The Crown Finalists

Announcing The Crown award finalists!

Young Adult/Speculative/Thriller

In the Middle of the Whirlwind

Water’s Break

Drafted to Deceive

Historical/Historical Romance

Counterfeit Love

The Red Canary

The Duke’s Refuge

Contemporary/Contemporary Romance

Take Two on Love

Remember Not

Red Carpet Summer


Congrats to the finalists! 


ACFW Virginia Writer’s Conference – Registration Open

Registration is now open for ACFW Virginia Annual Writer’s Conference. Join speaker, Dani Pettrey, for two craft sessions in the morning. Afterward, we’ll break for The Crown Award Luncheon and announce the winners of The Crown writing contest. Then choose from nine classes for the afternoon sessions.

Find more information on our conference page.

Autism Awareness Month – Asperger’s in Writing

If you’ve been a reader for a very long time, like I have, then over time you’ve no doubt loved many quirky characters in the stories you’ve read. They’re like the salt added to a recipe you’re cooking, to give it more flavor. The character whose lack of social insight gets him or her into trouble with others, often with comic results. The hero’s handsome geeky friend who somehow attracts females but once they get chatting with him they drift off in his direction.

There is argument within the field as to exactly what constitutes Aspergers Disorder and is it truly on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. I was a psychologist for twenty-five years during which time there initially was NO diagnosis of Aspergers. The fact that Aspergers has now moved on the latest Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM) to the Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the code removed for Aspergers, doesn’t convince me that the diagnosis will stay there. There is a movement among people some to not consider Aspergers or mild autism as a condition but simply a variant in functioning. That is how it was treated in the past. Quirky kids, unless there was indeed a developmental impact (and per the diagnosis there is supposed to have been significant developmental impact) weren’t labeled.

Think about some of these characteristics and whether you have observed them in others, for example readers, writers and librarians: Excessive (obsessive) single interest, (books!), difficulty in social interaction (too busy reading or writing!), tendency to predominate conversations with long one-sided topics of their interest (usually their latest or favorite book), excessively involved in routine and order – ok, well that last one might only apply to the librarians! As a former psychologist, I’ve found these characteristics to be with some frequency observed in all those groups. But unless these individuals also manifested a significant developmental delay, they wouldn’t be diagnosed. Furthermore, you wouldn’t say they are on the ASD spectrum! They simply manifest some traits which can both help them in their vocations but possibly affect social relationships. Check out this online summary.

If you check out that article on Wiki, you’ll see that there are many more difficulties involved with those diagnosed with the disorder. I get concerned that writers who choose to include a character in a story, should be sure they’ve got it right as far as the criteria. I usually prefer to write stories where we have characters with all types of characteristics and issues and it isn’t necessary to identify the disorder. I’ve also noticed other authors doing the same. Readers comment in Christian readers Facebook groups things like, “I thought this character might have Aspergers.” I don’t think for the reader that having a label or diagnosis is that helpful in the vast majority of cases. The descriptions of the behaviors can allow the reader to draw her or her own inferences. After all, people have reading those kinds of books for hundreds of years without the need to have a character diagnosed!

What do you think? Do you prefer to draw your own conclusions about characters without an author spelling it all out? In my novel, Saving the Marquise’s Granddaughter (White Rose/Pelican, 2016) my heroine has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which she overcomes with God’s help. And since she lived in the 1740s we don’t have a diagnosis – just a manifestation of her symptoms!

ECPA-bestselling author Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., is the award-winning author of a dozen Christian historical romances. Twenty-five years as a psychologist didn’t “cure” her overactive imagination! A self-professed “history geek,” she resides with her family in the Historic Triangle of Virginia. Carrie loves to read, bake, bead, and travel – but not all at the same time! You can connect with her at

National Volunteer Month

April is officially National Volunteer Month. April is dedicated to honoring volunteers in our communities and to encourage volunteerism.

Think about your community. People of different ages volunteer to help others locally, nationally and globally. Friends and strangers come together with a goal of helping those in need. There are volunteers in animal shelters, too.

Volunteers share their time and hearts by feeding the hungry, donating clothing, visiting nursing homes, giving blood, helping raise funds for various illnesses such as cancer and arthritis and in many more ways. They provide for others with their selfless acts of love and kindness.

Have you heard about youth groups who rake leaves for seniors? Or volunteers who greet folks as they enter the hospital doors? Also the friendly greeters standing by the door at conferences waiting to give directions? There are people who help with animals at the local shelter by walking dogs, cleaning kennels and showing love to the animals.

People travel long distances to build or rebuild homes after devastating conditions occur. Some people fly to other countries to help dig wells to give fresh water.

