Fiction with a Mission ~ Kathi Macias

Kathi Macias ( is a multi-award winning writer who has authored more than 35 books and ghostwritten numerous others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi lives in Southern California with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend their free time buzzing around in Al’s 2005 sunburst orange Corvette—hence, Kathi’s “road name” of Easy Writer.


From the moment I signed the contract with New Hope Publishers for my four-book Extreme Devotion fiction series, I began hearing variations of the same question from potential readers: What’s the genre?

Tough one to answer. I suppose contemporary international fiction sums it up best, since each book is set in a different country and takes place in modern times. But New Hope, which is known for its passion for missions, has opted to call the line “Fiction with a Mission,” and I couldn’t be more pleased with that label.

All four books of the Extreme Devotion series—No Greater Love (set in South Africa in 1989 during the violence and upheaval preceding the overthrow of Apartheid), More than Conquerors (set in Mexico and dealing with the Mayan culture and influence), Red Ink (set in China and loosely based on the true-life story of currently-imprisoned-for-her-faith Li Yin), and People of the Book (set in Saudi Arabia and dealing with the cost of converting from Islam to Christianity) have now released.

The writing and production of this series was an exciting shared adventure, as I partnered with New Hope Publishers in their first fiction launch even while I learned about the unique aspects of writing fiction in international settings. It was also quite a challenge, as I’d never helped launch a first-ever fiction line for a publisher known for their nonfiction. In addition, of the four countries highlighted in the books, I have been to only one—Mexico—but I have never set foot in the area where the Mayan culture is so strong and where much of that book takes place. Can anyone say RESEARCH? Online research, library research, books and videos and movies—and people. My greatest resource for authentic research was connecting with people who either currently lived in the countries where my stories occur or had recently lived there. Though I began the writing of the stories based on much of my online and book research, the majority of personal touches that make readers say, “Wow, it’s like I’m right there!” came about as a result of feedback from those who know the areas and culture firsthand.

And now we are in the midst of the Freedom series, another “fiction with a mission” offering (trilogy) based on the topic of human trafficking. The first book, Deliver Me From Evil, released in September 2011, with the following two books in the series, Special Delivery and The Deliverer, set to release in 2012. Though much of this series takes place right here in the States, as I wanted readers to understand that human trafficking doesn’t just happen in faraway lands, the books will also contain a strong sub-plot set in the Golden Triangle area of Thailand as well as several scenes in Mexico. (Yep, more research!) Even our stand-alone 2011 Christmas book, A Christmas Journey Home, has an international setting, with the story going back and forth between the Baja area of Mexico and the Arizona desert.

As an author of Christian books, this is my way of “going into all the world” to fulfill the Great Commission—and helping my readers do the same. I pray my venture into international fiction will truly prove to be “fiction with a mission” for all who read it—and who may find themselves called to expand their own outreach in response to God’s call on their lives.

A Christmas Journey Home

During Isabella Alcantara’s seventh month of pregnancy, her parents and siblings are murdered in gang- and drug-related violence, simply because their home was targeted by mistake. Isabella knows she was spared only because she now lives in a different location, but she knows too that the same thing could easily happen to her and her husband, Francisco. When her grandfather offers to hire a “coyote” to bring them across the border to America, she agrees. But Francisco and Isabella are abandoned by the coyote and left to die. Francisco then valiantly sacrifices himself to get Isabella to safety. Homeless, nearly penniless, pregnant, and alone, Isabella determines to find a way to honor her promise to her beloved husband.

Living on one of the smaller spreads along the Arizona border, Miriam Nelson becomes furious with God and turns from her faith when her
border patrol agent husband, David, is killed in a skirmish with drug smugglers. Though her mother and young son do their best to woo her back from the anger and bitterness that have overtaken her, they make little headway.

Two widows—one driven by fear and a promise, the other by bitterness and revenge—must make their journeys along different pathways, but with the same destination: a barn full of animals that stands waiting for them on Christmas Eve. Forced to face their personal demons, Isabella and Miriam soon discover a common yearning that will bind them together in a most miraculous way.

