Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Weaving in the Inspirational Thread

Debby Giusti here!

Have you ever watched a weaver create cloth? With her shuttle and loom, she pulls different threads together to form an intricate pattern, just as we do with our manuscripts. The character arcs, suspense, romance, plot, perhaps a few red herrings, an antagonist or villain, a mentor and/or best friend are all woven together to create a satisfying story.

In inspirational romantic suspense, which I write, the romance needs to be equally balanced with the suspense. The faith threads are usually woven more loosely through the work, yet they play a significant role in the story and are the topic for this blog post.
Since June 14 was Flag Day and the Fourth of July is
right around the corner, I'm posting patriotic photos
in honor of our brave men and women in uniform.
Photo courtesy US Army.
You may have heard me mention that my early rejections included comments about the characters not being compelling enough. The word compelling always seemed a bit nebulous or abstract. “What makes a character compelling?” I often asked published friends, who responded with obscure explanations that left me even more confused.

Eventually, the light bulb went off when I made a slight shift in my secular suspense stories and added a faith element. Suddenly, I had compelling characters. Was it the Christian angle that made the difference? Not exclusively, but it did deepen the internal conflict, which, in my opinion, is the key.
Photo courtesy US Army
If you struggle to portray memorable—and compelling--characters, beef up their internal conflict. I’m convinced that aspect of the hero or heroine’s journey is the make or break issue. Adding a faith element enhances that conflict and makes it even stronger.

Readers—and editors—love flawed heroes. No one relates to a perfect person. All of us feel connected to the underdog. Most of us carry some extra baggage, and we identify with characters that balance a lot on their shoulders as well. We want to root for the weak and watch as they triumph and succeed in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds. Adding a faith element to that flawed character ups the emotional impact for the reader.

Photo courtesy US Army.
What if Joe Cop, our wounded hero, has something in his past he tries to hide? Perhaps he inadvertently ignored his partner’s call for help, which left the partner in a dangerous situation without backup. Partner died or was seriously maimed, and Joe is still carrying the guilt. Even if he wasn’t personally responsible. That in itself is good internal conflict and could make a compelling character. But let’s add the faith thread and see how Joe’s pain deepens.

If Joe feels his mistake is so huge that even God can’t forgive him or so heinous that Joe can’t bring himself to ask the Lord’s forgiveness, his personal guilt becomes even more profound. He doesn’t like himself. He can live with that. But if he imagines God doesn’t like him, the internal pain becomes unbearable. Without God, Joe feels total rejection.

A word of caution: readers don’t want a Bible lesson or a let-me-tell-you-everything-I-know-about-the-Lord exposition mixed in with their fiction. Less, in this case, is more.
Photo courtesy US Army
A verse from scripture can remind the heroine of her past life when she was in right relationship with the Lord. Here’s an excerpt from The Colonel’s Daughter:

Lance’s picture smiled at her from the dresser. She opened the top drawer and saw the Bible he had given her. A book she hadn’t read since his death. 

Her gaze fell on a small framed verse she’d received as a child. All things work together for good to those who love God. 

After everything that had happened, she couldn’t trust the Lord. Not now. Not ever. 

A short prayer recited at a time of need can bring comfort and peace. The heroine in Nowhere To Hide finds strength from a prayer stitched on a sampler.

Reaching to turn off the bedside lamp, Lydia noticed a small cross-stitch sampler perched near the clock. 

Jesus I Trust In You, was stitched in tiny Xs across the fabric. 

“If only I could,” she mumbled as she turned off the light. 

At her darkest hour, she repeats the prayer and finds the strength to confront her greatest fear. 

Lydia’s heart broke. Her son shouldn’t have to die in this dark cave because his mother didn’t have the courage to save him. 

Matt believed in her. She had to believe in herself. And even more important, she had to believe in God. 

Jesus, I trust in You. 
Photo courtesy US Army.
A religious symbol, such as the gold cross necklace Kate Murphy finds in Scared to Death, can remind the heroine of God’s faithfulness and love. Isolated and alone, my gal slips the cross around her neck and feels a connection with her grandfather who taught her about the Lord.

A lump formed in Kate’s throat. Her hands shook as she opened the box and pulled out the gold cross that had been missing from her life for over three years. 

Grandda’s cross. 

She fingered the heavy Florentine metal and slipped the chain over her head. A sense of security settled over her as comforting as her grandfather’s warm embrace. 

Wearing the cross, Kate races to save an unborn child. This excerpt starts when the unwed mom mentions her fear.

“I’m…I’m scared.” 

So am I, Kate wanted to add. “We’re almost at the hospital.” At least she hoped they were. 

“Will you pray for me, Kate? Pray for the baby.” 

“I can’t.” Kate focused on the road and held the steering wheel even more tightly. “God doesn’t listen to my prayers.” 

“Pl-please,” Tracy pleaded, her face contorted as she started to push. 

Kate had tried so many times to reach the Almighty, but her prayers—even her pleas for help—had turned on seemingly deaf ears. Why would today be any different? 

Because a tiny baby’s life hangs in the balance. 

The thought flew through her mind. Kate pulled in a strengthening breath. If only she could find the right words. 


Would He hear her? Kate glanced at Tracy’s face twisted with pain. He had to hear her. 

“Tracy and her baby need help, Lord. Get…Get us to the hospital before this baby comes into the world. And most of all, keep both of them safe.”

Photo courtesy US Army
 Not sure where to add the first faith thread?

At the beginning of the story, after the hero and heroine are introduced, some reference should be made to where they are in their faith journey, especially if their relationship with the Lord is flawed. Usually I include a line of introspection that gives the reader an idea of their struggle.

After introducing Lydia Sloan in Nowhere to Hide, I added the following in her point of view:

She had asked God to help her learn the truth. So far, He’d ignored her request. 

In the middle of the book, the hero and heroine or the protagonist and mentor/best friend can have a brief discussion about God, such as this conversation in Protecting Her Child:

Sheila’s eyes were filled with questions. “Eve says her faith and her suffering make her stronger. I wish I could believe what she tells me. But it’s hard. If God has the power to change lives, why didn’t He cure my son?” 

The same question Pete asked himself concerning Eve. 

“Eve told me the dark times come from our human condition,” Sheila continued. “But God can bring light into the darkness. She said Brice is now free of disease and pain and the uncertainty of when or where the next tumor will appear. He’s whole and healthy and surrounded by everything good. She called it the fullness of eternal life.” 