There are companies who encourage their employees to volunteer.

April is a time to recognize volunteers and thank them for the time and effort they give to help the world. There are ceremonies and recognition luncheons held throughout the country, highlighting the awesome blessings that volunteers provide to others.

Do you volunteer? Would you like to help others? Ask your friends and family for ideas. A group project might be a good idea. There are many ways to help others. Find out how you can be a blessing.

1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (NIV).


Melissa Henderson

Bio here Melissa Henderson lives in Mechanicsville, VA. She was born in Hampton and has lived in various cities in VA. She and her husband, Alan, have been married for over 37 years and have one son(Mike) who is married to daughter-in-love(Christine). Melissa was taught the love of reading and writing at an early age, from her parents. She is now working on her first inspirational fiction novel. Her passions are volunteering, Bible Studies and reading and writing. You can find her online at

My Character’s Uncommon Ground

Hello there, my name is Debb and I love telling stories. I always have but as a career news journalist, I’m loving being able to plot and plan what happens in my WIP (work in progress), and for once, make it up!

My story is about finding love in the most unlikely place. I’m going to tell you about the hero and heroine in my first book, Paige and Tom, who is known as ‘Cowboy’ by colleagues and friends because it’s his military call sign – he’s a fighter pilot. He was born and raised in Texas and despite leaving for school young, he never lost the accent. It’s not original, but the guys who assign nicknames go for the obvious. It doesn’t help that during his time at the Naval Academy he got in trouble for trying to fly jets in cowboy boots.

Cowboy is highly motivated, honorable and courageous. A highly competent operator in a very competitive, adrenalin fuelled career, he can also lean towards an overdeveloped sense of self-confidence, or, when caught in the wrong context, arrogance. He doesn’t walk anywhere, he strides. His handshake is strong and he looks people in the eye when speaking to them. He stands tall. But many people would be surprised to learn he has a very gentle side with a soft spot for children with special needs. This is because his niece Kayla was born with Downs Syndrome and he adores her.

You won’t be shocked to learn that Cowboy is a hit with the ladies. It may be a cliché, but there really is something about a man in a uniform, including a flight suit, and if the face that accompanies the outfit is easy on the eyes, a girl can get a
little swoony. But despite the opportunities to settle down, my hero has focused on his work and yes, dated, but never with an eye to the future. He enjoys the company of women, and the attention of someone beautiful, but doesn’t want to be tied down.

So it’s funny that he would be attracted to Paige who can’t wait for a husband and family to share her life with. At 30 and professionally successful, this energetic florist, who is branching out into garden design would love have more than her Bassett Hound Hank and Netflix to come home to. Paige runs her own florist’s store, assisted by the slightly zany Tegan. Together they arrange and deliver across a swathe of Northern Virginia where Tom’s family also now calls home.

She’s always wanted to be a florist after learning to love flowers at the kitchen table growing up. Her mom was in charge of flowers for church and her enthusiasm caught Paige too. But her newest challenge is designing a sensory garden for a local school and it has Paige’s full attention as she takes her work very seriously. But when you can drag her out of the store she enjoys the outdoors, which she has in common with Cowboy, or at a church event or even a football game. Her younger brother Matt coaches the High School team after his NFL career was halted by an injury.

Paige could write a column on disastrous dates and probably make good money as she’s had a few, including the guy who got engaged to someone else during a date, and the one who cheated on her with his secretary. But her biggest disappointment is never knowing that fluttery-heart in the throat feeling you get when you meet ‘the one’. But she does know he needs to be a man who lives for Jesus first, others second and himself third.

They do have some common ground – both from loud, messy families who think each other’s business is their own and both very loyal to their people. But while Cowboy finds that family dynamic something to run from, Paige thrives on it. Both were raised in the church; Paige accepted Christ at a Young Life camp, while again, Cowboy wanted to live his life his way and not be dictated to. The thing about Cowboy, is that he’s entirely too self-reliant. He leans on his own skill and keeps his own counsel. Rarely does he confide in anyone else, especially not his family. Until now, that’s been easy, but his latest assignment has him smack bang in Northern Virginia and he’s about to run into Paige.

He has no idea that he’s met his match, and she has no clue of what’s about to hit her. I hope one day you’ll enjoy seeing their story unfold as much as I’m enjoying writing it.

At this point in my WIP he’s reeling and she’s mortified. Such fun!

DebbHackettDeborah Hackett is a military wife and mom to two little girls. She lives in Northern Virginia and is working on her first fiction project – a family saga. When she’s not writing, she loves to play bass on her church worship team, teach Bible study, explore, ski or bake. She serves on the Northern Virginia Young Life committee and is a print and broadcast journalist.