Ignoring the H8Rs. Tess Gerritsen

Tess Gerritsen left a successful practice as an internist to raise her children and concentrate on her writing. She gained nationwide acclaim for her first novel of medical suspense, the New York Times bestseller Harvest. She is also the author of the bestsellers Life Support, Bloodstream, Gravity, and The Surgeon. Tess lives with her family in Maine. (PHOTO CREDIT: Paul D’Innocenzo)

Ignoring the H8Rs

by Tess Gerritsen

Recently I came across the premise for a new reality TV show called “H8R,” which, for those of us who are text-message neophytes, translates as: “Hater.” Here’s the description:

On this reality show, celebrities go head-to-head with regular people who don’t like them. They try to win their adversaries over and, in the process, reveal person behind the famous name. Mario Lopez hosts the program which includes two celebrities in each episode.

The haters are not told about the show’s actual premise when they’re recruited. Producers tell them a different type of documentary or show is being shot but extensive background checks are done to ensure the haters are not also stalkers. In some cases, the celebrities nominate their haters, who they know from the Internet or Twitter.

For people who aren’t celebrities, it may come as a surprise that celebrities can, in fact, feel personally wounded by cruel remarks made by complete strangers. When Gwyneth Paltrow started amassing hordes of such haters, I wondered how she felt about it. I also wondered why anyone would bother hating a woman just because she’s a blonde, beautiful, talented gal who likes to share lifestyle tips. It’s the same thing I wondered about people who hate Martha Stewart with such gusto, investing a great deal of emotional energy attacking a woman they don’t personally know. When I thumb through her LIVING magazine to gawk at her impossibly elaborate craft projects, I don’t feel jealousy or disdain. What I feel is resignation, because I know I’d probably end up hot-glueing my own head to the ceiling fan. I’ll never be as capable as Martha Stewart, but that’s okay with me.

You don’t have to read the National Enquirer to know that the most-envied celebrities are often the public’s favorite targets of vilification. It’s the people we want to be or look like, the people who have what we want to have, that catch the brunt of public hatred. Celebrities aren’t really human, so how could they possibly have human feelings? They’re rich, they’re beautiful, they’re successful, so why should they care if complete strangers spew hateful things about them?

Some people think it’s fun and amusing and harmless to hate the Marthas and Gwyneths and Brangelinas, and to express that hatred online so the world can share our bile. But celebrity is only a matter of degree. Just about anyone can be considered a public person these days. Restaurant chefs. Athletes. Policemen.

And writers.

A few weeks ago, novelist JA Konrath posted a blog entry called “Not Caring,” about how important it is for writers to develop thick skins.

One of the greatest skills you can acquire as an author is a thick skin.

Once you unleash a story onto the world, it no longer belongs to you. When it was in your head, and on your computer during the writing/rewriting process, it was a personal, private thing. But the moment your words go out into the world, they are subject to the opinion of strangers. What was once personal is now public.

Do yourself a huge favor, and don’t listen to the public.

This goes for more than your literary endeavors. If you blog, or speak in public, or tweet on Twitter, you are a Public Figure.

That means some people aren’t going to like you.

And you shouldn’t care.

You hear this very wise advice from non-writers as well. That we writers shouldn’t give a damn about reviews. That writers should stop whining and pull on their “big-girl panties.” That being published means you have no right to be sensitive to whatever anyone, anywhere, says about you. But that advice isn’t always easy to take, and I know many authors who are still personally wounded by a bad review or snarky comments on Amazon. One very talented debut novelist, a man who’s hitting bestseller lists around the world, told me that the hardest thing about being published was learning to take the blows. He knew he was thin-skinned, and he tried to prepare himself for public criticism, yet he was taken aback by how much it hurt.

“Crybaby!” I can hear the public sneering. “Why don’t you man up and grow a pair?”

