Monday, February 23, 2009

Thicker Than Blood wins Operation First Novel!

I am so thrilled to announce that my novel Thicker Than Blood has won the 2008 Operation First Novel contest sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild and Tyndale House publishers. They announced the winner on stage Thursday night at the Writing for the Soul conference, and needless to say, I was incredibly nervous for hours beforehand. Then the moment came. Jerry B. Jenkins took the stage and first announced the winner of the Operation First Book contest for nonfiction. Mal King's Before the Last Leaf Falls took that honor. I had the chance to eat lunch with Mal and his sweet wife Regina. They were a delightful couple, and it was an honor to be in such good company with them.

When the time came for the Operation First Novel winner to be announced, Jerry asked the past winners attending to come up on the stage. Jennifer Erin Valent, Tom Pawlik & Jan Watson all did. Tyndale editors Karen Watson & Jan Stob followed. (The prize for winning is a contract with Tyndale House.)

(l-r: Karen Watson, C.J. Darlington & Jerry B. Jenkins. Photo by Cindi of Selah Studios.)

When he said my name, I was shocked! I can easily say this is one of the most exciting experiences of my life so far.

But one of the biggest thrills was seeing my book cover for the first time! They brought a poster of it out on stage, and I took one look and was instantly awed. It is beautiful! It perfectly captures the themes of the novel. I am so happy with it.

Here's a pic of me posing with the cover:

A Little Background

I was fifteen when I started the story that would become Thicker Than Blood. I finally finished the book when I was 23 and submitted it to the very first Operation First Novel contest in 2004. I was a semi-finalist that year. Then I began the process of submitting to editors---and I received rejection after rejection. Some editors were gracious enough to give me feedback, and over the next four years I tweaked and revised.

But I began to wonder if Thicker Than Blood was good enough to be published. I wrote a second novel and started a third. I was days away from giving up on it. But God always has a way of getting our attention. I was lying in bed and the thought hit me, "Wait a minute. I have a complete novel that's better than before. Why don't I submit it to the Christian Writers Guild contest again?" That was in September of 2008.

I hope my journey will encourage writers not to give up. After all, one of you might be next year's Operation First Novel winner! Visit the Christian Writers Guild website to find out how you can become a member.

And now, for the big unveiling... above is the official cover of Thicker Than Blood! Click to enlarge. The novel will be released in January 2010!

Working Summary of Thicker Than Blood:

Two sisters, estranged for 15 years. Their blood ties weren't enough. Only something stronger could bring them together again.

Christy Williams finally has her life on track. Her career as an antiquarian book buyer at the renowned used bookstore Dawson's Barn of Books is taking off. Hunter Dawson is teaching her the fine points of purchasing collectible books, and so far she's been able to keep her drinking problem from interfering. But when she discovers her ex-boyfriend, who also works at Dawsons, is stealing valuable books right off the store's shelves, she's unable to stop him for fear he'll expose the skeleton's in her closet.

Things begin to unravel when a stolen Hemingway first edition is found in her possession, framing her for a crime she didn't commit. With no one to turn to, she yearns for her estranged family, especially her younger sister May, who she abandoned in their childhood after their parents' untimely deaths. Now the owner of a failing cattle ranch, May couldn't possibly want a relationship with her, the big sister who didn't even say goodbye all those years ago. Could she?

Soon Christy's fleeing from her shattered dreams, her ex-boyfriend, and God. Could the Triple Cross ranch be the safe haven she's searching for, or will May's new-found faith give her sister even more reason to reject Christy? Will they realize before it's too late that each possesses what the other desperately needs?

Writing for the Soul photos by Cindi of Selah Studios

50 comments:

Katy McKenna said...

CJ---You may not remember me, but we emailed briefly after I, too, was a semi-finalist in the first contest in 2004! (I used the name Katy McKenna Raymond back then, but have now dropped the Raymond for writing purposes....) I could not be more thrilled for you. I still am unpubbed, but I do have a terrific agent on the case (Rachelle Gardner), so things are moving in the right direction. Please accept my heartiest congratulations on this wonderful accomplishment!!!

