Showing posts with label ACFW. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ACFW. Show all posts

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Art of Misdirection in Mystery Writing by Terri Main

American Christian Fiction Writers gives support and encouragement to Christian writers. I belong to ACFW and participate on a yahoo loop with other writers from all over the world. I "met" a writer with unique perspectives on this online loop. When she asked for spots where she might guest, I volunteered my "Writing with God's Hope" blog.

Mystery writers will find Terri Main's article especially helpful. Writers can use this information whether we write romantic suspense, science fiction, women's fiction, or YA.

Now You See It: The Art of Misdirection in Mystery Writing 
During my "misspent" youth, I played around with magic and illusion. I read many of the books by greats such as Walt Gibson, Doug Henning, Blackstone and others. I worked at a radio station at the time. My boss' girlfriend often waited in the office for him to pick her up. I practiced my tricks on her because she was such a perfect audience. All I had to do was capture her gaze, and I could walk a herd of elephants in front of her and she wouldn't notice.  

In magic, this is called misdirection. You point to something and make it seem very important. You instruct the audience to not take their eyes off that object. In reality, that object is usually unimportant. While the magician is showing you the Ace of Spades in his right hand, telling you how important it is, he is fetching the queen of hearts from his pocket, ready to be lifted off the top of the deck he is very visibly and expertly shuffling.  

Mystery writers need to learn the same art of misdirection in our writing. Remember, there are two cardinal sins a mystery writer can commit. Make the crime to easy to solve based on the clues given or make it impossible to solve based on the clues given. At the end of the book, the reader should say, "I never saw that coming, but I should have. All the clues were there."  

This is where misdirection comes into play. I write mysteries that take place at the end of the 21st century in upscale underground communities on the moon. In one of these I have a scene where the killer, a bookstore owner, is chatting with my sleuth about books while cutting through a tape with a laser powered box cutter. He makes a casual comment about the tape melting on the lens of the cutter. Then he starts flirting with my sleuth and talking about their mutual interest in books. In fact, at this point, it looks like I'm building up a love story between them.  

But 40 chapters later when a witness to the original murder shows up dead with a laser wound through her heart and a tiny bit of sticky residue, my sleuth knows exactly who did the deed, even though most of my readers have forgotten all about the box cutter. After all, I introduced many bits of exotic new technologies like tablet computers, screenless holoprojection and while you wait book printing and binding machines. Yes, it's hard to keep ahead of the science today.  

The key is to try to make something seem very important which is not and make something that is important seem trivial. In this same book, the victim is found with a bloody head and a teachers award beside the body. The sleuths assume that the choice of the award was symbolic because a better weapon, a bronze tiger, was closer. In fact, it turns out the one assaulting the teacher was an art dealer and couldn't bring himself to use a work of art for his crime. Meanwhile several chapters were spent looking for someone who wanted a symbolic weapon.  

And it turns out the assault didn't even kill him. He died from a poison that had been administered over a long period of time. The casual comments the victim made earlier in the book indicated he was feeling rundown, but just thought he was coming down with the flu. I made the bashed in head and the choice of weapon very important and the victim's flu-like symptoms forgettable. I pointed to one while bringing in another.  

So, the lesson is for mystery writers like magicians get people to look at what's in your right hand, while you plant the real clues with your left.  
Terri Main shared this bio.

I am a retired college professor. I live in California's Central Valley where it gets hot in summer. I hate summer. Currently, I'm writing full time. I don't think of myself as retired as much as the college is paying me to write my novels and Bible studies. I've been published in just about every venue. Fiction, nonfiction, radio drama, live drama, video documentaries, novels and book length nonfiction. I've been traditionally published in magazine and book format, and I'm currently engaged in Indie writing publishing my own stuff and loving it. 

I live a fairly quiet life. I'm a life long single and live with my five cats. So, I'm keeping alive the cultural archetype of the Retired Old Maid School Teacher with Cats. 

I write science fiction...more

Thank you, Terri, for giving us such good information. Now, we'll all be watching for the slight of hand in fiction.

Terry Main has given us many books. I've pictured a couple of them from Amazon. You can purchase these or others at

Anyone for magic?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

It Only Took 5 Years?

Learning has come full circle for me. I guess I'm slow, but, as the cliché goes, I'm sure.

Five years ago, I wrote a manuscript with this tagline:

She’s addicted to overeating.

      He’s compelled to control her.

      But only God has the power to provide




At the ACFW conference in 2008, I pitched this story to an agent and a publisher. Their responses were helpful, but the takeaway was that it wasn't ready for prime time.

