Homeschooling Today — January/February 2010
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Redemptive Love
Marti Pieper

My goal for my fiction is to present real life infused with real hope. The good news of the gospel is the most important story I could ever share, and I want readers of my books to come away with the message that no one is ever too far gone for God to love.

–author C.J. Darlington

C. J. Darlington achieves her stated objective in her award-winning novel Thicker than Blood (Tyndale House,

2010) . Relationships broken by time and choices, lives trapped in the turmoil of addictions and abuse, and the power of redemptive love all collide in this compelling work.

C. J. began Thicker than Blood as a fifteen-year-old homeschooled student. Nearly ten years and multiple revisions later, the manuscript won the 2008 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest (see “Firm Foundations, Fulfilled Dreams” in this issue for questions and answers with

C. J. plus her helpful tips for young writers).

Christy Williams, one of the main characters, has worked hard to move into a career as an antiquarian book buyer. But the shadows of her broken past stretch into her present. A signed Hemingway first edition, found in her possession, appears to threaten her hopes of turning her life around.

In the meantime, May faces her own challenges on the ranch where she lives and works. Will she be forced to turn the property over to the bank? How will she cope with the loss of her beloved Aunt Edna? And when will she be reunited with her estranged older sister, Christy?

Strong characters and a gripping plotline frame this action-packed adventure. Real-life details about the antiquarian book business and the daily tasks of life as a rancher add to its uniqueness. The story moves back and forth from Christy’s world to May’s until . . . Well, read and discover for yourself.

Parents, this is not a novel to read aloud as your little ones snuggle by the fire. It’s not a cozy, comfortable anecdote or a tale of perfect people who make all the right choices. Instead, it confronts us with real people who hurt, make mistakes, and see God move in their midst. Change a few details and it could be the story of your neighbor down the street or someone you see at church. It could even be your story.

Adult situations and conflicts lead me to suggest that parents read the novel first and decide whether their teens are ready to read it. The book will provide some fascinating jumping-off points for discussions about life, love, and the circumstances God uses to draw us to Himself.

No one is beyond redemption, and everyone needs to know the love of Christ. Those are the messages of Thicker than Blood and of homeschooled author C.J. Darlington. I’m thankful she chose to share them with us in this exciting first novel. I can hardly wait for more.

C. J.’s Tips for Young Writers and Their Teachers

How homeschooling helps writers learn and grow: If it weren’t for my parents’ choice of homeschooling, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Homeschooling taught me how to teach myself. But after I graduated, my parents were still there to help me pursue my dreams.

I believe the homeschool experience fosters individual thinking. That’s so important. I never want to swallow what someone tells me is truth without asking questions.

How homeschooling can build creativity: Mom required us to journal every day. We could write about whatever we wanted, and she promised she would never read our entries. That was a freeing experience.

I was thirteen when I started and still keep a journal.

Mom also built assignments around our interests. For example, she turned the newspaper Tracy and I started into an entire journalism course.

Through The Monthly Dart, we learned how to write editorials, limericks, fiction, news articles, and more because those areas intrigued us.

How to achieve your writing dreams: Never give up. If God has put the desire to write in your heart, He has a way of fulfilling it. I had the dream of being a published author for more than fifteen years before my first book released. Was it worth the wait? You bet. But you’ll never reach your dreams if you give up on them.

Putting It in Print: 1 Learn to type correctly. This is the one homeschool requirement I use every day. If you want to be a writer, it’s imperative.

2 Read great books. The best way to learn how to write fiction is to read great novels. It’s learning by osmosis. You’ll pick up concepts like how to structure a story, craft dialogue, and master point of view without realizing it.

3 Write about what you love. You’ll write best if your topic interests you. Do you love horses? Write a story about a girl and her horse.

Are airplanes your passion? Create a story that features a pilot. My sister, Tracy, started writing articles about Christian musicians for youth publications because she loved Christian music.

4 Be patient. Writing is an apprenticeship. It can take years to master the craft and achieve publication. Allow this to encourage you on days when the words don’t flow.