What does God want me to do? Part 2—Writing for Publication

In my February blog we talked about finding God’s will through the Bible, positioning ourselves to do His will, getting godly counsel, and rattling doorknobs.  I promised to give you some personal examples of how I found God’s will in several areas of my life. Today I’m going to talk about how God led me through various steps in writing for Christian publication. I hope this will help some of you who are searching for God’s will in a similar area.

Getting Started

I enjoyed writing from the first time I had to write an essay for grade school all the way up to Bible college. I didn’t know anything about writing for publication, however, and I didn’t know if I would be “good enough” to do this. Early in my junior year at Faith Baptist Bible College I asked the Lord to show me if this is what he had for me.

God used a godly counsellor, one of my professors, to help me begin to think about this. Mr. Clarence Townsend taught both journalism classes the school offered at that time. He had published at least some articles. He was familiar with my writing. He asked me a scary question: “If you could do anything you wanted with your writing, what would you choose?”

I told him someday I would love to write a series of children’s books like the Chronicles of Narnia. He didn’t laugh! He told me to set that as a long range goal. That took my breath away.

Then he helped me form some short range goals to get to my long range goals. He showed me how to submit an article for a take-home paper with Regular Baptist Press. He showed me the writers’ guidelines and talked about the kind of article they would probably like to see. He helped me dare to actually submit an article. My first article or two were rejected, but I soon established a rapport with the editor and began submitting articles on a regular basis. Getting articles published was a short range goal that also allowed me to have a ministry in the short run.

I also pursued other short range goals: writing kids’ prayer letters, attending writers’ conferences, reading publications on writing, writing plays and puppet shows for ministry. All of these things developed my writing skill, taught me how to work with editors, and help me develop new ideas.

Writing Books and Ministry Materials

In the 1980’s I also wrote my first book. I submitted it to editors, had it critiqued by professionals, rewrote it, retitled it, submitted it to more editors. One editor had showed interest in the first chapter, but when I finished the book he was no longer interested. I spent 4 or 5 hours just printing out that book to send to an editor. I sent it by mail and waited months to hear about it.

At one point, while I was waiting to hear from an editor, I wrote another book. This was a kid’s book about a missionary kid who came from the US to live in Taiwan. This book was easy to write because the protagonist, Amy, dealt with some of the same issues I had to wrestle with as an adult who moved to Taiwan. While the first book has never been published, Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World was published by Bob Jones University Press in 1994. By now It has been printed seven times. It’s part of BJUP’s homeschool curriculum for third grade and has been used by many mission boards to prepare MK’s to go to the mission field.

With my first book in print I figured I could largely leave articles behind and begin to write kids’ books. In time BJUP did publish three more of my books for kids and teens. I also tried to market other manuscripts: a VBS program, Christmas programs, a puppet show book, an ESL Bible study book. I initially wrote these things for our own ministry, but wanted to be able to offer them to others. Some of these I successfully marketed to Christian publishers, some I didn’t.

Finding New Markets and Means of Publication

If you know anything about writing for publication you know that selling work to traditional Christian publishers changed dramatically in the early years of the new millennium. Things that used to be easy to sell, no longer were. Today traditional publishers are much slower to take risks. But now we see the rise of “indie publishing” in which independent authors self-publish or use small independent publishers and maintain complete creative control over their books. Indie publication is the great game changer that opens new doors for authors today.

After traditionally publishing four books, Edges of Truth, carried me into the new world of indie publishing. I felt the Lord leading me to write this true story of Mary Weaver, a godly Christian woman who was convicted of shaking and slamming a baby to death. God worked in amazing ways in the case of this innocent lady, but traditional publishers felt Mary wasn’t well enough known for them to take risks on her story. I self-published this book in 2013 without the need for years of searching for an agent and a publisher. Though self-publishing means I have to find designers to do what I can’t and do my own book promotion, I enjoy writing what I think the Lord wants me to write with the guarantee it can reach publication.

The internet also offers a digital platform to sell or give away writing in a myriad of forms.

In forty years of ministry I’ve written many ministry resources which, while helpful to us, were almost impossible to sell to traditional publishers. Though I wasn’t able to sell some of these puppet shows, programs, and ESL Bible studies to publishers, they created a lot of interest when offered on my website. Having your own website and blog gives you the freedom to write things your way and offer them to others.

Self-publication is becoming easier all the time, but if you are self-publishing you need to make sure you are offering a quality product. You need to be prepared to market that product in a variety of ways. Information about self-publication and marketing is available in many different formats over the internet.

