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Always Winter and Never Christmas

The Ice Palace Mall Display A few years ago I was doing some shopping in our local mall (formerly the largest in the nation, at a time when malls were a new concept.) I, of course, expected to see the typical Santa scene, with lines of tots waiting to sit on the lap of this fatherly figure to share their most wanted wish list.

But what I found instead was the “Ice Palace”. Hmmmmm — that’s unusual, I thought. Where’s Santa? And who will be inside to greet the children when they reach the interior of the palace?

And then a chill came over me. Along with thoughts of the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe who had placed a spell on Narnia, so it was “Always winter, but never Christmas”.  A harsh environment with no hope of joy, peace, and celebration.

Edmund encounters the White Witch riding on a sleigh pulled by white reindeer. He has stolen away from his brother and sisters, curious about this “witch” spoken of by Mr. Beaver. And, because of his rebellious spirit, he is intimidated when Aslan, the true King of Narnia’s name is spoken. Queen Jadis is aware of a prophecy that will foil her plan and bring Christmas back. Four human children, or Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, will have a part to play in the return of Aslan who will release Narnia from the harsh, cold spell it is under.

So, she is thrilled when she finds Edmund on the road. The White Witch entices him into her sleigh and proceeds to fill him with his favorite treat: Turkish Delight. (When you have tried this rose-flavored delicacy, you will understand why!) She distracts him, so he indulges himself with more and more candy until that is all he can think about. This greed causes Edmund to betray his siblings to the Queen of Narnia. Secretly, she plans to destroy them, and thus prevent Aslan from bringing back Christmas.

And that’s when it hit me. Those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year are being distracted by the goodies of this world. Stuff. Celebration. Santa. Food. And more stuff.

But what about Christmas? Have we forgotten about the Christ Child? The one who came to earth to save it from Satan’s power? To bring freedom, joy, light, and forgiveness?

I think so.

In Matthew 2: 9-11 we read:

“After hearing the king, they (the Magi) went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

What gift will you bring to the feet of the Christ Child? How will you worship Him today? Even though our celebrations are over for another year, we can still examine our hearts. . .

I hope I will give Him my heart, and not a wish list. I want to worship the God of the Universe. Not the god of pleasure and possessions. I want to worship the King.

What about you?


This post was first published on Jarm Del Boccio’s Travel Blog

Jarm Del Boccio’s debut middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer, released with Ambassador International April 26th. You can connect with her at https://www.jarmdelboccio.com/

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Tips for Productive Writing by Helena George

Ultimately, to have a productive writing session, you need to have self-control. I can give you all the best tips in the world, but unless you have zero self-control, it won’t help.

Here’s my tip: open your document and write. And don’t stop.

Need something more specific?

Social Media? Turn it Off!

Yes, this is the most obvious. Don’t check social media until you’ve finished your writing time! Turn your phone off if you have to. Do whatever it takes to not get distracted. I have the willpower to not check Instagram before I write, but if I somehow end up on there (maybe to message someone, maybe to look for something I saved for reference), it’s harder for me to turn it off and get back to writing.

 

Treat Writing Like it’s Your Job

 

And no goofing off when you’re on the clock. It’s your writing time, so sit down, and write. It’s a production environment, folks. Time is ticking, and words have gotta fill the page. Sometimes I’ll get a timer going, say for 10-20 minutes, and write without stopping until the timer goes off. Other times I’ll use the stopwatch function and let it run while I’m writing to mimic being punched in at work. I’ve even logged in my hours in a notebook.

List Things to Lookup Later

 

Need to google what kind of fish live in the Atlantic Ocean? Jot it down and keep writing. Wondering what plants are used to dye fabric? Look it up later. Right now, you’re writing. Once I’ve completed the draft (or round of edits), I’ll pull up that list (physical paper, or via word document) and spend a writing session looking up all those things. Then I can go in and make corrections as needed. And because I have a list of things to do, it’s easier for me to not get sidetracked while exploring all that info on the internet.

(If it’s a plot-altering thing, by all means, stop and look it up, but make sure you don’t end up on YouTube 15 minutes later, watching funny cat videos.)

