I’m delighted to be sharing the cover reveal and my book review of Child of the Dragon Prophecy, a debut novel by Effie Joe Stock! Read on to learn more about the story, its release date, and where you can get a copy for yourself (and a friend!).
What if, all your life, the people you loved and the memories you cherished had been taken from you?
Stephania can’t even remember what she’s lost, but she knows this: there are blank spaces where memories should live, confusion where purpose should light the way, and stinging rejection where love should abide.
You must be wondering if Stephanie will ever uncover the mystery of who she is. But the real question is this: when the Child of the Dragon Prophecy learns the truth, will she wish she never had?
Child of the Dragon Prophecy introduces readers to Rasa, a land full of centaurs and magic, prophecies and loss. In this debut novel, the world-building is exceptional, and readers are sure to feel that they’re traveling right alongside Stephania, breathing in the same scents and taking in the same sights. While some of the characters’ development and the pacing felt off at times, Child of the Dragon Prophecy is a debut rich with conflicted and real characters who must, like us, learn to fight fear with an uncommon faith and let go of hatred in favor of wholehearted forgiveness and love.
Child of the Dragon Prophecy will be available on Amazon, Bookshop (by BookBaby), Effie Joe Stock’swebsite, and other retailers. It releases on June 8th!
Follow Effie on Instagram for exciting updates, including preorder availability, special editions, and preorder merch, and don’t forget to add Child of the Dragon Prophecy to your Goodreads list!
Thank you, Effie, for the opportunity to read an ARC of your novel! 🙂
Today, I get to introduce you to Marysol Ramos Moreira, the author of The Open Letter! Read on to learn more about her writing journey, upcoming projects, and what inspired her to write such a unique story.
Every writer’s story is different. Tell us a little bit about your writing journey and how you got started!
When I was around 13 years old, I had a desire to write this story. I grew up with a weak mentality and pushed the dream away as I believed I was not smart or creative enough to write a book. When I was 27 years old, I began a journey to start believing in myself and revisited my dream of becoming an Author for this specific fiction story. As a single mother, I worked full time during the day and stayed up till past midnight working on the story at least 3 nights out of the week. 4 years later and here I am enjoying this interview for The Open Letter.
What inspired the really unique premise of The Open Letter?
Ever since I was in my early teens, I observed people and question why they were the way they were. I noticed that each of us live in our own little worlds based off different parenting styles, siblings, cultures, heritage, and so forth; yet we judge each other based off the same standards as our owns. Such as, “we both” had the opportunity to go to high school, but only one of us got to go home to loving parents who were not verbally abusive. Yet teachers expected the same energy, mindset, and effort from both students. (This just being an example.) Explaining this to others was usually like talking to a wall. So, this fiction story, The Open Letter, was actually written in hopes of people reading it and receiving a clear definition as to why we should simply love others without giving ourselves reason as to why they don’t deserve our love and kindness.
I love the way you included the characters’ prayers into the story. Why do you think it was so important to share those moments between them and God?
Beautiful question! I think it was especially important to share the prayers and what I strongly believe would have been God’s response because it shows how much in-common we all actually have. Many people have responded saying they relate to a prayer or 2 out of the story though the circumstances turned out to be different. It’s also difficult to hear God responding back in the mist of darkness and therefore I tried to highlight the importance and difference of taking the time to breathe and hear God in return.
What are some of the stories (or authors) that have inspired you?
I have one specific book by William P. Young titled The Shack – that inspired me from my teens till this very day. It’s a beautiful story clearly written to help others understand forgiveness and God’s love. I highly suggest reading the book and then watching the movie. It’s actually a book and a movie that compliment each other.
What are you currently working on? Can readers expect a sequel to The Open Letter?
As of right now, I am not working on a sequel. I am still a full-time working single mother and have jumped from project to project. I am working on children’s books (as I work as a therapist for kids with autism) to help understand anxiety and other mental disabilities. I do have hopes of working on other fiction stories for adults that relate to The Open Letter. All in due time. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing my life as a writer.
Thank you so much, Marysol, for joining me on the blog this week! It was a joy to learn more about your writing journey and your heart for seeing others through God’s eyes.
You can connect with Marysol on Instagram and buy The Open Letter on Amazon! Be sure to share your review once you’ve read it! It’s the best way to support indie authors 🙂
Tomorrow, it’s time for the cover reveal of Effie Joe Stock’s debut novel, Child of the Dragon Prophecy, and I’ll be sharing my review of the novel!
What have you been reading lately? I’d love to know your recommendations!
This week, I’m sharing my review of The Open Letter by Marysol Ramos Moreira! Read on and find out where you can get a copy for yourself 🙂
Madison and her young daughter, Mady, have only just moved into a new neighborhood, but an unexpected event has already led them to friendships that will change their lives for the better. After meeting these new friends – Tommy, Milo, Hope, Xavier, and Audrey-Ana – Madison learns that they are homeless, and, try as she might, she can’t convince them to share their stories with her.
But one day, Madison finds a gift box, full of broken eyeglasses, in her apartment, and this gift is bound to change everything…
The Open Letter is a story quite unlike any other. With prayers shaped into beautiful poetry, this story offers readers the chance to meet characters who are willing to bring their fears and thanks, victories and doubts, to God, and it challenges the readers themselves to embrace that same vulnerability.
While there were editing issues that distracted from the story itself, The Open Letter is an important reminder to look beyond a person’s appearance and circumstances, to love fearlessly and unwaveringly, and to bring everything to the heart of the Father, who truly cares for each one of our prayers.
The Open Letter is available on Amazon and you can connect with Marysol on Instagram!
Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing my interview with Marysol 🙂
Lisa Howeler’s novels never fail to leave my heart full and my spirit a little more hopeful. Enjoy my full review and grab a copy for yourself below!
Molly Tanner is restless. After coming home to live and work on her parents’ dairy farm, life now seems to be passing her by.
She longs for something more, but every day is full of the same things: stubborn cows, an even more stubborn farm hand, Alex Stone, and the growing fear that her family’s life and legacy on the farm isn’t sustainable any longer.
So, Molly Tanner will have to decide…
Is it possible to find something new in the midst of familiar things, and can old fears truly be washed away by enduring love?
Every time I read a book by Lisa Howeler, I meet characters who are surprisingly real, who struggle with issues that hit close to home. The Farmer’s Daughter is no exception.
This is a poignant story of preserving legacy, believing for the impossible when all hope seems out of reach, and learning to trust that it’s still possible to find love that endures and is true.
