Fiction’s Delight and Truth

2015-06-nov-dec-outlook-coverAn article I wrote about why Christians should read fiction appears in the November issue of The Outlook. You can page through this online preview to read that article as well as a lovely review of my Matthew books.

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Local Book Launch

MMAFasten your seat belts! Books 2 & 3 of my Matthew in the Middle series will officially launch this afternoon at 5-4-3-2-1 PM.

Patricia, whose melodious voice and godly spirit warm listeners’ hearts, plans to interview me at 1:00 CT today on KCWN 99.9, where hope shines. If you’re out of range of the station’s reach, you can listen live on the website.

on air
General Manager Bev De Vries took this picture through the production room window while Patricia and I were on the air on December 19, 2014.

Having grown up as a pastor’s daughter, Patricia feels as affinity for my book boy, Matthew. After she read Matthew Muddles Through, she said it seemed like I must have been in her childhood home. She interviewed me about that first book of the Matthew in the Middle series last December (you can read about that day here.)

Matthew Makes Strides and Matthew Moves Aheadthe second and third books of the Matthew in the Middle series, are far more exciting, so I’m eager to hear what Patricia thinks of them. Tune in at 1 PM today to find out!

Local people, send all your friends and relatives over to the station at 304 Oskaloosa St in Pella to get signed copies of these and my other published books. Thanks for supporting this official launch and helping place quality literature into the hands of middle grade readers!

If you or your children have already read the books, what are some things you enjoy about the stories?

 

Redeemer Reader reviews Matthew Muddles Through

PrintGreetings, readers!

Janie over at Redeemed Reader has posted a review of the first book of my Matthew in the Middle series, Matthew Muddles Through

Her review captures the spirit and time frame of the novel as she describes Matthew and his problems in creative ways. She notes that any reader with siblings can relate to some of them. She also mentions his struggle with how to grow up as a Christian “without necessarily thinking in those terms.” She writes:

As the son of a pastor he knows the expectations of his community, but his inclinations don’t always match up. He’s at the age where kids are beginning to question of what they’ve always been taught and how it applies to them personally. Matthew has no hidden supernatural abilities and will not be chosen to save the world, but the Holy Spirit is at work in him anyway, and it’s a struggle worth watching.

Check out the entire review here!

Dedicating Matthew, Take Two

Logan-MMS-2The second novel about my “book boy” Matthew is dedicated to my second grandson, Logan. During this past week, I had the opportunity to present a copy of the book to him.

Putting a copy in his hands was almost as much fun as writing this stimulating story. Others who’ve read the book find it exciting as well. This is what Douglas Bond, who’s written Duncan’s War and other works of historical fiction, says:

Glenda Faye Mathes writes with energy and intentionality. When she writes about a coming tornado, it feels so real, I start glancing nervously out the window. Young people will feel like the author knows them, is inside their heads, so intimate is her knowledge of her readers. This is a frank and honest portrayal of a preacher’s kid, but one that speaks to the extraordinary challenges and joys of ordinary growing up. Highly recommended.

This is a huge compliment, coming from the author of engaging nonfiction and many intensely thrilling novels.

Another excellent writer provided a second meaningful endorsement. Simonetta Carr, author of Christian Biographies for Young Readers, writes:

Well written and captivating, this book—as the previous one in the series—takes us through the everyday life of Matthew Vos, an inquiring and thoughtful fifth grader who faces many typical challenges of a middle child and “Preacher’s Kid.” There are surprises along the way, and important lessons as Matthew strives to overcome his fears and to be more like the heroes he admires. I was impressed by the author’s ability to describe in a very plausible and heartfelt manner the inner thoughts of a young child. Although the book is set in a specific situation (a Dutch Reformed community in 1996 America), many children in different circumstances will easily identify with Matthew’s feelings and struggles.

Simonetta’s books are beautiful with rich illustrations. They include the San Diego Book Awards finalists, John Owen and Lady Jane Grey, and winner of the award, Anselm of Canterbury.

Receiving these wonderful endorsements from excellent writers thrilled me, but I also hoped the book’s portrayals of military aspects and heroism were realistic and compelling.

