Who We Are
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He co-founded Story Embers in the Spring of 2018 and leads the site as editor-in-chief, where he sets visions and goals, reviews submissions, handles web design & marketing, and oversees site initiatives.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader and a writer as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him teaching writers at Ink Slinger Academy or writing short stories on his website as he works toward achieving these goals.
Brianna Storm Hilvety
Managing Editor & Graphics Director
Brianna Storm Hilvety has been a professional editor for four years, a writer for more than a decade, and a bibliophile from the moment she pronounced her first syllable. Although she began as a writer, her penchant for noticing typos and obsession with syntax compelled her to wield a red pen rather than a black one. She loves aiding writers in achieving their aspirations to captivate and change the world through fiction. Interacting with these passionate, brave souls bolsters her belief that even the quietest whisper or the tiniest mark on a page can bring comfort, conviction, and cheer to others.
At Story Embers, she juggles multiple roles—founding board member, managing editor, and graphics director. She oversees the entire publishing department and its personnel, ensuring that content is processed, edited, scheduled, and posted on the site weekly, as well as superintends the creation of visual elements and organizes writing contests.
In addition to her ongoing work at SE, she’s served a variety of authors, publishers, and writers organizations, such as Gilead Publishing, Castle Gate Press, and Kingdom Pen. Her professional affiliations include gold membership at The Christian PEN, editing certifications from The PEN Institute, and copyediting and proofreading expertise at the Christian Editor Connection. If you’re interested in having your voice and style sharpened, you can find a full description of her editorial services at TheLiteraryCrusader.com.
Many moons ago, a series of suspiciously providential events led Daeus to cast his lot among the worldwide community of Christian storytellers. Since then, he is not reported to have come back out. Perhaps he is lost among those fine gallivanters forever. Rest in peace, Daeus Lamb.
Daeus has the twin ambitious visions of reaching thousands of readers with his fiction and helping other Christian artists do the same. In pursuit of the second vision, he is currently involved as a board member of Story Embers and runs his own online endeavor to help writers: Excelsior Writing School.
In pursuit of his first vision (Daeus often gets things out of order), he is building a following of amazing readers and working on his first fantasy trilogy, which he hopes will inspire his readers with its heartfelt themes, semi-allegorical aspects, and of course plain-old-fun action and adventure! To join his hoard of jaw-droppingly-wonderful readers, pick up your free copy of his book God of Manna and get reading.
Daeus often contemplates whether he is a serious person or not. He has still not decided.
Rolena is a country-loving girl who wears cowgirl boots and has dreamed of being Cinderella since she was four. She has an explosive imagination that leads her on crazy adventures in other worlds, yet she somehow always ends up back at her desk with a pencil and cup of coffee in hand. Besides writing late at night and devouring books, she has a tremendous love of music and musical theater, which led her to become a stage director and vocal teacher.
Her favorite places to be are up in her Attic, the local bookstore, or any place with people. On her shelf of favorite books you’ll find The False Prince, The Prisoner of Zenda, The Choosing, Princess Academy, and The Lost Girl of Astor Street. Her favorite thing to do is laugh.
Though she has tried to stop writing, she’s never been able to and has no intention of doing so in the near future. Or ever for that matter. Being a part of the Story Embers staff has blessed her with many writerly friends who have all kept her dream to write alive—a passion she hopes to pass on to all her writing friends, including the ones she has yet to meet. You can connect with Rolena and learn more about her writing endeavors over at The Author’s Attic.
Public Relations Director & Graphic Designer
Mariposa Aristeo is a self-taught artist and aspiring children’s author who captures the glories of God’s creation on paper. Here at Story Embers, she serves as the public relations director and graphic designer because she desires to encourage other storytellers to craft novels that ignite the imagination and warm the heart.
In between writing and working at SE, she loves illustrating books, such as A Visit to Oaklenbrooke Farm. She hopes to someday publish her own children’s book, a kooky tale that combines humor, heart, and her longtime love of dinosaurs. Her book-eating assistant, Aberdeen the Authorosaurus, supplies her with most of her story ideas and forces her to write by threatening to sit on her.