If you’ve ever struggled to see your own worth or receive God’s grace, pick up this book. It will leave you feeling a little more whole and a lot more hopeful by story’s end.
This, week, I am so excited to share a book review and giveaway of Erica Richardson’s book, Luna’s Rescue, the first book in The Cottonwood Chronicles.
This story is an absolute, magical delight, and you won’t want to miss a chance to read it!
Read my full review and giveaway details below.
Luna is just your average crested gecko: small, unassuming, and perfectly content with her routine of sleeping by day and enjoying fruit puree by night.
But when her family suddenly goes missing, Luna knows she must abandon the familiar and do something that no one expects of her: go on an adventure!
Along the way, she is joined by the prickly, but loveable, owl, Hoover, and the curiously quirky and ingenious wizard, Edwin. While they agree to help Luna, they also believe that, when it comes to rescuing her family, she is just too small.
But don’t lose heart! Wizard Edwin has a plan, and it’s bound to transform Luna’s adventure into something entirely unexpected…
Erica Richardson has created a charming children’s story in Luna’s Rescue, the first book in The Cottonwood Chronicles. Her characters range from the persnickety to the courageous, the quirky to the loveable, and every turn of the page is sure to bring fresh delight to readers of all ages. This is the perfect story for families to curl up with and read aloud together.
So, have you ever felt too small to face the impossible or help those you love?
What a magical coincidence! 🙂
Luna’s Rescue is the perfect adventure for you.
Are you ready to start this magical adventure? Head to my Instagram to enter the giveaway for a print copy of Luna’s Rescue!
And be sure to follow along on Erica’s writing adventures by following her on Instagram!
Luna’s Rescue and the second book, Hoover’s Horn, are available on Amazon 🙂
Once you’ve finished the adventure, please review Erica’s books on Goodreads! It’s the best way to support indie authors!
This Thursday, I’ll be sharing an interview with Erica!
I’m so excited to share my interview with Erica Richardson, author of Luna’s Rescue! She offers insights into finding a balance between writing and parenting, what inspired her to write middle-grade books, and what readers have to look forward to as The Cottonwood Chronicles continue!
Have you entered the giveaway for a print copy of Luna’s Rescue?! There’s still time left! Head to my Instagram to enter, and I’ll announce the winner on Friday. This is an adventure you won’t want to miss out on 🙂
Share with us a little bit about Luna’s Rescue and what inspired you to write it!
The transition to parenthood was a lot harder for me than I had expected (especially being a stay-home mom). Being a mother to my kids has been very natural in so many ways, but “staying home” has been a lot less natural! It’s a tricky balance because staying home with my kids is important to me and I really love being their primary care giver. I spent the first several years of motherhood searching for an outlet that would help me recharge, grow intellectually, and connect with other people. I did a lot of praying and searching to find something that would be a good fit for our family. One of the things I eventually tried was getting a pet! I have adored animals for as far back as I can remember. Long story short, we ended up getting a crested gecko, which I named Luna. Through some miraculous combination of having Luna in our home and reading some middle-grade books I’d gotten ahold of, I felt inspired that I could write a book. I had tried to write books when I was a teenager (Lord-of-the-Rings-never-ending-journey types of books), but I had never considered writing a book as an adult.
The One and Only Ivan really inspired me because it was a beautiful story with a simple plot and loveable animal characters. There is something so pure about animals. Animals and children have that in common. I started getting ideas about the things Luna would do if she were to go on an adventure. From The One and Only Ivan and Hello, Universe, I learned that a storyline doesn’t have to be complicated to be beautiful and worth reading. That encouraged me.
I’m a writer—a long winded one—so I apologize for the long answer! But one more thing that might be useful to someone… I’ve dealt with some mental health issues throughout my life but couldn’t quite put my finger on what they were until several years into motherhood. I learned that I have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Before learning about my own diagnosis, I had never met or talked to anyone with OCD. I just thought of it as an adjective that people use when they describe themselves as very organized (which I now understand is a disservice to those who actually have the disorder). I now understand that OCD made college very challenging for me. I got great grades and excelled in my classes, but I would go through phases of intense anxiety where I would change my major again and again and again! It was very stressful. I have changed my major 7 or 8 times in school (probably more), which has made it very hard to finish! After leaving school to be home with kids, then going back to school, then having to stop due to health problems, my self-confidence took a pretty big blow. I started to feel like I couldn’t finish anything! I wanted to finish something or accomplish some kind of goal so badly!
Writing children’s books has brought me so much peace in that sense because it is something that I can finish! Finishing my first book, Luna’s Rescue, left me in a bit of a shock. I kept thinking to myself, Did I REALLY finish? Is it done? Did I actually do it? I actually got really stressed out after publishing my book because I was convinced that I hadn’t really finished! I still haven’t fully processed the fact that I’ve finished and published books!
Anyways, it was such an answer to prayers to be led to writing—an outlet that I could focus on to channel my mind in a productive way, rather than letting my mind obsess over stressful, unproductive things. Writing has been a great blessing to me and definitely an answer to prayer.
What do you love most about writing for middle grade readers? What do you think makes middle-grade fantasy an important genre?
I’m 28 years old on the outside and 10 years old on the inside. Writing for young kids feels natural to me because I share the same interests and sense of humor as many of them. I’ve loved writing for a long time, but it has been so thrilling to finally have found a niche that really fits me.
I love that kids are honest. When I give my manuscript to my test readers, I know that the feedback they give will be honest. And when they say, “I loved it” or “I couldn’t put it down!” I know they are being genuine and not just being polite. It’s really rewarding.
I think that writing fantasy for middle-grade readers is important because these kids are in a very formative time of life. Whether or not they have access to books (and whether or not they enjoy those books) can have a big impact on their educations and reading throughout the rest of their lives. I also feel it’s important to teach good values and lessons in middle-grade literature. I want my readers to finish my books feeling entertained, but even more importantly, inspired. There are so many different messages being thrust at young people in today’s world. I feel honored to have the chance to share messages with young people through my books, and I take the responsibility of providing clean content with good moral lessons very seriously.
Do you have any advice for fellow writers who are balancing a writing career and parenthood? How have you seen motherhood and writing influence each other?
Firstly, my kids inspire me! They are full of creativity, light, and—putting a shameless plug in for Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel here—wonder! My kids are examples to me every day of seeing the wonder and beauty in the world. They see it in everything—bubbles, macaroni and cheese, playing in the grass, etc!
As far as advice… If any of you figure out how to balance a writing career and parenting, please contact me and tell me your secret! Honestly, trying to find a balance is one of the constant challenges of mortal life, in my opinion.
