Tag: Romance Writers of America

It's RITA Time!

It’s RITA Time!

It’s time for the 2017 RITA Awards! For those who don’t know, the RITA Awards are the annual published author awards presented by Romance Writers of America.

They are a big deal, the Oscars of the romance writing world. I read Christian fiction, so I’m most interested in the Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements category.

The four finalists for 2017 are:

  • My Hope Next Door by Tammy L Gray
  • Keeper of the Stars by Robin Lee Hatcher
  • Close to You by Kara Isaac (who also finalled in the Debut novel category)
  • Trust My Heart by Carol J Post

I’ve read and reviewed all four books, and I’m glad I’m not a judge!

All four books were excellent, and it’s going to be a tough decision for someone (or several someones). I’d love for Kara Isaac to win, because Close to You is set in New Zealand and she’s finalled in two categories. And I edited her latest book, Then There Was You. Not that I’m biased or anything.

Here are links to my reviews:

Close to You
Keeper of the Stars
My Hope Next Door
Trust My Heart

My review of Keeper of the Stars was a guest post at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, as part of their annual RITA challenge. They ask for guest reviewers to volunteer to review each of the (many) finalists. They post two reviews of each book in the weeks leading up to the announcement of the winners.

These reviews are interesting to read because they are mostly written by readers who don’t usually read Christian romance. You’ll see the reviews aren’t nearly as glowing as those usually seen on Christian fiction review sites.

Here are links to the other SBTB reviews:

A B- review for Close to You from Bluetomarto.
A C- review for Close to You from Hope.

A B- review for Trust My Heart from LauraL.
A C- review for Trust My Heart from DonnaMarie.

A C+ review from Julia for Keeper of the Stars.

A D review for My Hope Next Door from Samantha.

If you go by the SBTB grades, the winner will be Keeper of the Stars. But that’s based on my B+ review, and I’d have given B+ or better grades to all four finalists!

The winners will be announced at the Romance Writers of America conference, on 27 July.

Have you read any of these RITA finalists? Which do you think should win?

Introducing the Major Christian Fiction Awards

It’s Christian Fiction Award Time!

It’s coming to that time of year again, when the publishing industry seeks to honour the best of the books published in the last calendar year. Entries to the various Christian fiction awards have closed, judging has commenced, and authors are waiting to find out if they’ve made the longlist or the shortlist or if they’ve won. I imagine each announcement brings a sense of relief for those authors still in the running for a prize, but also a raised sense of anxiety: so close, and yet so far.
Christian Fiction Award


Today I’m going to give you information on the six contests I watch every year. Over the next few weeks I’ll introduce you to the finalists in each Award, as they are announced. If you’ve ever wondered what to read next, these lists will provide some ideas—and you’ll see a few of the same titles popping up on several lists.

Introducing the major Christian Fiction Awards

The CALEB Prize

The CALEB Prize is organized by Omega Writers, a writing organization for Australian and New Zealand Christian Writers. Entry is open to Australian and New Zealand authors, and there are two categories for the 2016 prize: fiction, and children’s picture books.

CALEB is an acronym: it stands for Christian Authors Lifting Each other’s Books. That’s why Omega Writers sponsor the CALEB Prize. It’s about giving all entrants a higher profile for their books, regardless of whether they win or not . . . Promoting excellence, for the glory of God, so that the highest quality books are given that little bit of extra ‘oomph’.

The Christy Awards

The Christy Awards are named for Christy, the groundbreaking novel by Catherine Marshall, who wrote over two dozen books which have sold in excess of 25 million copies. The awards were established in 1999 to honour and promote excellence in Christian fiction, and to showcase the diversity of Christian fiction genres.

The Carol Awards

The Carol Awards were established by American Christian Fiction Writers in 2002 to recognize the best in Christian fiction. Both print and ebooks are accepted, but ebook authors must submit print copies. Novels must be nominated by their authors, must be written from a Christian world view, and may be self-published or traditionally published.

ACFW define “traditionally published” as being where the author did not “participate financially in the production or distribution of their book, including any requirement to buy a certain number of books from their publisher”.

Independent authors must apply to ACFW for Qualified Independently Published (QIP) status if they have not previously been traditionally published. In order to achieve QIP status, an author has to show evidence they have earned at least $4,000 from the sale of one novel over a 12-month period.

