Wednesday Super Sleuth Challenge – Criminally Challenged

Photo by nokomai

Photo by nokomai

This is by far one of my favorite types of Super Sleuth Challenges. Tales of the criminally challenged. By that I mean those who really shouldn’t quit their day jobs.

There is no limit to the number of times I can be surprised by individuals who do the craziest things and all in the name of crime.

We have heard the tales of the Subway toilet tank theif and the crook who had to call for an ambulance after falling off of a roof and breaking bones. This time is no different. A dose of funny with our Wednesday challenge.

For today’s super sleuth challenge see if you can guess which criminally challenged stories actually happened, then leave your comment below for your chance to become the super sleuth of the month.

Which of the following are actually true:

1. A man with clown pants was staking out a business. He goes up to the main door and looks inside. Then he walks a few feet away on the sidewalk, just out of view of the security camera. The next time the camera sees him he has pulled a ski mask down over his face. Hmmm…I wonder who he is?

2. A burglar was caught trying to loot a house where the police were already inside conducting an interview of a victim of a completely different crime.

3. A man attempted to rob a bank with a toilet plunger.

4. Three criminals held up a university student, taking her money and her car keys… to a stick shift car they couldn’t even drive.

5. A burglar is scared off by the singing Billy Bass.

6. Two men jump out of the bushes at a McDonald’s, fire a shot, and steal a number 7 from the customer exiting the restaurant.

7. Numbers 1, 4, and 6.

8. All of the Above

Which of these criminally challenged stories are true?


How To Add A Twist To Your Story – Tips From “Frozen”

Photo by Ayla87

Photo by Ayla87

Have you ever despised the linear, flat story line you have going in your novel? If each scene outcome is predictable and you worry your reader will lose interest, then it is time for a change.

Maybe it’s time for an unexpected twist. Easier said than done, right? Still, it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it.

Using a technique that I call fringe plotting, or Susan May Warren’s similar technique of peripheral plotting, you can easily bring in believable twists to mix things up.

What exactly is fringe plotting?

It is finding the details or story components on the edge of your current story line and drawing them into the plot in an unexpected way.

Take a look at this clip from Frozen:

What is the fringe plot detail in this clip? The camera man. He is the unexpected element that plays into the clip. It makes the other characters act completely different.

Who is on the fringe of the scene or story line you are working on? How will they make the characters act differently?

Now, notice the carrot. The carrot is an object on the fringe of the plot when Olaf is sitting on the moose’s back and he doesn’t want to move. It is unexpected that Olaf takes off his nose as incentive, but the nose was there all along waiting to be noticed.

What objects or incentives could there be in your character’s scene that are on the fringe going unnoticed?

In the clip from Frozen it seems so simple, but when we look at our stories it appears complicated sometimes. Break it down in the following way.

Describe these things as they relate to your scenes, characters, or story line:


*Friends, Family, Co-workers, Side Characters

*Events- Town Seasons, Holidays, Charities, Calendar

*Values – Things valued in the scene, lives, or backdrop of the story.

Once you identify these things, think of how they intersect with your character’s life and then you may find some of those carrot style twists you are looking for in your novel.

What is your favorite Disney Movie for surprises?

Super Sleuth Challenge Answer – Forensics Brings A Family Closure

Photo by maxpate

Photo by maxpate

Happy Friday Super Sleuths!

Today we honor the memory of two amazing people who lost their lives. Timothy Hack and Kelly Drew. Forensics drew new attention to their case in 2009. Here is a reminder of the case details:

On a Saturday night in August of 1980 a 19-year-old Timothy Hack and his girlfriend Kelly Drew stopped at a wedding reception in Xionia, Wisconsin. The couple was planning to go to a carnival later in the evening.

Witnesses saw the young couple leave, but no one mentioned seeing them outside the reception hall. They never arrived at the carnival. They never made it home.

The next day the Police found the Timothy’s wallet locked in his car in the parking lot outside of the reception hall. They were found in a farmer’s field a few miles from the place where they were last seen.

Who do you think was responsible for the crime?

B. A known serial killer believed to be in the area at the time. (This is not the correct answer because at the time Ed Edwards was not a known serial killer. But in a tie breaker of the contest, this answer will tip in favor to a winner because it is mostly accurate.)

D. A local handyman who did work at the reception hall. Ed Edwards was questioned at the time and he had a bloody nose. When they questioned him about it, he said he hurt it deer hunting.

In 2009 when they questioned Edwards again after DNA evidence of the case was reviewed, he admited to having seen the couple that night. He also said he had never been deer hunting.