“Did her words help? 

“They brought peace. I still grieve for my son, but I no longer worry about him. Can you understand that?” 

“I’m not sure.” 

He pulled the china cup to his mouth and took a long swig of the hot coffee. What about Meredith? Did she have VHL? Would she learn that her baby was affected as well? Seemed that a loving God wouldn’t let an innocent child be stricken with a fatal condition. 

“I’m not sure I can believe in anything except what I can influence, Sheila.” 

He glanced up at the bedroom window where Meredith was sleeping. If he couldn’t save Eve, maybe his research might benefit Meredith and her unborn child. 

And what about God? 

Would Pete ask for His help? 

Not now. 

Maybe not ever. 
Photo courtesy US Army

At the climax, I try to take everything away from the main character that previously offered him security. He’s on his own to save the woman he now realizes he loves. Then I compound the situation with inclement weather or an injury or wound that hinders him in confronting and/or battling the antagonist.

When the hero has nowhere else to turn, he must turn to the Lord. Usually, my guys acknowledge their past mistake and ask God, in spite of the wrong they may have done, to help them now because of the woman they feel IS worthy of God’s mercy.

A hostage situation in my novella Yule Die, featured in Christmas Peril, forces the hero to turn to the Lord. 

Joe’s eyes fell on the tiny manger and the babe who came so that all might have eternal life. 

Malachi? Would he see the face of God? 

Robbie? Oh, Lord, he needs medical care. Keep him alive. 

And Callie? Keep her safe. 

Take me instead, Lord. 

Even after turning to God, the hero still has to fight the antagonist (the problem can’t be solved with a miraculous intervention), but he’s renewed with a sense of hope. In spite of the odds, the hero is willing to sacrifice everything for the woman he loves, knowing God has listened to his cry for help. 

This excerpt from The Officer’s Secret provides an example:

Nate picked up his cell phone and pushed the speed dial for Jamison. “I’m approaching the bridge. Water’s spilling over the sides, but it looks navigable. I’ve got a visual on the red Mustang parked in the underbrush near the cabin. I’m moving in.” 

“The bridge from the south is washed out, Nate. We won’t be able to get to you.” 

"What about from the air?” 

“Not in this storm.” 

“Then I’ll have to handle this one on my own.” 

When Jamison failed to respond, Nate glanced at his cell. Call Disconnected. No bars. No reception. He threw his phone on the passenger seat, knowing he couldn’t rely on anyone else for help. 

Anyone except the Lord. 

Pulling in a ragged breath, he gripped the steering wheel even harder. “I don’t deserve Your help, God, but Maggie does. Let’s work together to save her.” 

The bridge lay ahead. Water washed over the wooden planks. Nate shifted into low gear and eased the car onto the bridge, keeping an even pressure on the accelerator. If the engine died, he’d have to risk hoofing it to the other side. Feeling the pull of the water, Nate knew he’d be sucked into the river and washed downstream. 

“Stay with me, Lord,” he muttered. Without railings, he could be headed off the bridge and straight into the swirling mass of water. Once the wheels gripped pavement on the far side, he let out a sigh of relief. Maybe God was listening after all. 

In the end, once the danger has passed and he’s reunited with his love, the hero sees his past mistake through new eyes. Because God has forgiven him, the hero is able to forgive himself. He is redeemed and once again made whole. With God’s help, he can accept love and walk boldly into the future.

I concluded The Officer’s Secret in this way:

“Oh, Nate, I love you so much.” 

“Promise…” He hesitated, soaking in the feel of her in his arms. “Promise you’ll love me forever?” 

“Longer than forever.” 

As he lowered his lips to hers, he thought of the journey they had traveled. Both of them had carried heavy burdens from the past that, at the time, had seemed insurmountable. Now, holding the woman he loved more than anything, Nate vowed to enjoy this moment and every moment God gave them, knowing the Lord had a wonderful future planned for their lifetime together. 
Photo courtesy US Army.
Although sometimes subtle, the faith thread can change a ho-hum hero and heroine into compelling characters that sell your book.

How do you weave faith into your stories? As a reader, what do you like or dislike about the faith journey in inspirational fiction? Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for one of my books, winner's choice. 

Today’s breakfast is light—bagels with cream cheese and jelly, fresh fruit and grits.

Happy writing! Happy reading!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti

By Debby Giusti
Trusting the Wrong Person Can Be Deadly... Lillie Beaumont's dark past has just turned up on her porch--fatally wounded. The dying words of the man imprisoned for killing Lillie's mother suggest hidden secrets. Criminal Investigations Division special agent Dawson Timmons agrees. He has his own motive for seeking the truth, and it gives Lillie every reason to doubt him. But even as they reluctantly begin to face painful secrets together, Dawson fears that a murderer is waiting to strike again. And this time, Lillie is right in the line of fire...

All of my books can be found at Watch for The Soldier’s Sister, to be released in September. The sixth book in my Military Investigations series, The Agent's Secret Past, will be out in March 2014.


  1. I just read a secular romance at someone's comment that secular writers wrote better, and well, I don't read them, so I thought I ought to give several a shot to see what was so much better.

    Not going to get into the fact that I found one of the most-beloved ABA romances to be not that great, but what really interested me is the fact that I missed the "spiritual" component and thought it hurt the story. Even in classics or NYT bestsellers, there is some kind of moral even if it's not presented with Bible verses or even a Christian worldview, but the lack of any character proving that they'd become "better" or being questioned if they'd become "better" really brought down the book's quality for me.

    I don't like preachiness. I loved Lori Wick books when I was a kid, but every one (?) had an actual sermon from a pastor in it. Immediate skippage. I read fiction for entertainment, when I want sermons I actually do listen to or read sermons.

    Or when the Christian message isn't well thought out and doesn't really mesh with the story or characters. When it's a generic message. Make it real and vital for that particular story or don't waste time on it.

  2. Great post, Debby. I'm in the process of crafting the inspy thread for my WIP. I had the first instance you mentioned about the flaw in their relationship with the Lord, but wasn't sure how much to put next and where. This post really helps.

    I love the patriotic photos.

    Seems to me a character's spiritual struggle has to link to the backstory wound, or there's a disconnect that makes the thread feel forced. I do enjoy when the inner, spiritual journey conflicts with outer circumstances to put the character in a quandary. It's something that happens to all of us and brings the h/h to a point of decision that shows us their character growth.

