Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Hope Bolinger

65634667_2083290778641269_7865434335707398144_nSo happy to have Hope Bollinger as my guest today. I met Hope at the Ohio Christian Writer’s Conference in 2018. Not only is she an author but also an agent with Cyle Young and a fellow Buckeye! Welcome, Hope!

One of the great things about YA fiction is that you can write in any genre as along as your main character is a teen. What genre do you write? Why?

I do contemporary with a speculative twist (whether it be angels, time travel, etc.). I always felt like the real world often has some speculative elements if you look closely enough. As for fantasy and other subgenres, I never got into them as much while reading them. I wanted to dive into topics which teens in today’s society had to tackle. But I like to throw in a little “weird” into the story.

Which comes first when starting a story – character, plot, or setting?

The plot. I usually think of what situations I never would want to end up in, and then I throw ill-suited characters into those scenarios.

Most YA writers aren’t YA. How do you write authentically about characters younger than you are?

I’m 22, so I’m just weaning off of the YA age range. But I try to have conversations often with those in that age group through youth groups and talking in school. I try to stay well-read in that genre as well.

What are some other unique challenges about writing YA?

So, so many. First, as mentioned above, you need to sound authentic. Too many YA books talk down to teens. Second, if you write cleaner YA, you have to balance the line of talking about edgy topics while keeping the manuscript free of profanity, violence, or sex. Third, you have to compete in a very crowded space. You want an original idea that still plays into some tropes, so publishers and readers won’t reject you right away.

What’s been your most unusual source of inspiration for a story or character?

Hot topic X Tumblr making a Christian baby. Hence, Hannah from Blaze (my debut) was born. She has a weird morbid sense of humor and can scare away quite a few people, but I love her unapologetic sense of self.

Thanks so much for stopping by!


61617836_2826857410872236_2353109429248851968_nIf you can’t stand the heat, don’t walk into the fire.

Danny knew his sophomore year would be stressful . . . but he didn’t expect his school to burn down on the first day.

To make matters worse (and they were about to get a lot worse), he — and his three best friends — receive an email in their inboxes from the principal of their rival, King’s Academy, offering full-rides to attend the town’s prestigious boarding school. Danny wants nothing to do with King’s Academy and says no. Of course his mother says yes. So off he goes to be bullied and picked on for not being part of the popular and rich “in crowd.”

From day one at King’s, Danny encounters hazing, mocking insults from girls at the “popular and pretty” table, and cafeteria food that, for such a prestigious school, tastes as if it were purchased from a military surplus supply warehouse. If he survives, Danny will have to overcome his fears of failure, rejection, and loneliness—all while standing strong in his beliefs and walking into the fire.


Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 350 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column “Hope’s Hacks,” tips and tricks to avoid writer’s block, reaches 3,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young’s blog, which receives 63,000+ monthly hits. She is excited her modern-day Daniel “Blaze” just released with IlluminateYA (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) and they just contracted the sequel “Den.” She enjoys all things theater, cats, and fire. You can find more about her at www.hopebolinger.com and on Facebook and Instagram.



Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, June Breland Whatley

clip_image001As I head out on vacation with my family, I am featuring guest bloggers who write YA. I’m eager to share their insights in the genre close to my heart. First up is June Breland Whatley. She’s already written a nonfiction book and is turning her hand to a YA novel. Welcome, June!

One of the great things about YA fiction is that you can write in any genre as along as your main character is a teen. What genre do you write? Why?

I’m currently working on, Beware the Fallen. It is an Allegory, or some people call it a Speculative, because it is set in a ‘fallen garden of Eden’-type setting. I love writing about Christian discovery and growth for young people because research shows that possibly as many as 85% of Christian teens, when they go to a secular college, fall away from church and away from their faith. I would like to help instill a deeper understanding and deeper faith in our young people. We need young ‘heroes of faith’ today.

Which comes first when starting a story – character, plot, or setting?

That is hard to say. The original idea for Beware the Fallen came from some photos of a friend’s children. That gave me an idea for a story and I had my characters. Beware the Fallen has grown from there. But these days the plot comes first, although the characters in this book and the next #2 and #3 are the same. They have become very personal to me. They are like family that I want to help train. I guess I would say, characters come first and then they write the plot.

Most YA writers aren’t YA. How do you write authentically about characters younger than you are?

I was young once, although I don’t think that counts because things are so much different today. I rely on my grandkids for inspiration and the new words for this generation. My grandson is about the age of the main character Ashton, though he is more of a Mican by nature. (Just a teaser for the book.)

What are some other unique challenges about writing YA?

Building a platform of YA readers is a challenge. They ‘friend’ people their own age, but I haven’t found a way to get into their Social Media circle. Mostly I have parents and other writers on Fb, Twitter, etc. Does anyone have any tips to share? Part of the holdup is that the book is not yet published, but I’m working with an editor.

What’s been your most unusual source of inspiration for a story or character?

I guess that would be the horse, named Warrior. As I have mentioned, my characters for this series were inspired by some amazing photos. The photographer had the children dressed in ‘period’ costumes. There was even a horse in the pics that knelt to the little girl. I named him Warrior. He took on a personality and a role of his own. The whole story grew from those great photographs.

I will gladly send chapter 1 of Beware the Fallen to anyone who is interested. To receive your copy, send a (1.) friends’ request and a (2.) private message with (3.) your email address to either of the pages above and (4.) Like the page (if you enjoy the chapter). Thank you, and Blessings!