As a reclusive INFJ, she enjoys quiet activities like baking, bicycling, watching Pixar movies and old TV shows, reading Charles Spurgeon books, and burning spiders at the stake. Her favorite things include chocolate-covered pineapple, the ocean, glitter, the color teal, and plumerias.
Grace Livingston is a daydreamer who lives off music, travel, stories, and laughter.
Ever been hiking in a national park and caught the faint sound of someone singing her heart out just off the trail? That was probably Gracie. Ever been going about your business in a grocery store and seen a young woman walk full-on into an endcap? That was probably Gracie too. She was likely trying to multitask world-building and shopping without her lifesaver sister to guide her around obstructions. (And people wonder why she waited as long as possible before getting her driver’s license.)
As a lifetime book lover, few things hurt Gracie more than turning the last page of a book and bidding farewell to the world it let her explore. Some books that were the hardest to say goodbye to are The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Emma, The Man Who Was Thursday, North and South, and The Little White Horse.
Gracie aspires to live fearlessly and intentionally for her Creator in all that she does. She explores the beauty of life and creation with her pens and watercolors, and she’s on a constant lookout for magic in the little things—like staying up until two a.m. laughing with her siblings or being dragged out of bed at all hours of the night by her mother to go stargaze or watch the sunrise. (Looking for magic in the little things may cost Gracie a lot of sleep, but she believes the experiences are worth it.)
Hope Ann likes to think herself a dragon-riding, griffin-taming founder of worlds and explorer of legends. Using chocolate, she bribes a wide ring of spies, from the realm leapers of Aslaria to the double agents of Elkbend, for their stories. She thrives on frost, steel, and the tears of her readers, which she secretly mixes into iced coffee. Deep in her hobbit hole, her actual life involves staying up too late writing, reading, researching stab wounds, and struggling to remember the difference between effect and affect. Based in Indiana, she is the self-published author of the Legends of Light series. Hope Ann helps other writers as a personal writing coach and the newsletter manager at Story Embers. You can find out more about her at AuthorHopeAnn.com, or pick up her first novelette for free by clicking here.
MacKenzie, affectionately known as “Mac,” is an unashamed coffee lover and chocolate consumer. She committed to her favorite relationship at age four when she asked Jesus into her heart. Having her best friend around all the time is awesome.
Along with laughing with her best friends (AKA her siblings), she spends her time reading, writing, discussing theology with her friends, pondering the deep questions in life, and learning about people’s personalities.
An optimistic ENFP, Mac loves getting to know the people around her and learning everything she can. She has finished four drafts but will probably never edit them into something fit to be seen by the public eye. Her favorite part of novel writing is creating the characters. It’s like a little taste of what God must feel when he creates each one of us.
At the end of the day, she simply wants to glorify God and point each person she meets to Him.
As the daughter of missionaries, Kara Swanson spent her childhood in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate with characters dropped into a unique new world, she fell in love with the fantasy genre and was soon penning stories herself. She is the award-winning author of The Girl Who Could See and upcoming Peter Pan retelling, Dust (Enclave, 2020). She helps aspiring authors tell powerful stories as an Author Coach and a faculty member of the Young Writer’s Workshop alongside Brett Harris. Kara is passionate about crafting stories of light shattering darkness, forming sincere connections with readers and becoming best friends with a mermaid—though not necessarily in that order. Find her online at KaraSwanson.com.
Publication Manager & Staff Writer
Cindy Green is a forest-wandering, poetry-scribbling stargazer with messy notebooks and messy thoughts. Despite her love for all of God’s creation, sunflowers and stars in particular have a way of sneaking into both her writing and her heart (but you won’t hear her complaining about it). She is an amateur sword-wielder with a Highland-dancing warrior spirit who also writes letters to the moon and considers the sky her best friend. While Cindy enjoys a wide range of smile-inducing activities such as camping, downhill skiing, and reading, her favorites include listening to the whispering of the wind and singing along to every word at a Skillet concert (resulting in the temporary misplacement of her voice). A focused daydreamer, organized pack rat, and oblivious observer, she is a self-professing ambivert (or a living contradiction) who deeply feels both the beauty and fallen state of the world. Through her words, she hopes to describe the indescribable and form personal connections with people while reflecting a love for her Savior and a passion for everything she touches.