    Melissa, Lori Wick's stories will always be my "first favorite" among Christian fiction. I have had others along the way, but hers hold special 12-yr-old memories for me. ...And here I thought I was the only one who skipped the sermons. :D I felt so unspiritual and guilty about it too, but hey I got bored. lol

  3. LOL Natalie. I had the "I'm unspiritual" guilt too. :)

    But if I'm going to read a lengthy sermon, give me John Piper, Jonathon Edwards, CS Lewis, etc!

  4. I used to feel a little guilty about skipping the sermons until my saintly mother-in-law told me she did as well - which makes me wonder why they are included (aren't writers advised to delete the bits readers skip?).

    I've recently read and reviewed a book that was first published years ago for the general market, and has just been edited and republished for the Christian market. I didn't actually know that when I read it, but I could see something was missing from the characters.

    Once I realised it was originally written as a secular market romance (complete with sex scenes) I could see what was missing from the book. It's not enough to add in a prayer or a reference to a Bible verse, and this post explains so well how to do that.

  5. Firstly I have to say seeing how servicemen and women are treated in America really struck me as awesome, the respect is amazing. We respect our servicemen and women but I dont see it that we do to the same extent which made me sad. It really opened my eyes.

    The faith element I am not sure how to answer the question as a reader. Reading a few of the comments I agree about being preached to can get a bit much. I have heard a few people mention books were to preachy or too christian and its often christians that say it more than non christians. (these are books in the church library).
    I have read a few books where a verse has been used that has often hit a cord. I know shortly after mum died I think it was Jillian Hart had the verse about The eternal God is my refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms. (I paraphrase the way mum use to say it) and it hit a cord with me as it was a verse that became mums life verse. She would if she felt down she never hit the bottam cos she would be resting in God's everlasting arms. How it was used in the book was so refreshing and meant so much cos of how mum felt about the book.

  6. JENNY, we didn't always treat our service people well -- the Vietnam era is still a time of shame -- but we are doing better.
    DEBBY, this is one of the issues I was hoping would be addressed in Seekerville. I struggle with the inspirational elements of my "inspys," but the books will be nothing without them. I know my characters' basic spiritual needs but often have trouble with the weave-in, thank you for this. In my WIP, "Town," hero Pace had early trauma, including being sexually abused and witnessing a horrific murder, so he's figured, "I go my way and God goes His." After reading this, I've added the element that he feels God can never love someone like him. My heroine, Oona Moriarty, has a different take: she was put in a Dublin convent to COVER a murder, and when she came out three years later her home was destroyed and her family scattered, courtesy of the English who controlled Ireland. Oona wants nothing to do with a God who allowed that to happen. This has given me more clarity on what to do with their faith journeys, thank you Debby. PS, I remember that scene from "Yule Die"!
    Kathy Bailey on a June morning

  7. Melissa,
    Interesting point about the secular story you read. Your comments bring to mind the importance of a recollected life. IMHO, we need to frequently review our actions and how and why we respond to certain situations in certain ways. What is the compass by which we direct our steps? Can we see growth in virtue? Are we making good decisions even if they are difficult? All of which can be included into a character arc without actual mention of faith.

    For my part, grappling with those issues in light of a character's relationship with the Lord makes them even more significant.

    I agree with you. No preaching, please. :)

  8. I like "weaving in the inspirational thread." That's what we do in our real lives. Faith is an element of our being that weaves in and out, a living thing. Sometimes very strong, then weak and faltering at other times, reflecting our humanness. That helps me connect with characters in the story.

    Thanks Debby for an inspirational post! :-)


  9. Natalie, sounds as if you have a good handle on incorporating a faith thread into your stories. Excellent!

    A story I once read by a bestselling Christian author featured a woman who knew nothing about God. While she and the hero were hiding out, he gave her a fairly extensive Bible overview that I felt was too much for the fictional story. As I mentioned in the blog, with the faith thread, less is often more. :)

  10. I think sometimes a sermon can come off like the author is 'telling' the reader something. Whereas a well-developed spiritual thread is 'showing' the reader and can bring a deeper understanding of the characters' growth.

  11. Nice to see you, Iola!

    You comment dovetails with Natalie's. The faith aspect needs to spring from the character's internal struggle and not be added just to make the book fit into the Christian genre.

  12. Jenny,

    What a lovely tribute to your mom. She must have been a special lady for sure!

    So glad you were comforted by Jillian Hart's story. She is a wonderful writer.

    I'm glad you saw respect given to our military in uniform. Many folks are aware of the difficult time our servicemen and women had during the Vietnam era. We want to ensure today's military heroes realize how much we appreciate their sacrifice.

  13. Faith is such a natural part of my life it comes out as a natural part of my stories. I don't make an effort to weave it in, it's just there. Subtle and not preachy but there. Your comments and suggestions are great Debby. Thank you.

  14. As always, great insights, Debby!

    I am not an only inspirational reader, nor am I only a fiction reader. I have found, as Melissa writes, there are spiritual themes in so many best-selling books out there that don't get put in the inspy category. Many of those books feature faith as an integral part of who the character for the very reasons you mention.

    Many characters seem to rely on God in "foxhole" moments and I think that is the tricky part, besides not being preachy. Moving a character from unbelief or lack of trust in God needs to be a gradual thing, through the whole book. I have read some where God isn't mentioned until a very dramatic moment and then poof! Faith appears.

    Thanks again. No need for the drawing. I love your books and can't wait for the next!

    Peace, Julie

  15. Agreeing with Julie Hilton Steele RE spiritual themes in books that are not "inspy": Earlene Fowler does a great crossover job with her Benni Harper mysteries. Faith is an element of Benni's life, but Earlene doesn't preach --even through the wise grandmother. I also like Carolyn Hart's "Ghost" mysteries with the redoubtable Bailey Ruth Rayburn. Not always theologically sound, but a better faith element than you get in most secular mysteries.
    Kathy Bailey

  16. Wonderful post, Debby, with excellent examples of weaving faith into our stories! Btw, I loved The General's Secretary!

    The faith element adds so much to our stories. My problem is not having the same faith/trust in God issue in my books. I'm struggling with my wip. The hero is driven to seek vengeance, not what God wants, but I think the reader can sympathize. But the faith issue for the heroine doesn't feel fresh. Anyone else worry you're writing the same faith journey for your characters?