I pitched it as an inspirational romance.

"What's your main character's goal?" the publisher asked.

"To overcome her compulsive overeating and prove she isn't insane like her dad."

"Then, it's not a romance, it's a women's fiction."
PROBLEN NO. 1 - wrong genre

"We only publish romance."
PROBLEM NO. 2 - wrong publisher

I pitch it to the agent.

"What's the length?" he asked.

"60,000 words."

"Too short for women's fiction."
PROBLEMS NO. 3 - wrong length

The agent read my ten pages, and gave good feedback. I'll always be grateful for that.
He said, "Either, change the goal to hero and heroine finding love and publish it as a romance, or add 20,000 more words, and keep the same goal."

I prayed and made a decision.

Going through the entire work another several times, I added more drama, fleshed out scenes better, and took scenes from flashbacks to active time. Much better. Then I deleted unnecessary words. I was left with:
66, 000 words

In my inexperience, to add 14,000 more words, I needed another whole subplot, so I gave a fourth character three POV chapters. Now, I had it.
a little over 80,000 words

I pitched it several times after that without success, so I laid it aside.

In summer, 2012, 4RV Publishing released my debut novel. Then, in Dec., 2012, Pen-L Publishing released my devotion book for overeaters. I decided that would team up nicely with my fictional heroine who struggles with overeating, so I pitched it to Pen-L and started the process of rewriting the old story.

Thanks to five years of online courses, reading books, going to ACFW Conference, Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Conference, and OWFI conference, I stored up a wealth of writing helps. During this period, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more. I read many books in my slow-reader style. In September, 2013, I attended the Immersion with Margie Lawson which improved my skill at putting the reader into the story and revving up the emotional impact.

I rewrote all fifty chapters. By the time I finished, the manuscript was 96,000 words.

PROBLEM NO. 3 repeated - wrong length
Only this time, it's too long.

I prayed and made a decision.

With my five years of studying, now I realize that I need to delete the extra POV chapters for the secondary character, and rewrite what happens in the hero's POV.

So, what did I learn in 5 years?

Go full circle. I don't require more characters.

SOLUTION TO ALL PROBLEMS - deepen the emotion in your story

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Interview with Donna Clark Goodrich

Today, my Writing with God's Hope blog welcomes author, proofreader, editor, speaker Donna Clark Goodrich. I met Donna online through the Christian Writers Fellowship International. I ordered and read her book about keeping up with a writer's income tax liability. Realizing I knew little about her, I asked her to visit with us today.
1.  Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Jackson, Michigan and moved to Kansas City when I was 20 to take a job as secretary to the book editor at the Nazarene Publishing House. Met my husband, who was a student at Nazarene Theological Seminary, when I typed his term paper. We got engaged 3 weeks after we met and have been married for 53 years. He pastored 1 year in Michigan, then we moved back to Jackson for 3 years, coming to Arizona in 1969 because of his health. We have 1 son and 2 daughters, one is married to a minister and they live in Cushing, Oklahoma, with our 2 granddaughters. My husband has been on disability since his heart attack at the age of 48, and now has 12 different diseases he is dealing with.

  2.  Sounds like God has led you through a lot. Tell us a little about your writing journey.  

 I've always loved to write. Wrote my first 2 poems at the age of 9--one for Mother's Day and one for Veteran's Day (our pastor put it in the church bulletin). Sold my first poem at 14 (for $1.40) and my first short story to our church S.S. paper at 18 (for $12). After I began work at the publishing house and got to know a lot of the editors, I started selling more. Sold my first book in 1971--a puzzle book, 3 devotional books in 1972, then it took off after that. Most have been devotional books, 2 cookbooks, a biography, 2 secular how-to books with John Wiley & Sons, self-help books, and compiled and edited 3 anthologies.
3. You've been writing for a long time. I probably have viewers who, like me, are saying, "I'd like to read the poems, or see the cookbook."  Your writing encompasses varied subjects. Did you ever feel like giving up?  And how did you press through this?

The one depressing time I remember was when I broke my wrist and had a cast on for 4 months. I thought, "Now I have time to write," sent out dozens of things, sat back, and waited for responses. They came; 12 rejections in one day. I threw them on the floor and told my husband, "I quit, I'm not writing anymore." And it seemed God spoke to me, "I just want you to use this time to get close to Me." I have so many things I still want to write, I don't think I'll ever really quit.

