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Combat!- Part II

“In the Christian life, one fact is crystal clear: we are at war. It involves every Christian—and collectively the entire Church—and it is a holy war. It does not involve physical combat; it is against spiritual enemies. It is a hard-fought war, demanding everything a believer has and is…To do their part in this war, individual believers must engage the spiritual enemies with the weapons and equipment with which God has endowed them. We can learn about all of this through God’s Word, but His truths are also illustrated through the events that have occurred in human military history. This book uses both, surveying the military history of Israel from Abram’s operation to rescue Lot through the fall of Jerusalem and examining our spiritual warfare in the light of military history and modern military organization.” (From the back cover.)

Write2Ignite featured Dennis Peterson last April talking about his path to publication for his latest book, Combat! With the release of the book in February by TouchPoint Press, Dennis is now on the other side of the process. In this second interview he answers more questions about the book and how he plans to market it.

How did you research the military aspects of Combat?

 Having taught history for a number of years, and having conducted quite a bit of research as a history textbook author, I already had a good background in military history. I conducted even more specific research into biblical Israel’s warfare and military theory and strategy by reading copious amounts of material by experts in the subject–ancient historians, Sun Tzu, Jomini, Clausewitz, and veteran high-ranking officers from America’s modern military. I then applied what I learned from that research to the individual’s spiritual warfare.

Do you think of the book as a devotional? 

If it is, it’s an awfully long devotional! I see it rather as a Bible study. Each chapter has four or five (or more) discussion questions that relate to the information contained in the chapter.

How are you marketing Combat?

I posted Facebook updates on its progress all along the way, announced its release date as soon as I learned it, announced when it was available for preorder and where, and then announced its actual release. I also had several partners (I guess the term for them now is “street team”) who also promoted it on social media using their platforms, thereby broadening the reach of the news. I also printed business cards that showed the cover on one side and basic ordering information on the back and bookmarks, which also showed the cover and ordering information but also gave a description of the book and information about the author, and began handing out those at every opportunity.

Are you speaking to any groups?

I have spoken in one local Christian high school’s chapel. I am willing to consider more as opportunities become available.

Are you planning on holding bookstore events?

There are several local bookstores that I intend to approach to arrange book signings.

The believer is to “put on the whole armor of God,” as the complete Roman panoply shown here illustrates. Illustrator: Preston Gravely

What was different about writing and publishing this book?

 

The publisher of this book was different than the one for my first book. The previous publisher was an academic publisher that tended to market solely to libraries and schools, and they did little to help spread the word beyond their catalog. The current publisher has posted numerous social media announcements about the book. They even monitored my own Facebook posts about the book and shared them, further broadening the market. They expressed confidence in me and my work, even offering me a contract for my next book! The only negative aspect that I’ve experienced is not having access to my book earlier. The first publisher had author’s copies to me several days before the book was available to the general public.

Have you had any reviews?  Interviews?

I had the first customer review appear on Amazon as soon as the Kindle version was available. It was written by one of my former Basic Composition students, and it made me feel as though all my efforts in the classroom so many years ago actually had made a difference after all, at least in one student’s writing life! “Suite T,” the blog site of Southern Writers magazine, published Part I of a two-part feature story about the book on February 21. Here is Part II of that feature.  As for interviews, a reporter for the Greer Citizen newspaper interviewed me and devoted about 1/3 of a page in the paper’s entertainment section to a write-up about the book before it was released.

Thanks, for sharing all of this with our readers. In addition, TouchPointe has contracted Dennis to write his next book which is titled, Christ in Camp and Combat: Religious Work in the Confederate Armies. Look for an upcoming review of Combat! on this site.

Check out all of Dennis’s books at Amazon.com by searching “Dennis L. Peterson.”

Visit and follow his blog at: https://dlpedit.wordpress.com.

 

Inside the Head of Your YA Protagonist: What You Need to Know

 

Photo by Stanley Morales from Pexels

Last week, I was sitting around a conference table with an enthusiastic group of writers. They passed out their copies and we all took turns offering gentle but constructive feedback. Before I go on, consider joining a critique group; it’s key if you want your writing to grow and your story to be the best it can be.

