Bird Face Wendy

Things relevant to reading, writing, publishing or marketing teen fiction.

Author A.J. Cattapan: What is it about Christmas and angels?

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What is it about Christmas and angels? The two seem to go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Nice on their own, but even better together.

Of course, we have the angels within the Christmas narrative itself. First, there’s the angel Gabriel who appears to Mary and says, “Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” (Luke 1: 28) And then the angel hits her with the big news that she’s about to become the Mother of God.

The second angel in the Christmas story came to Joseph. Once Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, he was planning on divorcing her until an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him, “Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child.” (Matthew 1:20)

The third angel arrived after Jesus’s birth. This angel appeared to the shepherds to let them know what was going on. “I come to proclaim good news to you—tidings of great joy to be shared by the whole people.” (Luke 2:10) And then a whole multitude of angels showed up singing!

No wonder we see angels hanging over nativity scenes and topping Christmas trees. We send out Christmas cards with depictions of angels and sing songs about herald angels singing. If you’re like me, you’ll indulge in at least one viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life this Christmas to see if Clarence earns his wings. Maybe you’ll even hang some angel ornaments on your tree, too.

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I’ve gotten into the habit of buying angel ornaments for my tree whenever I travel. This past year I picked up a handmade beaded angel ornament in Guatemala during my spring break trip. Then in September I visited the adorable small town of Geneva, IL, and I bought a silver angel with a harp. Finally, in November when I was in New York for my investiture as a Dame of the Order of Malta at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I bought a pretty white angel with her hands folded in prayer.

So what is it beyond their inclusion in the Gospel stories of Jesus’s birth that makes us love angels so much at Christmastime? I think it’s because they remind us of our closeness to Jesus in a number of ways. First, they are His messengers. They are heavenly visitors that come to bring us God’s word, His comfort, and His guidance.

Second, and maybe most importantly, they remind us that Jesus chose to become one of us. He didn’t become an angel. He became human. He chose to walk this earth, not fly around it with wings like angels. He ate our food and wore our clothes. He had a mother and an earthly father. He slept, he woke, he worked hard. He had friends, and he traveled with them. These are all things Jesus has in common with us, not the angels.

This Christmas, I think that thought humbles me more than anything else. Jesus became one of us in order to save us. He sent His angels to tell of His coming, and He continues to send His angels to guard us and guide us, but He became one of us, not one of them. And for that, I have much to give thanks this Christmas.

About the author:

A.J. Cattapan is a bestselling author, speaker, and middle school English teacher living in the Chicago area. Her debut young adult novel Angelhood won a Gold Medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for Young Adult Fiction—Religion/Spirituality and an Honorable Mention from Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. She’s also been a Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor and had numerous short stories and articles published in magazines for teens and children, including Highlights, Pockets, and Hopscotch for Girls. Her goal in writing is to empower young people so that they may live extraordinary lives filled with heart and hope.

Website: www.ajcattapan.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/acattapan

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJCattapan

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/ajcattapan

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About the book:

Seventeen-year-old theater geek Nanette believes her life is headed toward stardom on Broadway. But when her dream theater college rejects her and her best friend dies in a terrible accident, Nanette decides the world would be better off without her. Unfortunately, the afterlife offers something less than a heavenly situation. Trapped between alternating periods of utter darkness and light, Nanette is stuck following a high school freshman around. Soon, she learns she’s a guardian angel, and the only way she can earn her wings is to keep her young charge, Vera, from committing the same sin she did—taking her own life.

Unfortunately, Nanette is missing more than just her wings. She has no tangible body or voice, either. Frustrated by her inability to reach out to Vera and haunted by memories of her old life, Nanette wants to give up, but then she sees what happens when another Guardian at the high school turns his back on his charge. The shock is enough to supercharge Nanette’s determination. If she’s going to find peace in the afterlife, she’s going to have to discover what living is really all about.

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A new novel for teen boys by Theresa Linden

It’s a trend long awaited–growing numbers of contemporary novels for boys in junior high and high school with a male protagonist 13 to 17 years old. Not to say that girls or adults can’t read and enjoy them too!

Watch for more posts in the coming weeks about novels being released for this audience. Today, please take a look at this one mixing realism and the supernatural–Roland West, Loner–by author Theresa Linden. It is one of my favorites.

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Description:
Roland West, Loner is a contemporary Christian story of a fourteen-year-old boy who finds himself friendless at a new school and the subject of cruel rumors. Despised by older twin brothers, he feels utterly alone but not without hope. If he can avoid his brothers while his father is away, he might have a solution to his problem. When his brothers lock him away, having a plan of their own, he gets rescued by an unlikely pair: a neighboring autistic boy and his brother. Struggling to trust his new friends, secrets, rumors, lies, and an unusual inheritance put him on a journey that just might have the power to change the life of this loner.