It may have been 30 years since the crime, but they finally caught the man who killed the couple. He had since been labeled The Sweetheart Killer.

For more on the case click here.

What solved cold case has surprised you?

Wednesday Super Sleuth Challenge – A Case Of Forensic Pay Back

Photo by jherzog

Photo by jherzog

Welcome Super Sleuths! It has been a while since we’ve had a super sleuth challenge, but I’m excited to share this week’s challenge with you. This month’s super sleuth gift will be a $10 Amazon Gift Card and a new book from Brandilyn CollinsDark Justice.

Amazon Description:

“If I’d had any idea what those words would mean to me, to my mother and daughter, I’d have fled California without looking back.

While driving a rural road, Hannah Shire and her aging mother, who suffers from dementia, stop to help a man at the scene of a car accident. The man whispers mysterious words in Hannah’s ear. Soon people want to kill Hannah and her mother for what they “know.” Even law enforcement may be involved.

The two women must flee for their lives. But how does Hannah hide her confused mother? Carol just wants to listen to her pop music, wear her favorite purple hat, and go home. And if they turn to Hannah’s twentyseven- year-old daughter, Emily, for help, will she fall into danger as well?

Pressed on all sides, Hannah must keep all three generations of women in her family alive. Only then does she learn the threat is not just to her loved ones, but the entire country . . . “


Photo by plrang

Photo by plrang

First, let me say that my heart goes out to every family member who has ever lost a loved one to violent crime. For those of you who have been victims, the new methods of forensics have given hope that you and your loved ones may some day find justice.

Today I celebrate the law enforcement community’s new methods in solving a decades old murder case so one family could finally find closure.

I love that forensics has come back to catch criminals who for years went without justice. Today’s Super Sleuth Challenge case is one such instance of forensics catching a decades old cold case killer. Let’s see if you can guess who committed the crime.

On a Saturday night in August of 1980 a 19-year-old man and his girlfriend stopped at a wedding reception in a small town in the Midwest. The couple was planning to go to a carnival later in the evening, so they didn’t stay long.

Witnesses saw the young couple leave, but no one mentioned seeing them outside the reception hall. They never arrived at the carnival. They never made it home.

The next day the Police found the young man’s wallet locked in his car in the parking lot outside of the reception hall. They were found in a farmer’s field a few miles from the place where they were last seen.

Who do you think was responsible for the crime?

A. A jealous ex-boyfriend.

B. A known serial killer believed to be in the area at the time.

C. The best man from the wedding.

D. A local handyman who did work at the reception hall.

Who do you believe was responsible for the crime?

How To Overcome Plot Paralysis – Tips From “Piggy Tales”

Photo by katyxcx

Photo by katyxcx

That moment you’ve been dreaded has finally happened. You’ve written scene after scene and there it is right in front of you.


Panic sets in and you reach for a chocolate. And another. Until there is an empty bag of M&Ms on your desk, a drained can of Mt. Dew, a paper brick wall that you have tried to knock some sense into yourself with, and a pile of wadded up tissue.

Take a deep breath. We have all been there a time or two. There is hope for plot paralysis when your story is stuck like a pig in muck. Let’s take a look at one stuck pig and see if we can learn a bit about plot paralysis from him.

How To Overcome Plot Paralysis:

*Take a break. Such a small and simple thing and yet the pig losing the game steps away from the game board. The same is true of our stories. When we get too close to them, we just can’t see a solution to the plot dilemma we are facing. Step away and take a break. Return to the story when the panic has abated.

*Look at the problem from different angles. If you have created a situation in which your character is backed into a corner and no decision she makes is believable, then it is time to look at the problem from different angles.

Ask your other character’s advice. What would the hero tell the heroine to do? What would the heroine’s mother tell her to do? What would she have done at the beginning of the story? How has she changed? What will she do now?

Sometimes looking at the plot situation from other characters’ perspectives frees up our mind enough to get out of gridlock.

*Search for things in the periphery that would work to put the plot back on track. If you have run out of obstacles for your character, search through the characters and events that are on the edge of the hero or heroine’s lives  that could cause a new, yet believable obstacle. Susan May Warren often teaches this strategy and I’ve found it to be extremely helpful in my writing.

*Twist the board to create the plot you want. This will create a bit of work to go back and align earlier plot to match the changes you need to make, but if the plot you had rolling wasn’t working it is better to fix it now than later.

It may require the addition of a new character, an additional challenge, or another possible villain. This option is rarely needed, but don’t be afraid of it. It is better to roll up your sleeves and make changes instead of looking at a blank page indefinitely.