So I still need the Lord’s guidance. I continue to ask him to lead me in the current writing process. I seek advice from Christian writers and groups who know more about publication than I do. I talk to editors and other writers at conferences. I submit manuscripts and pay attention to the reaction from editors and agents. I look for feedback from people I trust. I take the next step and ask God to lock the doors I shouldn’t go through, and open the ones I should.

God uses these things to lead me step by step forward. With each step the Lord shows me enough to take the next step. And we go forward together.

Perhaps you are beginning to write for Christian publication and you don’t know what to do next. Where can you go for answers to questions and suggestions for your next steps?

I have many articles that give tips on starting to write for publication. You might find them helpful.

Here is my article on Christian writer’s conferences  and which ones I have attended and recommend.

May the Lord guide you as you work to find his will for you today.

How to Review a Book on Amazon












Have you read a book recently that you really loved and wish you could thank the author? Here’s an easy, free way to help an author and make him or her really happy: Write a review of his or her book on Amazon. Good Amazon reviews are gold to authors, especially if they don’t have many or all of their reviews have been written a long time ago.

  1. Open an Amazon account if you don’t have one.

You don’t have to buy your book from Amazon to review it on Amazon, but you do have to have an Amazon account. Amazon is the biggest bookseller in America and it often has the cheapest price for the books you want to buy, so why wouldn’t you want to have an account with them. If you don’t know how to open an account, this link will tell you:

  1. Sign into your account.

  2. Find the place to write the review.

Type the title or author of the book you want to review into the search box. When the book comes up, scroll down until you find the box “Write a Review” and click on that. Choose how many stars you want to give the book.

  1. Write your review.

Even a short review is helpful, but here are some tips to make your review especially helpful.

  • Include why you liked the book. You don’t have to spend time summarizing the book, as the book summary will already be included above the reviews. Don’t tell so much about the book that you spoil the ending. But be specific about the reasons you liked the book. This will help customers decide if they want to buy the book. You can even compare the book to similar books by the same author or others.
  • Don’t make your review too long or too short. Written reviews must be at least 20 words long and can’t be more than 5000. A good length is 75 to 100 words.
  • Be honest. Don’t give a book a 5 star rating if you don’t feel it deserves it. If your comments are too sentimental and your praise is overdone, the customer will probably think you are a friend of the author’s and disregard everything you say. Amazon may even pull your review if they think you are a friend or have a personal relationship with the author. To ensure your review is honest you may want to balance your praise. You could say something like this, “While the book includes numerous religious references I think someone who isn’t a Christian would still enjoy it.” Or “This novel doesn’t have as much action as some suspense novels, but the characterization more than makes up for it.”
  • Very negative reviews may help a customer decide whether or not to buy the book, but unless you feel very strongly about the negative points, you may not feel that you want to post a review that will actually hurt sales for the author. After all, authors are people too.
  • If you received the book free in exchange for your review, it is good to mention this.
  • Don’t obsess, just do it. You don’t have to be a professional book reviewer or write a long review to be helpful. Just think about what you would want to know if you were considering buying the book and write your true feelings.

Remember, even a very short review is helpful to an author unless it is very negative. It may seem like a lot of hassle to write a review, but authors work very hard today to sell their books and Amazon reviews are one of the best ways to help them.

May you and yours have a blessed Christmas!

Perfect Gift for the Price of a Card: How to Gift an Ebook

With Christmas just weeks away, consider the advantages of giving the reader on your list an ebook.

  • Most ebooks cost no more than a greeting card.
  • You can gift it to people who live far away without paying postage.
  • It makes a great stocking stuffer or smaller gift.
  • You don’t have to leave your house to shop for it.
  • You can order it now and have it delivered on Christmas Day.
  • A quality book gives a reader hours of pleasure and relaxation.
  • A great Christian book can inspire and encourage.

Cheap.  Easy. Postage free.  Meaningful.  How could you miss?

Don’t know how to gift an ebook? Here’s some links to explain how to gift a Kindle, iBook, Nook, or Kobo.

Gift an Ebook:





Not sure what to order? My newest book, I Scream, has just come out, not only as a paperback, but also on all these sales channels. This is the last book in the Art Spotlight Mysteries (previously listed as the Keyhole Mysteries.) You can find it, and the other two in the series, here.