Thanks for stopping by! You can follow June on her Facebook at June Breland Whatley, author and June Ireland Whatley, author page.


clip_image003My previous book is available, #LifeChange: A Treasure Hunt for More is currently available under the name June Breland Whatley on Amazon. It is nonfiction, for MG-Senior Adults. It is about a dream from the Lord and shows how some people fear becoming a Christian and how to protect oneself from attack, even after becoming a Christian.


I earned a combination Master of Arts degree, in Education/Counseling, from Regent University. I have worked as a teacher, college counselor and a testing tech for a Neuropsychologist, but my life goal, through my writing and speaking, is to introduce people to Christ or give them tools to draw closer to Him.

The first book was on socialization, to the Homeschool Market, Will My Child Fit? Socialization no longer seems to be the issue, as it was twenty years ago, so it is out of print.

Beware the Fallen will be my third book.







I earned a combination Master of Arts degree, in Education/Counseling, from Regent University. I have worked as a teacher, college counselor and a Testing Tech for a Neuropsychologist, but my life goal, through my writing and speaking, is to introduce people to Christ or give them tools to draw closer to Him.

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts: YA Speculative Fiction

fantasyw1-2704453_1280I used this photo last year during my month on speculative fiction. I like it so much I’m using it again. Something about the girl’s pose intrigues me. And the sun setting on what looks like a steamy summer day in the city. Perfect for a techno noir, like Blade Runner.

Here’s what I wrote last year:

“A whisper of a breeze signaled the coming of night. As the police jets patrolled the city, the broiling sun slid to the horizon. In fifteen minutes, I’d be free. At least for a few hours, sneaking into the cracks and crevices in this city where the patrols either didn’t know about or didn’t go and no cameras watched. I checked my phone. Time to go. I got up and walked over to the street lamp. I wrenched aside a loose metal panel and set my phone inside. Now I was invisible in the city. I went to the door and ran down the steps.”

Now it’s your turn. What’s the story with the teen girl, the futuristic city, and the patrolling jets?

Fanfare Please! Cover Reveal for Christmas fiction: off the beaten path

Christmas AnthologyMy second short story will published this November in Christmas fiction: off the beaten path: a Christmas Anthology of Inspirational Stories. “A Rose from the Ashes” was the best writing experience of my life. I wrote this short story during December of 2018 and the only thing better than sharing Christmas with my family was sharing it with them and writing a Christmas mystery during the Christmas season. I’m so excited for you all to meet Rae Riley.

Here’s the blurb for “A Rose from the Ashes”:

“Nineteen-year-old Rae Riley knows she needs to fulfill her late mother’s dying wish. But she needs even more to find her father. And the man who attacked her mother on Christmas Eve twenty years before and left her to burn in an abandoned building. And if her father and the attacker are one and the same.”

Five other Christian fiction authors have contributed stories to the anthology which include steampunk with a touch of romance, fantasy with romance, Biblical fiction, 1980’s family drama ,and contemporary suspense.

I love reading short story collections because you can sample so many authors in a short period of time. I’ll keep you updated as the launch date nears. I can’t wait!



Writing Tip — Why I Write YA Fiction

notepadw-3234843_1280When I was scheduling my blog posts this month, I knew I had to write one about why I write YA fiction. But as I’ve thought it over, I don’t really know why. It’s almost like I can’t NOT write YA fiction. In the past year and a half, I’ve learned at least that much.

In 2017, I was invited to write a short story set in Ohio with a Christian worldview. It could be any genre, any time period, as long as the setting was Ohio. I had the freedom to write any story I chose. I tried writing a humor piece based on a misadventure my sisters and I had during one Christmas when I was in college. As my husband kindly put it, humor is not my thing. I ended up writing “Debt to Pay”, a country noir set in Wayne National Forest and told from the point of view of a sixteen-year-old boy. This was published in an anthology, From the Lake to the River.

In November, Mt. Zion Ridge Press, which had published From The Lake, was accepting Christmas short stories. Again, any genre as long as it had a Christmas setting and Christian worldview. I wanted to write a mystery. For some reason, mysteries and Christmas work really well together. Some of the best stories by the kings and queens of the genre are Christmas mysteries.

I started my mystery from the POV of a thirty-something woman. It didn’t work, the narrative clunking along like a car with two flat tires. Then I realized the point of the story involved the nineteen-year-old girl. When I switched to the first-person POV of the teen character, the story came together faster than a family sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner after a two-hour delay.

So when I had the opportunity to write something completely different from my YA novel, I couldn’t do it. Why? Maybe it’s because I still remember, vividly, being in junior high and high school. The problems teens face are different for each generation. I graduated when cocaine ravaged the country and teen pregnancies were at an all time high. Now teens deal with about cyberbullying and how their online friends seem to have such exciting lives based on their social media posts. But the basic feelings of awkwardness, striving for maturity and fearing it, tentative steps of independence, and so much more are true for every generation of teens. I see that in my own kids.

I also feel a large part of me is still sixteen. I wasn’t one of those teens who thought they would live forever. I just wanted to get out of high school sane and alive. So when I enter awkward situations or get nervous meeting new people, all my teenage fears come roaring back. The nice thing I’ve developed with age is confidence. And the knowledge that if I don’t have confidence and fake it, most people will never know. Often by faking confidence, I’ve experienced the pleasant surprise of the real thing showing up.

If my short description of my Christmas mystery has stirred your interest, check in tomorrow when I reveal the cover of the anthology in which it will be published and give you the blurb for the story.

Why do you write in the genre or genres that you do?

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