LAUNCH: A Book Review by Kathryn Dover

I do not read many fantasy novels, but when I heard about LAUNCH by Jason C. Joyner (Little Lamb Books, 2020), it appealed to me.

LAUNCH follows the story of four teenagers, Sarah Jane, Lily, Demarcus, and Harry, as they experience the Launch Conference hosted by billionaire Simon Mazor and begin to discover their supernatural abilities. Each has his own unique ability that both sides of good and evil desire, but the lines between good and evil blur together as the teenagers try to discover the truth about why they were chosen for the Launch Conference. Demarcus and Harry make friends with John, an elderly janitor. John tells them that their abilities are gifts from God and warns them that someone desires their abilities for evil. Is John telling the truth, and can the teenagers trust him? And is Simon good or evil?

The beginning of this novel is intriguing, especially the cliffhangers at the end of both the first and second chapters. They reeled me in, and I wanted to keep reading. The plot pace is perfect for the story because it keeps readers interested by slowly increasing as the story progresses.

Even so, what I love most about this novel is the characters and how relatable they are. I identified with each character and his unique backstory. I loved Lily’s sense of humor, understood her feelings of confusion, and sympathized with her longing to fit in. Although I identified with Lily the most, the other characters were also beautifully crafted. The “Character Key” listing the characters and a brief description of them at the beginning of the novel helped me keep track of the characters. I enjoyed seeing the characters and their supernatural abilities mature, but the novel also leaves room for more development. I think the relatable characters are the strongest element of this novel.

I also enjoyed Launch’s unique style. The novel is divided into three parts and goes back and forth between characters but is still very easy to follow. The story is not told from a first-person perspective but from an omniscient, third-person point of view, which enabled me to learn a lot more about each character. The amount of detail is a perfect balance–not too much yet just enough–and the use of suspense is very effective. The ending is complete yet leaves readers longing for more.

While it is a fantasy novel, Launch addresses real issues, mainly bullying, effectively and with a Christian perspective. Even though Launch takes place in a contemporary setting, I do not think the storyline is very realistic, but I don’t read many fantasy novels. The characters’ supernatural abilities aren’t plausible in the real world, yet the relatable characters and realistic setting enabled me to suspend my disbelief.

I recommend Launch to young adults and teenagers sixteen and older. It suits this age bracket because the characters are all around sixteen, and there are some references to high school drama and relationships that might be inappropriate for younger ages. LAUNCH would make a great Christmas gift for a teen or young adult especially one who is struggling with finding his identity or with bullying. If you enjoy this novel, I also recommend Chris Colfer’s A Tale of Magic. I read A Tale of Magic about a year ago and saw a lot of similarities as I was reading Launch. Additionally, if you enjoy Launch, do not forget to watch for the sequel, Fractures, coming out soon!

 

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.

 

National Parks Virtual Tours

Writer, Do You Have the Cabin Fever Blues?

National Parks Virtual Tours

Being Thanksgiving Day, I want to show my gratitude for technology. If it weren’t for the Internet, Zoom, and our devices, we would be isolated indeed!

Virtual Research

Are you working on a manuscript, but finding it difficult to do the research you need, since many libraries and museums are closed or have limited hours? That’s where the Internet and something called “virtual tours” comes into play.

Let’s say your contemporary novel takes place in a national park. Thankfully, there are virtual national park tours to help you out.

If you are having trouble fleshing out your main characters, try these tools by Writers Helping Writers, Becca Puglisi, and Angela Ackerman. They’ve also created a stellar online resource to develop your plot, settings, and characters. It’s called One Stop for Writers.

One Stop for Writers

Here’s a video that introduces their product.

Virtual Tours for Kids

What if your kids need to do a research project, or you had plans to visit a museum, but due to the corona outbreak, your plans were canceled. Try these wonderful online museums and sites for inspiration! These, too, are specifically for the entire family. And here is a link to a variety of virtual field trips, but activities as well.

For travel lovers, Good Housekeeping’s virtual tours should keep boredom at bay.

Or maybe, you planned a trip to Disney World, but it fell through, much to the disappointment of the kids. Try this Frozen Ever After Tour.

Some Unique Tours

Here’s a unique idea – a virtual field trip with the new Google Earth.

Starbucks Chicago Roastery

And now, something for the adults. If you live in a city that hosts a Starbuck’s Reserve, fabulous. If not, go on the website and learn all about coffee!

*****

Since ultimately, we need to thank God for our many blessings, I want to direct you to two women who have the gift of godly encouragement: Betsy Cruz at Faith Spilling Over  and Asheritah Ciuciu at  One Thing Alone

Hope you find plenty of ways to dispel cabin fever over the holidays – and in the process, be thankful for what God has graciously given you. How can you show your gratitude using your gift of words?

Check out my other Corona Sequestering Helpful Links: Can Anything Good Come from the Coronavirus Crisis?

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving Season!

A Season of Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks in Troubled Times

“Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Ps. 34:11 NKJV

As a group of writers dedicated to sharing our faith with the next generation, do we effectively communicate thanksgiving and hope in difficult events as well as holidays?

Why give thanks?

The very first mentions of “thanksgiving” in Leviticus 7:12-13 reference food, so our traditional Thanksgiving Day celebration feasts derive from both faith and historical events.

As families and friends gather this year, whether in the usual numbers or smaller groups due to local restrictions, we have all experienced a year of daily announcements related to disease and efforts to avoid it. Many have lost one or more loved ones. Perhaps more than ever, then, we need to focus on reasons to celebrate and express gratitude, first of all, to God.