  17. Janet, aren't you supposed to write what you know?
    Melissa, finally someone who feels like I do about Lori Wicks book. The first series was best, and the more she wrote, the preacher they got. ( hears that her minister insisted on the sermon aspect) . Great post, Debby.

  18. I like weaving in faith elements but am occasionally told it's too preachy. I guess you have to find the right balance.

  19. Loved your examples, Debby! And the photos, too!

    Janet, I totally get what you're saying. Sometimes as I get deeper into the writing of a new book, something starts feeling familiar, and I realize I'm recreating the same personal journey for my characters, only with a different setting and situation. Then I have to back off and rethink things in search of something fresher. Not easy!!!

    The reason it isn't easy, IMHO, is that we as authors are living vicariously through our characters and subconsciously attempting to work out our own issues through them. How you get around that is something I'm still figuring out!

  20. Marianne and Myra, you make a great point. We know our struggles--write what you know--and may be using our characters to work out our issues. Someone who'd written a huge number of books said we writers keep writing the same story over and over again. That shocked me, but perhaps the positive aspect is that our stories are heartfelt and will ring true.

    After leaving my comment, I had a light bulb moment. I was trying to come up with a fresh faith struggle for my heroine, but she doesn't struggle with her faith. God has seen her through every moment of her difficult past, but that doesn't mean she'll make that same mistake again, expecting God to bail her out a second time. Yay! Strong faith with strong resolve to live as God would have her live.


  21. Debby, I loved this post. This is always the challenge for me. :) Your wonderful tips and examples are helpful!

    Susan May Warren talks about the lie journey. She teaches to figure out what lie your character believes at the beginning of the book and what truth they will learn through the story. It's been good for me to think through this aspect of my characters' stories and figure out what will happen that will bring them to the place where they understand the truth. I don't know if this makes sense.

    As a reader, I don't like preachiness either. Or when a character suddenly understands something that wasn't even alluded to earlier in the book. When the spiritual journey is organic, and I hardly notice it as I read, that's what I love!

  22. Hi Kathy...Kaybee!!!

    So glad today's post helped solidify the direction your own story should go. Sounds like an interesting book.

    Pace may not even realize at the beginning of your story how deeply he feels abandoned by God. During his journey to wholeness, he has to confront his past, which is painful. He's kept much of it buried for so long. As he digs into the muck and mire of that terrible time, he sees his brokenness and thinks that even God can't love him. He's at his lowest point, his darkest hour.

    Eventually, perhaps through the faith and support and love of the heroine, he sees the past more clearly and is able turn to the Lord.

    Oona has, no doubt, spent much of her time in the convent in prayer. She's been faithful to God but feels betrayed by Him.

    Reminds me of Theresa of Avila who supposedly told God in the midst of her struggles, "If this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them." :)

    Again, I'm so glad today's post helped you with your story! Thanks for your mention of Yule Die and for your support.

    Hugs and love!

  23. Hi Mary Hicks!

    Nice insight into our own spiritual journeys. You're so right. Sometimes we feel so close to the Lord. At other times, our focus seems to be on the world.

    Hopefully, we're always moving in the right direction, although some days we make giant strides while at other times it seems like we're stalled.

    Donald Maass says to make our fiction "bigger than life." So we enhance the spiritual highs and lows for our characters to make them more memorable.

  24. Sherri,

    You're so right! We always want to show instead of tell. And never, never add an info dump, even if the added information is about the Lord.

  25. Great post, Debby! I know that often my editor asks for more of the internal conflict in the beginning. I think it really helps the reader to identify and root for the characters.

    And, like you said, in our inspy novels, that internal conflict often involves the faith thread. Hurts that only God can heal.

  26. Cindy wrote: Subtle and not preachy! YES! That's it exactly.

    Sounds as if the inspirational genre is the perfect fit for your stories, Cindy.

  27. Waving to sweet Julie!

    Will I see you at RWA? Hope so!

    You're so right about some secular books containing spiritual insights. Don't you find those lightly woven faith threads add a depth to the story no matter the genre?

    I seem to be on a Donald Maass kick today. He talks about including universal truths into our work. When a hero in a non-inspirational genre story grapples with his own mortality, with his relationship to a higher being, with his purpose in life, the reader can be touched deeply. Sometimes the faith element is even more subtle in the secular stories, yet that "surprise" element can make the story even more satisfying.

  28. Kaybee Kathy,

    Thanks for mentioning two new authors I need to read!

  29. Hi Janet,

    Thanks for your kind words about The General's Secretary.

    I need time to reflect on your question, but my immediate response would be that the alienation a character or person feels toward God is fairly universal. We don't see how God can forgive us, or we feel He let us down in our time of need. The difference comes from the internal conflict, which would be unique to each character.

    Waiting to see how others answer your interesting question as I continue to ponder it myself.

  30. Hi Marianne!

    I googled Lori since I haven't read her books. Evidently she and hubby started their own church. Perhaps that's when she felt the need to add more spiritual teachings to her stories.

    She's published over 100 books. Amazing!

  31. Don't worry, Susan. Sometimes we need to include everything in those early drafts. Later we can pare them down and find just the right touch of faith.

  32. Thanks for this thought provoking post Debby.

    I agree that the faith element works best when woven into the internal conflict. And usually one person in the relationship has a stronger grip on faith than another, in the experience of inspy fiction as I've seen it.

    Once one character comes to embrace God, the other character, the one who thought that had a strong grip on their faith, may also learn something new as well. So intriguing.

    No need for me to go in the (cat dish, Stetson, Mason jar) whatever you use Debby. Love your stuff!


  33. Myra,

    As I searched for excerpts to include in this blog, I saw a number of phrases and names I've used in more than one story.

    "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree" appeared, unbeknownst to me, in two books! YIKES!

    Plus, I must love the name Lloyd. He keeps appearing. He was even in the book I just submitted, until I realized my redundancy and changed his name. What's with Lloyd?

    I rarely look back at my earlier books so when I'm writing, I must pull from the same mental toolbox and thus end up with repeats.

    Something else to worry about, right? LOL!

  34. Yay, Janet! Love your heroine's strength! Great!

    Plus, it's often nice to have one character who is strong and can help the other character see the Lord more clearly!

