My First ACFW Conference

ACFW Conference

Over the weekend, I joined almost 500 writers, editors, and agents at the annual American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Dallas, TX.

Besides being my first time flying and/or traveling alone, I was a little panicked about what a writers’ conference would be like. Would the people I met online be as nice in person? Should I hug them or not? Will I even have the courage to speak to anyone? And many writers’ blogs talk about going away from their first conference feeling like they knew nothing about writing. Would I feel that way?

Nadine and I get a couple of pictures in while waiting for dinner.
Nadine and I get a couple of pictures in while waiting for dinner.

I shouldn’t have worried. That first night after dinner, I turned around to Nadine Brandes calling my name and giving me a hug before I even had to think about whether or not to hug her. It was the first of many hugs. ūüôā

I also got lots of hugs from my fellow author and prayer warrior Angie Brashear, but we missed getting any pictures together.

I met Gillian Bronte Adams, author of Orphan's Song. I absolutely love her book, and I was hiding my fangirl squealing when I met her.
I met Gillian Bronte Adams, author of Orphan’s Song. I absolutely love her book, and I was hiding my fangirl squealing when I met her.

I met several other new friends who I plan to keep in touch with. Besides a few moments of panic or trembling¬†hands, I didn’t experience most of my normal social anxiety. Perhaps it was the confidence of being in a room full of writers where I didn’t have to pretend to be normal. Maybe it was the freedom of telling people I’m a¬†writer as the first thing they know about me instead of one of the last. Above all, it was an answer to a prayer.

While I learned a few things from the writing workshops, I didn’t learn as much as I thought (or feared) I would. No panicked realization that I knew nothing of writing. In fact, what I did learn was that I knew more than I thought I did. I learned a lot from writing and editing¬†Dare.¬†Yes, I have stuff to learn yet. There’s always more to learn. But a lot of what I need to work on is applying the things I do know consistently.

While I was nervous for my critique with Jeff Gerke, I shouldn't have worried. After bonding over a shared love of Mountain Dew, the rest of the critique went by quickly.
While I was nervous for my critique with Jeff Gerke, I shouldn’t have worried. After bonding over a shared love of Mountain Dew, the rest of the critique went by quickly.

I was really disappointed that it was over so quickly. Next thing I knew, I was packing my bags and slipping out of the hotel for my airport terminal.

Once on my plane, still high from whatever streak of courage that got hold of me all weekend, I turned to the lady sitting next to me (something I never do) to strike up a conversation. She was a young mother, her chubby cheeked kid sitting on her lap, her husband in the seat on the other side of her.

Every mother likes to talk about her kid, right? So I asked, “How old is he?”

She gave me this cold look. “She is a girl.”

Oops. Guess my socially inept self was going to make a reappearance sooner rather than later. I’ll go read my book now.

Fun Fiction Friday – Of the Coldblooded

Anyone who follows my Facebook page probably noticed my excited pictures when Angie Brashear’s newest release Of the Coldblooded arrived on my doorstep. Thanks to blog tours and overall busyness, I hadn’t had a chance to post this as part of a Fun Fiction Friday until now.

OtC - eBook Cover

About the Book

Laila Pennedy is a warrior, no longer insecure and weak.

She’s confident the Faithful will overpower the Rendow Clan. Besides, Lars Landre, the Chosen of the Woodlands Region and her betrothed, cannot be defeated. She believes this with all her heart…until tragedy collides with conviction.

In the wake of disaster, the Kinhood threatens to capture Laila, yet offers mercy until autumn’s third full moon if she abides by their commands. But she’s set on revenge. And this time, she won’t be deterred.

This time…she’s the hunter, not the hunted.

Unexpected loss. Compelling wrath. Bygone faith. How in all the Woodlands will Laila survive?

Isn’t this cover gorgeous? And for those of you who were wondering, it looks really nice on my shelf next to the first book in the series Of the Persecuted. ūüėČ

My Recommendation

This book has a shift in tone from book 1. In Of the Persecuted, Laila is scared and insecure. But she also sees some of the wonder of her world, and there’s a lot of wonder to see.

In Of the Coldblooded, Laila is confident. Too confident. In both herself and in Lars. Her confidence in people is so much that when the first major plot twist happens, her faith is challenged.

While the first book concentrated on finding confidence in faith, this book shows how that confidence and faith needs to be rooted in the Maker, not in people or self. I really like how that theme was woven through not just Laila’s character arc, but several character arcs during the book.

Once again, this fantasy world is vast with creatures both familiar from the first book and a few new dangers. The plot twists and turns. I guessed a few of the plot twists (mostly because my optimistic self wanted it to be that way), but a few still surprised me (both happy ones and shocking ones).

My only small concern with this book is it almost felt like it had too much action (I know, strange coming from me). Sometimes, the action sequences happened so quickly, I had to go back and reread to page to figure out what was going on. This book didn’t have as many moments of quiet reflection between action the way book one did. There is more violence in this book than the first book, and one execution scene that churned my stomach (and that doesn’t happen often).¬†Still, I didn’t think the additional violence or dark tone was gratuitous. They were necessary for the character and plot development.¬†Laila is struggling with a darker side of herself, and¬†that tone comes out through the book. She has become coldblooded, and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for quiet reflection.

I continue to recommend this series and this author to those who are looking for good Christian fantasy. Now I’m eagerly awaiting book 3 and whatever twists and turns it has in store!