Friday, January 31, 2014


The Suspense Sisters are kicking off a whole new format for 2014. To celebrate our changes, we thought we should do a giveaway! Here are the prizes you could win! 

$100.00 Amazon Gift Card

Inescapable, Unbreakable and Unforeseeable by Nancy Mehl

Jungle Fire, Force of Nature and Race for the Gold by Dana Mentink

Dangerous Passage, Stolen Identity and Deadly Safari by Lisa Harris

Irregardless of Murder and Death Dangles a Participle by Ellen Kennedy along with a T-Shirt and a Coffee Cup

Irregardless of Murder and Death Dangles a Participle by Ellen Kennedy along with a T-Shirt and a Coffee Cup

Treacherous Skies, Riptide and Wilderness Peril by Elizabeth Goddard and Frame Up by Jill Nelson

Fudge-Laced Felonies and Candy-Coated Secrets by Cynthia Hickey

Frame Up and To Catch a Thief Series: Reluctant Burglar, Reluctant Runaway and Reluctant Smuggler by Jill Nelson

Comeback Cowboy and Summer at Briar Lake by Roxanne Rustand (Ebooks)
This promotion runs through February 13th! To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment, along with your contact information. For a second chance to win, join our email list! We'll announce the winners on February 16th!

Thanks for visiting the Suspense Sisters!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Writing Tip: Stick to the Point (of View)

Jill Elizabeth Nelson here with a tip for the writers among us. (For those blog followers who aren't writers, this post may still provide interesting insight to the writing process.)

 The term Point of View is defined as a position from which something is considered or evaluated, a standpoint, or a place of perception. In fiction writing, the position from which anything is considered in any given scene should be the character through whose head we are viewing events. This particular character is the point-of-view character. For simplicity, I will refer to point of view as POV and the point-of-view character as POVC.

 In order to remain firmly inside the POVC’s head, nothing in a scene can be presented for reader consideration that is outside that character’s awareness. When judging writing contest entries, I often see POV violations similar to:

 At a long creak from the attic above, Karen froze, heart pounding. Was that a footfall? Unaware, Karen’s hold on the vase of flowers relaxed, and she dropped it.

Now, if Karen is the POVC and isn’t consciously aware that her hold on the vase slipped then it is a POV violation to mention that she dropped the vase until the very moment when she realizes her unconscious action. The segment could be rewritten like this:

Karen froze, heart pounding. Was that long creak a footfall in the attic above? She held her breath.


Cool moisture splashed her ankles. Karen shrieked and jumped back. That sound hadn’t come from above. She gazed toward her feet at a tangle of bright blooms scattered amid shards of glass and splotches of water on the hardwood floor. Her heart sank. What a fraidy-cat she was. One little out-of-the-ordinary sound and she dropped the beautiful vase of flowers Glen had given her.

 See how this sequence flows in a linear and logical fashion with only what Karen sees, knows, thinks, and experiences in the moment? We remain firmly in the now. We haven’t run ahead of events, lagged behind, or inserted information that could only come from an invisible narrator. How much more poignant this event becomes when we stay inside the POVC’s head.

 Another type of POV violation I commonly see is something like this:

Bill turned away and didn’t notice Chet slip out the door.

If we are in Bill’s POV, and he didn’t notice Chet’s sneaky retreat, then the incident cannot be mentioned. So how does the writer convey to the reader that Chet has escaped? Here is a possible rewrite:

Fists clenching and unclenching, Bill gazed around the kitchen. Where was that louse? He had to be here somewhere.

“Chet, I need to talk to you. Now!”

Silence answered Bill’s shout. He strode toward the living room. A gentle whoosh of air behind him stopped him in his tracks. Bill whirled. The screen door was settling back into place. The coward was on the run.

Now the reader knows that Chet slipped out the door, but we haven’t left Bill’s POV. By refusing to take the lazy way out and “tell” the information through a POV violation, the story becomes much more immediate and exciting. Isn’t the result worth the extra effort?