 4.  Tell us about your latest book.
I'd like to tell about my two latest ones. For years I wanted something to offer to people who called and said, "I want to be a writer. How do I get started?" So I took all the material I've been teaching in workshops over the years and put it in book form. It came out 2 years ago under the title: A Step in the Write Direction--the Complete How-to Book for Christian Writers. I also brought out a second, similar student edition with assignments throughout....The second book The Freedom of Letting Go came about after it took me 11 years to let go of my mother after she died. When I was finally to do that, I realized it wasn't just letting go of her; it was the whole principle of letting go of the past. The book covers such things as: letting go of grief, success, failure, material things, children, your youth, people who have hurt you, etc., and then ends with "The Land Beyond Letting Go." I also speak on this subject at different churches.

5.  How do you feel this book will help readers?
The writing book will help beginning writers get started, and encourage advanced writers to keep going. There are also chapters on income taxes for writers, Microsoft Word hints, collaborating with other writers, etc. ... The Letting Go book will help people "forget those things which are behind and press forward."
.    6. What other writing-related careers will we find on your resume?
 I teach my own one- and two-day workshops across the U.S. (just need a location and a registrar), teach at other conferences, and I also proofread and edit manuscripts for writers and publishers.
7.     If your writing resembled a song, what would that song be?
"For all that You've done I will thank You, for all that You're going to do. For all that You've promised and all that You are is all that has carried me through. Jesus, I thank You."  The songwriter is Dennis Jernigan.
8.     Anything more you'd like to add?
 The following quotation changed my life. Up to that time I had sold 4 books and over 200 manuscripts, but writing was just a hobby for me. Then I heard Harold Ivan Smith say, "We are called to write and I feel we will be held responsible at the Judgment for the people we could have helped but didn't because we didn't write what God laid on our hearts to write." That took writing out of the hobby category for me and made it a calling. I feel I'm as called to write as a preacher is called to preach.

     9. I will remember that quote. So inspirational How can readers find you?
My web site is:  and I write a blog for writers every Monday morning at  I'll send it automatically via email to anyone who requests it. Email me at: It includes a personal update, a Thought for the Day, a Laugh for the Day, and Writer's Hints (including answering questions sent in).
Wow, Donna, I've learned so much. I never knew you worked for the Nazarene Publishing House. I was raised in a Nazarene church and have published short stories in Standard, so that publisher is close to my heart.  Thanks for stopping by and answering my questions.
After talking with Donna, I ordered both of these books. Since I teach a weight loss class, I know I'll use the principles of The Freedom of Letting Go there. I'm more than halfway through reading A Step in the Write Direction. Watch for my review on that book on October 6 on  Three other writers and I take turns reviewing books, especially books on the craft of writing. We also view websites, newsletters, conferences, and some fiction books, anything that helps writers.
Thank you, Donna, for visiting with us today. I'm eager to delve into the other book. Reader, if you have further questions or comments for Donna, or for me, leave a comment. Also notice on the side of this page where you can sign up as a follower for Writing with God's Hope blog. Every Saturday, I post. I write devotions, author interviews, weight loss tips, and sometimes, plain fun stuff.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I’ve been tagged to take part in The Next Big Thing by fellow 4RV author, Melanie Robertson-King Find her at:

  I answer ten questions about my next book in progress, then pass the baton on to two more authors. It’s loads of fun and you never know what you might find out about an author’s book.
So here we go!
What is the working title of your next book?
A Ghost for Shelley
Where did the idea come from for the book?
After 4RV released Victoria and the Ghost last year, I was asked if there was a sequel coming. I decided there should be and started at work writing it. In Victoria and the Ghost, Shelley Halverson is the girl you love to hate, the country girl who gives city girl, Victoria, a rough time. I thought what if....? I find it fun to play that game. What if Shelley got moved to the city? What if the move made her feel ashamed of her actions toward Victoria? What if she fell for a rich city boy that had everything when she had nothing.
In what genre does your book fall?
Inspirational YA with paranormal elements
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Amy Adams as Shelley. Adam Senn as Colson, the hero.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A guilt-ridden country girl, forced to move to Dallas, confronts betrayal, arrest, and a loss of faith but meets a jet-set jock with a heart for God, and a ghost with a message just for her.
Who is publishing your book?
4RV Publishing (I hope). I submitted the first 3 chapters and synopsis and received a request for the full manuscript. I'm in the process of doing a final editing of it before I send it. I hope it's good enough since they published Victoria and the Ghost and this is a sequel.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I began Sept., 2012 and ended April, 2013 so seven months. However, I do many projects at the same time, so I wasn't always writing on this one. My non-fiction devotion book Divine Dining came out in Dec., 2012, so I also worked promotion on both of my books during this time.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Live on Hold  by Beverly Stowe McClure and the Laurel Shadrach series by Stephanie Perry Moore.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The what if question.
The first book explored a teen's view of a mother's rejection and a world with no friends because of being moved from city to country. A reverse viewpoint drew me to the sequel. Another thing that brought about this story is hearing of struggles with teen self-mutilation. I discussed the reasons and forms with our church youth pastor, and I sought to help the reader understand this progression in a teen.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
The proverbial opposites-attract love story. Colson hates being loved for his money and his family connections. Shelley hates being classified as a freak because she comes from the country.