An older gentleman in the group read his piece, and I was intrigued by the fact that his main character was a 16-year-old girl. The feedback that followed focused on how his MC sounded more like him than a teenage girl. How can he help that? How can you?

Here is a list of details you should keep in mind when writing in the perspective of a YA:

  • Teenagers are in the beginning stages of finding themselves. Even the most mature teenager probably has many underlying insecurities. If it’s not body image, it’s peer pressure, or bullying, or not feeling understood. If you’re writing contemporary YA, you also have the growing amount of mental illness among young people to factor in. It’s not cliché, it’s real life for them.
  • Your characters shouldn’t act too logical or mature. Young adults are still learning about handling conflicts. They are infamous for acting out of emotion.
  • Just like with adult men and women, young adult girls think different than young adult boys. If you’re writing in the perspective of the opposite sex, one of the first details you should research is the mindset of that gender. That way, you won’t impose too much of your own thinking on your character.
  • Seek to understand what abstract concepts look like to young people. What do they fear? Do they have hopes? What does victory look like? How would they describe love? The fears I had at 15 are on a completely different spectrum than the fears I have at 26. And I’m still peeling back the layers of love. Capture that, and your youthful readers will relate better to your characters.
  • Understand your time period. Some of these traits are universal for teens, but some details change depending on the generation you’re exploring. For instance, Generation X seemed to be very keen on getting their driver’s license the day they turned 16, but Gen Z seems less motivated, possibly due to the many rideshare apps. Consider these subtle generational changes when you write.

Now that you have a whole lot to think about, how do you go about answering these questions?

  • Crack open the child psychology books. Rudimentary knowledge of brain development at that age can make a world of difference. Even if your character doesn’t suffer from them, learn about mental illnesses and how they affect emotions and relationships between people that age.
  • Interview your young connections. Sit down with friends and family members, a high school class, or a church youth group and really hear their words. You will get a real visual and auditory understanding of them as well as a peek into their mindset.
  • Find younger beta readers to look over your work and give them questions to focus on regarding character authenticity or plausibility. They may have good feedback that you can include in your manuscript.
  • Research trends, not only in fashion or ideals, but also in how young people are treated by bullies, parents, peers. What responsibilities are common for the age group in question?
  • Most importantly, remember. Remember your adolescence, your struggle, your journey, and your growth. Doing so will provide the heart that your story needs. The research will only enhance your experiences. As the writer, you can confidently give your young adult characters the arc that they need to make a compelling journey.

How do you like to tackle the mind of your YA MC? Let us know!


Leah Jordan Meahl is an up and coming Christian author. She loves to journey with new adults and Christians alike with her blog. Check out her full Bio.

WELCOME OUR NEW DIRECTOR

The Write2Ignite Team is thrilled to welcome Jean Matthew Hall back to the Team as the Write2Ignite Director.

Jean was one of the original founders of Write2Ignite back in 2008. We thank the Lord that she is able to rejoin us.

Jean will spearhead our next big event in September 2020. YA-HOOO!

We asked her a few questions to give you the 4-1-1 on her. Keep reading!

What was the impetus for beginning W2I? What was your vision and work in those beginning years? How did you see it unfold?

In 2007 several of us got together for lunch at an SCBWI Conference in Charlotte, NC. We each expressed how we would love to have a similar gathering focused on our Christian faith and worldview. That conversation led to a brainstorming and prayer meeting. Thus, Write2Ignite was born.

Why did you step away from the leadership?

I led the Write2Ignite Conferences until 2014. At that time my personal life became very complicated. My husband was critically ill, my mother with dementia lived with us, and my daughter needed a full-time caregiver for her four children while she worked. The Lord told me it was time to step down from Write2Ignite and minister to my family.

What is bringing you back now? Please share your new vision for W2I and how the Lord led you to this new vision.

In 2016 my husband passed away. In 2017 my mother did, too. God told me it was time to relocate and give my daughter and her children some space. So, I relocated to Louisville, KY, to be near my son and his family. A few months ago, the Write2Ignite Team contacted me about returning to “duty!” After prayer and consideration, I agreed. And I’m glad I did. It’s great to be working with my old writing and conference buddies again.