This blog post is an excerpt from Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View, a handbook by Jill Elizabeth Nelson, available on

ABOUT JILL: Award-winning author and writing teacher, Jill Elizabeth Nelson, writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith. Jill is a popular speaker for conferences, writers groups, and libraries. She delights to bring the “Ahah! Moment” to students as they make new skills their own. Visit Jill on the web at: or look her up on Facebook or Twitter: or @JillElizNelson.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Steve Laube, a literary agent and president of The Steve Laube Agency (, has been in the book industry for over 33 years, first as a bookstore manager where he was awarded the National Store of the Year by CBA. He then spent over a decade with Bethany House Publishers and was named the Editor of the Year. He later became an agent where he has represented nearly 1,000 new books and was named Agent of the Year by ACFW. He was also inducted into the Grand Canyon University Hall-of-Fame by their College of Theology. In addition, he is the president and owner of Marcher Lord Press ( His office is in Phoenix, Arizona.

Interview with Steve Laube – Marcher Lord Press 

SS: Welcome to the Suspense Sisters, Steve. There’s a lot of buzz about your recent acquisition of Marcher Lord Press. What led you to take this step?

Jeff Gerke, who I have known for many years, had asked me for some advice about his company. In the course of the conversation I wondered if he had considered selling MLP. That led to a series of questions and my interest was piqued.

I’ve long been an advocate of the Speculative genre. So the idea of taking over MLP felt like a God-directed opportunity.

SS: Will this new venture change your focus in any way? Will it affect your literary agency?

Nothing changes. Our agency is humming along and I continue to serve my clients and our other agents like before.

Most folks don’t remember that I owned another publishing company for 10 years (ACW Press - a self-publishing/packaging company). As part of that I also had a royalty-paying division called Write Now Publications that published books on writing for writers (Ethel Herr’s Introduction to Christian Writing and Terry Whalin’s Book Proposals That Sell are two examples.) Thus I’ve had experience in the publishing side of the business while also running the agency. That company was sold in 2006.

SS: Some people have expressed concerns about a conflict of interest. What do you say to them?

Marcher Lord Press is a separate company from the agency. As such it is run in such a way that The Steve Laube Agency along with other agencies and authors must submit proposals to MLP for consideration.

The contract terms will be the same for all authors. Makes things simple.

Working with any publisher is a matter of mutual trust and integrity. If there are issues or questions raised we will address them at that time.

SS: What are your plans for March Lord Press? How will it change? How will it stay the same?

Most changes are behind the scenes in the business infrastructure. On the surface very little will change. We will still publish great stories by great authors.

SS: We understand that not all of the authors previously with MLP will be retained. How did you make these decisions? 

I will repeat here what I wrote on my blog about the fact that we did not buy the titles in the Hinterlands imprint nor did we buy the rights to Amish Vampires in Space:

These are actually two different issues and should be treated separately. I chose not to purchase those assets and agreed to have those publication rights sold elsewhere or revert to their respective authors.

Hinterlands was created in 2012 as an imprint of MLP to publish science-fiction and fantasy stories with mature content and themes (i.e. PG-13 or R-rated language, sexuality, and violence). That imprint and all those titles have been sold by Jeff Gerke to a third party and will likely reappear under a new publishing name in the near future.

Amish Vampires in Space was not part of Hinterlands and is a well written book (no surprise considering Kerry Neitz is the author). Jeff Gerke, Kerry Neitz, and I discussed this prior to my purchasing MLP. While we have differing opinions on its publication, ultimately it would not have been a book I would have published had I been the publisher. The title has reverted to Kerry and the book is still available for sale in most major online outlets.

SS. Will MLP still produce print and eBooks? 

Yes. It always has done both and will continue.

SS: What kinds of submissions will you be looking for? Will submissions need to be agented? 

We accept agented and unagented submissions.

As for content?  Fresh and exciting books that fit in the speculative genre. While that is a niche, it is one with endless opportunities for creative writing. Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Supernatural/Paranormal are all parts of what we will continue to publish.

SS: Will you be looking to fill other positions? Editors, etc.?

Not at this time. We have the editorial side well in hand.

SS: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers? 

