Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review of Carolyn Wheat's How to Write Killer Fiction

By Jeff Reynolds

Maybe you're thinking about writing either a mystery or a tale of suspense. Possibly you're confused on what distinguishes these two genres. You might wonder if one of these two options complements your approach to writing. Then, you could just enjoy another book about the craft of writing.

If I just described you, I highly recommend How to Write Killer Fiction: The Funhouse of Mystery and the Roller Coaster of Suspense by Carolyn Wheat. Let me state up front that 1) this isn't a recent release (it was written in 2003) and 2) this is not a Christian book. Neither nullifies the value of this book for a mystery or suspense writer.

This book can be divided into four parts. First, there's the preface and the introduction which introduces acquaints the reader with the genres of mystery and suspense and their differences. For example, the reader is two steps behind the mystery's detective in the mystery, but may be two steps ahead of the protagonist in suspense.

It's common for suspense to have some mystery and vice versa. Nevertheless, Wheat points out that the genres are so different a true hybrid is rare. She lists Scott Tutterow's Presumed Innocent as an example. Some of Randy Singer's novels come close, but they still are more suspense than mystery.

Part one sheds the spotlight on mystery, while part two focuses on suspense. These two sections contain four chapters each, dealing with the history of the genre, the important elements, the way the story arc appears, and “Endings are hard” – looking at the problems of wrapping the story up.

Part three gives two chapters on the writing process. The first looks at scene vs. style, while the other deals with the debate between Outliners and Blank Pagers (i.e. structure vs. spontaneity). Wheat suggests that mystery writers are naturally outliners, plotting each detail out well in advance and points out that Joe Gores stated suspense “should never be outlined” – an opinion shared by Stephen King and Elmore Leonard.

The epilogue deals with the issue of publishing.

This is a great research tool for writers. I chose to start with the introduction before jumping right into chapter three. Considering I've written a couple of mysteries but am about to start a suspense story, I then read part two. Did reading out of order cause a problem? No.

If you're a suspense or mystery writer, this is a great book for your library. You'd also enjoy this if you're a fan of either of these genres and want to know how they work.

*The authors of this blog are affiliates. Sometimes, we will include links in our blog posts. When visitors to this site purchase items from using links in our posts, the authors of this blog earn a percentage of the sales.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Interview with Nikki Arana

photo of author Nikki Arana


My story is a little unusual. I never had a passion to write and never thought about being an author! It was May of 2001 when I first felt the tug of the Spirit, then a whisper, then a strong impression that got me to thinking about writing.  I enrolled in an Internet course called Writeriffic.  It was on-line so I did it at my desk at work as a real estate broker when I had a break. That teacher, Eva Shaw, really encouraged me.  She said I should send out my writing for publication.  I didn’t know how to do that, so I bought some books and followed the directions and send out my homework. It sold!

In March of 2002, I began to feel the Lord was calling me to write a book. So I bought about 10 books on how to write a novel and then sat down at my computer and started.  In May, I became aware of a writers conference in Seattle that only cost $99, and I could drive there. I read in the brochure that the Acquisitions Editor for Tyndale, Publishers of the Left Behind series, would be there, and if you wanted, you could be part of a group interview. You’d have 3 minutes to pitch your book.  I only had three chapters written, but I knew where my story was going. But how do you pitch a book?  My dad had given me Publishing for Dummies when I started writing so I went to it and found a page on how to write a synopsis … so I did. I went to the Seattle conference, pitched my book in 3 minutes, and was asked by the Acquisitions Editor to submit the first four chapters to Tyndale. So I went home, wrote the fourth chapter, and sent it in. That led to a request for the full manuscript.

With a request for a full manuscript, I got an agent, Natasha Kern, who is still my agent today, and she ended up getting me a three book contract with Baker Books/Revell. That was the beginning of my career.


I’ve written five novels and one non-fiction book, Through the Eyes of Christ: How to Lead Muslims to the Kingdom of God. All but one is available through and most other outlets.