Now, to select one more person to take part who will post their next big thing on May 23  TODAY.
Susan Meyers

Now, to select one more person to take part who will post their next big thing on May 30.
  Eileen Rife @


Saturday, May 18, 2013

BEAUTY FOR ASHES by Lillian Duncan

I want to welcome Lillian Duncan to Writing With God's Hope blog today. I pray her sweet article reminds you that we find our sufficiency and our restoration only in God.  Take it away, Lillian.
Beauty for ashes! 

This phrase comes up several times in my soon-to be released book, BETRAYED. In fact, I would even go out on a limb and say it’s one of the themes of the story. It’s not a secret so I can tell you, my main characters—Maria and her daughter—are in the witness protection program because Maria was betrayed by her husband in the most horrible of ways. (you’ll have to read the story to find out the details!)

Betrayals hurt! I know—I’ve lived through a few. They were ugly and painful and nothing I would ever want to live through again. Unfortunately, even years later a word, a picture, a smell, or a song can trigger the memory and for a moment the pain still crashes in on me.

That’s when I remind myself of this verse.  Beauty for ashes.  

In fact, if you choose to let them, betrayals can ruin your life.  If you choose to let them, but you don’t have to make that choice. You can choose to understand when someone betrays you that is about their character, not you and your worthiness as a person.

Or you can get stuck in the past!  Stay angry and bitter and pitiful!  Not a fun place to visit, let alone live there!  Go ahead, feel the pain and the anger and all those other powerful negative emotions, but then let God heal you.

He will!

In my own life, God definitely kept his promise of beauty for ashes. He has given me the desires of my heart. I now have a godly, loving husband and I’m a published writer. God restored my life and gave me beauty for ashes.

 He will do the same for you.

Witness Protection Program claims they can keep anyone safe if only they follow the rules so Maria follows the rules--every rule. She's given up everything--her friends, her family, her past, even her name to ensure her daughter has a future.

Reborn as Veronica Minor in the sleepy little town of Sunberry, Ohio, she struggles to rebuild their life amid the beauty of her flower shop. A life where her daughter can have a happy normal childhood. A life where her daughter will never know that her father was a monster.

When a child disappears, Veronica prays it has nothing to do with her past, but what if she's wrong? Not knowing who to trust, she trusts no one...and that's her first mistake

Lillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.

Lillian is a multi-published writer who writes the type of books she loves to read—suspense with a touch of romance. Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

To learn more about Lillian and her books, visit:  She also has a devotional blog at:  as well as her personal blog, Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at

 Thank you, Lillian. That sounds like a wonderful story.
Check out both of Lillian's blogs. I've found them interesting and stimulating.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Little Is Much

But me, I have little to offer
Though I follow the Lord's command
But even little can be much
When put into Jesus' hand.    

Jesus changes things. In His hands, small insignificant seeds of obedience flourish and a small amount of bread feeds thousands.    

God magnifies little changes in anything we do. When I viewed my two-hundred-fifty pound body, losing enough weight seemed like a colossal feat.

I reached the point where I admitted my powerlessness and turned the problem to the Lord. In His hands, it's amazing what can be accompished. Change what you can, and wait for God to move.

God is the author of growing small things into big and big things into small. Look at the seeds we plant that become mighty crops. God points out the smallest seed of all as His example.

Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain. Remove hinder to yonder place; and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
                           Matthew 17:19-20

    My positive thinking (believing I can do it) is as a mustard seed in the hands of the Lord.
Thought to remember:

Food is not the cure for your pain.

Freedom, not bondage, is what we seek.
I asked my Divine Dining class this week what changes they'd made since we started the class to help them live a healthier life. Here's a few of the answers.
    1. I start my day with prayer.
    2. I've stopped eating after dinner except for maybe a fruit.
    3. I'm eating smaller portions and more vegetables.
    4. I think I'm more conscious of how important it is to God.
WHave you made small changes? What others can you start? Has God helped you accomplish something big? Let me hear from you.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Worth It All - a true story

Years ago, a fourteen year old girl impacted my life for all time. At age eighteen myself and three hundred miles from home, I struggled with confusion, depression, and anger.