A few thoughts are:
1.) Let your kids be involved (to an extent!) with your writing process. My kids respond better to me being on my computer when I explain to them what I’m doing. I’ll tell them what book I’m working on, what the storyline is, and about the characters. I’ll talk through what I’m doing as I design covers. They especially like seeing the covers being made. As far as the actual writing, they lose interest pretty quickly, but they are more likely to be satisfied with giving me time and space if I give them a chance to hear about what I’m doing than if they just see me on the computer and have no idea what I’m doing on it. (My kids are all too young to be able to read, by the way.)
2.) For me, as a stay-home mom, it can be so ridiculously hard to respect myself, my time, and my space. I’ll fight down a dragon if it calls my kid a rude name, but if my kid disrespects me, it can be easy to just take it and shrug it off. I’ve learned that for my well-being, and the well-being of my whole family, I need to take care of myself. I have to set healthy boundaries and teach my kids to respect me. So, on that note, it’s so important that as parents who are also writers, we are able to teach our children healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries makes life so much better. My kids need to know that there is time for me to be totally present with them, and that there is time for me to be able to work on my writing. Before learning that, I often felt that my kids had to have my undivided attention ALL. THE. TIME. …That left me feeling like an oatmeal-brained zombie who then felt excessive amounts of guilt for not being a great mom (because I HAD NO ENERGY OR SPARK!) It’s so important that parents, especially stay-home moms, recognize that their personal pursuits are of value. Being a writer has made me a better mom. And my kids need that healthy, happy mom! So, I need to keep up my writing, which will in turn keep me feeling healthier and more balanced, which will enable me to be a great mom.
What are you reading right now?
Right now, I am reading The Last Rabbit by Shelley Moore Thomas. The Trebors by Caroline C. Barney is on top of my current reads pile. And Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel will be leaping straight to the top of my reading pile once I receive my copy! Looking forward to it! (The word “carousel” is surprisingly hard to spell!)
You’re currently working on your next book! What do readers have to look forward to as The Cottonwood Chronicles continue?
This is really exciting, but I actually just recently finished Hoover’s Horn, which is the second book in The Cottonwood Chronicles (Luna’s Rescue being the first). I’m in the very final stages of having this book ready for publication. The readers of The Cottonwood Chronicles have a wild ride ahead of them. They can definitely look forward to going on some unexpected adventures and meeting some very unique, lovable characters, including a garden gnome named Terracotta Glaze who is a very restless spirit.
Want to follow along on all of Erica’s writing adventures? 🙂 Head to her Instagram so you won’t miss out on any exciting updates!
Thank you again to all of the wonderful authors who have joined me for excerpts, interviews, and giveaways (Oh my!) over the last few weeks! It has been such a delight to get to know all of you and share your stories with readers! I can’t wait to see all the wonders God does through the words you write over the years to come 🙂
Do you have a favorite author you’d like to see featured on the blog? Please let me know! I’m always looking for recommendations!
A repentant heart begs not to be turned away, but unforgiveness fights to have the final say in a young woman’s heart.
Join me for an exciting excerpt from Stephanie Daniels’ upcoming novel, The Uncertainty of Fire.
I push the door open and trudge toward the bed. His gray eyes—usually hard as steel, now like calm waters—meet mine. His hyena-featured face repels me as ever. Smells of leather and vinegar used to staunch the bleeding cause my eyes to water. Instinct compels me to wipe my eyes, but I stop. Tears might help with my ruse. I concentrate on commanding my twitching facial muscles from scowling.
He holds out a trembling hand. No. I’d held his hand once through his pain and his unconsciousness. I’ll not do it again. I pick up the glass of water at his bedside and shove it in his hand pretending to believe that is what he wants. His brow wrinkles in confusion, but struggling, he lifts the glass to his lips. I straighten the coverlet, unwilling to aid him in his task.
He props up on his elbows, the empty glass in his hand poised on the bed. “Whimsy.”
I freeze at his use of my true name, as nettling as leeches on bare skin.
“I didn’t think you’d come. Did Colin convince you? I’m a changed man. I can’t believe God can forgive me for all I done. For what I done to Co–“
He chokes on his words and grunts in pain, then he grips the bandage on his side. His body goes rigid then quakes and seizes. His features twist, then relax.
I thought I’d be happy to see him brought low. To be humbled as he had often humbled me.
“For what I done to you.” Wheezing breaths follow his finished statement.
My pounding heartbeat thuds in my ears. Maybe it will block out his words. But I stand defiant, waiting to say my part and never face him again.
“I can die in peace now. Well, almost. I know I’ve done wrong. And it must be hard to listen to me say this.”
He has something right at least.
“But if you can. Please. Forgive me.”
The pallor of his face pales, as if the effort of his words drains the life from him. I raise my gaze as slowly as a hoisted flag. My fists clench then I shove them behind my back, out of his sight. I can’t risk his thinking I’ve not forgiven him and in one last moment, he reveal it to the Bradshaws. He’ll not ruin another day of my life. I’ll not be thrown back to the streets because of him.
My nod is so small, I’m not sure he sees it. Will I need to say the words? I forgive you. Because I’m sure I can’t. Even if I don’t mean them. But slight color suffuses his face, and his head drops back onto the pillow.
“Thank you. Thank you.” His eyes close and a tear slides down the side of his face.
A battle as mighty as The War of the Rebellion rages inside me. Is Mattie truly a reformed man? Had he really asked God’s forgiveness? Does he genuinely want mine? The brawling liquor-filled boy that invades my dreams doesn’t resemble the still form in the bed. The features are the same. But the hardness in the jaw has relaxed. Not a flutter behind his eyelids. Even the horse flare of the nostrils had ceased.
Should I forget the day he’d made a pyre of my hiding spot at the top of a lumber pile? Should I push aside the memory of his boot thrust into my back or my cheek bruised from his brutal beating? How day after dreary day I’d dreaded how I’d sidestep his aggression?
No. I will not. I cannot. God cannot expect this of me, even if Colin did.
Mattie’s breathing slows. His face flushes as hot as the irons I’ve left on the cook-stove.
I creep from the room, ridding my features of any trace of anger in case Colin waits on the other side of the door. Which of course, he does.
Clicking the door shut behind me, Colin steps close, peering down into my face. “How was he? Did you do it?”
My eyes still damp from the medicinal smells, I glance at Colin and muster my sweetest smile. “Yes.”
