Hello, my dears! We are back from our exciting long weekend in Florida and, yes, we are exhausted. We decided to drive there and back again this year, stopping to visit family along the way, so that made for an even more fun, but even more tiring escapade. Not helped by the fact that we set out at 2:00 am on Saturday . . .
But we survived, and I will now share with you some of the fun times of our trip!
First of all, here was the beautiful resort at which we crashed in Orlando.
It was warm, but no warmer than here in NC, and there was a constant, lovely breeze!
The gardens were lush and tropical, which is a fun change of pace for us.
And, really, when it comes right down to it, who doesn't love palm trees?
The afternoons tended toward thunderstorms, but the mornings were clear and bright! So handsome and I made a point to get up early and get a swim in the pool. I really enjoyed that! Nice to limber up after a nine hour car ride.
The first evening we arrived a little late due to traffic . . . so we ended up playing hooky on the Baker Publishing Dinner and went on a date instead. I missed meeting some of the wonderful Baker authors, which was sad. But it was awfully nice to explore Orlando a little bit with my sweet man.
This is one of the many gorgeous restaurants in Orlando.
Here we are, all dolled up for dinner . . . and both a little tired! It had been quite the trip already. But we were still having fun.
Ordering room-service. Do you know, I'd never had a room-service breakfast before? Another great experience. I mean, strawberries and cream waffles? Oh, my.
Then, on Monday after a swim, it was on to the ICRS at the Orange County Convention Center.
This was, I will admit, the impressive side of the convention center . . . and, alas, not the side where we were! But hey, it's so pretty, I thought I'd share anyway!
The convention itself, much like last year, was bustling with all things CBA retail. Baker Publishing Group had a beautiful booth set up for their various authors. I had a nice book signing that kept me busy for a while!
I had the fun of author Steven James
coming up in the line and telling me that his daughter had asked him, of all the things he could bring back from the conference for her, to find a copy of Moonblood
. I was happy to sign it over to her and to chat a moment with this award-winning suspense writer!
Following the conference, my Rohan took me for a much-needed sushi lunch which relaxed me greatly and filled me up nicely . . .
. . . which turned out to be a good thing, because the next thing on the agenda was the Christy Awards Banquet Dinner! And I was, to put it mildly, a tangle of nerves. I don't know why! The awards dinner is a fun event and a friendly atmosphere of all people who love CBA fiction and CBA publishing. But still, it's a little hard to sit through a meal when you're waiting on pins and needles to hear judges' results!
I had a chance to meet and/or glimpse several amazing authors whom I bet you will recognize. For instance:
New York Times bestselling author Liz Curtis Higgs
, who was the fabulous MC that evening as well as a finalist in the Historical Fiction category.
Also co-authors Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee:
These two were finalists in the Visionary Category along with me, and they are some major names in CBA spec fiction! They are also both lovely and gracious people who very sweetly came out of their way to chat with me and Rohan at our table. I was a little star-struck!
These two lovely ladies were there:
There were so many others, I couldn't begin to list all of them. It was quite the gala occasion, and everything looked lovely . . . even prettier than last year, if that's possible! And, according to Rohan, the food was better. But I was far too nervous through the whole evening to eat much of it, so I really can't remember!
But we had a lovely time, nonetheless, and enjoyed the keynote speaker, Allen Arnold, who shared his heart with us concerning his hope and prayer for the future of CBA publishing. It was very touching and convicting to many of us, I believe.
Then came the time for the big reveals! Similar to last year, they announced each winner by first reading the first several lines of the nominated book. This way, the author was always the first to know that he/she had won . . . and had a moment to regain some composure before stepping up to give a speech.
While I was certainly not even hoping for a win . . . not when my competition was such powerhouse writers as Ted, Tosca, and James L. Rubart
. . . I couldn't help myself. I strained my ears when the Visionary Category came up, listening for the words: Hill House. Hill House. Hill House . . .
And then it came:
"Hill House, though abandoned, had remained unscathed during the years of the Dragon's occupation."
Though I had been listening for it, it took me a moment to realize what had actually just been read over the speakers. My first thought was, No way! My second thought was, Dragon's teeth! Now I have to give a speech!
I had just enough time to grab a sip of water and pull myself together, before I had to hurry up front and give my speech. For those of you curious, this is sort-of what I said. It's what I'd planned to say, anyway, and I think what came out of my mouth was similar!
"This was a book that should never have been written. This 120,000 word novel which, due to a variety of circumstances, I was obliged to draft in its entirety within two months. Two months during which I was also trying to work
three jobs, becoming engaged, planing a wedding, moving, temporarily from Raleigh to Wisconsin, and fighting off a variety of illness, most of them stress-induced!
Even in ideal circumstances, it's difficult to dredge up
creative inspiration and put it down in an interesting form on page . . . and,
while that summer was the best of my life, it was not the most ideal
circumstance for noveling! Many times during those two insane months, I remember
saying, "If this book gets written at all, it will be by God's power!"
And now, you see, the book is written. And here I stand,
receiving this award that has been so graciously bestowed upon my efforts
tonight. And I can only say that it was God enabling me that made this book
possible. But then again, isn't that always the way? Whether in ideal or
impossible circumstances, when we turn our hand to the work God has set before
us, it His power that enables.
I would like to take a moment to thank some of those whom God used as instruments to enable this process. First, my editor at Bethany House Publishing, David Long-suffering . . . ahem . . . David Long. Who is indeed a long-suffering man, but who put up with many last-minute changes and bumps in the road, all the while believing in this project and my ability. That belief was more encouragement than he'll ever know.
Also my line editor, Rochelle,
who spent so many hours combing through the manuscript! And my agent at Books & Such literary agency, Rachel Kent, ever
A big shout-out to my
mother, author Jill Stengl, who brainstormed with me at crazy-odd hours and was always willing to read
and critique drafted chapters as I wrote them.
Most of all, I want to thank my darling Rohan, who
endured that ridiculous summer, always sweet, supportive, with a listening ear
and lots of chocolate . . . and who, at the end of it all, still wanted to
marry me! This book is dedicated to you, my love. And it really was the least I could do!"
That was the gist anyway!
After that, the evening is a bit of a blur. So I'll simply share some pictures with you now!
Christy Award Winners
(left to right)
I finally got to meet in person lovely author Kim Sawyer
Fellow Books & Such author Julie Klassen won for her novel The Maid of Fairbourne Hall . . . and looked amazing in her blue dress! She gave a sweet thanks to my Rohan in her acceptance speech for his help in her fencing research for that particular novel. That pleased me!
But, as always, the best part of the evening is being with my darling Rohan, always my support and encourager. He truly is the greatest blessing I have ever known!
I hope you all enjoyed this pictorial account of the Christy Awards. If you'd like to see a few more pictures, be sure to get on my author facebook page where I'll be sharing an album of various shots. Thanks to all of you for your support and prayers and good wishes. You are the reason I write . . . and a very fine reason you are!