Category: Fiction Page 1 of 2

Ships, Secrets, and Survivors: A Book Review and a Giveaway!

Ships, Secrets, and Survivors, the debut novel by Sarah Rodecker and Helena George, caught my eye when it was announced. It promised assassins on the run, swashbuckling pirates, and mysterious murders. As I had never read a pirate fantasy novel before, I didn’t know what to expect when I picked it up, but I was not disappointed.

From the very first page, I was thrown into a unique world with talking ships and plenty of knives to spare. Ravin, an assassin-in-training, runs away from his prestigious family of killers, risking death if he is discovered. Then, a few weeks later, his name is announced at Selection Day, an annual event that picks young men and women to compete for the chance to become ambassadors. Since Ravin never wanted to be a part of this program, he sets out to find the person who volunteered his name. However, he ends up with more serious problems on his hands as a series of mysterious murders occur. With the murderers on his tail, he joins forces with others chosen on Selection Day, including the Princess Adi. They journey with the crew of the Red Wind, whose goals is to take down the elusive Captain Martin and the assassins in league with him.

The story’s plot is consistently engaging and fast-paced. Battles ensue around every corner against sea dragons, assassins, and pirates. At the same time, though, it’s the little moments that really make this story shine. The interactions among the Red Wind’s crew, such as an archery competition, were entertaining and made me smile. The Red Wind herself, a talking ship, adds a splash of magic to the book with her interesting insights and her relationship with the crew. My personal favorite scenes were the touching conversations between Ravin and Adi late at night. They really showed the depth of these characters.

While some of the minor villains could use more character development, most other characters were deep and fascinating. Ravin’s story really struck me in particular. His journey of moving on from his fear of the past was touching, and while I won’t give away the book’s ending, his arc had a satisfying conclusion. Meanwhile, Adi’s character arc was the most interesting. It was a fantastic way of saying our dreams can come true, even if it’s not in the way that we expect. However, the most powerful theme was one of self-sacrifice, of fighting against evil, and of pushing past personal fears to do the right thing. And that is what will stick with me most of all from this book.

Ships, Secrets, and Survivors was an interesting, engaging book with great messages. I closed the book with a bittersweet, yet satisfied, feeling.  And while it works well as a standalone, book two will surely be an entertaining addition to the series.



If you would like to win a paperback copy of this book, please leave a comment by September 24. This would make a great gift for the teen book lover in your life!

About the Author

Helena occasionally blogs for Write2Ignite. Check out her posts: Welcome, Helena George (on her first W2I conference) and Tips for Productive Writing.


Nicole Dust is a Catholic dark chocolate lover who spends way too much time listening to musicals. Her love of the fantastical leads her to tell stories about other worlds, magic, and broken characters needing redemption. When she’s not writing, you can find her watching YouTube, blogging at, or taking bookstagram pictures with the handle @nicoledustwriter.

DRIVE: A Book Review by Kathryn Dover (and a Giveaway!)

When I first heard about the Baker Mountain series by Joyce Moyer Hostetter, Drive, the fourth book in the series, sounded the most interesting. Drive occurs several years after the previous novel, Comfort, and follows the story of Ida and Ellie Honeycutt, Ann Fay’s younger twin sisters.


The cover of Drive is stunning; the image with both twins, a boy, and two old race cars instantly intrigued me. The story picks up almost where Comfort left off. Ann Fay’s father is still suffering from his war wounds, and Junior is still in love with Ann Fay. The plot pace is a little slow, but the story keeps moving. The style is also different from that of the previous three novels because it alternates between two perspectives instead of using only one, going back and forth between the different perspectives of Ida and Ellie.

Both twins are transitioning to high school, and Ida feels that Ellie is trying to put distance between them. At a glance, both twins seem complete opposites: Ida is shy, while Ellie is outgoing. Ida’s shyness originates in a scene from Comfort where her father mistakenly slams her against the wall. After that, Ida ceases to be outgoing and becomes very meek and shy. Ellie instantly takes her place. Life becomes a competition, and the twins are constantly in conflict with each other. However, the novel’s greatest conflict arises when the twins fight over the same boy.

The story is historically accurate: the Korean war and continuing polio epidemic are important to the story. In addition, the story takes place during the first year of NASCAR racing at the Hickory Speedway, near Bakers Mountain. Ellie loves the fast-paced, dangerous racing, while Ida is frightened by the danger and loud noises. The NASCAR races become important to the story’s theme, thus leading to the novel’s title, Drive.