Better not to say too much in case my anger spills over. Anger at tending to that man. Anger at Colin and the Bradshaws for requiring this of me. To hold my security and peace of mind ransom so that the brute in that bedroom could die unburdened before his Creator?
I push past Colin, escaping downstairs away from his praise and relief before my face clouds with emotions he’ll read all too well.
I duck into the butler’s pantry, grabbing an unused apron to swab the real tears I’d tamped down. I breathe in, then expel a shuddering breath that causes the silver to sway and tinkle. This heavy iron cauldron in my chest is Mattie’s fault. I’m sure it is. But Mattie is near to death, unable to harm me. And his sorrow, much to my dismay, seems real, unfeigned, genuine, despite my doubts. Why then, did the heaviness continue? Why does my chest burn like I’m unable to breathe? Can it be that Mattie isn’t the only one that carries a burden in need of release?
Be sure to join Stephanie for all the exciting writing adventures to come! You can follow her on Instagram and her blog!
Thank you to all of the wonderful authors who have joined me so far this month! It has been an absolute joy to share your stories 🙂
Next week, Erica Richardson is joining us for an interview and exciting giveaway of her book, Luna’s Rescue, the first installment of The Cottonwood Chronicles! You won’t want to miss it!
This week, I have the pleasure of featuring YA historical fiction author Stephanie Daniels! She shares more about her current work-in-progress, The Uncertainty of Fire (excerpt coming this Thursday!), her passion for the historical, and advice for aspiring authors!
Read on and follow along on Stephanie’s writing journey below!
Tell us about your current work in progress!
First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to your blog. I’m so happy we’ve been able to connect over on Instagram and I’m really looking forward to reading your work. My current finished manuscript is entitled The Uncertainty of Fire. It is the first book in my planned trilogy called The Uncertain Riches series. It’s a Christian YA historical (with romance) that takes place during the Great Chicago Fire. My main character, Whimsy Greathart, has lived a privileged life. But her heart is tender toward those who have not had her advantages. Throughout the book she learns to deal with the choices she makes. Sometimes those choices are in good faith, even with good will, but because she makes them in her own strength and her own wisdom, God teaches her some things. And sometimes those lessons stem from heartbreaking circumstances.
What do you think makes YA fiction such an important and necessary genre?
Young people are bombarded with far more challenges than I ever had as a teen and college-aged adult. And I feel like I saw and dealt with a lot. But in all areas of the arts, it is becoming more difficult for young people to find characters that believe as they do. And that can be a lonely place. I think the popularity and rise of faith-based films and television programs is evidence that young people want those mirrors–characters who face the same decisions and trials they do. But I think we may be failing them in our books. Parents and young people are reaching back to the classics because of the faith and morals those books embodied. Those same things are lacking in today’s books. We have plenty of faith-based books that are clean and may have some element of faith. But I’d like to see more. More characters committed to their faith. I believe readers want to reach forward and find those faith and moral elements in today’s books. Even though my story takes place in a historical setting, the themes of forgiveness, not trusting our own heart, trying to understand God’s plan, are still timeless themes.
You’ve spoken on social media about your love for the antique and the historic. What sparked your interest and how did both become part of your writing?
I’m not sure when my love for history and antiques really began. I didn’t even like history much in school–until I went to college and had some professors who made Bible history come alive for me. I was fortunate to live in places where history was all around me. Washington D.C., Italy, Hawaii (not far from Pearl Harbor), Fairfax County, Virginia. I remember as a child exploring the replica ships at Fort McHenry, visiting Pompeii and Rome, and touring Mount Vernon so many times I could probably have been a guide. My parents thought it was important for us to see these places even though most of the time I never made the historical connection of what occurred in those places. And then I loved books. Since we moved around a lot, I think my fictional friends sometimes became a comfort to me. I’m not complaining about the fact that I was able to live in so many amazing places, but I was shy, and making friends every time we moved could be a challenge. Maybe I began to like old things because of the roots they represented. My roots have always been family-based, not place-based. Even now, when people ask me where I’m from, I always struggle to form an answer. I’m from a lot of places. And they’ve all made me who I am.
Do you have any advice and/or encouragement for aspiring authors who are daunted by the publishing process, whether they go traditional or indie? What keeps you going when faced with discouragement?
As someone who is still deciding between the two, make sure you pray a lot. And surround yourself with writing friends at all stages of the journey. You need your unpublished friends who understand where you are because they are going through it too. If you have the chance to find a mentor, someone who has published and can weigh in on the wisdom they’ve gained, take advantage of that. I feel like I really started viewing myself as a writer when I joined the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). If there is a professional local group you can join (Word Weavers is another good organization), do it as soon as you can. Veteran writers have a lot to offer. And if you’re willing to learn from them, it will help grow your craft exponentially. But always remember that this gift God has given is uniquely yours. Don’t fret about an idea that’s already been done. Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. So that brilliant idea you came up with has been done before. But it has not been said the way you can uniquely say it. Because there is only one person in this whole world that has your exact unique viewpoint. Discouragement and feeling like giving up, bad reviews, unfavorable feedback are all the hard parts of this journey. But if you can remember why you felt God led you to your story, it can help buoy you through those disappointments and keep you committed to the task He has set before you.
Do you have any books by indie authors that you’d love to recommend?
I wish I could say I had a long list, but because I’d always planned to traditionally publish, I have usually read traditionally published books. But I have been reading more indie authors lately and have made some wonderful friends in the indie author community. I’ll concentrate on YA authors in the Christian market, since that’s the genre I write. Amanda Tero is an indie author who has written in many genres but concentrates on Christian historicals for YA. If you would enjoy fairy-tale retellings without romance, you will want to check out her Tales of Faith series. And her latest novella, A Strand of Hope, a Depression-era historical, released last summer. I’m privileged to be on two launch teams for two indie YA authors. Careena Campbell has just written a 17th century Christian YA historical entitled Free. I’ll be reading it in the coming week. Another author I’ve come to know is H.A. Pruitt who has written a Christian YA fantasy entitled Anathalien. Her sequel to the series is called Earth Quaking and will be coming out in the next few months. I’m looking forward to forming friendships with more indie authors and reading their books. And it may just be that God is leading me to publish indie too. We shall see.
Thank you so much, Stephanie, for doing this interview!
Enjoy this special excerpt of Jessica Smith’s upcoming novel, Evergreen and the Silver Tree.
Evergreen looked at the table Abby was pointing to. The table reserved for the Senior prom king and queen’s crowns. There were two crowns sitting on the table. One was a fairly plain black metal crown for the prom king. But the other crown was a golden band speckled with striking emerald stones in the shape of small leaves.