Roland West, Loner addresses loneliness, sibling relationships, facing fears, autism, and the Communion of the Saints. Susan Peek, highly popular author of saint stories for teens, including A Soldier Surrenders said, “Roland West, Loner is one of those books I couldn’t put down. Linden tells a delightful tale, weaving the supernatural with the ordinary in a way that left me breathless. You’ll never doubt the Communion of Saints after reading this wonderful novel. I can’t wait for the sequel.”  

Excerpt: 

Time stopped. In a moment of clarity, Roland knew what he had to do. Ignore him. The advice hung in his mind like a caption between scenes of a silent movie. Walk away.

A second later, something inside him snapped. He visualized the buttons popping off his shirt and sailing through the air, their threads like streamers. His sleeve ripping in slow motion, exposing his weakness. Jarret wanted to steal his trip to Italy, his salvation? No way.

Roland’s hands shot out and landed on Jarret’s chest. He shoved.

Jarret staggered back, shock in his eyes. Roland had never made the first move in a fight. He hardly ever defended himself.

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Author Bio: 
Theresa Linden, an avid reader and writer since grade school, grew up in a military family. Moving every few years left her with the impression that life is an adventure. Her Catholic faith inspires the belief that there is no greater adventure than the reality we can’t see, the spiritual side of life. She hopes that the richness, depth, and mystery of the Catholic faith arouse her readers’ imaginations to the invisible realities and the power of faith and grace. A member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild, Theresa lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, three boys, and one dog. Her other published books include Chasing Liberty and Testing Liberty, books one and two in a dystopian trilogy.

Connect with Theresa Linden:

Website: http://theresalinden.wix.com/theresalindenfiction

Author FB page: https://www.facebook.com/theresalindenauthor

Twitter handle: @LindenTheresa

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/TheresaALinden/catholic-teen-fiction

 

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Seeking My Niche

This post was first published on The Scriblerians blog, October 6, 2015.

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Image courtesy of Morguefile free photos

I have one of those in my house—a niche. It’s carved out of the wall at the end of a short hallway. Not much fits there, but I placed a tall pottery vase that is flattened from front to back so it nestles in the space just right.

And boy, is it showcased.

Isn’t that what we authors are supposed to do? Find a niche for our work? An audience where it’s showcased rather than one of many similar, cluttered objects where none stand out.

I suppose those are extreme examples, but books can’t yell for attention like humans can. How do I find the audience(s) where my novels might catch fire, so to speak?

I’m thinking out loud now. Thanks for sticking with me.

My YA novels in the Bird Face series use humor and hope to address serious issues facing teens today. Each novel addresses at least a few. It’s the way I like to write stories, with my protagonist facing multiple issues and crises that are intertwined.

So, how do I find a niche for those books?

Right now, I’m looking for teens with particular challenges or areas in teens’ lives where certain types of stories or characters are lacking. Stories featuring a teen that is hearing-impaired are hard to find, for example. So are those with Catholic teen characters.

I wrote my first book because I care about kids who are shy or bullied. It’s fiction that contains elements of Christian faith, and the half-Cajun Wendy naturally became Catholic because all the Cajuns I knew were Catholic.

I wrote my deaf teen character Sam in my second book because I care about hearing-impaired teens. A good friend in my twenties taught at a school for the deaf, and she shared her experiences.  I grew up not understanding much about the hearing-impaired children I met, but I later worked around hearing-impaired adults, who referred to themselves as deaf and who became my friends.

Like an ethnic group, both hearing-impaired and Catholic teens like to see characters similar to themselves occasionally depicted in the fiction they read.

I’ve decided to try target-marketing to both Catholic teens and hearing-impaired teens (as I continue to market to all teens, Christian and non-Christian). I know, I’ve selected two niches, but I’m still figuring this out.

Anyway, that’s my plan for today.

Are you an author struggling to find your niche? As a reader, are you attracted to specific religious aspects of story or social issues in story lines?

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Guest Marissa Shrock Tackles Heavy Topics in Fiction

FirstPrinciple   Today, the Bird Face Wendy blog welcomes Marissa Shrock, author of The First Principle. Ms. Shrock fills us in on how she handles controversial issues in her fiction: 

The First Principle is a young adult dystopian thriller that tackles some heavy topics. During the process of writing the novel, I wondered many times why I’d decided to deal with controversial issues such as government control versus personal liberty, pregnancy termination, and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

But these issues and beliefs are important to me, so it’s natural they worked their way into my novel. However, because of the divisive topics, one of my biggest challenges was making sure the story didn’t become preachy. Here are three rules I kept in mind.

