My Writer’s Journey through the Art World

Instant Winner!

Four times this year I’ll give one blessed Deb’s Book Blast subscriber a free ebook by another Christian author. You don’t have to do anything to be in the draw to win! Being a subscriber to Deb’s Book Blast automatically qualifies you.

My March giveaway features another art mystery by another Christian author. I’ll announce the winner who will receive A Fool and His Monet by Sandra Orchard at the end of this Book Blast. If you don’t win this time, you have three more opportunities to win other Christian ebooks during 2018.

A Writer’s Journey

In this Book Blast I’m going to use the books in my Art Spotlight Mysteries to take you into my writer’s world and show you an example of how authors live their fiction before they write it.

Broken Windows

Early in the plotting process for this first book I chose graffiti as the predominant art form. I figured graffiti would be the ultimate insult to any serious artist. For inspiration I studied the work of Banksy, the foremost graffiti artist on the planet. Then I designed a character, Zaxx, a Banksy copycat, to make Jordan’s life miserable.

Now, even though I gravitate easily to crafts, I’m definitely not an artist. Still, I needed to come up with fictional art to go with my fictional character. I needed very specific graffiti to fit my plot. I didn’t just want to describe the images, I wanted to include real images in my book for the reader to see. Starting with silhouettes I downloaded from the internet, I doctored some images and crafted others, cutting them out of red and black paper. The result was six graffiti images which you can view in the book or on my Pinterest board. My efforts turned me into a copycat artist telling the story of a fictional copycat.

As I sat at my desk in New Zealand, I took a desk chair journey to Boise, Idaho to search for art Jordan would love. It didn’t take me long to find gorgeous sculptures of children by Ann LaRose. I contacted the artist and received her permission to include her pictures of them in my book. After the book was complete (but before an extensive revision), I returned to the States and, in 2011, I actually saw the real statue with my own eyes. I borrowed a broom from a nearby Subway, brushed the leaves from “Keepsies,” and snapped photo after photo of it.











My research had turned into writing and, in the end, actual on-site experience. It’s sort of a backwards way to experience art, but it makes writing possible from a distant location. In 2018, I was back in the States again. I searched out an Ann LaRose statue in the public library in Loveland, Colorado. Here I am sitting beside “C is for Cat.”

See the graffiti images and Ann LaRose’s statues on my Pinterest board.

Déjà Who?

 The second book in this series is all about real vs. fake. Forgeries and illusions form the art backbone of the plot. I needed a fictional forgery of a real painting, which you read about in the end. More than that, I needed a fictional forgery of a fictional painting by a fictional author. Of course, crafting a likeness of “In the Garden” by Helen M. Brady, or even locating an image to represent it, was way beyond my skill. I leave the reader to imagine it.

Much of the art I describe in the book can be viewed online. My research showed me real Lego reproductions of M. C. Escher drawings which are illusions in themselves. (Like Escher, the Lego artist had to “cheat” a bit to make the image work.) Jordan and Felipe weren’t the only ones who loved these. This author was grinning as she wrote about them in this story.

I did, however, take another backward journey into experiencing the art of Déjà Who? The book would be incomplete without a mention of Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. Here Felipe fell in love with art. Andrew Wyeth’s “Bronco Buster” inspired him to become an artist.












Among the illusions in MIA, Jordan found a peculiar exhibit, a historical office filled with real objects that told a fictional story. It was here he met the redheaded Rafael Romero, an FBI agent who himself “fooled the eye.” In 2018, after my book was complete, I saw the “real” painting and exhibit, as you can see from these two photos.









I find it a bit surreal to stand for the first time before a work of art about which I’ve already written, described, even pretended to be an expert on. It makes me wonder about the fine line between real, fake, and copied. Writing about it first and discovering it last seems wrong. And yet I praise God for the world that opens up to me now as I sit at my desk in Invercargill, New Zealand. (Invercargill is not quite the end of the world, but not far from it. It’s the southernmost English speaking country in the world and boasts the southernmost Starbucks.)

See amazing illusions from Déjà Who? on this Pinterest board.

I Scream

 As I came near to finishing this third book, I found I had made a near fatal error for my book. I was using the term “abstract art” for what was actually “contemporary art.” In art circles, abstract art is usually considered to be art that separates itself from how something really looks and originates from about 1860 to 1970. Contemporary art is not just current art, but especially applies to edgy art that challenges traditional boundaries and isn’t easy to define. I had written the entire book about abstract art when Destiny Champion’s work was actually contemporary.