The Senior Class President came up to the table, appearing frazzled even in her sleek, black dress. “Don’t ask me how that emerald crown got there. I have no clue. The school ordered a silver tiara with some fake, I repeat, fake diamonds for the prom queen. That fake tiara was sitting right there only a few minutes ago, and now it’s gone, and I’m pretty sure these emeralds are real, and I don’t know what to do. I’ve looked everywhere for the tiara the school bought and paid for, and I’m responsible for it, so if you see it…please let me know.” With that, she turned on her heels.
Evergreen and Abby focused their attention on the emerald crown.
“Well, I think this is much prettier than the other tiara would have been,” said Abby.
Evergreen nodded and mumbled, “It’s very pretty.”
Whoever designed this crown was a master of the art. The emerald leaves were gorgeous. Evergreen was captivated, unable to peel her eyes away from the emerald stones. She resisted the urge to touch it, to pick it up and place it on her head.
“Pretty green leaves,” Evergreen said.
Green. Her nickname—the nickname her first-grade teacher, Ms. Nell, had called her.
Oh, poor Ms. Nell.
And Madeline. And Henry.
Missing. Lost. Gone.
Mrs. Dale. Heartbroken. Hurting.
“Um, Evergreen?” Abby’s voice sounded faint, like she was a long distance away. “You’re zoning out. Is everything okay?”
Evergreen tried to come to, but even the loud music inside the auditorium began to fade, until all was quiet. She felt herself being pulled, sucked through a tunnel inside her mind. Her vision blurred, and then—
“Where am I?” She sat upon a familiar rock upon a cliff overlooking a forest of pine trees. Only a few feet in front of her were her first-grade classmates. And Ms. Nell.
She was back at Purple Fire Park.
She looked down at her clothes. The same clothes she had worn the day of the field trip. And suddenly, she realized she had been shrunk into a first-grader again.
Looking to her right, Evergreen saw a boy isolating himself from Ms. Nell’s class. Henry!
Henry. Mrs. Dale’s son. He was quietly eating his lunch.
Evergreen looked down at her classmates. They, too, were eating their lunches, smiling and laughing and as happy as they could be. Every part of them, from their features, to the texture of their hair, to the precise color of their clothing was right there in front of Evergreen’s eyes.
She had dreamed about this before, but never so vividly. The memory of her former classmates had always been hazy, but now, it was as if she had crawled into the dark corners of her mind and unlocked the memories of the field trip completely.
Evergreen heard crying and turned her head. It was Henry. Tears streamed down Henry’s face.
This didn’t happen at the field trip, she thought.
Evergreen stood up and walked closer. Henry wasn’t just crying; he was speaking.
“Help me. Help me. Please, somebody help me.” Henry’s voice was weak. So weak.
“Henry?” Evergreen asked. “Wh—what’s wrong?”
She gasped and took a couple of steps back when Henry locked eyes with her own. His gray eyes pleaded. “Help me. Help me. Please, somebody help me.”
Another nightmare. That’s what this had to be. Except this was a nightmare Evergreen had never had before.
Like in a lucid dream, Evergreen could control what she said and where she went. “I can’t help you,” she told Henry. “You’re—You’re gone. You’re not really here.”
“Help me,” Henry said with more strength. “Help me. Please, somebody help me.”
“But I can’t,” Evergreen said.
“Help me, help me, please somebody help me! Help me, help me, please somebody help me! Help me, help me, please somebody help me! Help me, help me, please somebody help me!”
Again and again and again, Henry yelled.
Evergreen covered her ears. “Stop shouting at me. Stop it!”
Henry fell silent. Once more, he whispered, “Help.”
Evergreen’s vision and hearing became clear again. The music blared, and she found herself standing in front of the table where the emerald crown lay. However, her hands were pressed firmly to her ears, as though she really had heard Henry’s pleas for help. Had it been a dream? It couldn’t have been a dream. Evergreen hadn’t been sleeping. What happened? What was that?
Longing to know more?
Evergreen and the Silver Tree is not published yet, but you can support Jessica on her writing adventures (and find out the moment it’s available!) by following her on Instagram or her blog, Christine’s Smithereens!
Next week, I’ll be sharing an interview with Stephanie Daniels! If you know anyone who loves YA historical fiction that’s deeply rooted in faith, please let them know!
I hope your weekend is filled with wonderful books!
Welcome to my next author interview with Jessica Smith! It has been such a joy to get to know her and learn more about her upcoming novel, Evergreen and the Silver Tree!
Below, Jessica shares about the books that ignited her love of reading, what writing teaches her about God’s character, and lots more!
Most writers start out as avid readers. Which books ignited your love of reading and your desire to create worlds of your own?
I used to loathe being forced to read in grade school, until I picked up The Secret of the Old Clock, one of many in the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene. Suddenly, books weren’t just for school but for transporting myself to other places and times. I also loved C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew and, of course, his beloved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. As a child, I would often pretend I was Lucy finding the entrance to Narnia or the White Witch creating Turkish delight. Playing pretend was essential to me as a child but is also just as essential today, and I’m thankful I can use drama and writing to keep childhood alive.
Tell us a little bit about your book, Evergreen and the Silver Tree! What inspired this story?
Writing has always been a solace for me, but I had never considered writing a full novel until after graduating from college, during a transition period in my life that was both scary and lonely. Spiritually, I was in a desert land, and the Lord provided me with a stream in the desert: An idea for a story. The idea started out as a picture of a giant evergreen tree with a prophecy engraved upon its trunk. It didn’t matter how small and unformed this idea was at the time, it ignited such a joy within me, that I knew I had to brainstorm, plan, and finally, write.
In a nutshell, Evergreen and the Silver Tree points to Hope for the hopeless, Truth in a world of deception, and Light that darkness will never overcome. Ten years after Evergreen’s first-grade classmates disappear from Purple Fire Cavern, Evergreen is called into Ezra City to find her classmates, to break deception’s spell by restoring truth, and to battle a dragon king in a war for freedom. In meeting Silverman, the dragon king’s faithful servant, Evergreen finds his bitterness and his cold silver hands are uninviting, but she learns he might be the key to unravel the lies coiled around this enchanted realm.
What’s your favorite thing about writing in the fantasy genre?
The FREEDOM and the JOY! I will never tire of exploring different worlds, different kinds of magic and creatures. In another world, I can defy gravity or create birds that glow or a tree that turns silver in the sunlight. Writing fantasy is just as Willy Wonka puts it: “A world of pure imagination.”