Set Session Goals

Maybe write for 30 minutes? Maybe finish the chapter? Maybe tackle that descriptive paragraph? Having a goal in the back of your mind can help you get right on track the minute you open that draft.

Write and Don’t Look Back

Whatever you do, don’t get stuck in the destructive editing circle. When I first started writing, I got to a point where I was writing and re-writing the first couple chapters for a number of books. The instant I felt like something wasn’t right, I was back at the beginning, tweaking those first couple paragraphs…and I never got deeper into the middle of the story.

And can I tell you a secret? When you finally get past that beginning and into the middle of the book, things will need to change again. You’ll have learned more about the characters, about the story world. But don’t got back to change the beginning. Because by the time you get to the end, you’ll need to change things again, because know you know the ending.

So if you’re unhappy with the beginning, or a certain scene, or can’t figure out a character…just keep writing. By the time you struggle through to the end, you’ll have a better picture—the full picture—of the story and how things need to be started, hinted at, and carried through.

Just keep writing, y’all. Push on. Get the book finished. It’ll be worth it when you’re done.

Helena George has participated in NaNoWriMo 5 times, winning each one (and even writing a 100K+ draft in Nov. 2018). She encourages writers to also do the twice-yearly Camp NaNo, because setting your own personal goals is less stressful and more fun. So far, her multiple YA fantasy stories remain unpublished, but hey – hard work will pay off eventually, right? Follow her on Instagram @julian.daventry or check out her blog.

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More Than Called…

Called

Each of us has been called to serve our mighty God in a unique way. But we can become too busy fulfilling our call that we only focus on the “doing.” We want to do better—to write well, to teach effectively, to do whatever we’ve been called to do to the best of our ability

Yet our ability is limited. We often struggle with our inadequacy as we represent the King of Kings. And of course, and we seek His enabling to accomplish His purposes.

Continue reading More Than Called…

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Writing to Ignite by Darcy Hendrick

When you write Christian literature for children ignition is the goal. Writing literature that will ignite a child’s imagination, a zeal for learning, a love of reading, and a reverence for God is the mission. More than that, it’s a ministry. And engaging, well written literature that reveals the presence and purpose of God is a powerful tool toward that end.

And that ignition is the reason for Write2Ignite. We are a non-profit organization that seeks to enable that mission through  a website that offers resources, blogs that supply the writer with tips and encouragement, contests, and a two day conference with a full schedule of keynote speakers, workshops, the opportunity to meet with editors or agents, and to surround yourself with a community of like minded writers. Writers who share a passion for God and children, and good literature that draws the two together.

Write2Ignite specializes in Christian literature for children because that is our passion. Children who develop a love for reading at a young age are life long readers. De That is a high calling for those called by God to write for children.

And if ignition is the goal, what sparks the flame?

The simple truth is, it’s not that simple.

I have four sons. My oldest took to reading without coaxing. He simply loved to learn so a book in the hand was opened and devoured.

My second son showed no interest in reading but he loved his action figures. Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles in particular. So when I saw a TMNT early reader book I scooped it up in the hopes that the subject matter would entice him to open the book. It did! As a matter of fact those TMNT early readers made him realize not only that he could read, but he liked to.

My third son seemed to prefer a narrative told rather than read. That became obvious when, in his teens, he gravitated to youth theater where, to my surprise, he memorized scripts and eventually developed an interest in Shakespeare.

My youngest son devoured the Beanie Baby resource guide and could recite it with encyclopedic precision.

The path to an appreciation of the written word was as unique as my sons.

So what’s a writer to do?

Just as my sons read what they were passionate about, the writer should write their passion. Your interest in the subject matter, whether it’s science or sci-fi, mystery, comedy, or a Beanie Baby resource guide, will come through. And children who share that passion won’t have to be coaxed into reading, they’ll volunteer.

We write to an audience of one – our reader.

But as Christian writers we write for an audience of one – God. Our first passion should be our love for God and if we write what we’re passionate about, and we are passionate about our relationship with God, we will write literature that reveals the presence and purpose of God.

And we can trust God to put each unique piece of literature in the hands of the child who can be uniquely drawn to Him through it.

