thoughts afterward:
“I’m still really overwhelmed about this,” she said. “I believe this is the first time a speculative book has won the debut category. So I’m doubly emotional because I feel like this win belongs, not just to me, but to my community.”
Meanwhile at the ACFW conference . . .
None other than our friends at Realm Makers Bookstore ran the (recently rebooted) bookstore at the 2019 ACFW conference (hosted this year in San Antonio, Texas).
Usually the bookstore hosts mainly Christian-made novels in sci-fi, fantasy, and other fantastical genres.
But the bookstore looked a little different for this particular event, bookstore co-founder Scott Minor told me.
For example, the bookstore featured a corner of books by Realm Award–winning authors, as well as all three of the above titles. Most of the store, however, featured books by ACFW member authors, who tend to be in contemporary and historical genres, especially romance.
“The main reason we were there was to serve the authors at ACFW the same way we serve the authors at Realm Makers,” Scott said.
The bookstore also hosted book-signing events by popular authors. That included one author not known for romance himself: a certain Frank Peretti, who was this year’s ACFW keynote speaker.
On a personal note: I also understand that, at long last, I now have Frank Peretti’s autograph. Twice. Once, on my paperback vintage copy of This Present Darkness, and second, on my first-print Family Christian Bookstores copy of Peretti’s arguably best novel, The Visitation (1999).