On a readers’ forum, I came across comments by two teachers who smugly observed that, unlike crybaby writers, when teachers get performance reviews, they’re mature enough to deal with the negative ones. They said that writers are a privileged and lucky group (whose average income, by the way, is less than $10,000) so no one should sympathize with them. Writers should stop whining and be as tough as everyone else whose work gets reviewed by superiors. For crying out loud, writers should learn to be as tough as teachers.

Then, a few months later, a tragic thing happened. In a new policy introduced by the Los Angeles Times, L.A. public school teachers’ performance ratings were published in the newspaper. A highly dedicated teacher, despondent over his merely average rating, committed suicide.

I’m wondering if it suddenly became clear to those teachers that public criticism, public exposure, feels like a different thing entirely than does a private performance review. When your boss tells you you need to shape up, that can sting. But when that performance review is online and in the newspapers for your neighbors and colleagues to see and talk about, that’s a level of embarrassment that not everyone can deal with.

Not surprisingly, many teachers were upset about the dead teacher’s public shaming and suicide. Just as they’re upset when they’re called lousy teachers by students on Facebook.

Yet that’s what writers routinely put up with. It comes with the job — a job that pays the average writer about as much as a part-time dishwasher — and we have to learn to deal with it.

But it’s not easy.  First published at Murderati

Borrowing a Page from the Amish ~ Suzanne Woods Fisher

About Suzanne: She is an author of bestselling fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Why the Amish? Well, Suzanne’s grandfather was raised Plain. She’s always been fascinated by her gentle, wise relatives. Learn more about Suzanne, her books, and Amish Wisdom, her weekly radio show, by stopping by And please leave a comment!

Borrowing a Page from the Amish
“It’s good to have an end to journey toward, but it’s the journey that matters, in the end.” Amish proverb
Here’s what you probably know about the Old Order Amish: they live without electricity, automobiles, televisions, computers, radios. You might even know that formal schooling for the Amish ends at the eighth grade, but that doesn’t mean their education stops. No siree! These people read and read and read. Every Amish home I’ve been in has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, packed with familiar evangelical authors. I’ve had more than a few conversations with Amish people who have far more knowledge of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther than I do or ever will.
And the Amish keep on learning and learning and learning. My favorite story comes from an Amish family I met in the Lancaster area. The family ran a dairy, but when the eldest son was in his early twenties, the dad passed the management of the dairy to him and took up another trade. This dad is now a self-taught electrician who hires out… even though he doesn’t even use electricity in the home.
Granted, the Amish descend from German stock, hardworking and resourceful. But there’s something more that makes the Amish work ethic such a powerful example to the rest of us. Their business failure rate, according to Dr. Donald Kraybill, senior fellow in the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College, is less than 5%, a dazzling figure when compared to a failure rate that soars above 65 percent for North American small-business starts. They set out to succeed.
So what is that “something more?”
Faith in God is infused into every part of the Amish life, like a teabag in hot water. Everything they do, they do unto God. Their lifestyle is embroidered with reminders of God—their horse and buggy symbolize self-imposed boundaries, their Plain clothing identifies them to their church, eschewing electricity keeps them separate from the world.
How does that work ethic translate to a modern novelist? First of all, take writing seriously. Learn, read, re-do, study other authors, ask questions, research thoroughly, glean from experts, go to writing conferences, join a critique group.
Secondly, to the Amish way of thinking, one type of work is not more valuable than another. Self-editing, re-writes, galleys, proofs, promotion, marketing, interacting with readers, It’s all significant. The process is as valuable as the finished product.
Third, redefine success. Your novel may not be the world’s best (mine certainly aren’t!), but it should be your best. Whether you snag a contract now or five years from now, whether it’s a large publishing house or a small press or even self-published, whether it ends up as a NY Times bestseller, or if it only sells five copies to your mom, your work is your gift to God.
Bottom line, the Amish are on to something. Never forget you are writing for an audience of One.