    I also remember a bestselling author's mention of writing the same book. (Bet it was the same person you mentioned, Janet.) This particular author added that readers love her stories and buy her new books because they expect that same type of story. She looked at the similarity as a positive instead of a negative, which I found most interesting.

  35. HI Jeanne!

    Thanks for mentioning Susie May Warren's "lie to truth" journey.

    That reminds me of Michael Hauge's identity to essence technique, which I like. The protagonist sees himself at the beginning of the story through his wounded past, whether that wound was real or something he perceived as a child that wasn't true. He's lived his life behind a "mask" that helps him hide that wound. Sometimes he may not even realize he is wounded until he's confronted with the external conflict in the story.

    With Hauge, the character must learn his true essence, who he really is once the mask is removed. He has to trust enough to remove the mask and leave his identity to live fully in his essence.

    With a romance, Hauge says the love interest is the person who sees the protagonist as he really is. The true love character recognizes the hero's essence, she/he sees beyond the mask, beyond the wound.

    Whether using Susie's technique or Hauge's, the protagonist must change and grow. Sometimes it's finding the right technique or explanation that provides clarity and helps us understand the hero's journey.

    I'll be thinking about Susie's lie-to-truth model as I work on my next story. The more we know, the more we can draw from when we create our characters...our compelling characters.

    Thanks, Jeanne!

  36. Iola, LOL. That reminded me of this:

    Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

    1. Never open a book with weather.
    2. Avoid prologues.
    3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
    4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely.
    5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
    6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
    7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
    8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
    9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
    10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

    My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

    “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

  37. "Hurts that only God can heal." Lovely, Missy!

    As you mentioned, the editors are looking for that deep internal conflict, which IMHO makes a more compelling character.

  38. Waving to Piper!

    Thanks for mentioning that the stronger character sometimes learns a truth from the character whose faith needs to grow. Great point!

  39. Ah, wisdom from Tina!

    With a splash of Elmore Leonard! He's an amazing writer. I always loved his books and his quirkiness. He might be the perfect summer read!

    Tina wrote: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

    I'm sighing, wishing I had enough time to make every line of prose perfect. How do you handle the time crunch, oh wise one?

  40. Lunch time!

    Panera's for everyone! Place your order at the buffet bar.

    I'm getting a Caesar Chicken Salad. Hold the Caesar dressing and give me balsamic vinaigrette on the side. Chips and a Diet Coke.

    Anyone want a cookie for desert?

  41. Like Melissa and others I have skipped preachy parts of books. No one likes to read a boring church sermon. Or long scripture passages in fiction, but…
    1. Christians should go to church.
    2. Church isn’t boring if it is personalized.
    I have several church scenes in my Whatever Series of books, but I eliminated the boring preachiness(I hope) by showing the characters response.

    Debby I hope you don’t mind my inserting an excerpt. Tell me if you read this halfway through a novel would you skip it?

    Pastor loosened his tie and wrapped a white handkerchief around the cordless microphone. The congregation stood as he read Samson’s life story from the book of Judges.
    James reclaimed Joni’s hand and squirmed against the pew as Pastor stepped off the platform and leaned against the communion table. Wrinkles appeared on his bald head as he smiled. “I want to talk to some Samsons today.”
    James rolled the stiffness from his neck. This was a bad idea.
    “Before you took your first breath, God had a plan for you.” Pastor threw one arm in the air. “Handsome and strong, Samson made some bad decisions.”
    Joni hung on the preacher’s every word. James caressed the back of her hand, hoping to regain her attention.
    “God separated you from sin. Adopted you into his family, but you wanted to be normal. To fit in with this world.”
    Joni flinched as the messenger from God slapped the table.
    “Samson! Why do you want to be normal? What he wants to give you will be for more valuable than anything you can imagine!”
    Placing their joined hands on his knee, James covered them with his other palm.
    Pastor paced in front of his congregation. He stopped in front of Joni’s section. “Samson had a hindrance. Delilah was her name.” He switched hands with his microphone and then pointed straight toward them. “You have a hindrance and you know their name.”
    Her hand wrestled out of his grip. James glared at the preacher and wrapped his arm behind her.
    “You may love your Philistine, but God loves him more. God! Loves! Him! More!” Pastor wiped his forehead with the handkerchief and paced on.
    Knuckles white, Joni clasped her hands together on her lap. James weaved his fingers through her hair while trying to calm his erratic pulse. He reached across with his right hand but she gripped a hymnal tight. He scrubbed a hand down the bridge of his nose while Joni’s eyes followed Pastor’s every step. Her lips pressed together in a tight line.
    “You want the anointing? Stop texting the Philistine.” Pastor jumped on the platform and stepped behind the pulpit. “Samson, you must choose between God’s Spirit or your Philistine. The altars are open.”
    People flooded the front. James stood and blocked Joni’s exit. He whispered, “I love you.” Her sad smile triggered waves of panic. He was drowning and he didn’t know how to tread these dangerous waters. “Joni? Let’s go get some lunch. You choose the place.”
    “I need to pray first.” She squeezed around him.
    He grabbed for her but she was out of his reach. He swore under his breath. Pastor grinned from the platform. He knew what he’d done, and he was proud of his accomplishment. James suppressed the urge to knock the grin off his face.
    A still, small voice from long ago breezed through James’s thoughts. She’s mine. If you want her, you’ll have to go through me.
    He glared at the cross glowing above the baptistery and mumbled under his breath, “I’ll never let her go.”

  42. Debby. I forgot to mention that I love your LIS books. :)

    Pass me a cookie.

  43. I think that is what I like best about the LI's - the weaving of the Inspirational Thread! It is how I think during the day so when I read a book, it comes natural to me and how I think so why wouldn't a character think like me! ha ha! I love your military series, Debby, although I haven't read this one yet. I still need to get it! I've read the other ones though.

  44. Bridgett,

    Thanks for sharing your excerpt. I think I'd cut some of the minister's sermon and add a bit more introspection from your hero's POV. Perhaps show what he thinks the minister is referring to and how the hero is not ready to make that leap of faith. The minister can preach while the reader is focused on your POV character's internal struggle.

    I like how you included lots of action in the scene, and you've done a nice job showing conflict between the hero and heroine. Because you've woven that in with the sermon, the reader shouldn't skip through the preacher's remarks. Still, I think you could cut some of his dialogue and still get your point across to the reader.