Writing stories is such a beautiful way of drawing closer to God. What is the most meaningful thing you’ve learned about His character through the writing process?
Through writing, I have learned and experienced so much of His mercy! He is the Creator, but the fact He would allow me or any of us to have even the smallest taste of creating art, whether it be through writing or drawing or inventing, is just…mercy. Art is a joy, a breath of fresh air, a stream in the desert lands of life, and the Lord is so kind to not only allow us, but to desire us, to be “miniature” creators.
Will readers get to explore Evergreen’s world soon? I know I absolutely can’t wait!
I hope so! I am currently working on finishing a book proposal and also querying literary agents in order to traditionally publish. I’m thankful for you, Alexandria, and our friendship. I really had no idea Instagram was such a wonderful place for writers to form friendships and encourage one another until recently. Thank you for interviewing me, and I look forward to reading Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel!
Thank you so much, Jessica, for sharing such thoughtful answers! Having your friendship and encouragement has been such a blessing the last couple of months, and I’m also so grateful for the writing community on Instagram!
If you’d like to follow along on Jessica’s writing journey and hear all the latest news on Evergreen and the Silver Tree, follow Jessica on Instagram or on her blog, Christine’s Smithereens.
This Thursday, be on the lookout for an intriguing excerpt from Evergreen and the Silver Tree!
Happy release day to Free, a YA Christian historical fiction novel by Careena Campbell!
To celebrate, I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with Careena, where she shares what led her to write YA historical fiction, tips for authors curious about cover design, and what she hopes readers will get out of reading her debut novel!
Tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a writer and published author! What first inspired you to pick up the pen?
As a little girl, a pen was just another outlet for my ever-active imagination. As I got older, I wanted to write so I could create the kinds of books I had always wanted to read–books full of adventure that featured main characters that would set a good example of character to me. I wanted young people like me to go on wild adventures that inspired them to live closer to Jesus.
Of all the genres you could write in, what drew you to YA historical fiction?
I have always been fascinated by the past. The way people lived, how they thought, and how it was similar or different to me always filled me with wonder and curiosity. I chose YA because I was the same age as YA protagonists. I will soon be beyond the YA age myself, but I still have a special place in my heart for teen readers. Adolescence is such a moldable time, and teen minds are like a sponge. I want to give them good, wholesome stories that they can “soak up” with excitement, that also help build their character into that of strong adults.
Top three tips to help cure writer’s block! Go! 🙂
I feel like this is cheating because I actually did a YouTube video on this topic a while back. I’ll try not to quote it though! My best two tips are taking a break or reevaluating your outline. If you feel void of any inspiration on what to do next, a short break can help. If that doesn’t work, there may be a piece of the story missing from your outline. Of course, not everyone uses an outline to plan their story, but I personally find it a great way to avoid getting “stuck”!
You designed your own cover for Free. Do you have any advice for other independent writers who are looking to venture into the world of cover design?
Look at lots of different book covers. While it’s good to pay special attention to those of a similar genre to your own, look at other genres too. You might see a useful design element that was less common in the genre you had previously been looking at. Also, don’t be afraid of creating “mock-up” book covers by collaging a bunch of pictures together. I’ve lost count of the exact number, but I created at least five different versions of the book cover for Free. While you don’t want to use Pinterest and similar sites for your final cover, they can be very useful for finding images to practice with. I searched for and downloaded ocean and person pictures so I could practice getting the right layout.
Today is release day for Free! Congratulations! What do you most hope readers get out of reading this story?
I want to remind readers of their identity in Christ–that, no matter the circumstances, if we remember Whose we are, there is an unlimited spring of hope and courage available to us. We are free to shine for the Lord, no matter what may happen, and free to celebrate our identity in Him.
What are some of the books you’ve recently read and enjoyed?
I know I’m behind on the classics, but in January I finished Pride and Prejudice! I thoroughly enjoyed the worlds Austen created and can’t wait to explore more of them. Her characters were so funny, lovable, and–at times–embarrassing, they felt like they might really be your neighbors in the next manor over. I also recently enjoyed the Tales of Faith series by Amanda Tero. It consisted of three novelettes, each a Christian retelling of a different fairy tale. They were so clean and uplifting, and yet at the same time riveting and full of adventure. I will certainly be reading more of her books in the future!
Next week, an adventure begins. Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves publishes this spring, and the Kickstarter officially opens next week! My heart is overflowing with expectation for how God is going to restore our reassurance in His heart and His intent, listening ear for our prayers.
I hope you’ll join me in the next chapter of 21:25 Books’ story. It’s my greatest desire to fill the world with books about Him and the good things He does, and I hope I get to continue doing just that all of my days.
I had the pleasure of being on the launch team for Careena Campbell’s debut novel, Free.
If you’re looking for an adventure on the high seas, full of hope and the promise of true freedom, this YA Christian historical fiction novel is the perfect book for you!
Read my full review below, and get swept up in the adventure for yourself in a special excerpt of the story 😊
Very few books allow you to encounter freedom, and Free is certainly one of them.
As the book opens, readers are introduced to a young woman named Ruth, who is forced into service on a merchant ship. Fearful and confused, she still manages to bring a pure heart and joyful spirit to every trial and adventure she faces on the high seas.
Still, despite her abundance of both kindness and patience, the men remain resistant, confused by her unwavering faith and uncommon humility towards those who have treated her so unfairly.
But freedom can come to the hardest of hearts, and hope remains that, one day, Ruth will find herself in the company of those who know they are wholeheartedly free.
Careena Campbell has penned an exceptional tale, full of adventure, high stakes on storm-tossed waves, and, above all, the longing for freedom and a place to belong.
With characters rich in faith, internal struggles, perseverance, and humility, Careena has crafted a book perfectly suited to lovers of YA historical fiction, and, at the same time, produced that rare thing: a story that leaves readers with hearts wide open to the miraculous and full of faith that they, too, can be free.
Read an excerpt from Free below:
Ruth limped the few short steps to the edge of the ship. Her hands floated up to the railing as she gazed upwards. The night sky was encrusted with millions of brilliant stars, each twinkling one after the other. They stretched out all the way to the horizon, where they cast their reflections over the ocean. The sea, like a great blue blanket covered with shining sapphires, rocked back and forth as the wind gently caressed its water. The waves seemed to sigh in contentment, as if they were settling down to sleep, as they softly swooshed over each other.
