I was driving to the Oregon Christian Writer’s conference a few years back and I was praying and listening to the Newsboys tape (my car is old) that my husband made for me. I was praying through book three of the Blood of Kings trilogy (From Darkness Won) because I was stuck and didn’t know how I was going to end the thing! I had this epic, Tolkien-esque adventure, and I had readers emailing me how much they loved it, and I was feeling all this pressure to end it well, but I didn’t know what to do.
So I was praying, and I had just passed Multnomah Falls, which is one of my most favorite places in the whole world. So beautiful. And I suddenly tuned out of my prayer and into the music. And I heard, “All the powers of darkness tremble at what they’ve just heard. All the powers of darkness can’t drown out a single word.”
And I knew exactly what I needed to do to end my trilogy! I was beside myself praising God for using the Newsboys’ song He Reigns to answer my prayer, and when I got to the writer’s conference, I ran to find my editor, Jeff Gerke, and told him how I figured out how to end the war and he was, like, “Yes!”
Anyway… when you get stuck in your writing or in your life, you never know what God might use to help you through it. It might be a song, a kind word from a friend, a bird, an email. Trust that he is listening to your prayers and he will answer, just maybe not in the way you expected an answer.
Here’s the music video for “He Reigns.” Listen for the lines that saved From Darkness Won! Coolness, huh?
The kids in school tease Lily for being so tall and having such curly red hair. But when a talent agency owner comes to school to talk to the girls about beauty, she singles Lily out and offers her a chance to be a model. Lily’s parents allow her to participate in the modeling classes on one condition: that she find out whether God is present in this opportunity. So Lily sets out to discover if there is more to beauty that looking good.
This was a really sweet little story. Lilly and her friends were “young” sixth graders, as the ones in most public schools today, sadly, are already dating. But I find this book refreshing and know that these are books I will urge my daughter (who is eight) to read. Lilly was a kind girl, she worked hard to treat others kindly, even when others were mean to her. And she went through a traumatic experience and didn’t let it get the best of her. I liked Lilly a lot and found her an excellent and relatable role model for young readers. Recommended for readers 8-12.
The army finally leaves Darkness and arrives in Mitspah. Achan meets Lord Yarden and a stray boy. And Vrell suffers through entrance duty with Kurtz.
When little Colton Burpo’s was in the hospital having an emergency appendectomy, his soul was in heaven with Jesus. His parents didn’t discover this until a while later when they passed by the hospital and Colton said, “That’s where the angels sang to me.”
Many people believe in an afterlife of some kind. But Colton’s experience gives us a glimpse of more than just hanging out on white clouds. According to Colton, no one will be old in Heaven, there are people and animals everywhere, there are angels, and there is God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
The story in the book itself bounces around a lot, and I found myself skimming to find the parts where Colton talks about Jesus. But it’s well worth the read. This is a short book. And you can’t help but be fascinated by the things Colton said after his experience. I read the book out loud to my kids, and they loved hearing about all the colors, Jesus’ rainbow horse, and the size of Pop’s wings. This is a book everyone should read if for no other reason than to discover for yourself what Colton saw.
Once I grew up and came to know Jesus, that dream faded away, and I really wanted to be influential. I wanted to make a difference in my world, leave a legacy behind that inspired people long after I was gone.
But now that I’ve lived life for a while, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if I’m on the cover of a magazine or if I have enough money to build wells in Africa. That stuff isn’t bad. And people in those positions can do good things, if they choose. What matters is how I treat the people I come into contact with each day, in person or online—how I love others.
And that changes the way I behave in regards to my dream.
Because living for fame alone is really living in fear of being forgotten. And living for influence alone is really living to prove how many good works I can accomplish. But living for love impacts people every day with the face of Jesus.
How cool is that?
I recently heard a Ukrainian woman speak about significance at the Oasis Church in Los Angeles. Her name is Vera Kasevich, and you can hear the same message I heard on Vimeo at this link: http://vimeo.com/24160621. Her accent is amazing!
In short, Vera says there are four types of people:
Common people- People who have a close circle of friends and family.
Popular people- People we read about in magazines or watch on TV.
Influential people- Powerful people like politicians, business leaders, or Oprah.
Significant people- People who love and serve like Jesus, who do what’s right without reward or recognition.
We can live our lives chasing after popularity or influence or settle for being ordinary. But God wants more for our lives. He wants us all to be significant, to love other people and put them above ourselves, to be willing to do whatever he asks of us.
