Introducing the Art Spotlight Mysteries

As a subscriber to my Book Blast, you are the first to get a sneak peek at the book covers for my new series. Ta da!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll recognize the covers of Broken Windows and Déjà Who? as similar to the first two books of my “Keyhole Mystery” series. What’s going on here?

Rebranding

The text of Broken Windows and Déjà Who? is not changing, but I’m rebranding my “Keyhole Mysteries” as the “Art Spotlight Mysteries.” Why?

The new design does three things:

  • The similarity of design identifies them better as part of a series.
  • The new title for the series does a better job of presenting the main plot line.
  • The design style fits a lighthearted mystery.

Why didn’t I do this in the first place?

Writing is a process. Now that I’m finishing the third in the series, I can see things I couldn’t see when I had finished the first.

As I wrote Broken Windows, about 2010, I began to recognize that the mystery genre had broken into several new genres. Suspense promises readers lots of action and cliff hangers. Chase scenes and shoot-outs keep readers on the edge of their seats. Mysteries are more about character development and solving the mystery puzzle. Cozy mysteries had just made their debut. These light-hearted novels often feature cats or crafts of some kind.

Where did I fit into that picture? When watching a movie, I found myself falling asleep during car chases. Gore was definitely out for my books, but many cozies seemed too shallow to be meaningful. Most Christian novels seemed to feature broken, immature believers recovering from some deep sin in their past. Where were Christian novels I could identify with? I wanted to write about ordinary characters who were fairly mature Christians, challenged to live by a high standard of Christ-like conduct. And I had to ask myself why almost all mysteries, even Christian ones, feature murder as their main mystery.

I ended up with Broken Windows, a mystery centered around four single young adults who were struggling with career choices and finding God’s will for their lives. For the most part it fit the light-hearted nature of a cozy, but it did deal with some serious issues. With a male protagonist leading readers into the world of car guys and professional art, I wanted to avoid some of the girly issues that turn men away from cozy mysteries. Broken Windows helps the reader discover new worlds along with the characters. They enter the world of handicapped people, art professionals, and graffiti art. I made Broken Windows Book One in the “Keyhole Mysteries” with the tagline: Discover New Worlds.

In Book Two, Déjà Who?, Jordan and Zophie enter the world of international students in Minneapolis. They encounter the new world of forgery as they have to distinguish real from fake. But I began to realize that the most obvious common thread for the series would be art rather than the worlds the characters were discovering.

Now that I’m getting ready to launch I Scream and I realize that the series needs to be rebranded as art mystery. As a result, I plan to change the name of my series to the “Art Spotlight Mysteries” as I launch Book Three and change the cover design as well. The stories of the first two novels haven’t changed, but they will work better as a series this way.

When can I buy I Scream?

Soon. Right now beta readers are reading the book. I hope to launch this book before Thanksgiving, in time for Christmas. You’ll get more details in future Book Blasts.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding a Christmas Program to Fit Your Small Church

September means “back to school” for most North Americans. While moms are buying school supplies, you may be quietly, and desperately, searching for a Christmas program to fit your church. The prospects may be discouraging. Maybe your church is too small to do a cantata and many Sunday School programs demand more than your church can provide. Christmas may be a major evangelistic outreach for you. You want something nice, but you are discouraged with your limited resources. What can you do?

4 Things to Consider When Choosing a Christmas Program

1. What is my purpose for the program?

Often Christmas programs are mainly evangelistic. It is the one time in the year to reach the families of kids who come to church. If that’s true for you, you want to be sure to feature these kids, not just your core church kids. Parents come to see their kids perform. Showcasing their kids is more important than showcasing more talented performers.

2. What do I have to work with?

How many people will participate? What ages are they? How willing are they to work? Are they musicians or are they more inclined toward drama? Consider how you can use the people you have in a way that will make them feel good about their participation.

3. How can I make the message meaningful for the audience, yet fun?

You may have people attend your program who only rarely attend church. You want this experience to be a positive one. If the overall tone is heavy and preachy it may push them further away. You certainly want a strong salvation message clearly presented, but lighter moments may help your unsaved audience better receive the message. Look for a Christmas program which will keep the atmosphere friendly and positive.

4. How can I make the program meaningful for the performers?

Program practice needs to be well organized, moving through the practices in an efficient manner. Some sense of discipline is necessary, but the general atmosphere should be upbeat. You want to emphasize that the purpose of your performance is God’s glory, not to show off. Yet the whole experience should be fun and fulfilling.

You may choose a program that your church is capable of producing through hard work, but you also need to consider how willing your people are. If your kids, performers, and workers are not highly motivated, you are probably better off not choosing a very difficult program. If you are going to have to threaten your performers and workers and drive them mercilessly to memorize lines and attend long practices, you’ve probably chosen the wrong program. On the other hand, a few highly motivated people can form the core of a more difficult program, with less motivated people playing less demanding parts.

I offer eight Christmas programs which I have used in a small mission church. Some are more demanding than others. “No Room for Jesus” is my personal favorite. Most are free, but some you have to order. Happy planning!

 

A Thankful Heart

 

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Nearly 3 years ago God gave us a wonderful gift. My book, “Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story,” was done and ready to be launched. We scheduled our launch in a beautiful building in Marshalltown, Iowa which was available at a very reasonable rate. God gave us free publicity on the radio. Before the doors were open a long line of people waited to get in. People crowded into the room and bought books, visited with others and relived memories. Mary, Steve (my co-author and Mary’s lawyer) and I were able to share all the wonderful ways in which God worked in Mary’s case.

More than 20 years earlier Mary had provided childcare to a baby who quit breathing. Mary did CPR and called 911, but within a day the baby died. So much of the evidence pointed away from Mary but some (not all) of the medical experts believed Mary inflicted the fatal blows on the baby. Mary was eventually convicted of first degree murder and began a life sentence in prison. But God was not done working.

isurvived

As we met to launch our book twenty years later, the interest in Mary’s story had not died. The reporter who championed her case was there along with her appeal lawyer. Some were there from her support group and some drove hours to attend the launch. God answered prayers in so many ways that weekend.

The launch seems like it happened so long ago, but Mary’s testimony lives on. Writing Mary’s story challenged me as I wrote of an ordinary Christian woman who kept a thankful heart even when separated from her family in prison. An excerpt from the book has just come out on a Thanksgiving blog. You can read it here. I hope her story will inspire thankfulness in you like it did in me.

 

Join my book blast for inside information on Deja Who?

zcover Deja Who

This Friday, June 10, I’m launching my book Déjà Who?, Book 2 in The Keyhole Mysteries. The paperback version is available now and the Kindle should be up within a few days. Broken Windows, Book 1 in the series, took place in Boise, Idaho. Why did I move my characters, Jordan and Zophie, to Minneapolis for book 2?

My Book Blast readers get information about my books that you can’t get anywhere else. If you join before Friday you’ll get a letter with 4 Reasons I Chose Minneapolis as the Setting for Déjà Who? Everyone who joins my Book Blast also gets my article on 6 Marks of Distinctively Christian Fiction.

Buy the paperback or Kindle version here.

Free Drawing for Idaho Residents

Keepsies Statue 300dpi

These stunning statues by Ann LaRose are displayed in downtown Boise, Idaho. During the month of May one Idaho reader will receive a free copy of my book, Broken Windows. To go into the draw, just leave a comment. You must be an Idaho resident to enter. Please share with Idaho residents! Minnesota readers get a similar offer in June!

Simplot Kids Statue300dpi