Ruth’s heart beat fast as she was overtaken with the beauty and the majesty of God’s creation. She could not resist praising and thanking the Creator of this breathtaking scene, and her awe bubbled over in soft song.
“This is my Father’s world,
and to my list’ning ears,
All nature sings and round me rings
The music of the spheres…”
The nearby sailors turned, surprised to hear the gentle strains of a song floating from the ship’s edge.
“…This is my Father’s world,
I rest me in the thought,
Of rocks and trees of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought…”
For a moment, they watched the maiden fairly sing. Why was she so calm? Didn’t she understand the danger they were facing?
But Ruth, for once, did not even notice them. She was swept up in the beauty of God’s peace.
She reflected on her own situation as she sang the final verse:
“This is my Father’s world;
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
“This is my Father’s world!
The battle is not done!
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heav’n be one.
“Yes,” Ruth thought. “The battle is not done. God isn’t finished with me, and He’s not finished with the sailors, either. I will press on. I know He is still working!”
Ruth’s heart swelled with joy and contentment. Leaning out over the ship’s railing, she folded her hands to pray. “Lord,” she whispered, “please bless the sailors and help them to come to know You. And help me to be brave even when things aren’t this peaceful. Amen.”
Ruth straightened up and smiled as she returned to her room for the night. Now she felt she could face her future, for God had reminded her of His presence.
Free releases this Thursday, March 11th! You can help Careena celebrate release day by pre-ordering Free and adding it on Goodreads!
I’m thrilled to share an excerpt from Anelthalien by H.A. Pruitt, a young adult Christian fantasy.
Read on as Kindle struggles to come to terms with this longing and begins to understand that family can look quite different than we might expect.
“Kindle, what’s on your mind? Something is bothering you.”
Kindle took longer than necessary to swallow her bite before she peered sideways at Naam. She hadn’t intended to answer, but everything about the mother who was smiling down at her baby was so caring and inviting that she divulged, “I just… I dunno. It’s like I’m not ever gunna see my family again, and then all you guys start to feel like my family, and everything gets okay, but now I have to leave you guys too. It just doesn’t feel fair, you know? Like I don’t ever get to have a family now.” Kindle stopped and stared into her mush. She hoped Naam would have a way to fix everything or at least say she could stay, but Naam didn’t say a word. “You know what I mean? Like, I don’t sound stupid or weird, do I?” Kindle asked in sudden embarrassment.
Naam turned her warm brown eyes to her. “No, Kindle. I can see why you’re upset, and it is completely understandable. Everyone wants a family.”
“So… so can I…,” Kindle began to ask but forsook her request and simply turned pleading eyes to Naam.
“Can you stay?” Naam finished, and Kindle enthusiastically nodded until Naam shook her head and sighed, “No, Kindle, I’m sorry, but you cannot stay here. Listen, you do have a family somewhere waiting to see you again. And you will see them, don’t worry over that. I know Azildor said it will be a long time until then, but you can’t look at that time as a loss of family. You have to see it as a gaining of one.”
“But you said I couldn’t stay here.”
“Yes, you’re right. The family I’m talking about isn’t this one; it is Ella, Andrew, and Tad.”
“Oh,” Kindle groaned, deflated again.
Naam gave her a sympathetic smile. “The four of you have a long road ahead, and you must be a family if you want to make it past our doorstep.”
“Yeah, I know. I didn’t mean to sound all whiney,” Kindle apologized. “It’s just, like, not the same, you know? I mean, a family’s like a mom and dad and kids like you guys, not… us.”
“Kindle,” Naam whispered kindly but seriously, “family is not always who your blood links you to but is always who you choose to tie yourself to. Those necklaces you four wear have tied you all.”
“Does that mean I don’t get a choice? Like I have to let them be my family?”
“No Kindle, you do have a choice. The makers of Anelthalien have extended to you the gift of joining hteir family, and you may deny it, but if you do, know that Ella, Andrew, and Tad will be incomplete along with the entire story of Anelthalien. Your choice to leave us and to go on this journey that you have been chosen to take affects many more than you or I will ever know. You are part of a family and a plan larger than you can imagine, Kindle, but if you stay here and try to hold onto this family not meant for you, you will miss out on everything ahead of you.”
Anelthalien is available on Bookshop, Amazon, and other bookseller sites.
Grab your copy and soak in the adventure before the sequel, Earth Quaking, releases this summer! You can join the launch team here.
You’ll get sneak peeks at Earth Quaking, learn all about writing and publishing, and be entered to win fun giveaways each month!
Learn more about H.A. Pruitt by following her writing adventures on Instagram or by heading to her website.
Once you’ve read Anelthalien, please leave a review on Goodreads! Reviews are the best way to help support authors, and it will make their day!
Next week, I’ll be sharing an interview with Careena Campbell, author of Free.
And don’t miss an exciting announcement next Tuesday! Winter is losing its grip, and a young rabbit named Chip is waiting for you to join him in Everleaf Forest.
Last year, I had the pleasure of exploring the world of Anelthalien for the very first time.
Now, I’m so excited to help my friend and fellow author, H.A. Pruitt, celebrate the release of book two, Earth Quaking!
We’re only a few short months away from the book’s release (it can’t get here soon enough!), so to tide us over until then, I’m sharing my review of this wonderful fantasy novel again!
Read on and grab a copy for yourself. This is a world you’ll want to return to again and again.
“To be a hero, Tad, you must be a shield for others; you must be the very thing that stands between a people and death and stabs back that death. Sacrifice makes a hero.”
Kindle never asked to be a hero. But when an unlikely discovery sweeps her away to an unfamiliar land called Anelthalien, she finds that is exactly what is being asked of her.
She and three other young adults – Tad, Ella, and Andrew – form an unlikely group as they travel throughout the land, trying to understand why the fate of Anelthalien is resting on their shoulders.
In their travels, they are taken in by a mysterious farmer, Azildor, who remembers much that others have long forgotten. He passes on his wisdom to the four heroes-in-the-making, believing as he does that, when the time comes, they will be willing to sacrifice what they must to keep Anelthalien safe from the dark powers seeking to overthrow it.
But whether or not they will embrace their identities as heroes remains to be seen, and all the while, Anelthalien’s fate hangs in the balance…
H.A. Pruitt has succeeded in creating an altogether unique world that readers will want to return to and explore again and again. Full of rich characters, adventures galore, and stunning illustrations, this is one of those truly important books that remind you of this: no matter your past, no matter your circumstances, you have a God-given purpose.
Perhaps, you’ll uncover what it is in the pages of Anelthalien.