I can hardly wait to show all of you what’s coming for Write2Ignite in September 2020.

We’re planning a BIG announcement on Friday, March 13. Be sure to check in with our website. You are going to LOVE it, I know.

Thanks, everyone, for making me feel right at home at Write2Ignite.

Please leave me a little message in the comments. I’d love to say “Hi” to you individually.

Jean is the author of the picture book Bountiful Blessings series published by Little Lamb Books. The first book, God’s Blessings of Fall, debuted in September 2019.

Learn more about Jean on her website , on FB at Jean Matthew Hall Author, and at  SCBWI .

 

Get Organized! Helpful Tools for Writers

organizationOne of the most difficult parts of any writing project is keeping your ideas, writings, and sources organized. Here a few tips and resources to help you organize your next project.

Outlines

Forget about the Roman-numeral-heavy outlines from grade school and think in lists, paragraphs, images, or phrases — whatever helps you organize your thoughts. 

Outlines are best used for organizing information chronologically, which is great for larger projects like books. However, your outline isn’t limited to words. If you have photos that inspire certain scenes in your story, feel free to paste those into your outline as well. 

Personally, I like using a basic outline written in complete sentences that defines my story from start to finish. However, outlines can be customized to fit your writing style.

Timelines

Similar to an outline, a timeline lays out your story chronologically, giving you a big-picture view of what’s happening in your plot. If you’re a visual person, creating a physical timeline with a roll of craft paper on an empty wall in your home works well. 

When I was 16, I created a giant timeline of a manuscript I wrote so that I could see when everything was happening in the story. I wrote basic plot points on the timeline directly and used sticky notes for smaller events so that I could rearrange them. This helped me understand where the plot was lacking and helped me fill in some holes. (This story is still under construction.)

Planning Softwarewriting organization

There are a ton of free resources available online that can help you plot your story and organize your thoughts and ideas. While there are some paid programs designed specifically for writers, I’ve found that basic project management programs can be easily adapted to fit the needs of a writer. Here are three of my favorites.

Google Drive

Perhaps the simplest and easiest to use, Google Drive is an online storage facility for all of your big ideas. I love creating project folders for my stories because I can have a folder for each piece of the planning process, whether it be inspirational photos, drafts, or brainstorm documents. 

Trello

Trello is an interesting project management platform that allows you to create boards, lists, and cards. I’ve found this site to be particularly helpful when I’m in the early stages of planning a project because you can break your project out into sections via the boards and then assign specific plot points to cards, which can be infinitely rearranged. It’s basically like using index cards, except you can’t spill coffee on them.

Bear

If you prefer something that is really simple and easy to organize, I suggest using Bear. This desktop and mobile app offers both word processing and easy organization. Just use hashtags to categorize your documents. When you need to find something, you can search hashtags to find the document you need. This loose form of organization works great if you are still in the early stages of plotting and aren’t sure exactly how you want to structure your work.

How do you currently organize your writing? I’ve used all of these methods in the past, but right now, Trello and Bear are my two favorites. Once I get through the conceptual stage on my current project, I’ll probably start using a traditional outline.

Happy writing!

Find out more about Emily here.

Learning to Think In Pictures

Picture-Driven Stories: Learning to Think in Pictures

“A picture book illustrator needs to tell a story with pictures. A picture book author needs to show the same story with words.”Jean Matthew Hall 

When I attended last year’s Write2Ignite conference, I went to Jean Matthew Hall’s discussion, What is a Picture Book. One of her main points was that a true picture book tells the story through both the illustrations and the words. Without either, the story would be incomplete.

When the illustrations build the story, rather than merely reflecting the words, it adds a layer of magic and delight to the book. But while it’s easy to recognize that pictures and words work together to make great stories, it’s sometimes hard to write a book designed to be accompanied by images (especially if you aren’t an illustrator). In order for pictures to help tell the story, the words have to leave enough unsaid.

As a beginning picture book writer, I struggle to leave details unsaid. My brain wants to describe everything, leaving no creative space for a future illustrator. The words feel like the heavy-lifters, so I don’t want to leave too much work for the pictures to do. I struggle with deciding what to show with my words, and what to leave for the pictures to tell.