Hmmm. This is a hard question. I love writing fiction and have lots of experience doing that. My books have won many national awards, which has greatly encouraged me. But it is my heart’s desire to write a non-fiction book about my experiences with Christ that include many miracles that I’ve experienced through my ministry, A Voice for the Persecuted. Or a book of devotionals that uses some of my life experiences that have embodied spiritual truth. In fact, in many ways, my blog serves that purpose. I treat it like a journal. Right now I don’t get to post often because I’m on deadline for my next book, Deceived. When that is finished, I plan to devote much more time to my blog and perhaps develop a book from it.


I have to say that when I read Frank Peretti’s first book back in 1986, I never forgot it. When I started writing, I remembered the supernatural elements in it and knew I wanted to do that in my books. A funny detail, I lived in California at the time and now live in Idaho. He lives just a few miles from me here.


Invest in learning the craft. It is extremely difficult to break into print and just as hard to stay there. You’re only as good as your last sales numbers, especially in this economy. The chances of writing a book that is salable without studying on your own and getting some professional guidance is almost zero. There are many great classes and books available and also established authors who are willing to help. Go to conferences and join writing groups. Surround yourself with positive, knowledgeable people. Build a network.  All of these things will serve you well.


My life has been very difficult for the past two years. I am the only caregiver for my 90‑year old mother who has Alzheimer and my 94‑year old father who has heart and kidney failure. It is hard to set a schedule. I typically get up at about 4:30 AM to write and I stop when I get called to help them in some way, or have to take care of my husband’s landscaping business, or go to the bank, etc. Then I return to my desk and work until about 10 PM on my WIP, interviews, promotions; you get the idea. Today, for example, I started working on this interview at 4:30 AM.

But I am not complaining because this has been a wonderful time of intimacy with Christ. The pressure just makes me lean on Him more, and He provides for me in extraordinary, miraculous ways. A few months ago, my mother had a massive stroke that left her unable to speak or use her right side. When she was in brain surgery to drain the fluid off, the surgeon saw a tumor and biopsied it. Two weeks later, they called and told me it was cancer.  I didn’t tell her or my father.  I just couldn’t bear to add to their burdens. She was recovering use of her right side and beginning to speak. They were feeling hopeful. Last week, the doctor did a second scan. I went to meet privately with him to find out how long she had to live. Before I went, I felt so overwhelmed and discouraged. How much longer do I have to struggle through the days to be strong for her? How much longer can I? I prayed just two words to the Lord before leaving the house, “Help me.”

When I got there, the doctor reviewed the scan . . . There is no tumor. There is no cancer. I will never forget the tremendous weight I felt fall from my shoulders. The surgeon said he can't explain it. But there is no cancer there. And as I stood just looking at him, God whispered to me, "Your help is at hand."


Here’s what the book is about: Austia Donatelli, a young widow with an underground evangelistic ministry to Muslims, discovers a friend, someone close to her heart whom she recently led to Christ, has been murdered. She realizes immediately it was an honor killing—the brutal practice of families killing one of their own for converting to Christianity. Suddenly, Austia, her ministry, and everyone she cares about are thrust in the crosshairs of a terrorist organization. As the extremists zero in, she must unravel the deception surrounding her and protect innocent lives, including her own.

The reviews of this novel have been very strong. I was especially happy to get a rave review from Publishers Weekly, which is not a Christian organization: "Arana's vivid imagery is imbued with spiritual force and her pacing is fiercely powerful." I’m pretty confident that if you like suspense, you’ll really enjoy this book. You might want to put on your seatbelt while reading.

The tagline is: Would you share your faith if it would cost you your life? I hope when the reader finishes the last page, they have a deeper understanding of what that question is asking and realize that it may well be a question they will have to face in their lifetime. I did.

The Next Target was inspired by my ministry, A Voice for the Persecuted. I help persecuted Christians who are under the threat of death.