The word “drive” serves a dual meaning, much like “blue” does in the series’ second novel, Blue. The first meaning is figurative: a motivation to succeed. Ida feels that Ellie has “the drive” to succeed while Ida does not. “Drive” also serves as a metaphor for Ida and Ellie’s stormy relationship, which Ida states as, “Remember. . . When Daddy slammed me up against the wall? It scared me so bad I couldn’t breathe. I guess I was like one of those race cars that gets smashed and then it just limps around the track. But you stepped on the gas and kept going. Enjoying all the attention you could. You got ahead of me, Ellie. You liked being first. And you sure do hate losing. But it’s not a race. It’s just both of us driving the best way we know how” (236).

By the end of the novel, the twins have matured greatly. Ellie matures by being more considerate, selfless, and respectful towards others. Ida learns she is capable of more than she ever dreamed, she is just as strong and as smart as Ellie. The ending is perfect. Ellie gets what she has been wanting the entire novel, and both twins have learned a valuable lesson in selfishness. Drive is very emotion-provoking; the bond between Ellie and Ida is stronger than they realize. I have enjoyed the entire Baker Mountain series and recommend them to teenagers and young adults. I think Blue is my favorite, though I eagerly await the next novel, Equal, coming in Spring 2021. I expect it to be equally enjoyable.


Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including three cats (and counting!), a dog, two fish, and many house plants. She attends Presbyterian College and is studying Math and Creative Writing. She enjoys playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.







Boyds Mills & Kane donated a hardback copy of Drive for one of you to win! Leave a comment by Thursday, September 17th and we will enter your name.


Joyce is leading our first Master Class on September 19. For more information, please click here. One attendee will receive all four books that have been published in the Bakers Mountain series. The fifth book, Equal, comes out in April 2021.


Registration ends TODAY!


Elements of Parable Writing

Whenever I come up with an idea, I immediately start planning my next novel. With my latest project however, I have learned to practice the art of shorter stories, or in my case, parables.

A parable is “a simple story used to illustrate a moral or religious lesson.”

As you know, the Bible is full of parables in both the Old and New Testament. It probably goes without saying that though they are smaller in comparison to an entire book, parables can be just as or even more powerful. If you want to exercise concise and influential storytelling through parables, here are some basic elements you will want to include.

  1. Fictional

No big surprise there! A parable is a made-up story but with relatable characters and events.

  1. Brief

Jesus could tell a parable in as little as a couple of sentences. Parables shouldn’t be long and drawn out. The plot points should come one after the other without a lot of filler information. Parables should be no more than a couple pages, so you don’t get into short story territory.

  1. Persuasive

In the very least, a parable should be thought-provoking. Whether your focus is on feelings, actions, or events, parables should persuade the reader to act in some way. It might be to think from a different perspective or to make a change in behavior.

  1. Highly Symbolic

One of my favorite aspects of parables are the many symbols you can weave within the words. Symbols can be obvious or obscure, but either way, they help the reader unpack the deeper truth underneath.

  1. Human

Parables always have human characters. Having human characters allows readers to connect and apply the message to themselves. That’s what sets parables apart from other moral stories like fables.

  1. True-to-Life

In addition to the human characters, parables should be true-to-life to make them as relatable as possible. They can revolve around recognizable life events or a one-time moment to help paint a clear picture and build strong connections for the reader.

  1. Illustrative

Illustrations play a big part in parables as you saw in the definition. But some parables focus strictly on illustrating an example like “The Good Samaritan” being an example of a neighbor. Though illustrative is a specific type of parable, you can be sure that you will find illustrations within the symbolism of many different parables.


These elements will help you get started on crafting your own parable. I have really enjoyed the process, and I think you would too!

Instead of tackling that novel-sized idea right now, try your hand at parables. You might just be amazed at what succinct storytelling will do to the depth and beauty of your writing.

What is your favorite parable? Let us know in the comments!

Leah Jordan Meahl writes to encourage both the rooted and the wandering Christian to go deeper. She’s a born and bred Jesus-follower hailing from Greenville, South Carolina. She’s a lover of devotional writing as well as fiction. Her newest book Pebbles: 31 days of faith enriching parables is set to release September 2020. Feel free to visit her blog and ‘like’ her on Facebook.



Why I’m excited for the Writing Fiction Master Class (and why you should be too)!

Write2Ignite’s Writing Fiction Master Class is coming up Sept. 19! In just two weeks, author Joyce Moyer Hostetter will be presenting three sessions to help attendees learn more about fiction writing. Plus, the Write2Ignite team will be leading three workshops to help you apply the skills you learn during Hostetter’s sessions. 

Last year, I had the joy of attending the Write2Ignite Conference at North Greenville University with my mom. We loved meeting other writers and hearing from the lineup of speakers! While I’m sad that we aren’t able to meet in person this year, there are some benefits to this Master Class being on Zoom.

5 Tips for Using and Understanding Literal and Figurative Language Part II

TIP #2 Don’t interpret literally what is supposed to be understood metaphorically.