  • A good story is more important than teaching a lesson. When I wrote my novel, my goal was to tell a compelling, fast-paced story that would appeal to teen readers. To do this, I studied the craft of writing fiction and used various techniques to create tension and suspense. I didn’t worry about teaching a lesson because….
  • The characters learn lessons through their struggles. My protagonist Vivica must comply with her country’s mandatory pregnancy termination law for underage girls or seek the help of a rebel group to save her unborn child. This is a gut-wrenching choice because she comes from a wealthy and influential family. The story’s themes emerge as Vivica wrestles with her choice in the sanctuary of a…
  • Believable, yet fictional, story world. There’s an inherent level of safety in science fiction, and I used this to give my readers the sense that what they’re reading could happen without blaming any particular group or government that actually exists today. I created a futuristic society with a government that attempts to control the population and other areas of citizens’ lives. I even had some fun inventing government branches such as Population Management, Health Management, and Agricultural Management.

Tackling heavy topics in fiction isn’t easy, but I’m glad I did. Keeping these rules in mind helped me craft a story that entertains and deals with controversy.

MarissaHead   Marissa Shrock is a middle school language arts teacher and the author of The First Principle, a young adult novel. Marissa’s writing has appeared in Evangel, Encounter, and Book Fun Magazine. She loves shopping for cute clothes, baking for family and friends, traveling to new places, and playing golf.

Find Marissa and more information about her book at  http://www.marissashrock.com and on Goodreads.

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Spotlight on Amish Fiction, Featuring Author Molly Jebber

The Amish and their simple lifestyle interested me from the moment I learned as a child of their existence. One day I’d like to visit an Amish community, I told myself.

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Image courtesy of Morguefile free photos

When I noticed that a number of friends read Amish fiction, I wondered how many interesting plots could be developed about such a simple way of living. I gave the genre a try and became a fan because the stories are varied and surprising. So far, I’ve read several contemporary novels by authors Laura V. Hilton and Lynette Sowell. The young-adult/teen series Amish Girls by J.E.B. Spredemann is on my to-read list.

Molly Jebber’s debut novel, Change of Heart, is historical and a genre I’ve always loved. In 1899 a young Amish woman’s fiancé jilts her before their entire community. She’s never been away from home but moves to the bustling Englischer town of Massillon, Ohio. Sounds like a pretty exciting premise, doesn’t it?

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Let’s welcome Molly to the blog. If you have any questions of your own to ask her, please leave them in the comments.

Molly, what inspired you to write Amish fiction?

I’m fascinated with their way of life and talents. I love their dedication to serve God. I visited Amish Country in Ohio many times. They work hard and have such a close-knit friendship with each other. It’s heartwarming and uplifting. At the same time, they face hardships and difficult problems just like we do.

Why do you think non-Amish readers should consider reading Amish fiction or why so many already enjoy reading it?

It’s fun to learn about the Amish, their lifestyle, talents and ways of doing things.

I agree!

What is special about your particular novel’s story?

Becca Carrington, a midwife, leaves the Amish community, but she doesn’t abandon her faith and trust in God. She falls in love with Dr. Matthew Carrington, but his wealthy mother will stop at nothing to keep them from getting married. Her plan is for her son to marry a society woman. Becca doesn’t think God would want her to marry Mark against his mother’s will and ends their relationship. She’s miserable and asks God for a miracle.

Did writing your book require any research? If so, what kind and did you travel for it?

I research the Amish continuously and everything about them. Their way of life, laws, rules, toys, work, farming, harvest, weddings, funerals, etc. “Crank cars” were just coming into being. I researched them, the type of dress, the rural area of the town in 1899 and President and Senate history. My story takes place in Massillon, Ohio where William McKinley, President, had lived. I wanted to mention him.

Not all Amish belong to the same type of order or follow the exact same practices. Can you describe the type(s) of Amish portrayed in your novel?

My story starts out in Berlin, Ohio, an Old Order Amish community in 1899. They follow strict rules for no electricity, phones, cars, etc.

Did you include a glossary of Amish words inside your book?

Yes. A sampling is: boppli – baby; kinder – children; mamm – mother; daughter – dochder and I have other Amish words in the book.

Is Change of Heart the first in a series?

Yes, the Keepsake Pocket Quilt series. “Change of Heart” is released June 30th in print and ebook across the web and throughout the U.S., U.K. and Canada stores.The second book in the series is “Grace’s Forgiveness” which will release February 29th, 2016. I also have a story in an anthology, “The Amish Christmas Sleigh,” along with Amy Lillard and Kelly Long that releases October 29, 2015.

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About Molly, in her own words: 

I said to my loving husband, Ed, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. A story that readers would get lost in for a while.” He said, “Do it!” My daughter, Misty, brother, Mitch, and Mom, Sue said, “Take Ed’s advice, do it!” So I did.

The road wasn’t easy, but the education, Amish research, and ride along the way to getting published taught me to take my favorite verse to heart: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13 KJV

I enjoy church activities, time with my husband and family, swimming, reading, and golf (I’m terrible at this, but I try!) Summer is my favorite season, and walking on the beach hand-in-hand with my soul mate is one of my favorite pastimes.

Learn more about Molly Jebber and her writing at

http://www.mollyjebber.com where you can sign up for her newsletter sent out only a few times a year.

You can also find her on Facebook:

http://facebook.com/mollyjebber

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