So how does that fit in with the dream God is calling you toward? Can common, popular, or influential people still be significant people? What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.
Today I’m talking with Evan Angler, author of the middle-grade dystopian novel Swipe, which I reviewed here.
Evan, your first novel released a few months ago. Congratulations! Share some of the exciting things that you’ve done during this release time.
Thanks, Jill! It is certainly exciting. These last few months, I’ve been very fortunate and grateful to be able to pop my head up now and again throughout the American Union for radio interviews, written interviews, school visits, Skype visits, signed book giveaways, and email discussions (you can always reach me at email@example.com)…but I have to admit that mostly I’ve just been sticking to the shadows of Beacon City, doing my very best to stay one step ahead of the Department of Marked Emergencies (DOME). They aren’t happy. And I’m pretty sure they’ll do anything to stop me from writing the Swipe series. Books are powerful, it turns out. A book can save lives. A book can start a war. A book can topple a government.
That’s the truth, Evan. Us writers have to be careful. But we have a responsibility, don’t we? I’m so glad you risked it all to come out and chat with me for a few moments. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
There was never really a question of me wanting to be anything other than a writer, though there were plenty of questions along the way as to whether or not I would ever actually get to be one professionally. The thing I’ve learned about chasing a career is that you really are chasing it. Meaning that the only thing you have control over is how fast and how long you’re willing to run. But that’s enough control, in fact. Even if at times your goals seem elusive, sooner or later you’ll catch up as long as you choose to keep running. For me, writing has always been the thing that makes me happiest, so I just kept doing it until that writing found a home. And now it has, in the biography of Logan Langly and the Dust, with the Swipe series.
When did you decide to try writing books?
Though I’d always loved writing, it wasn’t until recently that I began writing novels.
Two years ago, while I was still living as part of the underground Markless community in Beacon City, I spent a lot of my time helping Markless refugees get in and out of the city. I met a lot of people while doing this, and it was through these interactions that I began hearing whispers of Logan Langly and what he was getting involved with out west in Spokie, outside of New Chicago.
It wasn’t long before these whispers became shouts—the Department of Marked Emergencies (DOME) got angry pretty quick, and the effects of that were felt all the way out in Beacon. They were rounding us Markless up, taking my friends away, never to be seen again, and I realized that Swipe was a story I simply couldn’t leave untold. I had to write about it, and I had to become a part of it myself.
I’m sure glad you did. What do you consider one of your biggest life adventures?
Truly, my biggest life adventure so far has been meeting Logan Langly, Erin Arbitor, and the members of the Dust. Before they came along, I was just another garden variety Markless, living outside the boundaries of Marked society, fending for myself, and living by my own principles.
Of course, this lifestyle had led to many adventures of its own. I’ve slept on the ground with nothing around me, just staring up at the stars, or the sunset, or the sunrise, more times than I can count. Have you ever tried that? Do you know the feeling of it? I’ve traveled too, to places I knew nothing about, with ways of life I didn’t understand. I’ve read books I wasn’t supposed to read and learned facts I wasn’t supposed to know. I’ve done what challenged me, what scared me, even. I’ve gotten hurt doing those things, and then I’ve tried them again. Because our biggest adventures in life are the moments that take us outside of our comfort zones, that broaden our horizons, that make our worldview more inclusive, more nuanced, and more mature. Those are the real adventures.
Here’s a little bit about the story, Swipe:
Everyone gets the Mark. It gives all the benefits of citizenship. Yet if getting the Mark is such a good thing, then why does it feel so wrong?
Set in a future North America that is struggling to recover after famine and global war, Swipe follows the lives of three kids caught in the middle of a conflict they didn’t even know existed. United under a charismatic leader, every citizen of the American Union is required to get the Mark on their 13th birthday in order to gain the benefits of citizenship.
The Mark is a tattoo that must be swiped by special scanners for everything from employment to transportation to shopping. It’s almost Logan Langly’s 13th birthday and he knows he should be excited about getting the Mark, but he hasn’t been able to shake the feeling he’s being watched. Not since his sister went to get her Mark five years ago . . . and never came back.
When Logan and his friends discover the truth behind the Mark, will they ever be able to go back to being normal teenagers?
Evan, Logan is a little shy, but he really puts forth a lot of effort to make friends with Erin. What advice would you give teens that have trouble making friends?
