I try to read every YA book that sells well. I do this, of course, because I write YA and it’s in my best interest as an author to know the kind of books you adore.
I’ve even read most of the bestselling series that delve deeply into the world of the occult and spirituality. These books make witchcraft and the occult look sexy and inviting. They present a worldview that welcomes everyone. No one is turned away. All of us are accepted and loved here. Do you see how irresistible that could be to some teen readers? Here’s a place where everyone can truly belong.
What you could not find, until now, was a book that showed how irresistible that dark side is while also telling readers the hard truth—this is a powerful world that should in no way be toyed with or treated as a joke. This is a world that is not fodder for escapism. This world is not a fantasy world. It’s real. It surrounds us. It wants us.
Nicole O’Dell in The Shadowed Onyx (Barbour Publishing, 2012) uses every tool she has to show her readers what the other side looks like, feels like, and how it can hurt you in an instant. While there are readers who may be uncomfortable with the subject matter, there are thousands of others who need this book for the truths it contains.
If you have found yourself curious after reading some of the most popular series, I urge you to read The Shadowed Onyx. If you have friends who seem obsessed with dark things, here is a book you can offer.
The whole time I was reading this book, this song was floating through my head.
Wanna talk about this book with me? Let’s go . . .
First off, I talked to Nicole when I finished the book. I had so many questions for her. I wanted you to see her beautiful answers to three of my questions.
- Why spiritual warfare? Have you seen it in action? Do you think it’s taking hold of teens more now than ever?
2. Is your book in some way a response to books like the House of Night or Hush Hush series?
3. How do you feel about books (even Christian fiction ones) that tackle topics that border on the occult? Are we messing with things we shouldn’t?
Back Cover Blurb:
At age seventeen, Joy Christianson is the life of the party. That is, until her best friend commits suicide. Joy’s already wavering faith slips completely out of her reach; darkness sets in, and her smile fades. Her “friends” lead her to the Onxy, meant to help her let go of the past and bring her into harmony with reality. Joy embarks on a dark journey of witchcraft. Eventually, afraid of letting the depression and evil take root, Joy decides to seek help in the haven of Diamond Estates—and try to reclaim the Joy she once knew.
My own summary:
The Shadowed Onyx is the story of seventeen-year-old Joy Christianson’s struggle with losing her best friend Melanie to suicide. On the same day, Joy loses the love of her life, Austin, whose actions before Melanie died contributed to Joy’s heartbreak and Melanie’s death.
Joy had been the life of every party for most of her life—she brought joy and laughter to all who knew her . . . until the terrible day when she discovered her friend’s lifeless body.
Wracked with guilt for the possible role she played and unable to cope with grief, Joy begins to search for anything that will help her understand life and death. Her church friends seem naïve and unable to relate to the depths of despair Joy feels. So she befriends Raven, a schoolmate who recognizes Joy’s vulnerability and wants to help. The help Raven offers, though, is the kind Joy’s never considered.
Raven shows Joy a world suspended between life and death. She opens Joy’s eyes to the possibility of communicating again with Melanie. It doesn’t take long until Joy is seeing signs for herself that the spirit world is powerful and all around her. Joy takes small steps at first—playing with a Ouija board—but it doesn’t take long before she’s attending séances and attempting to commune with the dead on her own. The irresistible part of this dabbling is that Joy gets real results. She sees things and feels things that her church has never discussed.
Joy’s life is spinning out of control. She’s losing weight rapidly and she has stopped caring about her appearance. She uses her grief as a reason to hide in black clothes and dark places. But her heart is changing with each step toward the occult that she takes. She’s afraid, but tempted, and before long, her parents can no longer ignore how sick she has become. They see that their daughter has been stripped of her innocence in so many ways.
They find Diamond Estates, a haven for troubled girls, and they try to convince Joy to go. She refuses until something scares her into wanting help. But even after moving to Diamond Estates, it’s clear Joy is hanging onto the parts of the spirit world that she thinks will give her strength. Until she sees that she cannot live in both worlds, she will never recover and her soul and life are in grave danger.
Will Joy be able to let go of the power she feels in the spirit world? Will she trust the people in her life who truly have her best interests at heart? Can she see the protection Austin offers and the love he still feels for her?