Paul T. Berghaus is a West Point graduate and U.S. Army Chaplain, who has been deployed in combat situations and currently serves as Ethics Instructor and Infantry Chapel Pastor at Ft. Benning, GA. He writes:

Matthew Makes Strides quickly captured my attention and provoked thoughts and emotions that are sympathetic with those of several characters in the story. Glenda Faye Mathes does an excellent job portraying the trauma, excitement, and relief of events where great danger and courage are present. Her chapters are rich in narration, imagery, momentum, and emotion. They also contain a good amount of humor to guard against overly heavy intensity. I am thankful that she is writing Matt’s story and sharing it with readers of all ages, and I applaud her for taking up topics of fear, loss, courage, and authentic masculinity.

In his communication with me, Chaplain Berghaus confirmed that my portrayals in the story exactly captured the characteristics and emotions of military veterans and memorial services. He even noted how the military veteran helping Matthew cope with being a hero brought healing to the veteran himself. This subtle theme may escape most young readers, but I was delighted when an experienced military man recognized it.

Logan-MMSI’m so thankful these people enjoyed and appreciated this second novel in Matthew’s story, and I hope my all grandsons and you will too!

You can find Matthew Makes Strides, as well as Matthew Muddles Through, the first book of the Matthew in the Middle series, on Amazon.

Birth of a Book

PrintI’m excited to share this first blog look at the cover of my newest novel, Matthew Makes Strides, which will be released soon. The wonderful artwork by Ken Raney captures the emotion of this intense moment.

Matthew Makes Strides is the second novel of my Matthew in the Middle series for middle grade readers. Book 1, Matthew Muddles Through, is already available on Amazon.

Yesterday I finished the final revision of the final book of the series, Matthew Moves Ahead. It still needs to go through a lengthy editing process, but the Matthew narrative is now—and finally—complete.

I spent some time this morning thinking about how Matthew came to be and crafting the story of his birth.

My book boy Matthew grew for more years than his age (11) in these novels. He was conceived in a course I took on fiction writing in 2002, as an experiment challenging myself to write in a point of view very different from personal experience. As a boring and sedate old lady, I’d write from the first-person perspective of an imaginative and active young boy.

I named that embryo Caleb to reflect the faithfulness and zeal of the biblical believer, who urged the Israelites to fight giants and enter the Promised Land (Numbers 13:30), and who at 85 years of age was still eager to fight for the Lord (Joshua 14:6-12). Military matters interested Caleb, the middle child in a minister’s family, who became acquainted with a Vietnam veteran named Mr. Winters.

My short story began with Caleb washing his toy soldiers in the bathroom sink and showed him playing a basketball game of Horse with his older brother, while Dad spoke to Mr. Winters in the kitchen. I loved Caleb. And my instructor loved the story, calling the scene with the two boys playing basketball in the cold “beautiful.” He suggested I submit another Caleb narrative as my next assignment. That second short story described the chaos of a Sunday morning when everything goes wrong. Later that day Mr. Winters shared a glimpse of his tormented past, and Caleb witnessed to him about the truths of God’s word and how those things are worth fighting—and dying—for. The story concludes with the two going upstairs for apple pie. (Readers of Matthew Muddles Through will recognize that these stories developed into Chapter 10: Banished, as well as Chapter 14: Trouble with a Capital T, and Chapter 16: Peace Follows Battle.)

My book boy continued to develop and was born in 2007 as Matthew Henry Vos. The poor fellow suffered a sickly childhood, undergoing numerous surgeries and lengthy hospitalizations. His debut presentation plans changed from one novel to four to three, and back to four and then to three again (more than once). Matthew made it through some preliminary auditions in 2009 and flew to the big city in 2010 to make a name for himself, but came back home feeling rejected. I visited him from time to time; however, he languished in recovery for years.

Until late in 2013, when my oldest grandson asked, “Grandma, did you ever finish that story about Matthew?”

Well. If my grandson wanted to read Matthew’s story, I ought to finish it before he lost interest. And he was almost a teenager. I determined to put the first book in his hands for his thirteenth birthday. Which I did in 2014.

Now the second one is almost ready to be released, and the third one is written. And that’s the story of how my book boy Matthew was born.

Matthew two, too

Soon, very soon I hope, the second novel in my Matthew in the Middle series will be available.

PrintThe first novel, Matthew Muddles Through, is already available on Amazon. In this story, readers meet Matthew and his family, which includes a dad who’s a minister, a mom who’s sick all the time, an older brother who harasses Matthew, and a younger brother who annoys him. But he struggles with difficulties on more than just the home front. Trouble swirls around him in every part of his world. Although he’s longed for three years to attend the 1996 Cadet International Camporee, he wonders if he’ll ever go.