Carrie Stuart Parks, forensic artist and award-winning author of the Gwen Marcey Series, helped me sort out the terms and fix the problems in my book. She and another author from ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) gave me valuable input. I am so thankful that the Lord helped me to find my mistake in time and sent art experts who were also writers to help me.

As I was nearly ready to launch I Scream I was sitting in prayer meeting in our sending church in Montana when three words popped in my head. I knew I had the perfect way to celebrate my book launch. Ice Cream Social. This would give local readers a way to taste a bit of writer’s logic.











My foray into contemporary art showed me how classic abstract art influenced contemporary artists today. I gained new appreciation for “The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh and “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. I found some interesting Paul Klee’s, but I have to admit, I still don’t get anything out of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings.

I couldn’t stop with merely knowing more about contemporary art, however. I had to produce Destiny’s fictional art. This time I felt only slightly intimidated creating art that was supposedly produced by a very skillful six-year-old.

The first painting by Destiny Champion was a stock photo. For the second I resorted to cutting out another silhouette and pasting it over a stock photo. For the third, however, I started with a blank canvas and a few tubes of acrylic paint. I spent hours ogling Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” blending colors, and trying to figure out how much of what I was doing would be able to be produced by a six-year-old art student. Thankfully, this painting only made it onto the back cover of the book and my Pinterest page. The cover photo, a stock photo altered by a designer, was not intended to reproduce Destiny’s image.

Recently I’ve begun to think about how digital images blur the line between fact and fiction. Today art can be created and displayed without a canvas and paint, paper and ink, or any “real” material you can touch, feel, or smell. In the same way I am witness that some fictional art is real whether it exists only in the mind or it is made of paper or canvas that is created by a real person for fictional purposes. So now I not only write fiction. I paint it as well. And I’m not even an artist!

The writer’s journey gives the author a much deeper experience in the world of her book than the reader will ever get. A writer sometimes sees, touches, smells, hears, and tastes a world before it ever gets passed on to the reader. Some of that book world is real, but an author gets to create some of it herself. It’s one of the joys of writing.

See more about art mentioned in I Scream on this Pinterest board.

Now for the free drawing!

I have randomly picked a winner from my subscribers list to receive the ebook version of A Fool and His Monet by Sandra Orchard. I’ve read the book and found it to be a fun read. Don’t you love her title? Others in this series are: Another Day, Another Dali, and Over Maya Dead Body.

And the winner is (drum roll, please) …  Mary van Everbroek!

I plan to give out three more books this year to subscribers of my Book Blast:

June: Truth Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock,

September: A Cry from the Dust by Carrie Stuart Parks

December: Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry








Waiting for Publication

As someone who has published four books with a traditional publisher, and self-published five, I can list many advantages to self-publication:

  • I can publish any book I can write.
  • I’m not dependent on agents and editors.
  • I can bring a book to print faster than with traditional publishers.
  • I can keep a much higher percentage of the sales price of each book.

Of course, there are advantages of going with traditional publishers, too. For one thing, they set a publication date much farther in the future, but they can be assured of publishing on that date. Meanwhile, I had hoped to publish my new book, I Scream, on Thanksgiving weekend. I can see that’s not going to happen. I’m currently waiting on CreateSpace to finalize publication of the paperback version. Then I have to wait for the Kindle conversion.

I Scream Social

(Secret #1: I don’t have a print copy of the book yet. The picture has a cover printed on paper, taped to another author’s book.)

Right now I’m planning an I Scream Social on Sunday afternoon, December 3, our last Sunday in Montana. This will allow some of my readers in area churches one last chance to buy a paperback directly from me at a discount price.  And eat ice cream. If the books haven’t arrived by then, they’ll receive the books soon thereafter.

The good news is the complete Art Spotlight Mystery set should definitely be available for sale by Christmas. Paperbacks will be available at Amazon. Ebooks will be available on Kindle, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo. (Actually they are already available on iBooks, Nook, and Kobo, but let’s keep that as our little secret #2.)

In the meantime we are finishing our time in Montana with Thanksgiving, a harvest dinner, being guests and inviting guests. In 10 days we’re guests for 4 meals and we’re hosts for 3. That involves huckleberry cheesecake. If you’re looking for a good, gluten-free, berry cheesecake recipe for the holidays, here’s mine.

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?


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










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.


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.