My Favorite Parts of The Shadowed Onyx:
1. O’Dell weaves throughout the story the use of the Internet and how it provides information about any subject quickly and easily. She shows how Joy types in a couple of questions and gets back lists of how to be involved in the occult. One click leads to another and Joy is deeply into the established world of the occult that lives and breathes online and looks for new “members” in this way.
2. There’s a part of this book that deals deftly with the human desire for proof. Sometimes we just want hard evidence that God is alive and angels are defending us. The Church often sidesteps these issues. But when teens hear about “proof” of a darker nature, they need to be told the truth. When Joy can’t see anything “real” happening at Church, she turns to the other world. She begins to see “real” evidence of the existence of spirits. She finds it’s easier to believe in these things she sees and harder to have faith in the unseen.
3. When Joy is faced with the death of her beloved grandfather, the spiritual leader of her family, she realizes an important truth. Christians DO believe in a very real spirit world. We do believe that there is amazing life after death and that an unimaginable world will be opened to us in the afterlife. Joy sees that the power she thought only existed in the occult world, is actually the power of the Maker of the Universe. As a Christian, she is filled with that power already.
4. One of the sweetest parts of O’Dell’s book is the character of Bea. Bea is Joy’s cousin who has Down Syndrome. She’s a beautiful, open soul who is connected to God’s spirit in a way no one else is in the book. It reminds me of the old saying that people with Down Syndrome are considered handicapped on earth but it just might be that once we get to Heaven we’ll realize it was the other way around. We’re the handicapped ones. Bea’s open heart teaches Joy so much.
The Shadowed Onyx is the third and final installment in the Diamond Estates Series. The Wishing Pearl (2011) began the powerful series and it was followed by The Embittered Ruby (2012). All three books are great reads.
Each book shines a spotlight on a teen girl in crisis who reaches out a hand at the last minute and finds help at the Diamond Estates Home for Girls in Colorado. Ben Bradley, the director of Diamond Estates, and his wife, Alicia, started the home because they had experienced a crisis as a teen couple and they felt led to help girls. Ben said, “Sometimes teens need to be plucked out of their environment so they can focus on getting healthy.”
O’Dell is open about the fact that her own life was saved by a place like Diamond Estates as a teen, and her books give a lot of credit to the folks who helped her out. This is one of the many, many reasons I admire O’Dell and love this book series.
Diamond Estates. Three girls are on a journey to find hope and healing. Each coming to Diamond Estates seeking solace… Each with her own unique set of struggles… And each capturing hearts and challenging the faith of teen girls.
Nicole O’Dell, founder of Choose NOW Ministries and host of Choose NOW Radio: Parent Talk and Teen Talk, is a youth culture expert who writes and speaks to preteens, teenagers, and parents on preparing for life’s tough choices. The mother of six, including toddler triplets, she’s author of YA fiction, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the Diamond Estates Series, and non-fiction for teens including Girl Talk, 2/1/12, based on the popular advice column she writes with her two daughters. Hot Buttons, O’Dell’s non-fiction series for parents, pre-empts peer pressure by tackling tough issues and was recently endorsed by Focus on the Family. Visit www.nicoleodell.com for access to her bustling blog network and other resources.
(Feature Image by Cary Anne Photography, 2012) Last week, I whispered a final goodnight to Meg and Henry when I released Perfect Glass to my agent. And, if you’re wondering, they’re good. So good. They said to tell you hello.
I know, I know, that book has been a promise and a dangling carrot for months, years, it seems. For you and for me. I wrote it, worked with an editor. Rewrote it. Got an agent and rewrote it again. But, as the famous saying goes, a book is not written, it is rewritten. And it is through the fire that it is forged and perfected. I will say more about this in a moment, but let me say now that Perfect Glass is quite a story.
I feel I owe you an explanation about its delay, and I’ll try to do that as far as I’m allowed. And, in fact, I should apologize for not being able to give you a release date for it yet.
It means that I was too timid to take the huge leap of trying to find an agent and sell my book to a large house. It means I wasn’t sure I was cut out for this world. It means my writerly ego is tiny. I wanted to dip a toe into the angry waters of publishing first. Westbow was a perfect fit for me because it allowed me to move at my own pace and have complete authorial say in what my words expressed and my tone evoked and my cover spoke.