Social Media Manager & Staff Writer
A long time ago on a hill not so far away, Gabrielle Pollack fell in love. Not with ice cream or cats (though those things are never far from her side) but with storytelling. Since then, she’s been glued to a keyboard and is always in the midst of a writing project, whether a story, blog post, or book. She was a reader before becoming a writer, however, and believes paradise should include thick novels, hot cocoa, a warm fire, and “Do Not Disturb” signs. Her favorite stories include Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn saga and Nadine Brandes’s Out of Time trilogy.
As those who know her will confess, Gabby is a whole lot of weirdness packed into one INFP. Sharp objects, storms, and trees are her friends, along with stubborn characters and, on occasion, actual people. When she’s not writing, she’s shooting arrows through thickets and subsequently missing her target, jamming on the piano, and pushing her cat off her keyboard. She hopes to infuse her fiction with honesty, victory, and hope, and create stories that grip readers from the first page to the last. Her other goals include saving the world and mastering a strange concept called adulthood. You can hang out with her on her quirky blog and Facebook.
“Well, I’m back.” The emotion those words spark in Lord of the Rings fans across the world perfectly describes how Brandon feels on a daily basis when he finishes writing. His fictional worlds, where the suns never set and Rutel is Servant-Lord of the Sky, leave him wanting more…but unfortunately life is still a thing. When Brandon can’t hang out in Faërie, he fills his time with normal mortal things like work, friends, (oxford commas) and family. He enjoys backyard football (or any sport), board games, English country dancing, and reading. He doesn’t particularly enjoy (but still spends time) driving, doing math, and waiting for YouTube ads to end.
Brandon enjoys writing-related-but-still-not-actually-writing activities including critiquing, outlining, and updating his blog, The Woodland Quill. Some of his favorite books (there are too many to list) are The 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson, Look and Live by Matt Papa (warning: nonfiction), and Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. (Due to his Lord of the Rings reference at the beginning of this blurb, he’s not going to bring that pinnacle of literary genius up again, although he probably should and sort of just did.)
Brandon lives on the Nebraska plains, where the people don’t actually live in teepees but do plant as much corn as the stereotypes suggest. His wonderful family keeps him somewhat grounded in reality, his friends keep his extroverted personality from imploding while he’s writing, and his ice cream keeps him…happy.
Poor ice cream.
As a kid, Maddie Morrow was constantly in trouble for writing when she was supposed to do school and reading when there were dishes to wash. At age twenty (plus change) she is happy to announce that school is behind her and she can write if she wants to. She’s going to ignore the dishes in the sink, okay?
Maddie grew up with her mom reading to her and her dad telling stories about cowboys hunting Bigfoot. This sparked her love of writing early. She’s been lost in her notebooks ever since and has a particular fondness for speculative fiction. Being homeschooled gave her the freedom to pursue her writing (as long as the dishes were done), and all of the writing cramps and marked-up notebooks paid off when her Gaslamp fantasy, Red as Blood, was one of five winners to be accepted for the Rooglewood Press Five Poisoned Apples collection, which released in December 2018.
Like any Nebraska girl, she puts way too much emphasis on Husker football and thinks that daily trips to the cornfield are normal. When she’s not madly scribbling in a notebook, you can probably find her poking around in the garden and begging things to grow, chasing her little boy around, or looking for tasty new foods to feed her husband. Some of her hobbies include consuming unhealthy amounts of Mountain Dew, admiring her guitar collection (and sometimes playing them), and acquiring more pets her husband doesn’t want. You can connect with her at http://www.maddie-morrow.blogspot.com/.
Graham Jackson, with all his enthusiasm for the joint power of the language and stories, is nevertheless a man of few words. An introverted Yankee through and through, Graham was born and raised on the North Shore of Massachusetts in a small town dating back to the 1600s. Homeschooled from an early age, Graham cultivated a love of history and reading from the start, and he has been hooked ever since. He discovered his love of literature and creative writing when he picked up Brian Jacques’s Redwall, as well as in high school, and he went on to get his bachelor’s degree in Literature from Patrick Henry College. His favorite color is “Red, the Blood of Angry Men” (although he likes many other colors), and his favorite season is autumn. He also likes dogs and long walks on the beach.