I earnestly desire your prayers and support. My long-standing passion for this genre has never wavered. It has been a privilege over the years to work as an editor and as an agent with some of the best this genre has had to offer in Karen Hancock, Kathy Tyers, Chuck Black, Patrick Carr, Randy Ingermanson & John Olson, Lisa Bergren, Tosca Lee, Bryan Davis, Sharon Hinck, Jared Wilson, and others. My hope is to continue those efforts as a publisher and build upon what Jeff Gerke created these past few years.

SS: Thanks for being our guest on the Suspense Sisters. We’ll be watching for exciting news from Marcher Lord Press!


Monday, January 20, 2014


By Nancy Mehl

Writing for publishers can be exciting, disappointing, confusing, and fun. Sometimes, all these emotions happen with one book! There are a lot of things that happen behind the scenes that impact readers. For example, the other day a friend asked me about sequels that aren’t published. Readers who connect with certain characters feel that they’ve been left hanging. Authors get the email that starts out…”Whatever happened to…?” Today, I want to talk about why sometimes characters appear and disappear like mini-raptures.

When an author starts writing a series, we all hope we will be just like Sue Grafton. She started out with A is for Alibi and will release W is for Witness in September. I can only guess that the next books will be X is for X-ray, Y is for Yawn and Z is for Zzzzzzz, seeing her character, Kinsey Malone, must be in her eighties by now. Unfortunately, most publishers don’t like long running series. The current trend is three books and you’re done. For authors who are always optimistic (or living in a dream world), the hope is still out there that our editor will say, “This is the best series ever! Don’t make any plans for the next thirty years!” But, unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. So…characters we’ve planted in the background, hoping to bring them forward in a sequel, just float off into character heaven. Unloved, unfulfilled, and un… Okay, I ran out of “un” words. But you get the idea. This happened to me recently with characters from my Road to Kingdom series. So, what does a hapless writer do with these poor unfortunate characters that never get a chance to live out their fictional lives?

When I was notified that my Road to Kingdom series was over, and it was time for a new series, I was disappointed that Kingdom and its inhabitants were headed for character heaven. I quickly came to the conclusion that the only possible reason had to do with the Kingdom titles. We’d simply run out of titles that ended with –able. Inescapable, Unbreakable and Unforeseeable. All we had left were choices like: Unbelievable, Indescribable, Unworkable, Untranslatable, Unutterable, Unthinkable, Unprintable, Unidentifiable, Undecipherable, Uncopyrightable (yes, it’s a word!), Incomprehensible, and Insufferable. As you can imagine, it was a set up for disaster. Mean-spirited reviewers would have pounced on these unfortunate titles with evil relish. Now my editor hasn’t admitted that this was their thinking, but in my mind, this was the only possible reason to discontinue the series. This explanation makes me feel better. So leave me alone.

But what about poor Sophie who fled Kingdom in shame? And the suitor Hope didn’t choose? And what about poor plain Leah, the schoolteacher who never found love? What happens to these lost souls?

First of all, characters are never really wasted. They can make a comeback in a different book. For example, Leah Burkholder from Kingdom, Kansas, has become Sarah Miller, a schoolteacher in Sanctuary, Missouri. So, Leah’s story will be told. But what about Sophie and the young man rejected by Hope in Unbreakable? It would have been hard to recreate these characters under different names. Sophie would have had to cause chaos and leave town again. If the Sanctuary series stays at three books, poor Sophie will be cast out into the world for the second time. That just wouldn’t be fair. She could start feeling unloved.

In this situation, I contacted my awesome editor and mentioned that people in the real world actually do move. What if Sophie showed up in Sanctuary? And our poor man with the broken heart happens to be there as well? Thankfully, my editor gave me the go ahead. So, these characters will finish out their stories. My readers will be able to see their fictional lives fulfilled.

So, if you notice a character that springs to life in your favorite author’s book and then fades into the sunset before living a full life – have hope! They could make a comeback. They may look different, act a little different, and have different friends, but inside they’re the same.

Kind of like Doctor Who. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


For those of you who have never read the first book in my Road to Kingdom series, INESCAPABLE, is free right now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble! (An eBook copy.) If you've read this story and liked it, share this information with your friends! Also for a limited time, the second and third book in the series is on sale. You can read the entire series for a little under $12.00 on your eReader! If you'd rather read INESCAPABLE in print, the paper back is on sale for a limited time. It's only $6.00!