What has helped me to look at my story drafts differently is reading picture-driven stories.

Picture-driven stories remind me that the words don’t have to do all the work. The illustrations are capable of taking on a larger role than I give them credit for.

One great example of this is Watersong by Tim McCanna. In this beautifully illustrated book, the words are entirely onomatopoeia. They are poetry, providing the sound track to the story told in the images. A fox runs through a storm, and though not a word is said about the fox, the reader is engaged by his experience.  The overall tone is heartwarming and satisfying. This is a story that had to be told in pictures; words simply could not have produced the same effect. Reading it reminded me that sometimes, simplicity in words creates the perfect atmosphere for imagination.

The opportunity pictures provide for imagination is even better seen in wordless picture books. I didn’t realize this genre existed until I began working at a library where patrons asked for help finding them. One fun example I found is Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman. (I was on a rainy-day kick this week). In this book, a young boy all alone in a big house finds a key, which leads him to explore and to find unexpected friends. Told in colorful images, the story guides the reader through the action and curiosity but leaves space for us to imagine as well. What is the boy feeling, thinking, saying? All that is left to our interpretation.

As a writer focused on words, reading a story without a single sentence in it lets me exercise a muscle I don’t usually use.

The advantage of reading books where the story is told mostly or entirely in images is that it trains my brain to think differently. They teach me to think in pictures. Suddenly, I’m not hearing my story being told; I’m seeing it. My narrative becomes a Pixar short film in my mind rather than a podcast.

Without steeping myself in the power of illustrations, it’s hard to let go of my pet narrations and descriptions. Cutting away the unnecessary details becomes easier when I’m reminded of the beauty of discovering the story visually. Wordless picture books like Rainstorm and picture-driven stories like Watersong help me to experience the capabilities of pictures. They teach me to be a better writer by showing me what I don’t need to write.

What are some of your favorite picture books? Do you think their stories are more word-driven or picture-driven?

 

Mr. Rogers – Will You be Our Mentor?

 

Our family had the opportunity in December to watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks, who, by the way, did a fabulous job portraying Mr. Rogers. It would not surprise me if he won an Oscar. It helped me understand the heart behind the man so dearly loved by his young viewers. What can we learn from this children’s icon?

Childhood Recollections

Reflecting on my childhood, I can’t believe my mother never introduced me to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. I’m sure he would have brought peace into my sometimes troubled heart. Instead, Garfield Goose filled our screen. Are you old enough to remember the program? You can watch an excerpt HERE.

In rewatching a few minutes of Garfield Goose, we are introduced to a few new ideas which concentrate primarily on information, with a bit of humor thrown in. Mr. Rogers, on the other hand, focuses on feelings. Sure, he exposes children to many new things as well, but all with concern for the young viewer’s heart. Many of the topics Fred brings up, are issues children deal with sometimes on a daily basis. Death, divorce, bullying, prejudice – the list could go on.

What Was His Attraction?

 

After watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, I understood what attracted me to this iconic figure, and why I would have cherished him as my mentor: compassion and patience. Two traits I lack in spades. Oh, not that I’m not compassionate when others are hurting. No. It shows up when I face those who have chosen a wrong path, have hurt others, or are generally un-loveable. But, according to Mr. Rogers, there are no unloveable people; only those who need to be heard, understood and loved — just the way they are.

I admired his patience as he waited for a response in conversation. He felt no need to fill in the silence with platitudes or advice. His goal was to listen and accept each person on the journey they were taking, praying daily for many as he took an early swim.

That’s why I’m thankful his legacy can continue on at the Fred Rogers Center where they pass on his mission as they help children grow as confident, competent, and caring human beings.

I wanted to know what made the man we know as Mr. Rogers? Biographies tell us he was a minister who loved God, his fellow man, Scripture, and prayer. His Christianity shone through.

Mr. Rogers Quotes

 

Here are a few quotes from Mr. Rogers that we all need today, compiled by Geoffrey James:

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”

“We speak with more than our mouths. We listen with more than our ears.”

“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully, your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”

Enjoy getting to know Mr. Rogers more fully in this trailer of another film that debuted last year, more of a documentary with Fred himself as the star.