When I graduated from high school the previous spring, I lost my tight control over my destiny. During our senior year, my boyfriend, Charles, had presented me with an engagement ring. Everything was perfect. I pushed Jesus to the background. Love blossomed. What did I need with prayer? When my boyfriend left me the day after graduation, bitterness crept over my heart and squeezed.

At the Christian college I’d selected so I could move away from home, God sent me a special roommate. Belinda lived close to the Lord.

Scampering across our tiny room, Belinda edged closer to me. “I’ve found this wonderful church ten miles away. Will you come Sunday?”

I shook my head. “I have enough chapel services to attend during the week. I don’t need preaching on weekends, too.”

“For me. Please,” she pleaded.

“No.” Her down-turned look pricked my conscience.

Before Charles went into the navy, he’d again pledged undying love, but I’d heard nothing for weeks. I studied my lessons, went with friends into town for fun, and watched for the mail.

Belinda remained kind and patient through all my emotional outbursts. My cheeks burned when I came in and found her praying for me.

Charles came home on leave. He was rude and apathetic. When he left again, I tore up his picture, threw my engagement ring in a drawer, and fell across my bed in a torrent of tears.

Belinda’s cool hand brushed the bangs off my forehead. “God loves you. You’ll be okay.”

One weekend, my parents visited and brought my car. I was free. No longer would I be dependent on anyone who could drive. I determined to forget Charles, but the more I tried, the more depressed I became.

On one trip I drove into the nearby big city by myself. An urge almost overwhelmed me to turn my car into oncoming traffic on a busy highway. I pulled into the median trying to summon courage to go all the way. My breathing labored. Sweat broke out across my upper lip. My hands trembled.

I sat there with traffic buzzing on both sides. My car died and then stalled. I sat, stared, and wept. When calm returned to my mind and my hands, the car started, and I pulled into my lane and drove down the highway.

The next morning, the chaplain preached on 1 Peter 4:2 NIV “As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” The message on seeking God’s will in all things hit me like the cars would have, if I’d given into my feeling the day before. Thank God, He stopped me from that compelling desire.

With hot cheeks, I slid down in my seat hoping I would disappear, and no one would know how close I came to suicide. My life had no rudder. Hiding my face, I hurried to my room. “Charles has ruined my life. I can’t think anymore,” I screamed to the wall.

Overhearing my remarks, Belinda came in behind me and closed the door. More accusation than I’d ever heard come out of her mouth seeped into her tone. “You ruined your life by running away from God instead of to Him.” She looked at me. “Come to church with me Sunday.”

I went. The work the Holy Spirit had started in the chapel service continued as I listened to the sermon. More than anything, I remembered the closing song. A young girl sang Esther Kerr Rusthoi’s song “When We See Christ.” The singer’s voice, more mature than her years, resounded across the small sanctuary.

My roommate and I attended that church the next Sunday. The pastor quoted Acts 3:6 NIV “….Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you…..” By the time he finished the verse, I wanted to rededicate my life to God, and when the sermon ended, I ran to the altar.

As the service closed, the young lady sang the same song. Tears burst from me at the line “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.”

For several Sundays, the girl missed church. When she returned, she sang her usual song.

I hastened to reach her afterward. “I love your voice. That song blesses me.”

A sweet smile put roses in her cheeks despite the yellowish-black skin across her cheek. A cut above one eye gave her a lopsided look. “Thank you. I love coming to church and singing.”

“What happened to your eye?”

She blushed. Her hand swept as if to hide it. “It’s nothing.”

As I left, an older woman caught up with Belinda and me. “I couldn’t help but hear you ask about the singer’s face. She testified when she was saved.” The woman lowered her voice. “Her father drinks and beats her every time she comes to church.”

My body shivered as if dumped in cold water. “She’s so young, but so strong.”

“Only fourteen.” The woman excused herself and left.

I studied the girl. Her face shone despite the discoloration, and I thought of God’s strength working in her despite hideous trials.

I attended that church for three months. Jesus used that fourteen year old girl’s song to reinforce my commitment to Him. Though I switched colleges, married Charles, and never again saw the girl, I can’t sing that song without remembering God’s call to me through her.

I pray that she’s still singing for the Lord and touching lives somewhere.