The Grace Awards

The Grace Awards were established in 2010 to “expand the tent pegs of Christian fiction”. They allow traditionally published and self-published novels, and make no distinction between paper or digital formats: anyone can enter, as long as the book is Christian Fiction, and 55,000 words or longer. Novels should be:

Traditional Christian, Inspirational, realistic and/or gritty Christian and edgy Christian, stories from a Christian worldview, redemptive themed, biblical, Messianic, catholic, faith-based, Christian and/or Messianic mystical themes, values imbued, grace and forgiveness oriented, marriage and family friendly, depicting Christian lifestyle (can be struggling with it), spiritually and emotionally healing fiction

The Grace Awards were founded by a group of small-press and independent authors, so they tend to feature a lot of small press and self-published books that are overlooked by the larger industry awards (which didn’t necessarily permit entries from these authors and publishers when the Grace Awards were founded).

Their process is unique: readers, reviewers and bloggers nominate titles along with a 40+ words outlining why they like the book. All nominated novels are then put to public vote, and three finalists are chosen for each category. A panel of judges then read the finalists and decide on a winner.

The INSPY Awards

The INPSY Awards were established in 2010, and is described as the Bloggers’ Award for Excellence in Faith-Driven Literature. The INSPY Awards are only open to print books from a publishing house (be it a large traditional house, a small press, or a micropress publishing as few as two authors).

The Awards are looking to recognize books of 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.

Novels are nominated by readers (self nominations by authors are not permitted). The INSPY Advisory Board (also bloggers) determine a shortlist of five finalists in each category. A team of three blogger judges then choose a winner. Judges are chosen by the Advisory Board from a pool of self-nominated bloggers which makes the INPSY Awards unique, as the creators of the award have limited influence on the overall winners.

The RITA® Awards

The RITA® Awards are run by Romance Writers of America, and are named after the organisation’s first president, Rita Clay Estrada. The Awards are specifically for romance novels, in a range of sub-genres (including Inspirational) and lengths (including long, short and novella).
While the RITA® Awards were originally restricted to novels published through a traditional publisher, they now permit self-published novels, and several categories feature self-published or hybrid authors (being authors who have both self-published and been published by a traditional publisher).

Books are nominated by their author or publisher, and nominated authors act as first-round judges (not in their own category, of course). All novels achieving higher than a specific score are announced as finalist, which is unusual—most contests have a set number of finalists (usually three or five), and the top-scoring novels qualify. The RITA® approach caused problems one year, when one category had more than ten finalists and two others (Inspirational and Erotic) had only two each.

I’ll be back next week with the finalists for the Grace and RITA® Awards, and we can talk about our picks for each.

What is Contemporary Christian Romance?

I write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist.

Pink Hearts Design On A Heart Background Shows Love Romance And Romantic Feelings

But what does contemporary Christian romance mean . . . and how do you know if it’s something you’re interested in?


Well, contemporary is relatively easy to define. It’s set now. In the present. Or perhaps the recent past, if the book is part of a series (because almost all series move forward in time with each successive book, whether it’s by years, months or mere days). Some people define contemporary as anything after 1950, but as a reader, I disagree: contemporary has to feel like now, complete with the internet, social media and 24/7 connectivity.


Romance is also pretty easy to define. Romance Writers of America, the leading voice of the genre, define romance as having a central love story, and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. Put simply, romance readers expect a happy ever after (HEA) ending, and for the romance to be the core element of the plot, a some minor subplot.


Christian . . . now, that’s a little more difficult. It’s often referred to as inspirational romance, in that Romance Writers of America define inspirational romance as “religious or spiritual beliefs (in the context of any religious or spiritual belief system) are an integral part of the plot.” A lot of inspirational romance is simply that: inspirational, perhaps morally uplifting, without the focus on sex found in most modern romance novels. Such novels might be inspirational, but don’t always feel especially Christian— I’d like to think being a Christian is a little more than being religious or inspirational or focusing on fleeting feelings.

As we know, the word ‘Christian’ describes a wide range of belief—Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican (or Episcopalian if you’re from the USA), Baptist, Pentecostal. Most Christian fiction steers away from referring to specific denominations, but tends to be at the conservative evangelical end of the Christian spectrum (in part, because one of the largest Christian book chains, Lifeway Christian Resources, is owned by the Southern Baptist Convention and won’t stock anything that runs counter to their beliefs).

Even so, many of these Inspirational Romance novels are ‘Christian-lite’, featuring characters who go to church but don’t seem to pray or read their Bibles except on Sunday. Others are ‘Christian-heavy’, overdosing on preaching and sermons and characters who can’t seem to utter more than a few words without throwing in a Scripture quotation . . . which breaks the number one writing rule, of show, don’t tell. It’s a fine balance, as different readers are looking for different levels of Christian content.

So what is Christian fiction? And Christian romance? I’ll discuss it more next week, but meanwhile, what do you think? What are you looking for when you pick up a Christian novel?