I help persecuted Christians who are under the threat of death . . .  here in America! That is code for Muslims who convert to Christianity. I help them find safety. You can learn more about my ministry at There’s a cause page on FB too; if you have a heart for the persecuted, please “Like” it.

I felt God was calling me to raise awareness about two issues that are at the heart of my ministry. One is the need for Christians to reach out to the Muslims who live and work among us, model the love of Christ to them, and then with the leading of the Holy Spirit, give them what Islam can never give. And the second is about the huge price Muslims pay to know Christ. Most I’ve talked to live under persecution by their former friends and family. Most have no jobs because they live in a Muslim community and are shunned. And of course there are those who have been deported and/or killed. My ministry provides safety and everything necessary to sustain their lives until a permanent solution is found for them.


I love spending time with my husband, Antonio. In my eyes, he is the perfect husband. He was the inspiration for my first novel, The Winds of Sonoma. When you read that book, you know him and why I love him. Of all the gifts God has given me, other than salvation, Antonio is the one I appreciate and cherish the most.


I am in all the usual places. On Facebook, you can “Like” me –

If you’d like to sample my writing, the opening pages of The Next Target, which was just released is available at

If you would like to continue to follow me on my journey, visit my blog on my website. You’ll also find a tab called My World and one called My Ministry. There’s a lot of information there.

You can buy The Next Target at Amazon:

Or ChristianBook

*The authors of this blog are affiliates. Sometimes, we will include links in our blog posts. When visitors to this site purchase items from using links in our posts, the authors of this blog earn a percentage of the sales.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Welcome Fourth Blogger, Jeff Reynolds!

Sleuths and Suspects welcomes the addition of a fourth blogger, writer Jeff Reynolds.

photo of writer Jeff Reynolds

Review of Navy SEAL Rescuer

Recently, I read Navy SEAL Rescuer, written by Shirlee McCoy and published by Love Inspired Suspense. Catherine Miller, the heroine of the story is a tough cookie and interesting character. Instantly, the story starts off with a bang as Catherine is thrust into danger from the onset. A vandal accuses her of being a murderer, and later, Catherine is attacked.

Though as any good romantic suspense story would have it, handsome neighbor Darius Osborne shows up to lend a friendly hand. And like Catherine, Darius carries some baggage of his own. Still with someone out to harm poor Catherine, who just wants to take care of her ailing grandmother, Darius is determined to find out who is behind the attack and acts of vandalism against Catherine.

The characters in this story were different than most Love Inspired stories, and I liked that. I get tired of cookie cutter heroes and heroines.

The tension was high as were the stakes throughout the story. The story kept me turning the pages. This story would most likely appeal to those who like romantic suspense, especially stories with a military flair as Darius is an ex-Navy SEAL.

*The authors of this blog are affiliates. Sometimes, we will include links in our blog posts. When visitors to this site purchase items from using links in our posts, the authors of this blog earn a percentage of the sales.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review of Deadly Additive

a man is shown on the cover holding a gun, a blonde woman is by his side. they appear to be standing at the base of a mountain. a helicopter is in the distance

Are you a suspense fan? Do you crave action and adventure in the stories that you read? Deadly Additive is a new suspense novel by Donn Taylor. In it, Jeb Sledge is asked to rescue a wealthy man’s daughter and her reporter friend, who are both being held captive by kidnappers in Columbia.  But things aren’t what they seem in this story; there are a few surprises along the way. The novel contains a touch of romance, but the book's focus is definitely more suspense than romantic suspense. With well-researched details, fine-tuned description, and ongoing action, this book is sure to appeal to men and women who enjoy suspense. 

author Donn Taylor

Author Donn Taylor has written several books including Deadly Additive, Rhapsody in Red, The Lazarus File, and Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond. Readers can learn more about him by visiting his Web site,

View the book trailer

*The authors of this blog are affiliates. Sometimes, we will include links in our blog posts. When visitors to this site purchase items from using links in our posts, the authors of this blog earn a percentage of the sales.