What struck me most about Logan’s effort to be friends with Erin, as well as with Dane and Hailey and the rest of the teens in Swipe, was that Logan was willing to look out for them and do right by them even when that went underappreciated, unnoticed, or punished. Too often we measure our actions according to how helpful they might be for us or for achieving our own goals. By that I mean that even selfless actions—like doing a favor for someone or being generous—are too often thought of in terms of, “Will people notice this and like me more because of it?” Or, “Will I be rewarded, even indirectly, down the line?” But looking at Logan’s case, I notice that ultimately, many of his motivations reach beyond these considerations. By the end of Swipe, he is doing what he’s doing because he believes in it, and because he is following his heart and his passions and his basic respect for other people.
The thing about acting in this way is that there is a ripple effect to it. Like dropping a pebble in a pond, these simple actions, coming from the right place, have far-reaching positive effects, even if all the pebble does is sink. To a certain extent, Logan is willing to sink, and he makes a far bigger splash as a result.
For any teens looking for friends, I might suggest keeping this in mind. Be generous and kind and honest in your actions to other people even if it goes unnoticed or underappreciated or punished. Eventually, the ripples of these actions add up, and you will find yourself making waves.
Well, I’m very excited to be able to say that the second book, Sneak, will be available everywhere in September. And I’m equally excited to say that I’m in the process of writing the third book in the Swipe series now. So there will be at least three! From there, we’ll just have to see where Logan and Erin and the rest of the Dust end up. And I’ll just have to see whether or not I can continue to evade DOME. No matter what happens, though, I very much look forward to chronicling this adventure as it goes.
Me too, Evan. I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Any other fictional adventures you’re working on besides the Swipe series?
Currently, all of my energy is going toward making sure Logan’s story and the story of the Dust is told well and is heard by as many people as possible. By now, everyone involved is in a bit of a tight spot, to put it mildly. All of them are in worse trouble than they’ve ever been, and there’s no easy way to undo the choices they’ve made in Swipe. But Logan has a purpose now. He’s on a mission that’ll take him all the way across the American Union, and he’s determined to see it through, no matter the consequences. It’s a really fun adventure with a lot of twists and turns, and right now my job is to transcribe it as fully and as truthfully as I can.
But if DOME asks, you know nothing about it.
You got it, Evan! My lips are sealed to all DOME agents. Where can readers learn more about you and your writing?
Careful who hears you asking that question! The Swipe series is officially banned throughout the American Union, and DOME is none too pleased with anyone who’s looking for it—especially if they’re Markless.
But if DOME does give you any trouble, let me know, and I’ll see if I can pull any strings within my network. Best places to find me online are www.facebook.com/swipeseries (where we have Swipe videos, pictures, wallpapers, fan profiles, contests, giveaways, and even a Swipe-inspired iPad adventure game!), www.evanangler.com, and www.twitter.com/evanangler. You might find some rumors in there about upcoming Swipe books too, but if anyone sees you reading them—deny everything.
And I was never here.
Whew! I sure got nervous talking with Evan. I was sure some DOME agents were going to burst through my door and arrest me–make me get the mark. But all is well. Evan is gone now, and we managed to get this interview to you fine people, so you can all learn what’s going on in the American Union, which, if you’re confused, is what used to be the United States of America. I know, right? Freaky.
Evan’s Publisher is giving away one copy of Swipe to a lucky reader today. This is your BIG chance to find out what’s going on around here. Please enter on the form below!
It’s another Team Novel Teen Blog Tour! Today we’re reviewing Swipe by Evan Angler, a dystopian middle grade novel that’s the first in a series. This book was a pleasant surprise, and I’m eager to hear what the other Team Novel Teen bloggers have to say about this one. So, here is my review. And be sure and stop by tomorrow to read my interview with the author, Evan Angler.
Review by Jill Williamson
Logan Langly is starting school and is only a few months away from his thirteenth birthday. That’s the day when he can get the Mark, which will give him the full benefits of citizenship. He’ll be able to get a job, to buy things, to take the trains. But Logan isn’t sure he wants the Mark. Because when his sister went in to get it, she never came back.
What if Logan goes in and never comes back?
Plus, people are following him and he doesn’t know why. When a new girl starts school and Logan befriends her, they start investigating, and what they discover is the beginning of something huge. Something that will change everything. Forever.