How we celebrate

Psalms like 69:30, 95:2,100:4, and 147:7 pair thanksgiving with instrumental music, vocal songs, and praise, and Old Testament historical books record specific celebrations of thanksgiving in Israel, especially by the kings David and Solomon. As many later kings fell away from the true worship of God, there are fewer references to thanksgiving in the rest of 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles. But Ezra and Nehemiah record the renewed celebrations and thanksgiving to God when the exiles returned to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.

Thanking God in the hard times

Perhaps most relevant to Thanksgiving celebrations in 2020 are prophetic utterances about thanksgiving connected to times of trial.  Isaiah 51:3 and Jeremiah 30:19 offer God’s promises of comfort to restore thanksgiving after a season of judgment, while Amos and Jonah proclaim thanksgiving as a sacrifice to God.

Write2Ignite Team member Gail Cartee offers this wise observance about the ways in which God transforms painful past events and sins to bring about salvation. Her November 15, 2020 review of Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, by Eric Metaxas, acknowledges selfish motives among early colonial explorers and traders, and outbreaks of disease which decimated whole tribes of Native Americans. Metaxas compares these to Joseph’s brothers, who sold him into slavery. He shows God’s redemptive purpose even in the most tragic human misdeeds.

As Gail observes, “Confusion and mistrust surround us on every hand, but God has not left us alone. He is working all things for our good. Pray for our nation and all our leaders. Pray for wisdom as Christians. Help wherever you can. Do not be afraid, because God is with us through every circumstance working all things for our good.”

I encourage you to subscribe to Gail’s blog, Family Devotions from My Father’s World. It’s a rich trove of wisdom from Scripture and God’s amazing creation, with stories and activities that parents and children can enjoy together. https://gailcartee.blogspot.com/

Closing thought for a season of thanksgiving

Whatever our circumstances have been in this oft-maligned year, let’s take this opportunity to make the closing months of 2020 a blessed time of focus on the goodness and the works of God, in our own hearts and lives, and in our nation.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

Naming Your Character: Nicknames by Brenda Covert

Nicknames

At 11 years of age, I wanted to be a Native American and live in a tepee. I thought of the perfect name too. “Mom,” I asked, “can you call me Li’l Sunflower?”

Mom seemed both surprised and amused. “Why do you want me to call you Little Sunflower?”

“Just because…” My voice trailed away as my face burned hot.

No one ever did call me Li’l Sunflower.

While you may be unable to successfully give yourself a nickname, you can successfully nickname your characters. Who can forget Ponyboy and his brothers Sodapop and Darry from The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton? Where would Ramona Quimby be without her big sister Beezus (Beatrice)?  And then there are Scout and Jem Finch and Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird and, more recently, Tris (another Beatrice) and Four (Tobias) from the Divergent series.

Between 2002 and 2016, I wrote more than 400 children’s stories published by Union Gospel Press in their supplemental Sunday school materials. After running through my favorite names, popular names, unusual names, and names based on their meanings, I realized that nicknames were an option that would help define characters and provide variety.

A nickname could be as simple as the character’s initials, like PJ, the baby in the Family Circus comic strip. A character with a long name could have a shortened version as a nickname, like Roni for Veronica, or Jed for Jedediah.

The fun comes when you come up with a nickname for a character based on a quirk, trait, or habit, a nickname no one has heard before. The Harry Potter series gave the world He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, The-Boy-Who-Lived, Wormtail, and Mad-Eye Moody, among others.

What Not To Do:

Nicknames based on physical appearance or background are best avoided, although if your antagonist comes up with such a nickname for another character in the story, it could reveal an extension of his or her villainy.

What Works as a Nickname:

You might choose a name from the animal kingdom, favorite foods, games or sports, music, weather, or anything else that comes to mind that will somehow define your character. And you might name a shy girl who wants to be noticed “Li’l Sunflower.”

 

Have you ever used a nickname in your novel or picture book? How did you pick it? What nickname will you choose for your protagonist or antagonist? Please let us know in the comments.

 

 

 

thank you

Grateful Marketing: Saying Thank You

Looking for marketing ideas for your book(s)?

Whether it’s a new release or a backlist title, here’s an idea to help market your book that fits perfectly in this month of thanksgiving. And no worries about learning a new skill. This is something we all learned in kindergarten . . .

Almost as soon as I learned to string words together, my mother began teaching me to say please and thank you. May I please . . . Thank you for . . .

However, these polite words aren’t just for children, they’re important for us, too. And they are critical for our marketing efforts. Of course, we know how to politely ask people to review our books, interview us for their blog, or host a book signing. After all, they’re doing us a favor, pretty please?

But saying please is not enough. We all want to be appreciated. Think back to the last time you did something nice for someone. You may not have been expecting their gratitude. But if they came back with a heart-felt thank you, how did that make you feel?

An attitude of gratitude in our marketing

Of course, we’re grateful for marketing opportunities. Still, an attitude of gratitude goes much further when it’s accompanied by actions of gratitude. We need to remember to say thank you, too. Thank you for the radio interview. Thank you for the book review. Thank you for the book signing opportunity.

Email, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media might work to communicate our gratitude. But these methods don’t come close to the impact of a personal, handwritten, snail-mail note. Snail-mail tells the recipient you cared enough to go to the extra trouble of communicating your gratitude in a personal way.

Please and thank you. Another great way to market our books. Who knew?

Now you’ll have to excuse me . . . I have a few thank you cards to write!

Your turn:
How do you express your gratitude for marketing opportunities?

~ ~ ~

Ava Pennington is an author and speaker. Her book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God is published by Revell Books. For more information, visit her at www.AvaPennington.com.

 

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