    Good job! Take an extra cookie! :)

  45. Hi Valri!


    Thanks for your kind words about my stories and my military series!

    A friend of mine talks about having an internal dialogue with the Lord. We do that, don't we? Go about our chores at home and chat with the Lord as we work. Often our characters have that internal conversation with the Lord as well.

    So glad you enjoy the inspirational thread in the LI stories!

  46. DEBBY—thanks for sharing Michael Hauge's way of conveying a character's spiritual journey. I haven't studied that as much, but it makes lots of sense!

    TINA–Never use a dialogue tag other than said, "he admonished gravely." LOL at that one!

  47. This really helps my WIP. Thank you, Debby! My hero's faith is strong, but the heroine's is lost. Your ideas will help me weave the threads of faith into my story at the right times. Great!

  48. That wasn't my wisdom. It was Elmore Leonard's.


  49. Hi Debby:

    In philosophy a compelling argument is one that almost forces you to believe it. A compelling character is much the same: it forces the reader to believe in the character. A compelling story is one that forces the reader to believe it is happening as it is being read and, once read, to believe that it really could have happened the way the author described it.

    What I find makes a story or character compelling are facts and details that would not be in the story if the story were not compelling. These are little facts that only an insider would know about. This leaves out the big facts everyone knows. Knowing the statue of Liberty is in NYC is one thing but knowing how the green metal feels when you rub your hand over its surface is quite another thing.

    You are an expert at being compelling in your army books because you write about what you know and you know which facts to use that a writer writing the story at second hand would never think of or know to put into the story.

    This has a price, however, because when you kill off very sympathetic characters, it hurts the reader. This is why so many mystery stories open with a dead body. The reader was never emotionally involved with the victim. Of course, in a suspense story this ‘ever present’ danger keeps the reader on edge and is a vital element in keeping the suspense suspenseful.

    In a way, you are too good at doing this. I still have problems thinking about what happened to the wonderful army dependents in book III. (I’ve even repressed the title! ☻) This reminds me of the man who wanted to marry a nice Catholic girl and thus had to attend Catholic doctrine pre-marriage classes. The teacher was so good, the non-Catholic went on to become a priest. No marriage.

    Why I don’t like the ‘weaving’ analogy.

    I think that sometimes our analogies can hide more than they reveal.

    Weaving is like putting armor on a body. Its strength is artificial and comes from the outside. Instead of the weaving analogy, I suggest a ‘bringing to the surface’ analogy.

    In this case the spiritual element is not woven into the story but rather extracted from the depths of the character’s interior traceable from the start of the story.

    This process is organic like the growth of a plant. Weaving is like grafting limbs on a tree. It’s too visible. While you can weave threads together to form a braided rug, the treads are still visible -- making it somewhat like the kind of writing that calls attention to itself.

    The spiritual, the mystery, the romance, and the suspense elements should all be seamlessly derived from the same seed. I think your last four books have done this to perfection. The four threads come out of the same embryo and are not derived from four sources only to be woven into one thread at a later date. (Think of a spider's silk.)

    Now about those spiritual problems.

    I think the weakest part in genre inspirational romances is the paucity of spiritual problems. Basically there are only two kinds of permissible problems:

    1) I’m mad at God because bad things happen to good people and God did not answer my prayers. (Bad God)

    2) After all the wrong I’ve done in my life, God won’t be able to forgive me. So what is the use? (Bad me)

    There are dozens of spiritual crises that are never mentioned in genre inspirational books. Here are some of those conflicts:

    Belief in predetermination, reincarnation, polytheism, karma, pantheism, atheism, co-creationism, a god with limitations, deism, pantserism, etc.

    There are a great many combinations of spiritual conflicts that could happened between a hero and heroine; however, these will have to be written for the Indie press. Yet, these conflicts could be very interesting while presenting new challenges to the writer who wants to break out of the two problem box!


    P.S. I have all your books: some in both print and Kindle. So, I guess I’ve already won! : )

  50. Hi Debby!
    I agree less is more and loved your examples. Like Melissa and others, preachiness gets me. In all forms. When it is obvious author intrusion and even in well crafted dialogue between characters when it goes on and on. Actually, I'm having super fun with the WIP right now. A contemporary romance where the hero like you said is flawed and wounded. (He was responsible for the death of his family.) But in a deliberate twist, he's not mad at God about it at all and doesn't blame God. He blames himself, and doesn't understand why God allowed him to live. He has a deep faith but I play it so subtle by tying it in with his sarcasm. So for a reader well versed in scripture and theology, the subtle jokes and subtext are SO FUN. For a non-Christian, there is enough context clues to more or less figure it out or blow right past it. =)

    Can I please give an example? Please??? haha.

    He thumbed through the thin pages looking for Psalms. Matthew—too far. Job. That brought a chuckle. He and God had already hashed that out a while ago. Proverbs—close—there. Psalms. Sometimes, you just want to know somebody else knows exactly how you feel.

  51. Debby, thanks so much for your advice. I was about to apologize for my long comment...but then I read Vince's. lol!

    Most of which I agree with. Which is why I started my own Indie Press.

    But I also have a full request from LIS Elizabeth Mazer. So I need to learn how to play by the rules as I polish and revise the submission.

    Thanks again.

  52. Great post, Debby--thank you! I smiled as I read your comment about beefing up the internal conflict to make a character more compelling, because THAT is exactly what I'm working on right now.

    I like to add a Scripture verse here and there in my stories (I also like that in stories I read) but agree about not being preachy.

    Just for you--I've baked a Georgia Peach Cobbler, sprinkled with extra cinnamon and sugar. Enjoy with some homemade vanilla ice-cream! Hugs, Patti Jo

  53. P.S. Also meant to say I really love the patriotic photos you shared today!

  54. Hi Debby. Glad the heroine's strong faith works for you. The hero's determination to seek vengeance adds conflict between them.

    Sounds like the bestselling author you mentioned knows her readership.


  55. Do you think, Vince, that sometimes there doesn't have to be a spiritual thread?

    That a book tagged inspirational can just be about ordinary Joe and Josephine who just happen to love God and have a story to tell?

  56. This is why I love to read your books. They're emotionally satisfying. I bet if I asked my husband, he'd say the same because he sure devours them when that shipping box arrives.

    Thank you for this, Debby. Both the craft skill and the images.