This book is so much fun! I couldn’t put the thing down. It’s a fun and clever dystopian story. It will get you thinking about how people tend to conform without asking questions. And it will leave you wanting to read the next book. I liked the unfolding mystery of what was going on, and the storyworld was so much fun. A lot of thought went into creating this dystopian future of what our country might have done to gain peace after a global war. I highly recommend this one for readers aged eight and up.
Team Novel Teen is a group of bloggers dedicated to spreading the word about clean teen fiction. Check out other posts about Swipe by Evan Angler by clicking on the links below, and check out www.NovelTeen.com for more information about Team Novel Teen.
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We live in a world where things can be easy. Tablet computers that fit in our pockets and make calls for us and tell us where we are. Globalized digital networks that connect us effortlessly, all the time. Modern medicine that works wonders. News that arrives the moment it happens. Food that stays fresh forever.
This isn’t science fiction. This is reality. And in the American Union, all you need—for any of it—is the Mark.
So what’s wrong with that? The Pledge unifies us, does it not? Just as its Mark protects us? No one could argue that it hasn’t brought us together, that it hasn’t created peace . . . that our allegiance to the Chancellor hasn’t bound us and given common ground from which all our ideas and ideologies may grow. Together. Compatibly.
After the years of slaughter, after the decades of political and environmental devastation that forced more and more of us to fight over less and less land, water, food . . . was this unity not a welcome change for all of us?
It isn’t even compulsory. No one has to Pledge. But who wouldn’t? In the years since its implementation, the Mark has rightfully become the capstone of a childhood well spent, the crowning achievement in a young man’s or woman’s life, the opened door to citizenship, adulthood, independence . . .
Every schoolchild knows that in the wake of the Total War, this Mark has become the very symbol of our commitment to patriotism and peace. It is the constant reminder of our loftiest intentions.
To be Markless is to reject these ideals. To be Markless is to be different.
So why would anyone choose to be different? In a world of absolutes, of black and white, of right and wrong, why would anyone choose “wrong”?
My name is Evan Angler. I may have answers to these questions. But I can’t risk writing them. Not here. Not on the Internet, for anyone to see.
And you wouldn’t risk reading them.
But if you are determined . . . if you are determined to learn the truth, no matter the cost, then what I can tell you is this: I’ve put what I know onto paper. Old-fashioned, obsolete—paper. Where it can’t be copied and pasted with the stroke of a stylus, where it can’t be sent around the world at the press of a button, where it can’t be recorded and stored forever in a million irretrievable pieces across cyberspace and time for any watchful eye to see. Paper is intimate. It is between you and me. It is fragile. It can be destroyed.
And when you find it, if you find it . . . once you’ve read it . . . I do encourage you to destroy it.
I wrote their story for everyone. But if you are not yet thirteen, if you have not yet Pledged to the Chancellor in exchange for his Mark of citizenship, if you have not yet made that choice to conform to given definitions of what may be easy and what may be “right” . . . then I have written this story especially for you.
For I’m not ashamed to tell you that I’m still afraid of the dark. And if you too have ever turned out the light only to feel that tinge of panic, that inkling that someone, somewhere, might possibly be watching . . . I’m here to tell you that they are.
At its heart, Swipe is a book about friendship against the odds. It’s a book about a group of boys and girls who stick together to stand up for one another and for what they believe in.
But why would they choose to be different? Why would they choose “wrong”?
Are you ready to learn the truth?
As Achan and his new army make their way to Mitspah, and Achan starts a massive search for the traitor.
Jake Sheffield has a weird dream that ends with a strange word that he felt like was from God. That’s totally crazy, and he brushes it off like it was nothing. Until he gets to school.
He starts hearing things. Hearing people speak to him when they aren’t’ moving their mouths. He’s so freaked out that he ditches school and meets with his youth pastor, who doesn’t believe him until it happens again and Jake tells him what he heard. His youth pastor’s heart’s deepest need. Together, Jake and his youth pastor figure out that God has given Jake a gift. And although Jake is terrified, he learns to use it, and God does something amazing.
This book is so neat! It’s not a new book, by far, but it’s a really powerful story. I loved the challenge the book left me with—the reality check, if you will. This is a book that will entertain you and shake up your faith: two great combinations. And it’s my understanding that 100% of the author’s profits on this book go to Samaritan’s Purse, so that’s pretty cool too. Highly recommended!