Elizabeth M Thompson said...

Congratulations! What a gorgeous cover, you must be thrilled with it. I hope you are celebrating big!

Susy Flory said...

That is so exciting, and the re-submission is such a great part of the story. A good reminder to never give up knocking on the door! Congratulations, CJ. Welcome to the world of publishing!! Can't wait to see where God takes you next.

Rel said...

Love the pics, CJ - you look great, enjoying your moment!

Hugs

Blinky St. James said...

Congratulations!! What a fantastic cover! xD Can't wait till it comes out!

christa said...

BRAVO! Lovely cover...What a fantastic accomplishment!

Rachel said...

You are so awesome!!!!

CandaceCalvert said...

I'm so very thrilled for your dream come true--big hugs from here in Texas. Your cover is awesome and your smile so very heartwarming.
I'm new to the Tyndale family, and can tell you that Jan and Karen and the whole team are THE BEST.

So happy for you,

Candace

WordVixen said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again (and probably again, and again, and again...): Congratulations! :-)

The cover is awesome, but I have to admit that my absolute favorite part about it is that they put the title of the book.... on a book. It's something I'd do, and you know I would!

And those pix of you are awesome! Hope you don't mind if I steal them- the only pix I have of you are in cafes....

Now, we've got to talk about promotion. You KNOW I want to help with that!

Pam Meyers said...

Love the cover, C.J. Awesome!!!

Susan Stitch said...

Congratulations! What a wonderful story of perseverance and determination. I can't wait to read the book! Love the cover.

lynnrush said...

Congrats. That's just great!!!

donnarobinson said...

Congratulations, C.J.! I'm sure you don't know me, but I've been reading your blog for about a year. I'm so happy for you-- not only winning the contest, but getting published at the same time!

And it's nice to finally put a face with your name (I always wondered what you looked like, and a picture is worth a thousand words...)

Donna Robinson

Bonnie Calhoun said...

You go girl! You deserve it!

Congratulations!!!!!

Steve Laube said...

Congratulations!
And that has to be one of the better covers I've seen lately. I'm lining up to read it!

Steve
The Steve Laube Agency

Donna said...

Wow, what an incredible story! I will think of you when I start beating myself up with doubt and fears. Congratulations!! You are an inspiration.

Deena said...

C.J., I'm SO proud of you! I knew it would win:-) Keep writing...God's got more stories for YOU to tell us:-)

Jennifer @ Quiverfull Family said...

Wow, super-congratulations! I remember when you were selected as a finalist, how exciting! Tyndale is a great publishing house too, woohoo!

MissDaisyAnne said...

I am so happy for you! Wonderful! Congratulations!

kc said...

Congratulations, CJ!!! This is such great news. I'm so happy for you. I've always thought the CWG would be a good thing to do, but have never been able to bring myself to make the investment. Glad it paid off for you.
Karri

Diane @ Partners in Prayer said...

C.J.,

I can't wait to read it!!!!

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

You really must let me feature you on my blog!!!

Amy said...

Oh my gosh you are so cute! I think this is the first time I've seen a picture of you. And I ADORE your cover! :) Congrats!

Mary DeMuth said...

What an honor; what a journey. Huge congratulations, not only for the win, but for the tenacity of the journey.

Creston Mapes said...

CJ

It has been great communicating with you about books the past few years and now to what a thrill to celebrate this accomplishment with you. My heartfelt congratulations. Warmest regards, Creston Mapes

Vickie McDonough said...

Woohoo! Congratulations, CJ!!! How exciting!! I'm really happy for you.

Maureen Lang said...

Congratulations, CJ! What a wonderful journey you've shared. And welcome to the Tyndale family - they're a blessing to work with.

D. Gudger said...

I found this out last night from my friend Michelle Cushatt who was at WFTS - how awesome!