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How to Survive the Sinking of the S.S. CHRISTIAN MARKET

Image from Pexels by Johannes Plenio

 

The high seas of the writing industry are tumultuous at best with raging competition and a strong current of marketing demands. Within the last few years, one of these waves has taken the Christian fiction market to a low. As a result, publishing houses are merging or narrowing their acquisition criteria, Christian brick and mortar stores like LifeWay are closing, and self-publishing is becoming all too tempting.

But don’t fear, fellow Christian writers! We have the ultimate Life Preserver. Yes, it’s Jesus! With a few simple truths to remember, He will help us refocus in order to navigate even the bleakest of waters.

Truth #1: Remember Who called you.

While we are all different, a common theme among us faith-based writers is the belief that God called us to write. After all, He gave us the skill, the desire, and the message to do so. While that calling doesn’t give us the liberty to do whatever we want with it, we can be certain that God wants us where we are until told otherwise.

And while we’re trusting in The One Who called, we can focus on constantly learning and producing quality work. Jesus understands the obstacles we’ve faced to get where we are, and He will see us through the obstacles heading our way.

Truth #2 Remember the Why

If we believe we’ve been called, we should also believe in the reason we’ve been called. God has cultivated in us His wisdom and His message and we have been charged to reveal it the best way we know how, creatively.

We have a genre, a target audience, and a need that have a special place in our heart. If you’re reading this, that audience might be YA, MG, or children’s books. If you’re like me, the needs of emerging adults inspire your writing. We long to make a positive impact in the lives of our readers and one that goes deeper than just a good story. Let the ‘Why’ be a driving force in your work even if the vehicle changes from time to time.

Truth #3 Remember the Priority

As Christian writers, we don’t just spill words on a page just because. Writing not only scratches that inner itch, but it also helps us communicate to a world that will always need someone to point them to the truth of Jesus. Though the market may seem low, I believe the spiritual demand is at an all-time high. The world is consumed with entertainment for entertainment’s sake. The next generation is growing up with fewer morals, fewer role models, and fewer reasons to be close to Jesus. If we use our words to entertain, educate, and encourage people for Jesus’s sake, we will be providing a worth that cannot be matched.

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When you feel lost in the sea of rejections, when you can’t keep up with the new tide of trends, or when the culture drowns your ambitions, you know what to do. Let the culture and the industry do what they do, ebb and flow as always. Fix your eyes on Jesus, The One Who calms the sea, and He will make sure you stay above water.


Leah Jordan Meahl writes Christian fiction and nonfiction for new adults. Click here to learn more.

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Book Review of THE HEART CHANGER by Guest Blogger, Kathryn Dover

I enjoyed reading The Heart Changer by Jarm Del Boccio. Before I even started reading the story, I noticed on the copyright page the use of King James Version text as the basis for the story. This is rare and instantly caught my attention. This biblical basis is crucial because The Heart Changer is based on the account of Naaman given in 2 Kings 5.

In the passage, Naaman is instructed to wash in the river Jordon seven times by the prophet Elijah. He refuses to do so until his wife’s maid persuades him. This maid, named Miriam by the author, is the protagonist of The Heart Changer. The beginning of the story is somewhat gripping. The end is satisfactory but slightly abrupt: I was not expecting the story to end. Overall, the story flows very well with short chapters that keep readers interested, but it is not too difficult to put down if one has chores or homework to do. It is the perfect balance for students in school, both younger grades and teenagers. The mature language is also age-appropriate and can be enjoyed by a variety of ages.

While the plot contains some action, such as Miriam’s village being attacked at the beginning of the book, the main development is internal. All the characters, especially Miriam, exhibit visible growth throughout the story. Just like in life, the changes don’t happen instantly but occur gradually as the result of several events. The story is more realistic because Miriam’s growth happens slowly, and the ending leaves room for continued growth. Even after all she has been through, Miriam is still struggling with her “stubbornness” at the end of the story. Hence, readers can identify with her.