Skip the Tricks ~ Embrace the Treats

Skip the Tricks. How to be the Treat that Everyone Wants.

Kelly Klepfer
Writing is so solitary. Just you and the voices in your head which then turn into conversations that hopefully are not audible to everyone around you. Eventually, puzzle pieces of your story begin pouring into your computer and actually looking like a book.
But — most of us aren’t content to remain in that cozy little closet of self and book. We seek opinions, or contracts, or input into our hard, makes-total-sense-to-me work.
This is the beginning of what could be haunting for you and a nightmare for others.
Let’s look at how we can embrace the outside world and open the door to others. Kind of like Monday’s trick or treaters will be seeking candy handouts, we toss our nuggets of wisdom, our blood-sweat-tear induced works-in-progress into bags filled with others’ offerings. Once out of our hands, our stories may be handled with less care and tenderness than we’d like. Hopefully, they won’t be the item that gets traded or tossed.
There are aspects of writing where relationships matter. And the more we attempt to keep ourselves from flinging candy and laughing when it bounces off some insensitive idiot’s skull, the more likely we are to have successful relationships in the industry.
Grab your flashlight and put a sweater on over the costume. You know your mother would worry about you getting a chill. Got your bucket? Let’s go.
Big city, upscale developments ahead. These are the writing professionals. Editors, agents, the like. These are the kids who know the BEST neighborhoods for treats. They expect to be given the king-sized candy bars. Wait until you can produce the mongo name brand Swiss chocolate. When you offer them Dum-Dums, you ruin an opportunity. You must first learn, learn, learn, grow, grow, grow through reading, conferences, how-to books, mentors, critique partners, etc. fill-in-the-blanks. Don’t jump in willy-nilly and start flinging or grabbing your candy. Wear the grasshopper costume until you can hop high enough to move up. And if you are already there, don’t wear glass slippers. Crushed toes are something you can survive, severed ones make life a little more difficult. Professionals expect you to be the real deal, respect that and them and be the real deal.
Look, up ahead, it’s your neighborhood gang. These are your critique partners and encouragers. Free-spirit creative souls can learn so much from the folks who are grammar cops. You don’t have to be like them and blow your whistle every time someone uses an … instead of — but let them help you understand the rules. And detail folks, let your creative whimsical buddies help you to loosen up your prose so it sings. Very few critique partners set out to become emotional vampires and attempt to suck the marrow from your book. If someone doesn’t understand, or like what you are trying to communicate, learn to communicate a little clearer. Your neighborhood is where you gain street smarts, and your neighbors are representative of future readers.
Zip your jacket and hold your candy a little closer. We are about to become lost in the dark woods. You’ve been published, ushered to the edge of the forest, and it’s your job to get to the other side. There should be a party somewhere over there with all sorts of good stuff, but you have to enter the forest to find it. There are rumors the forest is haunted. The path is touch and go, and full of obstacles. This forest will bring you up close and personal with people like reviewers and readers who don’t get you and are very vocal about it. Numbers flash past you, your numbers on Amazon, your rankings and sales. Checks or lack of sneak up and scream boo when you least expect it. You can do nothing about sales except to do your best to help your publicist. Be your book’s best champion. Put yourself out there. At least you will know you gave it your best shot. If someone doesn’t get you, get over it. Frozen in the forest and weeping, wailing, arguing is going to draw the attention of more spooks. If someone is unkind or confused, let their words stand uncontested. Others watch from behind trees. Your forest conduct will color your future. Leave it better than you found it, even if you have to close your eyes, hold your breath and run.
Okay. To sum it up. Put on a costume you don’t mind being seen in. However, you must first put on your big boy or big girl panties. Smile and say thank you. Don’t gorge yourself on the front step, savor the goodies. And don’t forget to share some of your loot with others who may be a bit behind you on the path or those who may have gotten roughed up by a rotten trickster wearing a monster costume.