Please note that I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The opinion expressed here is my own.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Interview and Giveaway with S. Dionne Moore



Interview Questions/Sleuths and Suspects Blog

1.      Tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I’m a city girl who transferred to the country. It was a big shock going from the suburbs of D.C. To PA but I absolutely love my mountain view and not living, literally, 20 feet from my neighbor! But I’m sure you don’t want to hear about that, do you? You probably would rather know about my publishing journey. It all started years ago. I was always formulating stories in my head and decided to start writing them down. After a devastating time in my life, I poured out my emotions on paper and posted it on my Geocities Website (remember them?). An editor approached me and wanted to use the piece in her book. From there I did another small piece that was published in Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul. My real break came when I decided to learn how to write fiction and I joined ACFW, which was ACRW at that time. Through the writer’s online I learned about the writing rules and attended conferences. After a few years, I heard Barbour was looking for cozy mysteries and I decided to submit the proposal I had just entered into ACFW’s writers’ contest. I found out I had finaled in the contest and within two weeks I had my first contract!

Guess you’ll never ask me to tell you “a little” about myself again! *wink*

2.      Tell us about your most recent book/or the book we are focusing on.

Your Goose is Cooked is the final book in the LaTisha Barnhart Mystery series. LaTisha’s cook overhears a hitman being hired to take out the mayor. Then said hitman turns up dead and the plot thickens like a pan of stale gravy.

Who would want to kill the mayor? And who would want to kill the killer? When LaTisha is nearly run down in broad daylight, she realizes the stakes are high. Is her goose cooked


Why did you choose this particular genre? Actually I didn’t choose this genre, it chose me. I’ve always enjoyed reading a good mystery and I love humor, but the idea of combining the two didn’t occur to me until the news of Barbour Publishing opening a cozy mystery reached my ears. If you’ve ever written a mystery, you know that it is hard work trying to keep the reader guessing while laying all those clues out and keeping the red herrings straight. Truly, writing mystery is a labor of love. Sometimes forced love. The most satisfying and fun part of writing the LaTisha series was the dialogue between Hardy and LaTisha--balancing their snipes at each other with the love they show behind the words.


3.      What is a couple of your favorite books and what are you reading now?

Some of my favorite books were always Mary Higgins Clark’s earliest works. I guess that was my mature version of loving Nancy Drew as a preteen. Of course *ahem* I still play the Nancy Drew adventure games by Her Interactive. As far as what I’m reading now. . .nothing. I’m gearing up for another research session for my historical romances, which means collecting nonfiction books and sites for a particular setting.

4.      What are you working on now and can you give us a little peek inside it?

No peeks! It wouldn’t be much fun anyhow. I’m working on proposals--you know synopses and *ugh* marketing analyses.

5.      What advice would you give authors who are on their own journey to publication?

Writer’s write. Join a writing group of experienced authors and absorb everything they teach and tell you.

6.      Do you have any books or websites that have helped you with your writing that you could share with us?

ACFW is a highly recommended organization. They are nationwide and have several regional chapters. There are also benefits in simply doing a web search for writers groups that might be in  your area. Critique groups are a great way to get your feet wet, but don’t go into a group wearing your feelings on your sleeve!

7.      Please let us know where to find you on the Web:

I write for The Borrowed Book:, Cozy Mystery Mag: You can also follow my tweets on my Twylah page:, my pins on Pinterest: and, of course, my personal page:

S. Dionne Moore started writing in 2006. Her first book, Murder on the Ol’ Bunions, was contracted for publication by Barbour Publishing in 2008. In 2009 she moved on to writing historical romances as an outlet for her passion for history. In 2010 her second cozy mystery, Polly Dent Loses Grip, was a 2010 Carol Award finalist and she was also named a Barbour Publishing 2010 Favorite New Author. In 2011 her first historical romance, Promise of Tomorrow, was nominated a 2011 Carol Award finalist.