Taking figurative language literally is a problem that leads to misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

Does the photo above depict sunshine or shadow? A literal book title based on this image might be Sunshine on the Pages or Shadows on the Pages [When Grandpa Reads]. A nonfiction book about sunshine and shadows could take this literal approach.

On the other hand, metaphorical application of either title in a fictional story might focus on various scenarios. A thunderstorm might frighten the children, and Grandpa’s reading helps calm them down until the sun comes out. Or Grandpa reads a scary story that makes them imagine being in a dark cave or forest. Suddenly, light appears – but how? who? why?

Sunshine and shadows represent different meanings in the fictional stories. So looking only for literal shadow or sunlight in these stories might prevent children from recognizing the actual message. The light and dark interplay reflect family closeness and  connections, security and trust, or imagination and emotions.

Examples of metaphorical interpretation and literal misunderstanding in children’s books.

The character “Amelia Bedelia” in Peggy Parrish’s children’s books is a classic example of someone who takes EVERYTHING literally. If her employer tells her to “plant the bulbs,” she’ll have a row of planters with light bulbs instead of flower bulbs in them. If she is told to “draw the drapes,” she sits in front of them with a drawing pad instead of pulling the cords to close them. You can imagine what she does when she’s told to “pitch the tent.”

In The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Money, Sister and Brother Bear picture a tree with dollar bills hanging all over it when Papa complains that they “must think money grows on trees!” The cubs learn to recognize figures of speech (often, associating them with their parents’ lectures). But they also learn that figures of speech can represent true and positive experiences.

Understanding biblical metaphors

Figures of speech provide visual or other sensory cues. These connect memory and emotions to help us recognize a situation’s true significance. When the prophet Nathan describes a rich man who selfishly takes a poor neighbor’s one ewe lamb instead of a sheep from his own large flock, King David is enraged at that man’s guilt. Then, Nathan drops the metaphor and reveals, “You are the man.” In that moment, David understands that God is confronting him with the deadly consequences of the sin he had tried to conceal. He repents, confesses, and prays for God to restore the fellowship David had broken. (2 Sa. 12, Ps. 51)

When Jesus calls Himself “the true vine” and His Father “the vine dresser,” the extended metaphor describes different outcomes for branches that bear or do not bear fruit (John 15:1 – 8). Clear interpretation (v. 5- 6) identifies “branches” as people who claim to follow Him. Comparing the gospel to plants, or evangelism to farming, occurs in numerous Old and New Testament passages. In a farming culture, these metaphors related to familiar scenes and processes the audience would recognize. The Bible also uses other metaphorical examples to deliver messages people need to hear. These include animals, weather, business and finance, construction, relationships and celebrations, daily work, even dirt and decay!

Where do we encounter figures of speech?

Metaphorical language occurs everywhere in daily conversation, activities, news reports, advertisements, hobbies, and entertainment like books, board games, or media. On social media, we’re constantly exposed to figures of speech (and often, disputes related to interpreting them).

How do we incorporate figurative language into stories and activities for children? Of course, we want to ground their understanding of literal meanings, but we also need to help them understand different uses of language.

An article about birds, or a story about a child finding and collecting bird feathers, will include facts about how feathers help birds. Waterproof coating, maneuvering and flight, or insulation from heat and cold are all parts of feather design. Writers may describe feathers’ size, colors, or design patterns.

A Bible story retelling that features birds, whether Noah’s raven and dove, or the ravens which fed Elijah, will focus on the literal people and events. [See an excellent example in ] But birds also have great symbolic meaning in scripture. Isaiah 40:31 says “They that wait upon the Lord shall  . . . mount up with wings like eagles . . . “ We want kids to understand that God gives endurance like the eagle’s, not to think they can literally sprout wings, jump off a roof, and fly.

Writing Takeaways

If we ask a teen to “break down” a piece of furniture, intending to store it in a more compact space, there’s a chance of misunderstanding that metaphorical instruction. What if, in their excitement at the chance to destroy something (think DEMOLITION instead of “taking apart”), they literally smash and destroy it? Yes, this has actually happened to me (name withheld to protect the guilty). After a shocked reaction, I recognized my mistake in choosing an expression that could be misconstrued. As a result, I had to say goodbye to a favorite antique chair that I just wanted to fit into a smaller space for transportation.

Are we careful to distinguish our own uses of literal and metaphorical language? Do we avoid confusion in our word choices, without sacrificing word variety or linguistic richness? Depending on the age of our target audience, do we provide clear definitions without over-explaining? Do we use effective comparisons, as Jesus did, with animals, objects, or situations readers can recognize and relate to? Can our stories deliver lessons without always spelling out “the moral of the story”?

Do you have questions about metaphorical and literal language? What are you favorite figures of speech? Do you use figures of speech in your writing for children/YA?  Do you have a story about literally interpreting a metaphor? Comment below, on social media, or email

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