Buy I Scream:





More Than Slightly Christian Novels

Smartphone with bookshelf - e-book library conceptAs a Christian fiction writer I read and review many Christian novels. I sample books by new writers and try to find books I can recommend. Some Christian are books poorly written and don’t seem ready for print. Perhaps worse, many Christian novels are well written but only slightly Christian.

I believe book reviews need to be honest, but also kind. Not all books appeal to all readers. If I really hate a book, I don’t write a review unless I feel the author has really crossed a line and readers need to be warned. Many of my reviews, however, contain this code: “slightly Christian.” That means the book may be well-written and entertaining, but has very little content that distinguishes it as Christian.

I think some Christian writers water down their message hoping to reach cross-over readers. But I believe Christian books ought to be distinctive from simply “clean reads.” Secular writers can give us clean reads.

I find few articles that address the issue of making Christian books distinctively Christian. Recently, however, I ran across an excellent article that really planted the stethoscope on the heart of the problem. Though Sarah Arthur probably writes from a less conservative perspective than I do, she makes some great points. She serves as a preliminary judge for annual book awards nominated by publishing houses. Her article, “I’m On the Lookout for the Next Great Christian Novel,” Sarah mentions seven ingredients she looks for in a Christian novel. Many have to do with writing technique, but other deal with concerns I’ve had in Christian publishing for some time.

Here are two great quotes from that article:

“Christian authors also seem to have a particular flair for painting darkness and sin vividly; but what they can’t seem to pull off is the reverse: a depiction of light and righteousness so compelling that we want nothing more than to be drawn in.”

“I rarely see in trade publishing what Christian publishing has the potential to do really well: paint light more compellingly than darkness, depict faith communities as a vital presence in the world, and point to Jesus as the source of transformation. If we as Christian authors and publishers can’t pull this off, who else will?”

These quotes highlight the need for what I call “distinctively Christian fiction.” I’ve written about this before, but today I want to list a few questions you can use to think through other books and write your own Christian books that depict light in a compelling way.

Is the darkness too dark?

Does sin look desirable or does it excite the reader in negative ways?

Is sin so graphic that it leads the reader’s mind to sinful thoughts?

Is the conflict so harsh that it depresses rather than uplifts?

Does the novel educate the reader in things that a Christian would be better off not knowing?

Does romance put the characters into morally dangerous situations or advance the physical side of love too quickly without showing the danger in this?


Is the light compelling?

Does the novel offer hope and encouragement?

Even Christian characters have flaws, but are some of the Christian characters kind, compassionate and Christ-like?

The Christian characters may struggle and grow, but do at least some of them show a reasonable level of Christian maturity?

If the story shows a Christian leader who is a negative role model, is it balanced that with other Christian leaders who demonstrate Christian maturity?


Is the Christian novel Christian?

Do the Christian characters relate to God in a deeper way than just a quick prayer or occasional church attendance?

Do the characters behave in ethical ways or suffer the consequences?

Does the novel condone lying, stealing, or other sinful behavior to accomplish a greater good?

Even though the plot may happen outside of church, can the reader tell that the Christian characters play or should play an active part in a church that preaches the gospel, features  sound Bible teaching and encourages Christ-like living?


So many Christian books deal with characters who witness deep depravity, are unsaved or are baby Christians. I read relatively few that deal with mature Christians. Believe it or not, mature Christians have problems too. Mature Christians need to confront issues and grow in Christ just like baby ones. I happen to believe some mature Christians might like to read about characters like themselves. That’s the kind of stories I write.

Sarah Arthur is on the lookout for the next great Christian novel. I’m on the lookout for likeminded Christian authors who hold their characters to a high standard of behaviour and still portray light in a compelling way. What books have you read lately that encourage your Christian walk in this way?


Christian Fiction for Christmas

Good Christian fiction provides hours of pleasure and feeds the soul at the same time. E-reader versions make great last minute gifts because you can select them at home and deliver them to the recipient immediately and postage-free, even if they live halfway around the world.  Today I’m following the advice of another writer and promoting books by other Christian authors.

I’m always especially interested in fiction by conservative Christians. In my opinion, much of Christian fiction today treats romance in an unwise way. Also, sometimes Christian characters take shortcuts on integrity and get by with it. I like to read fiction written from a similar perspective to mine, which is fairly conservative. Unfortunately, I don’t know many truly conservative writers who write novels. So I’m going to begin with adult fiction by three conservative authors.

The Methuselah Project by Rick Barry


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I started reading Rick Barry’s work when his articles appeared in the same publications as mine. In recent years I’ve communicated a bit with him. This year he has published an intriguing new novel which my husband and I both read and enjoyed. This is a great read for the man in your life, but women can enjoy it too.