The title is an accurate description of Miriam’s growth and the theme of the story. She goes from have a “stubborn,” “anxious,” and “bitter” heart to one that is forgiving and set on Jesus. My favorite scene in The Heart Changer is where Miriam and Rana, the servant Miriam is replacing, are at first bitter enemies and become best friends simply after an encounter about Miriam’s faith. It shows that even the slightest contact with a Christian influence like Miriam can have a great influence on an unbeliever.

In addition, the setting is historically accurate. The details in the story show that the author researched her setting and time period. Minor details, such as pig being unclean meat, and references to real Bible characters and stories, such as Joseph, add depth and realism.

I enjoy reading books that take a seemingly insignificant character who plays a critical role in the plot and tells a story from her point of view. The Heart Changer stays within biblical parameters in a passage that allows for great poetic license. I hope for a series of behind-the-scenes Bible characters!

This book would make a great gift for the middle school or teen reader in your life! _________________________________________________________________

Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.

 

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Give the Gift of Writing

Do you know a teen or tween who dreams of writing a book? Or, perhaps your spouse or best friend is a budding poet. Either way, Write2Ignite has the perfect gift opportunity!

Starting in January, team members Brenda Covert and Carol Baldwin will be giving writing workshops at area Hobby Lobby stores.

The cost for each two-hour workshop is $25.00. But, if you purchase a workshop by December 31, it is only $20.00.

From the Heart: The Gift of Poetry 

Date and Time: January 25, 1:30- 3:30

Location:  Hobby Lobby, 7816 Charlotte Hwy, Indian Land, SC 29707

Supplies: Notebook and pen, laptop, tablet, or whatever you’re most comfortable writing on.  Or, use a journal from Hobby Lobby and a special set of colored pens.

Description: This poetry writing workshop is for teens and adults who want to craft the perfect poem for Valentine’s Day. Brenda Covert, author of a teen poetry curriculum, will help you find your poetic voice so that you have a poem suitable for framing and gift-giving. A gift from your heart is the best gift of all!

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Date and Time: February 1,  3:30-5:30

Location: Hobby Lobby, 6007 Wade Hampton Blvd, Taylors, SC 29687

Supplies: Notebook and pen, laptop, tablet, or whatever you’re most comfortable writing on.  Or, use a journal from Hobby Lobby and a special set of colored pens.

Description: This poetry writing workshop is for teens and adults who want to craft the perfect poem for Valentine’s Day. Brenda Covert, author of a teen poetry curriculum, will help you find your poetic voice so that you have a poem suitable for framing and gift-giving. A gift from your heart is the best gift of all!

Cracking the Core of Fiction Writing: Character and Conflict for Teens and Tweens

Date and Time: January 11, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Location: Hobby Lobby, 1511 Woodruff Rd, Greenville, SC 29607

Supplies: Notebook and a pen. Or, use a journal from Hobby Lobby and a special set of colored pens!

Description: If you’re between the ages of 11-17 and love creating stories, then this is the workshop for you. Join North Carolina author, Carol Baldwin, for a fun and informative workshop that will help you create memorable characters with conflict—the driving force of a riveting story. Whether you’re writing fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, or a contemporary story, the principles you’ll acquire will move you forward on your writing journey.

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Date and Time: January 18, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Location: Hobby Lobby, 7816 Charlotte Hwy, Indian Land, SC 29707

Supplies: Notebook and a pen. Or, use a journal from Hobby Lobby and a special set of colored pens!

Description: If you’re between the ages of 11-17 and love creating stories, then this is the workshop for you. Join North Carolina author, Carol Baldwin, for a fun and informative workshop that will help you create memorable characters with conflict—the driving force of a riveting story. Whether you’re writing fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, or a contemporary story, the principles you’ll acquire will move you forward on your writing journey.

TO PURCHASE A WORKSHOP AND REGISTER

Email Cathy Biggerstaff at Write2ignite.Cathy@gmail.com.  Let her know which workshop you are purchasing and who will be attending. She will then send you a PayPal invoice. DEADLINE for the discount is 12/31/19 but participants can also pay when they come. Checks should be made out to Write2Ignite. Questions? Contact Carol Baldwin or Brenda Covert.

Coming in March: Self-Publishing with Sandra Warren and Gretchen Griffith in Hickory, NC.

Date to be announced.