If you’d like to see episodes from years past, find them here on Mr. Rogers’s official website. They are precious black and white footage from days gone by. Why not watch a few with your family and reminisce? If you want to get to know the puppets and their role in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, check out this LINK.

A few days ago, I listened to Janet Parshall’s In the Market podcast You Are Special where she hosted Amy Hollingsworth, one of the few journalists allowed to interview Mr. Rogers, due to a rebuttal she made to an article maligning this gentle man. For over a decade, they conversed, exchanged emails and shared thoughts about life and faith. Amy was the last one to receive a letter from the humble star young viewers loved. Listen to the In the Market podcast HERE.

What does this have to do with the craft of writing?

 

Hmmmm. . . I had to think about that one. Mr. Rogers was engaging. He was genuine. And he loved children. He told stories about real people in everyday situations. Senarios children would experience during their young lives.

Death. Divorce. Loss. Anger. Friendship. Kindness. Jealousy. Fear. Bravery.

He helped them deal with the scary things in life and made peace with them. Then showed the good side of folks we all can emulate. And isn’t that what we strive to do in our writing? Connect with our readers where they are.

Be truth-tellers — even in a scifi or fantasy world. Be heart-healers — giving hope to others via our words. And, be bridge-builders to a better world where all things work together for good — in God’s kingdom.

What about you? What do you hope your readers take away when they read your work? Share your thoughts below!

**post repurposed from my author’s 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/

Driven: Book Review by Teen Reviewer, Kathryn Dover

I first noticed the inscription in the front of DRIVEN by Betty Pfeiffer that all profits go to Hmong charities. This is a great tribute to the subjects of this book, Payeng Yaj and Shongfue Khang. I also noticed that on the back cover of the book, the pictures of the real Payeng and Shongfue are blurred and the caption reads that their names have been changed as well. Even today, it is possible the two missionaries are still in danger.

Driven is a true story of two Christians who fled from persecution in Laos and then chose to return as missionaries. They are part of the Hmong clan which was persecuted by the Communist government after the Vietnam War, forcing them to flee to Thailand. The book is separated into three parts: Payeng Yaj’s story, Shongfue Khang’s story, and their story together.

The hardships they endured are inspiring. Payeng relates her journey from Laos to Thailand. Many dangers were present, and Payeng’s family underwent many struggles. Unfortunately, life in Thailand refugee camps was not much better than Laos. Conditions were cramped and unsanitary, and Payeng’s family had arrived too late to receive refugee ID cards, which were required for food. By the end of her section of the book, Payeng has been separated from her family and her husband. Then, Shongfue tells his story of traveling through the jungle to Thailand. God spared Shongfue’s family many times; they were caught, arrested, and sent back to Laos repeatedly but never harmed. They had to cross a lake during a dangerous storm, yet they all survived. Shongfue arrived in Thailand much earlier than Payeng, and their marriage was arranged by their fathers, a Hmong custom.

Once reunited, Payeng and Shongfue prepared for their journey to the United States. Life in America was difficult; they knew no American customs and could not speak English. The author describes their situation best: “Fences of the refugee camps had been replaced by fences of ignorance that seemed almost as insurmountable” (76). Shongfue had longed to be a missionary to the Hmong people in Thailand for most of his life, and the opportunity arose after being in the United States for sixteen years. The couples’ ministry has been blessed by God and is a huge success; they have three congregations with around two hundred members each, Vacation Bible School programs for children, and many other ministries. Even though it is impossible now, Shongfue hopes someday to extend his ministry to Laos.

The story is very well-written and keeps readers interested. I think Driven holds educational value as it reveals little-known aspects of the Vietnam War. I, as probably most readers, did not realize that Laos was involved in the war just as much as Vietnam. The United States government promised to aid the Hmong people in return for their behind-the-scenes work during the war, but this never came into fruition. Instead, the Hmong were persecuted strongly because they aided the United States. Also, the story reminds readers of the struggles of a missionary. Payeng ends the book by reminding readers how God used her and how He can use them as well. I enjoyed this gripping story and recommend it to readers of all ages.

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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