What do you do to get out of plot paralysis? 

Other Places To Find Me This Week:

Southern Writers Magazine: Brainstorming Secrets To Build Story Conflict

5 Things I Learned At ACFW 2014

American Christian Fiction Writers Conference 2014

Breakfast with writing pals Lisa Jordan and Edie Melson

Breakfast with writing pals Lisa Jordan and Edie Melson

I’m still walking in the clouds from the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference 2014!  Every year I’ve enjoyed the amazing opportunity of hanging out with my peeps who also hear voices in their heads. For those of you who aren’t writers, we are talking about those imaginary characters that we writers write.

Each year I am sure couldn’t top the year before… and then it does.

5 Things I Learned From ACFW 2014:

Jeanne Receiving the Frasier ~ Photo by Andrea Nell

Jeanne Receiving the Frasier ~ Photo by Andrea Nell

1. Hard work does pay off. Jeanne Takenaka is one of the hardest working writers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on my writing journey. Her sweet spirit and great attitude have been front and center so many times over the past few years that others in the writing community have taken notice. This year I am delighted to celebrate her Frasier Contest Win!

ACFW Conference 2014 Bookstore

ACFW Conference 2014 Bookstore

Gabrielle Meyer and Cynthia Ruchti ~ Photo by Cynthia Ruchti

Gabrielle Meyer and Cynthia Ruchti ~ Photo by Cynthia Ruchti

2. A servant’s heart always shines through. Cynthia Ruchti and I met for the first time at the ACFW Convention in Minneapolis several years ago. From that moment I have always known her to have a huge heart to serve others. Since then she has served ACFW and the writing community in so many ways. Many would say she has given back and deserves a chance to sit back and relax at the end of an amazing conference.

Where do you suppose I found her on Saturday night after the banquet? Helping pack up books in the conference bookstore! She reminded me that a servant’s heart always shines through.

3. We all need a champion. No matter how long a writer has been writing, they still need a champion of their work. Someone who believes in them, encourages them, raves about them, and makes them feel like they can do anything. I’ve been blessed with so many champions. Here are just a few: Susan May Warren, Colleen Coble, Rachel Hauck, Lisa Jordan, Cynthia Ruchti, Kathleen Y’Barbo Turner, Alena Wendel, Amy Lindberg, MN N.I.C.E., Agent Mary Keeley, my sweet husband, and four amazing children.

Alena Wendall and Lisa Jordan

Alena Wendel and Lisa Jordan

4. Story is our Super Power and our writing community hands us the cape. The My Book Therapy Pizza Party this year had the theme that Story is My Super Power and I realize just how much my writing community supports that super power. I could not find success without others who support and encourage me along the way. I am so grateful for you!

MBT Writing Super Heroes Donna Yaborough and Shirley Gould

MBT Writing Super Heroes Donna Yaborough and Shirley Gould

5. Sometimes dreams come true. All year long writers tap away at the keyboard, slurp caffeine, and invent imaginary people in the hidden hours of morning and night. Often it is a job without high fives and promotions. Still we create and dream that one day our story will resonate with someone who reads it. The Genesis Contest for unpublished authors gives those of us writing in the middle of the night a chance to dream of what may come.  This year I was honored to be among the winners of the Genesis Contest.

Genesis Winners 2014

Genesis Winners 2014

This Year’s Winners:

Contemporary – Jennifer Sienes – Redemption, Historical – Heidi Chiavaroli – Tears of the Outcast, Historical Romance – Kristi Ann Hunter – My Lord Valet, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller – Dennis Ricci – Perilous Judgment, Novella – Peggy Trotter – Spun, Romance – Laurie Tomlinson – Just Breathe, Romantic Suspense – Michelle Lim – Sketching Evil, Short Novel – Candee Fick – Serving Up Love, Speculative – Megan Ebba – Tangled in Gold, Young Adult – Sara Ella – Blemished

What have you learned at a writing Conference this year?


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September Siesta – Returning To Share American Christian Fiction Writers Experience

Photo by jcam

Photo by jcam

Hi, friends! Thank you for being such faithful followers to my blog. Perhaps you have noticed that I have taken a bit of a September Siesta these past few weeks. As part of getting ready for the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference and pushing myself to work on my manuscript, I have chosen to take a few weeks off.

Thoughts on plot’s schedule will return after the ACFW Conference with pictures from the event and new insights I might have learned. Stay tuned for Monday Music, Tuesday Writing Craft, Wednesday’s Super Sleuth Challenge, Thursday’s Super Sleuth Answers, and occasional Friday guests in October.

Hope to see many of you at conference!