  57. Jeanne,
    Hauge has a great DVD he produced with Christopher Vogler. Excellent. I think you can buy it through his website.

  58. Lost heroines are good, Sherida! They allow the hero to be even more heroic!

    Glad to hear some bit of info in today's blog might help!

  59. Tina Radcliffe! You are far too humble, girlfriend!

  60. Michael Hauge and Chris Vogler, The Hero's Two Journeys.

    A MUST HAVE. THE INDISPENSABLE WRITING TOOL. THROW THE REST AWAY, well except, Bickham and Swain and Dixon.

    The Hero's 2 Journeys

  61. Great examples, Debby, and both Ellyn and I enjoyed reading your latest The General's Secretary.


  62. While we're talking craft books, I'm reading Plot vs Character by Jeff Gerke and I'm finding it a valuable tool to help me dig deeper into my characters. Just tossing it out there in case someone else is boggled by Hauge and Vogler, lol. Sometimes I need to see things from six angles before I get it.

  63. PANTSERISM?????


    Excuse me, but I don't consider pantserism a spiritual crisis.

  64. On the military We had a man on our tour who was a vietnam vet and to see the respect people showed him was amazing also. He wore a vietnam vet cap and I saw strangers come up to him and say thank you. It was so touching. He and his wife were the first two I met and the ones who I found the friendliest.

  65. Great post. I'd never really considered how much the spiritual side of a character adds to the story. It's lack in a book is probably what makes me lay a book aside.

    Seekerville books have that aspect so interwined, I usually cannot set them down without finishing them first. Have had many a satisfying finish in the wee hours of the morning...

    Much to glean from fromthis post. Great photos too.

  66. Vince, you're amazing. Just like Tina!

    Thanks for your kind words about my stories. You always affirm, which is such a wonderful trait. :)

    Loved your explanation of a compelling character. It deserves to be saved! Be sure to include it in one of your writing how-to books!

    You're right about the two aspects of the faith thread in inspirational books, but how the writer develops the conflict and resolution makes each story unique, which Janet and I were discussing earlier.

    About the weaving...hopefully the person who buys the woven cloth or rug or tapestry sees the "piece" or the "art" as a whole while the artist or weaver must know how each thread is worked into the whole. When I brainstorm a new story idea, I'm pulling a lot of different threads together to make the finished manuscript so the weaving analogy works for me.

    I do understand--and like--your bringing to the surface idea. We each see concepts in different ways and need to use whatever provides inspiration.

    You always provide inspiration, Vince. Thank you!

  67. Oooh! Great choices, Melissa. C.S. Lewis is a dear favorite of mine. I enjoy the others as well.

    Debby, I'm sure trying. :)

    Nancy, I just read that part yesterday from your sub to scribes. Love it!! It was then I realized Sam's faith was still very much intact. And that I'm totally in love with this character and it's only, what, chapter 4? :) I can't wait to see this book in print. Crit coming soon.

  68. lovely examples, Debby. Just got Genesis results back and saw that I had completely dropped the ball on the inspy thread (it's there, it just wasn't showing up in those first pages and I'd squeezed it out of the synopsis (which was already bursting its page!)

    I write for the CBA market with an ABA reader in mind. The last thing I can do is a preachy or perfect character. I don't think I see that at all in Christian fiction anymore.

    I'm waving at Piper too!

  69. Nice job, Genesis finalist Nancy K!

    Love your subtle use of scripture.

    Plus, I love Psalms! Our response to God.

    So, so good. Can't wait to read your story in print! You're right there!

  70. A full request from Elizabeth! Wow, Bridgett, that's fantastic. Elizabeth is a doll. And a great editor. She leaves smiley faces, which are always fun...and affirming.

    Good for you!!!

  71. Love your cobbler, Patti Jo! Thank you, dear friend. I'm sharing with everyone in Seekerville. YUM!

    Good for you, beefing up your internal conflict, which is so important!!!

  72. Janet, our alpha males often think they need to avenge a wrong. Love when they realize that's not God's will. I know your story will shine!

  73. Tina, I love when characters are living their faith and dealing with issues the world sends their way. IMHO, that's still an inspirational read.

  74. Be still my heart, Anita Mae! Kiss your hubby for me, please. In a very nice, friendly way, of course! :)

  75. Thanks for clarification about the Hauge/Vogler DVD title, Tina.

    Bickham? The book she wrote with Dianna Love?

    I'd add Donald Maass to your list. Love his Breakout Novel workbook!

  76. Sending hugs and love to you and Ellyn, Lyndee! Thanks for your sweet words about The General's Secretary!

    I may have Jeff's book...need to check my resource shelf! Thanks for the mention of another great how-to. We'll add it to Tina's list.


    The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes

    Scene and Structure.


    That Jack Bickham.

    You are thinking of Mary Buckingham.

  78. I'm so glad folks thanked him for his service, Jenny. Glad he and his wife spread that all-American hospitality on the tour.

    Of course, who wouldn't want to be your friend. You're so warm and outgoing! Loved our time together.


  79. "Excuse me, but I don't consider pantserism a spiritual crisis."

    on the floor laughing...

  80. Hi DebH!
    Thanks for your nice comments about Seeker books!

    I often notice when the faith thread isn't there. I forget which bestselling author I recently read that made no mention of God. I felt she hadn't gone as deeply as she could have into her protagonist's internal conflict. Dealing with our relationship with the Lord ups the stakes and makes for a more satisfying read, IMHO.

  81. Thank you, Debby and Natalie.
    I want to see my stuff in print too.
    If no one signs this year's Genesis MS, the WIP right now will be my entry for next year. =D

  82. Natalie, you're teasing us with wonderful comments about Nancy's story. We all want to read her book in print! :)

    Your's too!

  83. Hi Deb,
    Contests are hard. Especially when the page count forces you to cut important aspects of the beginning of your story. Sorry you got dinged for a lack of faith. I know it's there...perhaps just not in the first few pages.

    FYI, you're always a winner in Seekerville!

  84. Sorry, Tina. My error.

    I need Jack Bickham! Must get his books.

    I thought you meant Mary Buckham: Break into Fiction.

  85. Myra and Tina,

    Vince was just checking to see if you girls were listening. And you were. Good for you! :)

  86. Nancy, I want your Biblical fiction and contemporary to sell so I can read both!!!

  87. Hi Debby! An interesting post that helped me zero in on something. For me, it's another instance of show don't tell. I want to see the characters live their faith (whatever faith that might be) ... I don't want the author/story telling me about it :-)

    Now to read comments ...