Find out more about Rick here: www.rickcbarry.com/

The Methuselah Project

Nazi scientists started many experiments. One never ended.
Roger Greene is a war hero. Raised in an orphanage, the only birthright he knows is the feeling that he was born to fly. Flying against the German Luftwaffe in World War II is everything he always dreamed–until the day he’s shot down and lands in the hands of the enemy. There he becomes an unwilling guinea pig in a hush-hush experiment intended to outlast the war. An old Bible provides the only reliable anchor for Roger’s sanity and his soul. When Katherine Mueller offers to help him, can he trust her when she works for the very organization he’s trying to flee?
Thrown right into pulse-pounding action from the first page, readers will find themselves transported back in time to a believable, full-colored past, and then catapulted into the present once more. The historical back-and-forth adds a constantly moving element of suspense to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

You can order The Methuselah Project here:  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=methuselah+project+rick+barry

River Rest by Susan Page Davis



Susan Davis is the prolific writer of over fifty Christian fiction books including romance, mystery, romantic suspense, historical and children’s fiction. I’ve met Susan by email in the last couple of years. She considers herself conservative, and always uses high standards of conduct in her romance. (Sorry, in my original blog I identified her as a graduate of Bob Jones University. This is incorrect. My mistake.)

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than sixty published novels. Her newest books include Seven Brides for Seven Texans, Mountain Christmas Brides, and River Rest. She’s a two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, and also a winner of the Carol Award and the Will Rogers Medallion, and a finalist in the WILLA Literary Awards and the More Than Magic Contest. A Maine native, she now lives in western Kentucky with her husband Jim.

Find out more about Susan here: http://susanpagedavis.com/

River Rest

This year Susan has released River Rest,  an historical novel which is inspired by her great aunt’s journal.

1918, Rural Maine. Judith Chadbourne gave up her teaching job after her mother’s death to help her father with her five siblings. But when her brother Joel is drafted, the household chores and farm work may overwhelm her. Their neighbor, Ben Thayer, seems rich and mysterious, but his heart aches from his own loss. Judith accidentally breaks the antique ornament her mother loved. The splintering star echoes her family’s shattering. Joel falls ill at the army camp, and Ben’s concern may bring the beginnings of trust. Can love take Judith beyond the frozen Maine winter?

You can order it here: https://www.amazon.com/River-Rest-Susan-Page-Davis/dp/0997230835

Déjà Who? by Deb Brammer

Of course, I’ve released book two in my Keyhole Mysteries this year.

Déjà Who?

Jordan Axtell, a talented young artist, and Zophie Zobel, his girlfriend, move to Minneapolis to help with a ministry to international students. On their first outing, Jordan is confronted by a painting he’s sure is a forgery. Jordan does what he can to right this one wrong and move on, but his decision backfires when a stranger steals his identity. Zaxx, the ghost of Boise past, haunts him with a promise he cannot break.  Jordan’s ironclad promise makes him look guilty, and Jordan is forced to prove who he is or lose his reputation.

While Jordan is facing an identity crisis, Pastor Scott asks him to do the unthinkable. Z.Z., his Chinese host son, does the unforgivable. Zophie plots the inconceivable. And when things fall apart, everyone looks to Jordan for answers.

When the FBI brushes him off, will Jordan and his friends be able to figure out who the real fake is before it’s too late? Or will Jordan’s innocence become the victim of his good intentions?

You can order it here:  www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Deja+who+deb+brammer&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3ADeja+who+deb+brammer

Other Great Christian Fiction

In recent years I have grown increasingly thankful for Goodreads. All apart from sharing books and promoting my books, I find it very convenient to record the books I’ve read and what I think of them.  For my blog today I’ve scanned books I’ve read and chosen some I gave a 5-star rating to. I don’t give five stars to many books, so these are books I really enjoyed. I’m also including my personal review of the book.

Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray

This book has a very interesting situation and shows people locked into their social class in Chicago in the late 1900’s. Rich girl Eloisa hates being in a position where class defines her and expectations dictate who she can marry. Class expectations sentence her to a life of triviality. On the other hand, Sean tries to rise above his poor background and become more than his circumstances dictate. He educates himself and becomes a cop. He dares to love Elisa and sees he can make her feel safe. He introduces her to Hope House, a place where she can make a positive contribution in spite of her class. I enjoyed this lightly Christian book for the insight given into limitations placed on people by their social class in this time period.

Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Deception-Sable-Chicago-Worlds-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00N10ZHIQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480970752&sr=1-1&keywords=Deception+on+Sable+Hill

Lonestar Sanctuary by Colleen Coble

This romance was well-written and had me wanting to keep reading. The thing that impressed me the most was the romance was not based mostly on physical attraction. I’m not sure that God would allow Christians to be forced into the kind of relationship they had, but given the circumstances, the author handled it very well. At first they loved more from choice than from emotion, and worked to make their relationship better. They admired and then loved each other because of strength of character, not because of the color of their eyes or sexual attraction.

Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Lonestar-Sanctuary-Book-1-ebook/dp/B005LXZ4J8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480970796&sr=1-1&keywords=Lonestar+Sanctuary

Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry

Truman Wiley is a successful journalist, but a dismal failure as a dad. His son Aiden will die unless he gets a heart transplant and Aiden is offered the heart of a condemned prisoner on death row. The prisoner is innocent, but no one believes him and he decides, when he is executed, to donate his heart to Aiden. Truman has been hired to write the prisoner’s story, but the more he hears, the more he realizes the prisoner may be innocent. Truman has to choose between rescuing an innocent man from death row and losing his son.
This book is exceptionally well written. The plot is perfectly structured, suspenseful, and unpredictable. The writing is witty and transparent. It is distinctively Christian but the message comes through the viewpoint of a hostile protagonist which makes it all the more effective.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but it is also a great book for men. Highly recommended!

Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Not-Heart-Chris-Fabry-ebook/dp/B00724BVPU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480970848&sr=1-1&keywords=Not+in+the+Heart

Truth Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock

This is a well-written mystery about brothers and sisters who come together to find out who killed their sister-in-law. They need to clear their brother’s name and reunite him with a 5-year-old son he has lost in a custody battle. The stakes are high and the resolution is satisfying. It’s a great mystery in its own right, but I especially like it because it deals with forgiveness and serving others. It has a strong Christian message without being preachy.
Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Truth-Stained-Lies-Moonlighters-Book-ebook/dp/B008EGRFWI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480970906&sr=1-1&keywords=Truth+Stained+Lies

Before I found Goodreads

When I found Goodreads I rated some books I remember enjoying, but because I read them before Goodreads, I didn’t review them. This doesn’t mean I agree with absolutely everything in them, but these are ones I enjoyed:

Healing Touch Series by Hannah Alexander

Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Second-Opinion-Book-Healing-Touch-ebook/dp/B018YCCVYS/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480970976&sr=1-4&keywords=Healing+Touch+Hannah+Alexander

Sins of the Father by James Scott Bell

Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Sins-Fathers-James-Scott-Bell-ebook/dp/B000SHBLKS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480971046&sr=1-1&keywords=Sins+of+the+Father+james+scott+bell

Presumed Guilty by James Scott Bell

Buy hre: https://www.amazon.com/Presumed-Guilty-James-Scott-Bell-ebook/dp/B000SF3KFO/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480971092&sr=1-1&keywords=presumed+guilty+james+scott+bell

Cape Refuge Series by Terri Blackstock

Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Cape-Refuge-Book-ebook/dp/B000FC2NXK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480971137&sr=1-1&keywords=cape+refuge+series+by+terri+blackstock

Southern Storm Series by Terri Blackstock

Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Cape-Refuge-Book-ebook/dp/B000FC2NXK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480971325&sr=1-1&keywords=cape+refuge+by+terri+blackstock+book+1

The Bug Man Collection, especially Less Than Dead by Tim Downs

(very funny, but not very Christian)

Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Less-than-Dead-Bug-Novel-ebook/dp/B007V91ANY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1480970655&sr=1-1&keywords=Less+than+dead+tim+downs


Ghost Writer by Rene Gutteridge

Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Writer-Rene-Gutteridge-ebook/dp/B008B719X6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480971373&sr=1-1&keywords=ghost+writer+rene

Occupational Hazards Series by Rene Gutteridge

Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Scoop-Occupational-Hazards-Rene-Gutteridge-ebook/dp/B003FCVDTW/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1480971588&sr=1-2&keywords=occupational+hazards+rene+gutteridge

Storm Series by Rene Gutteridge

Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=splitting+storm+rene+gutteridge

Fairlawn Series by Angela Elwell Hunt

Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Doesnt-She-Look-Natural-Fairlawn/dp/141432605X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480971706&sr=1-1&keywords=doesn%27t+she+look+natural+fairlawn+angela+elwell+hunt