It means I could say ‘baptism’ and you would know exactly where I was coming from. It means I could write about a typical, red-blooded rancher’s son who knew what he was about and spoke openly about his faith while also admitting Meg was a big temptation for him. It means I could put Meg in situations that reflected a reality while allowing her to simply observe and learn. She could be me. She could be you. We could figure it out together. And, we did.
Here’s the beautiful part—you. You are the beautiful part. You got it. You understood Meg’s tenderness. You fell in love with the way Henry looked at her. You cried with me and wrote me and told your friends and the book sold and sold. And you forgave me what I did wrong and supported me where I did right. I will love you until the day I leave this earth for these things you did for me.
One of the best things you did for me was you bought the book in numbers great enough to make me interesting to an agent. A super agent—Amanda Luedeke with the MacGregor Literary Agency. Amanda is one of those young, up-and-coming types who loves YA like you do. And she believes in my ability to turn phrases and create moments. I like her. I think you would, too. And Amanda is going to bat for me right now, working hard to get Glass Girl into a publishing house where it will attract more readers and speak to more teens who are just trying to live meaningful lives full of heart.
This, as I’m learning, takes time. A lot of time. Maybe more than a year. Who knows? But, if Amanda is successful at getting a house to buy Glass Girl, she would follow it up with Perfect Glass. If not, I promise, I will make Perfect Glass available in the same way Glass Girl is currently available. Fingers crossed, please, that things don’t take long.
Now, more on why I love Perfect Glass. This book continues the love affair between Henry and Meg, but it, like life, throws some curve balls. Like long distance. Like other people who are mightily attractive. Like heartbreak in Nicaragua and in Chapin. Like a curmudgeonly old woman who has deep things to teach Meg. Like a former gang member who has the power to break Henry. And throughout the story, Henry keeps saying to Meg—“Yes. Still yes. Always yes.”
I can’t wait for you to read it.
And now, this week, I awakened another book. I love it already. It’s a story about place as identity. It’s about hating where you came from for some surprising reasons. It’s about believing the lie that you’re better than some place and allowing that belief to make you miss out on a whole ton of beauty. It’s about the regret implicit in missing out. It’s about coming home and being okay with that. That’s all I can say because my Muse is giving me the gimlet eye from the chair across the way.
In the meantime, I’m also hanging around Nicole O’Dell’s Choose Now Ministry a lot. You’ll find me there and on the radio every month talking about the morality of celebrities (Laura Kurk | On Hollywood). I’m finding it interesting work. And challenging.
I also work with a teen writers’ critique group through a great organization called NextGen Writers. There’ll be a virtual conference this August and I’m a virtual presenter. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what that means. Please, check it out and register. I’ll look forward to virtually seeing you there.
And one of my best things is I get to go to the Oregon coast this summer and hang out on a cliff over the Pacific for a while. I’m dreaming of it already. I’ll post a lot of pictures of the four of us windblown and salty.
My wish for you is a perfect, relaxing, no-strings kind of summer. Let yourself be bored and recognize the value in it. Let your mind wander. Smile and laugh a lot. And wear cut-off jeans and cheap sunglasses. And smell like cocoa butter. And by all means, listen to good music loudly. And read. Oh, my gosh. Read. You know. Summer stuff.
Well, more than one, really. 1) She named me one of 7 versatile bloggers, bestowing this cool award jpeg on me; 2) She reminded me that I’m not tossing words off the cliffs of nowhere; and 3) She challenged me (inadvertently) to keep up with my own blog at least as well as I do my other monthly features (like Laura Kurk On Hollywood and KatharosNow). Thank you, kind new friend April!
So my acceptance speech is supposed to be a list of seven random things about me. And then at the end of my speech, I’m to name 7 other bloggers who are versatile and worthy of a follow.
Here goes . . .
I am a descendant of Laura Foster, the woman killed by her impoverished Confederate veteran lover, Tom Dula (Dooley). He reportedly stabbed her many times with a large knife and buried her body. His former lover who was insanely jealous of Laura, reported the location of Laura’s body. He was hanged for the crime but not before it became a media circus because of love triangles and STDs. Oh, and there’s a song . . .