    Nancy C

  88. Hi Nancy!

    You're so right. Christian characters need to live their faith.

  89. Tina Wrote:

    "Excuse me, but I don't consider pantserism a spiritual crisis."

    on the floor laughing...

    It is when pantserism forms the basis for understanding how God operates in the world.

    You didn’t think I was talking about a literary theory did you? ☺


    P.S. Actually, Debby is right. It was just a test to see if anyone actually read that far into my long post. : )

  90. DEBBY!!! Love, Love, LOVE this post!!

    I have been longing to do a blog on the faith thread, so THANK YOU!! The bottom line is without God in the story, there is no happily ever after, so we Christian writers have a HUGE privilege to write books with God and faith in the middle!!

    My faith threads are always lessons God has taught me that are pretty point blank, so I tend to present them that way in my books as well -- right between the eyes, rather than a subtle faith thread. But it doesn't matter how we present it -- faith enriches both a story and a soul!


  91. Thank you, Debby. I don't know what else I can do that I'm not already doing. Except self-pub them. =)
    Karen Ball's post on the Steve Laube blog today about the cherries was pretty much for me. And lots of my friends judging by facebook.

  92. Hi Tina:

    You wrote:

    Do you think, Vince, that sometimes there doesn't have to be a spiritual thread?

    That a book tagged inspirational can just be about ordinary Joe and Josephine who just happen to love God and have a story to tell?

    If a story inspires and gives hope to readers, then it is an inspirational in my judgment. In this sense an inspirational book may exist even when there is no spiritual conflict.

    I found that the “Price of Victory” was inspiring because of how hard the heroine worked to make her dreams come true.

    In fact, I think there is far too little inspiring inspiration in many ‘inspirational’ novels.

    For a truly inspiring story I like the hero and heroine in “The Lawman’s Second Chance”. This story is about showing grace under great adversity, about trust and love, about taking chances, about being one with who you are, about making life an inspiration and about living a life that inspires others. Inspiration should move the reader. This one does.

    A true inspirational story should inspire and give hope to others by the example of its characters.


  93. Julie,
    I know your lessons on faith will be well-developed. You're a fantastic teacher.

  94. Nancy,

    Give it all to God. When He's in charge, good things happen.

  95. I agree. Well said, Vince.

    And we always read every single word you write, Vince, old buddy, old pal.

  96. Debby, thank you, first of all, for the military pictures! My dad was a POW in Japan for 3 1/2 years (captured in the Phillippines) and taught us 7 kids respect for the American flag and for our servicepeople.

    Thank you, too, for this post! Finally getting around to reading it late at night... It's definitely going to make me think about the faith element in my WIP (and ones to follow). It's a book I wrote more than 20 years ago, long before I was saved, so rewriting it for LI was an interesting journey, to say the least. Now to really study it to see if I've been at all "preachy".

    Please toss my name into the ring for one of your books! :)


  97. Thanks Debby, In a big group I am quite shy (I know hard to believe) but I hate being the centre of attention or having the spotlight on my. in small groups I do much better.
    This year I am feeling so much better about myself which helps a lot.

    When I got to Spokane and everyone had met I was so overwhelmed I had to get out for a bit. But still had a great time.

  98. Great timing for a great post, Debby. I'm battling over the internal conflict for my H/H and you filled in the missing pieces.

    The inspirational thread.

    I've always treated the inspy thread of the book as just that -- a separate thread. But weaving it in with the internal conflict makes the entire conflict scenario come alive.

    Bless you, Debby for listening to God's prodding to write about this topic when you first contemplated what to write about today.

    Your words and insight have set my H/H on a full-bodied path.

    What a relief!!!!

  99. Hi Debby:

    You made a very important point about weaving when you wrote:

    “I'm pulling a lot of different threads together to make the finished manuscript so the weaving analogy works for me.”

    I was not considering combining external plot elements into the total fabric of the story. In this case weaving works fine for me as well.

    I was only thinking about a character’s reaction to those external plot elements. These reactions should flow from the inner core of the character. Playing out how a character will react to various plot elements can be helpful in selecting the type of external conflicts you want to add to the story.

    I believe if a character’s reaction to a flood or the danger of a stalker does not flow from the character’s inner being, then the plot thread may seem like a contrivance to the reader.

    You've helped me obtain a much fuller understanding of what I thought I already understood. That’s a real benefit of these interactive posts. Thank you.


  100. Hi Julie:

    I just loved your comment:

    “The bottom line is without God in the story, there is no happily ever after, so we Christian writers have a HUGE privilege to write books with God and faith in the middle!!”

    I think your writing is different in the sense it is not so much about God answering our prayers or God not forgiving us as it is about using our faith to make the right and often difficult moral decisions. (I’m thinking of the speakeasy on the pier. Lots of moral decisions in those scenes.) This approach is really about using your faith to guide your life and as such is somewhat different from spiritual inspiration or spiritual conflicts about God.

    I’d love to see you do a post on “Faith as a Moral Compass” because you really get into it – bang – right between the eyes. And God knows, you have enough examples for a Lessman 3,000 Word Special! ☺☺☺


  101. I always appreciate the message of faith as part of the story. It could just even be in the actions of the characters.

  102. VINCE!!! I swear on a stack of Bibles that I am going to hire you one of these days, my friend!! You have just given me ANOTHER Seeker blog idea that I have really been wanting to explore, but Deb beat me to the punch, and SO well, too, which I love!!

    Thanks for your ongoing support and incredible insight!!


  103. Vince, it was me--MYRA--who questioned your idea about pantserism.

    Now we REALLY know who's paying attention and who isn't--LOL!!!

  104. As usual, just what I need at the time I need it!

    I write middle grade adventure but always add a faith component. Since my heroine is a Schnauzer, that makes it a bit tricky, but so far it's been well-received.

    In the last book, May the K9 Spy has been dognapped and ends up in Paris. During a very dark time, mentally and physically, she sees a small light at the end of a crypt hallway at The Pantheon, spotlighting the Alpha Omega with the Chi Rho there on the wall. It serves as a reminder of things she had heard another character reference and it brings her hope.

    Agree with you and others that it shouldn't be preachy. I don't like to read that stuff either!

    Thanks Debby And wonderful photos!