Would you like to appear in my upcoming novel? All you have to do is read my newsletter, leave a comment along with your contact information, and I'll pick a winner at the end of January. Please sign up to receive my newsletter monthly. There will be more contests in the future! You can find my newsletter here: Newsletter.

Watch for lots of great new things on the Suspense Sisters. We're working hard to bring exciting posts for writer and readers alike. 

Thanks for being a part of the Suspense Sisters!

Nancy Mehl

Monday, January 13, 2014


 By Ellen Kennedy

Infatuation is a wonderful feeling. There’s a kind of “high” involved that probably surpasses anything the drug culture can offer. In a good relationship, it matures into a deeper kind of love that involves respect and long-term kindness and loyalty.

However, as a writer, it’s wise to beware of that feeling when it comes to your work, you can take it from me. My literary cutting room floor is littered with countless past verbal old flames. Sit back and let me tell you a few little stories:

When I first began writing on my mystery, Irregardless of Murder, I wanted to make my main character, Amelia Prentice, memorable. Like me, she had happy memories of childhood spent in a small town. The first chapter of the book had her strolling along a street in her neighborhood. She was on her way to the public library and as she went, she remembered the different things that had happened in each house: baking cookies there, playing tag over here, etc. It was warm, friendly and it established her character. I adored it. I read and re-read it, just to make myself feel good. I was in love with this piece of writing.

I was a novice and wanted feedback, so when I saw that there was a professional editor online who would read your first 20 or so pages and give you a critique for free, I jumped at the chance. I sent in my prologue and first chapter and waited eagerly for the kudos to arrive. I soon found that it’s a tough world out there. Not only didn’t he like most of it, but he compared it to Murder She Wrote—and made it clear that he didn’t like Murder She Wrote.

As I dried my virtual tears, I assessed his assessment: he didn’t like the reference I’d made in the prologue to a mysterious man. He couldn’t know that it was a pivotal clue to the mystery later on in the book. I dismissed that comment. As for the first chapter, he said it was boring—argh!—and slowed down the action. Hmm. Was he right? I took another look at my adored chapter and realized with a sinking heart that he was. If you weren’t yours truly, you’d be a bit bored reading it. So I remorselessly cut approximately three thousand words from the front of my book and began the action when Amelia awakens from being knocked unconscious in the library. It worked.

It was a learning experience. Later, as I wrote more of the story, I crafted a tumultuous and impassioned love scene between Amelia and Gil. It took a lot of effort to write, and set my heart to going pitty-pat, but a week or so later after a sober re-read, I realized that their relationship was different: more subdued, more subtle. After all, it had lain fallow for twenty years. Again, I brutally made use of the delete button and dumped about two thousand words into the stratosphere.

When the novel was finished, I felt I had matured enough to control these bouts of self-indulgence. I was wrong. 

Book number two involved ice fishing on Lake Champlain. Amelia and I did research. We both learned a lot. However, Amelia (my character, I must remind you) was far more circumspect in dispensing the accumulated information than I was.

In searching the Internet, I had learned all about what thickness of ice was safe to go out on, what parts of the lake would be safe, the different kinds of equipment one might use—they are highly varied, let me tell you—and even the brand names. I learned what kinds of fish were caught this way, what the fishermen tended to eat (and drink!) while fishing, and all about the various ice fishing festivals out there.

I also made use of my extensive study of the fabled Lake Champlain Monster, making use of a fascinating book, Champ—Beyond the Legend by Joseph W. Zarzynski. It was such fun learning about the sightings of the monster and the theories as to what it was. I had my character Dr. Alec Alexander, who has made hunting this monster his life’s work, give a lengthy talk about it at a high school assembly. It went on for pages. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it.  

It was all fun, but just before I submitted Death Dangles a Participle to my publisher, I went through and tossed paragraph after paragraph of info back into the virtual ice water.  I’ve learned that if you’re writing a novel, it can be risky to make it sound like a textbook, no matter how much fun you’ve had with the research.