As for writing, Graham is an aspiring novelist and amateur poet. He has had a lot of experience writing poetry over the years, trying his hand at different forms, writing a short collection of sonnets, and playing with words. He finds a lot of meaning in poetry that has a real and lasting impact on daily life—scrutinizing the ordinary to find marvels in the mundane. Yet, poetry and prose are equally important and overlap in many ways.
Having recently graduated college, Graham is now at home with his family, getting ready to embark on some online teaching. Graham is thankful and excited for this opportunity to share his enthusiasm with Story Embers and to see what’s down the road.
Dreamer & realist, philosopher & punster, romantic & cynic—many words can be slapped down as labels for the man known (to most) as Martin Detwiler, but none of them are more true than this one: redeemed. Martin is a man made new by Christ, and he is being made new day by day.
Martin is mostly normal. For a writer. There are, of course, the usual paradoxes between ideal self and actual self, but on the whole Martin is motivated by a love of beauty. Whether it is found in people, stories, poetry, or the other arts, beauty has a transcendent quality that enlivens the mind to rise higher than the gritty flagstones underfoot—a central kernel of truth, as it were, that crystallizes aesthetic into something more. Finding, appreciating, and creating these moments of truth-filled beauty is the goal of Martin’s life, friendships, and writing. He has much farther to go on this path, but each step is a miracle all its own. Through his writing, Martin sincerely wishes that you would join him on that journey.
Martin’s greatest inspirations are C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, both of whom stirred a passion for stories that combine the aesthetic and the true in such a way that the reader is given an experiential glimpse of God’s reality.
Martin lives in Ohio, and his hopes and dreams are nestled in the stars.
Rose Sheffler is a Kentucky native who began her writing career in the seventh grade by hijacking a simple assignment and turning it into an elaborate creative piece. Her teacher reprimanded her for not following the instructions and said, “You should be a writer.” She studied English Literature in college, with a focus on creative writing, and returned to teach seventh grade English at the same private school. Her favorite genres are fantasy, historical fiction, and fairy tales.
A longstanding Anglophile, she adores clocks, Saint George, Sherlock Holmes, Yorkshire tea (with milk), and almost everything written by the British since Beowulf. She is a fantastic cook and hates to exercise but does it anyway. Though she’s convinced that naps are a superpower, she often forgoes the nap to write.
Rose is a firm believer in the power of literature to inform and influence the human soul, and she hopes her writing finds its way to the right readers. Some of her favorite books are Persuasion, Till We Have Faces, To Kill A Mockingbird, Jane of Lantern Hill, Hatchet, and Beauty and the Beast.
This summer she completed a manuscript of new fairy tales and hopes to have them traditionally published. Until then, she homeschools her three kids, feeds her philosopher husband, grades papers, engages daily with her church community, talks to herself, updates her blog, reads too many children’s books, considers the brevity of life in the face of eternity, and takes bookish photographs for Instagram.
Sarah Hughes has an addiction to writing, which lead her to read English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick. This addiction often manifests itself as illegible scribblings from ideas late at night, which would be inconvenient if she wasn’t exceptional at sleeping and deciphering her own handwriting.
She thrives on difficult Christian questions and loves discussing her Lord with anyone who will listen, from teachers to best friends to classmates. But what she loves most is sharing the love that sustains and saves her, in the imperfect way she manages.
Sarah also has a flair for the dramatic and loves exploring character motivations both on the page and off. When not reading, she can be found singing along to her favorite music, playing her guitar, or, most likely, writing. Her favorite days are uninterrupted writing days, the mystical mornings when stories are created.
Her three brothers and two cats fill up her home, but she still manages to find space to write with the aid of door signs and headphones. When not making projects out of novels, she indulges her love of colors and stationery by making scrapbooks.
She can often be found spending all her money on train tickets to visit her best friends, or looking longingly at various methods of transport. She has a restless spirit but no money to travel, an intriguing relationship with change, and an enduring predictability that often proves convenient.