Living for God in a Pagan Society: What Daniel Can Teach Us

Do you ever feel confused or disappointed with what is going on in the world? Do you feel helpless before unwelcome trends in society? Do you feel pressured and isolated by what seems to be a pagan, God-defying culture all around you? Are you unsure of what you should do about it? This is scarcely […]

Unravelling the Mystery II

In my previous blog, I wrote about a seminar I was scheduled to present on “How to write a murder mystery.” Unfortunately, the conference where I was scheduled to present the seminar has been postponed. I am sorry for talking about an event that will now not happen. (There is no word yet on when […]

Unravelling the Mystery

Shortly after I posted this blog about the upcoming “Telling Stories: A Conference for Writers,” it was postponed, for reasons beyond my control. I apologize for this. I will post again if and when the conference is rescheduled.    For more information about the conference, go to http://mennonitemuseum.org/category/upcoming-events/

A Big Event Is Scheduled for this Weekend

A big event is scheduled for this weekend. No, not the election. That is old news. I am talking about the book signing. Mysteriously reclusive author James R. Coggins is making a rare public appearance from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 17 at the House of James bookstore, 2743 Emerson Road in […]

The Return of John Smyth

He’s back! After a long hiatus, John Smyth is back. By day, he’s the mild-mannered editor of Grace magazine. By night…he’s still the mild-mannered editor of Grace magazine, but he sometimes solves murders. I am pleased to announce that the fourth John Smyth Mystery has just been published by my own publishing imprint, Mill Lake […]

Character is King

“I was arrested in Eno’s diner.” Good novelists know that one of the important “rules” of writing is to produce an opening sentence that grabs the attention of readers. The above sentence is a good example. It is the first sentence of Killing Floor, the first of Lee Childs’s Jack Reacher novels. That sentence is […]

Letter to Leo

In the course of my historical research, I came across the following letter in the Russian Archives.  Books for Today Publishing Company, 123 Fourth Avenue, New York, New York Dear Mr. Tolstoy:  Thank you for submitting your book War and Peace to our editorial department. We think this novel has considerable potential. However, some changes […]

The Wild Life at Mill Lake III

When I was writing my novel Mountaintop Drive, I drove up to a new subdivision on Sumas Mountain to get the atmosphere and setting right (the subdivision is real, but there is no street called Mountaintop Drive). There I saw several deer grazing on the lawns at the edge of the woods. The houses have […]

People Watching

At the end of her book Tigerlily’s Orchids, mystery writer Ruth Rendell, talks about one of her characters watching some new neighbours who have moved in across the street: “Duncan watched them from his front windows, imagining lives and dramas for them that bore no relation to reality.”  Rendell here reveals one of the distinguishing […]


Having read hundreds of murder mysteries, good, mediocre and terrible, (and even having scribbled a few myself), I’ve come to a startling conclusion: People read murder mysteries for the mystery.  It’s the mental puzzle that attracts. Readers want to see if they can figure out “whodunit” before the writer solves the mystery and reveals the […]