Book number three, Murder in the Past Tense, was finished just before Thanksgiving and will be released in September. My first prologue involved an Adirondack hermit witnessing the burial of bodies in the deep woods. I named him Nimrod Rabideau. (He’d taken the Biblical nickname for himself—it meant “mighty hunter,” he pointed out.) I’d read another book, Noah John Rondeau—Adirondack Hermit, years ago and had always thought a hermit would make a fun character. He did. In fact, he was a more likeable man than Rondeau. I took pains to explain his background in the prologue: a runaway farm boy, who tried to make it in show business in New York City but was chased out of town by thugs. He narrated this himself. It was exciting, I thought, and went on for pages.

I loved it, but my editor disagreed. It bogged down the story, took it in a different and confusing direction, she commented. I looked over the story and reluctantly agreed that she was right. I took the prologue out of the woods and moved it to a toney Manhattan office building, where the murder takes place. Nimrod’s still in the story, but he is less prominent. The book is much better now, I have to admit. Another case of misplaced, self-indulgent love.

The takeaway from all this is that as a fiction writer, no matter how much you enjoy what you write and how much you know, you must always keep your reader in mind: Is it fun to read? Is it understandable? Where does the action flag? Are the bits of information digestible for a pleasure reader?( I’m not one who considers my books deep enough to offer discussion questions at the end.) I’m all about entertainment. So as I work on the opening chapters of book number four, Incomplete Sentence, I am on self-notice: do all the research you like, but keep it fun! 

Saturday, January 11, 2014



Cara C. Putman graduated high school at 16, college at 20, and completed her law degree at 27. An award-winning author of seventeen books with more on the way, she is active in women's ministry at her church and is a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and is a second-generation homeschooling mom. Putman is currently pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration at Krannert. She serves on the executive board of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an organization she has served in various roles since 2007. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana.

 S.S: How long have you been writing?

I’ve wanted to write for about as long as I can remember. As a 13 and 14 year old I tried my hand at writing historical fiction – one of the beauties of being homeschooled. I was also drawn to journalism and politics. God graciously opened doors in both fields, so I worked for a local TV affiliate as a college student and then worked on a campaign and in the conservative non-profit world following graduation. During this time I got married and then started law school. Throughout it all the desire to write never entirely disappeared. Instead, it would turn to warm coals only to flare to life every few years. When God’s time was right, He connected me with Colleen Coble and told me to tackle writing. The timing was great because I had two children and was working 4 days a week for a law firm. Eighteen months later I had a contract, and a year after that the first book, Canteen Dreams, released. It’s been a whirlwind since.

S.S: Do you write full time? If the answer is no, what else do you do? If you are a full time author, what other jobs did you have in the past?

I don’t write full-time. I’m also an attorney and lecturer in law at Purdue University. I also homeschool my kiddos. So I have lots of different things going on.

S.S: Tell us about the moment you finally felt like a “real author”?

There are still days I wonder if I’m a real author J But one amazing moment was when my debut novel won the ACFW Book of the Year for Short Historical. It was kind of a Sally Field moment: They like me, they really, really like me.

S.S.: Who has been your greatest supporter as an author? 

My family. My husband supported me from the moment I asked to go to my first ACFW conference. My mother-in-love has freed me to attend ACFW and other writing retreats. My family buys and gives away many of my books. And my kids say I’ll make the bestseller list. J They’ve all been amazing!

S.S:  Do you write in any other genres? If so, what?

I write historical WWII novels and romantic suspense/mysteries. I love a story that has layers and writing historicals allows me to weave the history into the story as a character.

S.S: How does your faith play into your writing?

My faith is an integral part of who I am. Even when I don’t think I’m writing a faith thread, it’s there. In fact, sometimes that’s my favorite part of  writing…discovering the thread as I’m writing and seeing how God’s slipped it in without my being aware of it. Love that!

S.S: If you couldn’t write, what else would you want to do?

Teach. I love taking complicated subjects and make them easy to understand. I also love that I always have to learn. Right now I’m teaching a brand new class, so I’m as much of a student or more than my students!

S.S:  Tell us about your current release.