In the second novel, Matthew Makes Strides on multiple levels. He meets new people, becomes a faster runner, and draws closer to his Camporee dream. But he really progresses in overcoming his fears and in his understanding about what it means to be a hero.

Because this second novel explores the concept of courage, and because part of that involves Matthew’s deepening friendship with a veteran, I wanted the professional opinion of a military expert. I asked an Army chaplain, a West Point graduate with combat experience who now teaches ethics, if he’d be willing to review some chapters. He was. And he sent me the most encouraging message I’d ever received that said (in part):

The chapters quickly captured my attention and provoked thoughts and emotions that are sympathetic with those of several characters in the story…. Your description of the accident…especially the fear, injuries, and actions of [multiple characters] prompted in a cathartic way several memories of my and my soldiers’ experiences in Iraq. You did an excellent job describing and portraying the trauma, excitement, and relief of events where there is great danger and courage present.
You also did a wonderful job introducing [the veteran] to the circumstances of this particular event as a wounded yet compassionate figure who is being healed while he helps heal Matt. I found his conversation with Matt to be very touching and also appropriate. He could have said more about courage, heroism, and his combat experience, but what he did say was just the right amount for a boy of Matt’s age and for your audience to hear.
Lastly, I thought the chapter on the Memorial Day flag-raising ceremony was very good. You rightly begin it with the rifle salute and playing of Taps. Those two parts of every memorial or funeral service typically occur at the end of the service, but for all practical purposes they are the beginning and the invocation of the emotions held unexpressed up to that point. In the dozens of services I have performed, the rifle salute and Taps are followed by the sobs of those who have lost those whom they love.
Your chapters are rich in narration, imagery, momentum, and emotion. They also contain a good amount of humor to guard against overly heavy emotion or intensity. I am thankful that you are writing Matt’s story and sharing it with your readers of all ages. I applaud you for taking up the topics of courage, authentic masculinity, fear, and loss. I pray that the Lord will use these books as well as the other things you have written on these topics to comfort and encourage many others. You certainly did that for me.

How wonderfully his words encouraged me! They reinforced my commitment to keep marketing Matthew Muddles Through, the first novel in the Matthew in the Middles series, and made me eager to share Matthew’s continuing story with you when Matthew Makes Strides, the second novel in the series, becomes available, too. Soon. May it please God.

Slaying the Discouragement Dragon

Jerry Vanderstedt’s image of Smaug, created at San Diego’s Comic-Con in 2014 (image from Vandersteldt’s Facebook page). You can find more of his incredible artwork by clicking on this link to his website.

Discouragement can seem as overwhelming as a fire-breathing dragon. It singes your body, saps your energy, and steals your very breath. Like Smaug in The Hobbit, its speech invades your mind and twists your thinking. How can you defend yourself against such an insuperable enemy?

Several recent events have discouraged me in my work. In fact, I can’t remember a time when I’ve felt discouragement so strongly. My feelings led me to an online search for Bible texts that might help lift my spirit. I needed divine assistance to switch my focus from feeling sorry for myself to keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

I found many lovely verses, including several I’ve written about, like the frequent biblical commands to “fear not” or “be strong and of good courage” and 2 Corinthians 12’s promise of “sufficient grace,” all of which I reflected on in A Month of Sundays: 31 Meditations on Resting in God. I came across beautiful verses about God’s “tender mercies” and his “great peace” as well as the “deep delight” we can have in him; verses I explored in Discovering Delight: 31 Meditations on Loving God’s Law. My search brought up several Psalm references, including these gems I discussed in Little One Lost: Living with Early Infant Loss – “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (Ps. 3:3). “Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Ps. 33:22). And this verse, which also appears in Discovering Delight: “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word” (Ps. 119:114). I was even reminded of how God encouraged Elijah when he ran away and wallowed in his pity party, an incident discussed in Matthew Muddles Through.

My morning search also yielded a very helpful lesson on Overcoming Discouragement by Steven J. Cole, pastor of Flagstaff Christian Fellowship in Arizona. Rev. Cole bases this excellent lesson on Ezra 5:1-17 and suggests this strategy for dealing with discouragement:

To overcome discouragement, we need a fresh encounter with God’s Word, we need to get back to work for Him and to persevere, trusting Him to accomplish His will through us.