As a teenager, when I felt nervous, I would get dry heaves. This was especially embarrassing on the night of junior prom (my first actual date with an actual boy, alone in his actual car). You can fill in the awful details.
I tried stuffing my bra exactly once. Unfortunately, the toilet paper I used worked its way up and over the top of my shirt during the day. I didn’t know that until I went to the restroom during last period and saw a streamer of toilet paper hanging halfway down my body. FAIL.
One time, driving from my west Texas college to Oklahoma for the holidays, I ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere. I coasted into a station that looked more closed than open. But there was a guy there, and the pumps did work. After filling up, I found that I’d left my wallet in my dorm. I had a small TV in the car, so I gave that to the man at the counter, smiled, and thanked him for the gas.
I posed for a picture with meth addicts in London’s Piccadilly Circus. I don’t recommend it.
I can type freakishly fast. Like blurred hands fast. I won a state typing contest in high school. Nerd.
And the Number 1 random thing about me:
I have what a frustrated orthopedist once said were “Just extra bones . . . get over it,” in my feet. They’re like second ankle bones, slightly below and west of my real ankle bones. They’ve got a name but I forget. They make wearing shoes, any type of shoes, weird. When I was in high school, I saw the first doctor about them. He gave me a foot rub and charged my mom $500.
Now for my blogging awards–
Tessa Hall is an eighteen-year-old (maybe 19 now?) writer who is getting ready to release her first novel. I love her tender blog–Christ is Write–written mostly for teen girls, that tackles matters of the heart, faith, and writing. She’s a talented girl and someone to follow.
Mara Schasteen, an expressive naturalist painter in Wyoming, maintains a beautiful blog known for its abundance of heart and willingness to tell all her painting secrets. She’s a lover of nature and people and beauty and God and she’s as expressive with her words as she is with her paintbrushes.
I like Ruthie Dean’s blog a lot. She’s filling a gap, speaking to twenty-something professionals who are worried about things like ‘will i ever get married?’ and ‘how can i recover from all these mistakes i’ve made?” She’s honest, authentic, and witty. She says what she means.
I’m a huge fan of Stephanie Morrill’s Go Teen Writers! Stephanie does incredible mentoring of young, aspiring writers at her site. I’ve not seen a post yet which wasn’t full of meat and potato writing advice. She hosts contests, hooks writers up with mentors, and teaches workshop style lessons. It’s great stuff!
The MacGregory Literary blog – hosted as chipmacgregor.com is one to follow if you have any interest in writing and publishing. Chip is known for bringing a touch of humor and realism to the world of agenting and publishing and he has surrounded himself with fantastically smart people. My own agent, Amanda Luedeke, blogs every Thursday (Thursdays with Amanda) and she gives advice about how to make it in the industry. It’s a “How To” sort of column that breaks things down into chunks we can handle.
One of my favorite new blogs is Ryan Pemberton‘s hands&feet|thoughts on experiencing and sharing Him. Ryan has the amazing claim to fame of living in C.S. Lewis’s former home while studying theology at Oxford. Yeah. It’s cool, I know. And his writing style is emotional and full of heart. I cry when I read him and I see a lot of themes in his writing that I strive for in my own.
My number one most favorite versatile blog is Sara Zarr’s. Sara’s the best thing happening in YA right now, in my opinion, and it’s not just because she has a way with words. She also graciously shares her time, talent, knowledge, and heart with her readers and, most importantly for me, other writers. She’s open about her own stumbles as she finds her way in this odd calling–the creative life. Her new podcasts, in which she interviews a well-known creative person each week, are beast. Follow her if you like to hear smart, sensitive, bold AND vulnerable things being said. And if you like to laugh.
So that’s me and a few of my favorite things! Thanks again, April Line, for the shout out . . .
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Q: My boyfriend and I (10th graders) went to the Valentine Dance where you could buy a balloon and have it delivered to someone as a surprise. A teacher came toward me with three balloons tied together. I said, “Awww! That’s so sweet!” to my boyfriend because I knew that would have cost him $15.00. Problem was, I could tell right away by the look on his face they weren’t from him. I have no idea who sent them, but now my boyfriend thinks I’ve got something going on behind his back. Should I leave it alone or try to find out who it was so my boyfriend will believe me?