I can say, "I knew you when" and "I've spilled a grande pumpkin latte all over her and her sister" and "she's been to where I grew up" and "she's like my sister".

I so wish we were able to connect here in CO. Now I have to find a way to get to PA. I bet Tracy is going bezerko. Tell your 'rents hi for me too!

Christopher Hopper said...

WOWSERS! WELL DONE!

Deborah Raney said...

CJ, what a dream come true! I know a ton of hard work went into this. I'm Snoopy dancing for you!! And the cover is gorgeous!

Rachel said...

Congratulations! That is wonderful and inspiring all at the same time!

Kelly said...

A giant BOO-YAH to YA! I'm so proud of you!

Smiles,
Kelly

Kelly Mortimer, Mortimer Literary Agency

wilsonwriter said...

That is a gorgeous cover to go along with your debut novel. You've worked long and hard, and you've been such an encouragement to other writers. I'm so glad you'll get the chance to see your words in print!

I haven't even read the thing yet, and already I sound like a groupie.

Melanie Dobson said...

Hooray, CJ! That is so exciting!! Sounds like a great story, and I love the cover too.

Congrats!!

John Aubrey Anderson said...

CJ -- I can't imagine anyone more deserving . . . anyone. And I'm with Rel . . . your picture with that stunning cover should be a favorite of yours for a long time. My prayers are for your enjoyment of this moment . . . with more to come.

Jenny B. Jones said...

Love the cover!! LOVE IT!! Can't wait to read the book. I'm so STINKIN' excited for you. This is awesome and couldn't have happened to a better gal. Great pics too!

Julie Carobini said...

SOOO thrilled for you C.J.!!! Wa-hoo yeah! And what a double to surprise to see that cover--wow.

And I've known Mal for forever, but hadn't heard about his win! He's an amazing writer too.

What a great night for readers :)

Rachel said...

Congratulations!! The synopsis sounds awesome, I can't wait to read it.

Richard Mabry said...

CJ,
Congratulations on this well-earned first step on what I'm sure will be a long and productive writing journey. Well done.

The Insane Writer said...

Word Vixen sent me. Congrats on your book!!! That is such wonderful news!!!!

Jan Parrish said...

Congratulations! What a wonderful dream come true. Here's to many years of great success!

Koala Bear Writer said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!! So excited for you. You make me want to dig out my first novel and get to work polishing it. Very inspiring. :) Looking forward to more good news as you go through the publishing journey... woohoo!!!

Audra Krell said...

What a thrill it was to see you accept this award! I didn't know you or your story, and I had tears in my eyes when they called your name. Knowing a little more about your journey is just icing on th cake. Congratulations! (We had dinner at the same table the last night!)

C.J. Darlington said...

Thank you all so, so, much for your comments! I truly appreciate every one of them. You all are the best!

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Great post, C.J. Waytago, girl! Remember someone taking a pic of you and me at CWG? I was pointing at you and going "Ahhh!" She hasn't sent it to me yet.

When TTB releases, I hope you'll do a guest post on Forensics and Faith.

~ Brandilyn

donna fleisher said...

Woo hoo!!!! Way to go girl!! Love the cover and the photos. Yer awesome. : )

Have fun every minute!!
donna

Gina Holmes said...

This is SO COOL. We've been on this path together for some time. You've got a great publisher, a great cover and a great friend to hang around with at the Tyndale booth (ha!) I'm thrilled for you...figured I'd say it another time or two.

Ann H. Gabhart said...

Way to go, C.J. There's no feeling quite like knowing that your story is going to be out there for readers. Hope you have lots and lots of happy readers. The cover is super gorgeous. It'll jump out at people from the bookstore shelves.

Tina Olson Browning said...

This is so very super exciting! I am soooo happy for you. Congrats and love to you and your family.

Deborah Vogts said...

Congratulations, CJ. What a blessing this was for you, and a beautiful cover too!