When we’re discouraged, we’re tempted–like Elijah–to hibernate and wallow in pity. But we must dig into the Word, force ourselves to get back to work, and trust God to fulfill his purpose for us (Psalm 138:8). People and circumstances will discourage us, but God’s word encourages us.

As I face the Dragon of Discouragement, the sword in my hand may appear small and dull. But this weapon isn’t mine at all; it’s God’s. And it’s the substantial and razor-sharp Word of the Lord.

Two new books launched

DSCN4962What a fun Friday! A radio interview and book signing doubled the fun during my local launch of two new books. Between 10:15 and 10:45 yesterday (December 19), Patricia interviewed me on the local Christian radio station, KCWN 99.9. After that, I signed books during the station’s Christmas open house until 1:00. I want to thank General Manager, Bev De Vries, and DJ Patricia for their gracious hospitality. The station’s facility is decorated beautifully, and entering it feels like stepping into a welcoming home.

Patricia made the interview completely painless. In fact, it was a lot of fun. Growing up as the middle child in a pastor’s family, she felt a lot of affinity for my book-boy Matthew. Talking about him and the problems he faces in Matthew Muddles Through was a hoot. She shared her enthusiasm for the story with listeners.

Bev De Vries took this picture through the production room window while Patricia and I were on the air.
Bev De Vries took this picture through the production room window while Patricia and I were on the air.

We then discussed my other new release, Discovering Delight: 31 Meditations on Loving God’s Law. She described it as going “deep” and we talked about the writing style, which Aimee Byrd called “a commendable style of commentary meets personal devotion.” Patricia and I also spoke briefly about Little One Lost: Living with Early Infant Loss and A Month of Sundays: 31 Meditations on Loving God’s Law. Before I went off the air, I had the opportunity to share my excitement about my current memoir collaboration project with Uriah Courtney, who was recently exonerated after more than eight years of wrongful incarceration.

booksBook signings are always enjoyable. It’s great to meet new friends and experience the support of existing ones. The best kind of book signings are when a steady stream of people comes in and I have time to speak to each person individually. And this was one of those signings with wonderful opportunities to talk to individuals, including some people I hadn’t seen for years.

I’m thankful for the doors God opens and I grateful he equips me to walk through them. books-2

Local launch and book signing

Glenda Mathes and Diane Smith at my September 9, 2013, book signing
Glenda Mathes and Diane Smith at my September 9, 2013, book signing

This Friday, Lord willing, I’ll be interviewed by Patricia on KCWN 99.9 FM and will be signing books during the station’s Christmas Open House from 11:00 to 1:00. The station is located at 304 Oskaloosa St. in Pella. Local people, come over between 11:00 and 1:00 for some cookies and conversation!

And if you’re still looking for Christmas gifts, you can’t go wrong by giving someone an opportunity to dig into God’s Word. Discovering-Delight-front (1)Copies of my new devotional, Discovering Delight: 31 Meditations on Loving God’s Law will be available for $10.

Searching for a gift for a middle grade reader, aged 8 to 12? Why not foster their reading skills with a novel that conveys truth in an engaging story? Matthew Muddles Through is about an ordinary but imaginative kid, the middle child in a minister’s family, who faces trouble on every side. Matthew’s humor and imagination help him cope with his problems, and in the process he learns more about loving others and trusting God. Copies of this juvenile fiction novel, the first is a series of three, will be available on Friday for $10.

PrintI’ll also have available copies of A Month of Sundays: 31 Meditations on Resting in God and Little One Lost: Living with Early Infant Loss for $10 each. One fortunate person will be able to purchase my singular copy of Not My Own: Discovering God’s Comfort in the Heidelberg Catechism for $15. This is the first volume of the popular Life in Christ catechism curriculum, which has sold in several countries and is being translated into eight languages.

Save shipping! Buy any of these books on Friday and the author will be happy to sign them for you.

Those of you who don’t live nearby may be interested to know that I’m scheduled to be interviewed on the Janet Meffert Show on Monday, December 20, at 2:30 Central time. You can listen online at the show’s website.

Thursday Thanks

PrintToday I’m thankful that a mom in Canada took the time to share this on my Facebook page:

I am reading Matthew Muddles Through to my nine-year-old and seven-year-old every evening before bed. They are just LOVING it. Every night I hear, ‘Please! Another chapter, Mom. Pretty, pretty please?’

It’s so great to hear of kids enjoying Matthew’s story. What an encouragement!

And it’s not too late to order copies for the kids on your list.