That’s a question you’ll find among 179 others in the new book by me and my two daughters, Natalie and Emily. We answer questions from real readers who are dealing with issues just like you!
Each of us has a set of experiences and circumstances, some within our control, and some not, that shapes the way we look at choices, temptation, sin, peer pressure, and everything that comes up along the way. I believe in helping you prepare for your choices before you find yourself staring peer pressure in the face. You’ll feel more equipped to stand strong. To say NO to whatever life throws at you.
And poor decisions are one thing, but there’s also the stuff you girls deal with that you have no control over: divorce, abuse, loss, grief, illness, financial strain, etc. . .etc. . . Those life-altering circumstances make it even more difficult for you to stand against the pressure when all you want is friendship, acceptance, and love.
It takes pro-active, intentional effort to make the necessary preparations to help you prepare yourself to combat peer pressure.
That’s why my daughters and I started the Girl Talk Column on my blog. We wanted to give girls a place they could go with those tough questions about life. The column grew and the questions built up to the point when we, along with Barbour Publishing, decided to put 180 questions from readers and our answers into a book. But it’s not just any book–the vibrant, trendy format has a scrapbook-y feel as each page is full color with graphics galore. Take a look at the trailer to get a better feel for what it looks like:
And here’s some info right from the back cover:
Q: My mom is always on me about what I wear. I just don’t see why it should matter to her. I mean, she got to wear the things she wanted to wear when she was young–the styles are different now, though. She won’t let me wear any shirts that show even a fraction of my stomach, and I have to actually bend over in jeans to prove to her that nothing shows in the back—if you know what I mean. She even says there’s stuff in the Bible about the way to dress right. Is that true? What should I do to change her mind?
Q: I have a friend who is pretty skinny, but she thinks she’s fat. . . . I actually heard her make herself throw up in the school bathroom a couple of times. What should I do about it? Or is it none of my business?
It’s Time for Some Girl Talk! . . .
Popular blogging trio—mother, Nicole O’Dell, along with daughters, Emily and Natalie—offer trustworthy, biblically-based advice for all your ups, downs, and in-betweens. Culled from actual questions they’ve encountered on their blog site, this fabulous resource offers real-life helps for issues including relationships, character, body image, fashion, gossip, and more. You’ll find 180 questions along with answers and related scripture selections that will both encourage and challenge you in your faith walk.
Now, if you’re curious about the question posted at the start of this post, you can check our our answers right here:
And if you’d like to win a copy of Girl Talk, signed by all three of us, just leave a comment here. Tweeting about this post will earn you another entry if you let us know you did. I’d also love it if you signed up for my Choices e-Zine/newsletter, too–that will earn you a third entry!
Remember, it’s all about choices!
Nicole O’Dell, founder of Choose NOW Ministries and host of Teen Talk Radio, is a mom of six—ranging from 20 all the way down to a set of toddler triplets. She writes fiction for teens including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the Diamond Estates Series. Her nonfiction focuses on helping teens make good choices and bridging the gap in parent/teen communication. On Teen Talk Radio, Nicole talks with teens and special guests about the real issues young people face today, and she loves getting out among teens and parents when speaking at youth groups and conferences. Visit www.nicoleodell.com or www.facebook.com/nicoleodell.
Emily is a straight-A fifth grader at Eastlawn School in Paxton, IL. She lives with her mom, stepdad, three sisters, and two broth- ers. Never found without her iPod, Emily loves to dance and sing. She’s a busy girl who enjoys swimming, skateboarding, and hanging out with friends. She’s active in her community and local church, and plans to be a teacher when she grows up.
Natalie is an honor student in the eighth grade at PBL Middle School in Paxton, IL. The oldest daughter of six kids, Natalie is a very loving and hands-on big sister. She’s passionate about her walk with Christ, and almost as passionate about the game of volleyball. She holds first- chair clarinet in the school band and looks forward to high school marching band. At this point, Natalie aspires to a career in the culinary arts, but is open to other possibilities.Read More