Shadowed by Grace focuses on some of the endeavors the Monuments Men undertook in Italy. I knew little of the Italian front and discovered a diary that gave voice to the Italian experience. That added with what I was learning about the efforts of the Monuments Men to save priceless monuments and paintings convinced me this was a story I wanted to write. Then I discovered the heroine and her search, and it became part of me. I love this story and am thrilled by the early reactions I’m hearing. Everyone can read the first chapter at

S.S: Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I have deep respect and admiration for the men and women of the Greatest Generation, and I love telling their stories. Because of that, I’m always on the lookout for new ideas that will spark into a book. In the summer of 2010, I stumbled across a nonfiction book, Monuments Men, and was introduced to this small band of soldiers. Their stories captured me…and the art added a unique twist to the story. It became a story that burned in my heart to tell.

S.S: What is the main thing you hope readers remember from your story?

The heroine’s search is for her earthly father. And that required a certain level of brokenness between her parents that has overshadowed Rachel’s life. Writing her mother’s journal required putting myself in her mother’s shoes. What would it be like to be a young woman in Italy, the land of romance and love, in the early 1920s? What kind of strength would her mother have to come back to the States and forge a life for them that was the opposite of how she’d imagined her life? How would it impact Rachel to read those very passages in Italy while searching for the man who abandoned them?

It was hard to write at times because I know many people who have experienced that pain of abandonment. One of my heart’s cries is to see people reconciled with God and to understand that no matter what their earthly fathers did, their heavenly Father has promised He never leaves or forsakes them. This novel takes that to a much deeper place. A place that my heart longs to have others grasp and understand…in a way that only story can be heard.

S.S: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

Rachel Justice, the heroine, who was actually the last character to come to me. I expected her to be Italian, but it didn’t fit. As I kept digging, I discovered she was a spunky American photojournalist on a search for her father. What she doesn’t realize is it’s a search that shadows her search for God.

This woman is willing to go into the heart of danger to try to save her mother, the only other person in her life. She’s on a search that seems doomed to fail from the start, but she is tenacious and won’t let go. She’s also an artist with her camera, and that makes her more understanding of what the Monuments Men are trying to do. She became a complex and rich character that I loved writing.

S.S: Who is your least favorite character in this book? Why?

There are so many characters, it’s hard to pick one that I don’t like…especially since I try to give every character likeable features. But Tyler Salmon is someone who carries an attitude around. As the book goes on, you begin to understand why, but the attitude borders on hard to like.

S.S: What are you working on now?

My next project is a joint venture with Tricia Goyer and Sarah Sundin entitled Treetops Glisten.

This collection is such fun! I love Tricia and Sarah and their WWII novels, so it was a joy to work with them on this collection. We got on the phone and started brainstorming a collection of stories that would fit with the type of WWII novels we each write. “Should be near a big city but have a small town feel.” “Probably located in the Midwest.” “Needs war industry and a university.” I started laughing as I listened, because they were describing Lafayette, Indiana, where I live.

It was fun to work in collaboration on everything from where they would live, to family timelines, to sibling order, etc. Writing is so often solitary, but writing this collection allowed us to step outside of that. Sarah came out in September to do some on-site research. Tricia will be here in February, so it will be fun to take her to the candy shop my heroine works at, drive her by the Turner home, and more. 

S.S:  Now let’s get a little personal. Name two things on your “bucket list” that you haven’t done yet.   

Visited Italy and the Normandy beaches. I hope to do that someday – hopefully in the next couple years.

S.S:  What is the silliest thing you have ever done? 

Um, I’m not really silly, but when I worked at a TV station, I did a stand-up on the lap of the Easter bunny. I think my photographer really enjoyed that!

S.S: What is the hardest thing you have ever done?

Law school. Really stretched my mind…kind of like my current MBA classes. A follow up would be training for my first mini-marathon. I’d just miscarried and decided that if I couldn’t be pregnant, I’d train for a mini in three months. I wasn’t a runner then, so that was a good push!

S.S.: Where can readers find you on the internet?

People can connect with me online at: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

S.S.: Anything else you’d like to share with us?  

Thanks for having me!

If you'd like a chance to win a copy of Cara's book, Shadowed by Grace, just leave a comment, along with your contact information!