Words are insufficient to express how dearly I love this story and how much it will always mean to me.
You can follow H.A. Pruitt’s writing (and guinea pig) adventures on Instagram and on her website.
Sometimes, it takes the words of family and friends to remind us of what wonder truly is.
For Penelope Grace, it’s taken the child-like faith of a beloved uncle, the patience of a wolf led by grace and the Wind, and the fierceness of a bold arctic fox.
When you’ve finished this winter tale of wonder, find the people who remind you of what wonder is and thank them.
They are more precious than we’ll ever know.
Thank you, Penelope Grace/Mom. I am so humbled that I get to be your daughter. Without your devotion to God and your fearless sense of child-like wonder, I wouldn’t have been able to write this story. I love you.
And to everyone who has come along on this winter adventure, thank you so very much. Sharing this story with you means more than I can say. I hope you’ve delighted in it as much as I have!
If you’d like a manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland, click here.
Through midnight tonight, everyone who purchases a copy will be entered to win an art print of one illustration from the story!
You can also subscribe below to receive digital installments.
Either way, I hope this story fills you with a sense of awe and wonder for our great King.
Living in wonder with you,
Join the Fight for Wonder
Subscribe below to read digital installments of the story. When you subscribe, you will have access to all past installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, as well as access to all future digital book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber.
Next week, there will be an announcement for something new from 21:25 Books 🙂 Can you guess what it is?
The final excerpt from Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel is here, and the last stand against all that seeks to destroy wonder is about to take place.
Are you ready for one last adventure?
Then read on.
The next two days passed by in a haze of preparation for others and confusion for Penelope Grace. Please do not misunderstand me, reader; Penelope helped where she could, refusing to sit idle because of her fear of the coming confrontation, but fear it she did.
All others in the camp seemed so assured to her eyes, so confident that they would meet their foes head-on, no matter the cost to themselves. And Penelope fully intended to join them in their efforts.
She thought not at all of turning back, only of failing.
As the hours passed, she became more and more convinced of her own inability to face Denagon and emerge victoriously. She was too weak, too inexperienced, too young. How could they ask this of her and expect any other outcome but defeat?
Denagon’s power was too immense in comparison to her little strength, and whatever Apricity she carried, Penelope dared not believe that it was enough.
Even as she served alongside others, her thoughts swirled around this doubtful center, and her fear grew, and her faith dwindled.
Aira noticed the change in her but chose to wait still, knowing that it was something Penelope would have to understand in her own time. Tilly, likewise, noticed the girl’s darkening mood and decided that enough was enough.
She plopped down next to Penelope Grace on the darkening evening of the second day and looked her squarely in the face. “Don’t ye think it’s high time to stop feelin’ sorry for yerself?”
Penelope flinched at the reminder of the fox’s harsh words in the tower room of Svarthol and had no answer for the bold fox.
Tilly pressed on, undeterred. “Well? What’s troublin’ ye so?”
She stared at Tilly for a moment more before the words flooded out, her words only whispered. “You said it yourself, Tilly. ‘Fool of a girl.’ And you were right. It was foolish to barricade us in the tower, thinking we were safe, that I had somehow outsmarted him.
“It was foolish to believe that I could best him.” She paused. “You should have seen it, Tilly, the way the darkness swept over the land.”
For a moment, Penelope Grace stared into the fire before them, and Tilly waited, knowing they’d yet to reach the heart of the matter. “I was so relieved when we made it here, Tilly. But over the last two days, I find myself wondering. Our camp seems so large, and there are so many here who are willing to fight for Ellura. But having seen the darkness, having seen Denagon face-to-face, I can’t help but wonder, is it enough? Am I?”
Are you wondering along with Penelope Grace?
You can read the story by subscribing below for digital installments OR by clicking here to receive a special manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Ireland.
GIVEAWAY: Through this Friday, Feb. 26th, everyone who purchases a copy will be entered to win an art print of one illustration from the book! You can see the artwork on Instagram.
U.S. only. Void where prohibited. This giveaway is not affiliated with WordPress or Instagram.
This week, refuge awaits for Penelope Grace and her companions.
But will they make it?
Subscribe below to read digital installments OR click here to receive a unique manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland.
Join the Fight for Wonder
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This week, dangers abound and Penelope Grace and her friends are desperately seeking refuge.
Do you suppose they’ll find it?
The companions were just reaching the rise of a crisp snowbank when the other snow sprites appeared, speaking so quickly in their small voices that Penelope Grace failed to catch the words. But Aralie understood their warning, and she turned to the others. “Denagon’s creatures are ahead, moving to cut us off. They must have spotted us from above. We must change course. Follow me!”
She darted to the right, and they rushed to keep pace with her as she flew ahead. Penelope could hardly breathe for the biting wind and her own exhaustion. Her legs felt weak beneath her, but she pushed on, knowing that if she could reach the camp, she could rest. But the thought of rest only made her feel more sluggish, and she stumbled despite her best efforts.
Immediately, Aira was there, speaking encouraging words and helping her to stand once more. “Think of Georgie, Penelope Grace. Think of your family, and run with me.”
With a ragged breath, she nodded, praying that the camp was not far and that her feet would carry her the distance. She barely made it several paces before a cry sounded from above, alerting them all to the presence of Denagon’s winged slaves.
Penelope risked a glance up just as the creature swooped down towards her. Though she dodged in time, its jagged claws snagged on the hood of her cloak, and she lost her balance in the deepening snow.
Scrambling to her feet as the creature screamed in frustration, Penelope whirled around to face the next attack just as the snow sprites shot past her. Penelope Grace’s eyes widened as she watched their remarkable work, unaware until now what the sprites were capable of.
Before her, a wall of thick, swirling snow appeared, blinding the enemies pursuing from behind and affording Penelope and her companions safe passage, if only for a short time.
Aralie came to hover before Penelope’s eyes. “Hurry now! The camp is not far from here, but the further away we fly, the more fragile the wall will become.”
With that, they were off. Penelope could see Elafry and the others racing ahead of her through the trees. They ran a great distance, yet Penelope still saw no sign of the camp. The trees nearby looked hazy, and it was not long before she could hardly make them out at all. In fact, the whole forest about her was fading from sight, hidden by a blanketing of white.
Nevertheless, she could clearly see the faint blue light of the snow sprites flying just ahead, which proved enough. Moments later, the snow sprites halted, and the others along with them. Penelope Grace could see nothing but white in front of them, and for a moment, she could not comprehend what she was looking at.
Understanding came in a flash. Though the snow was spinning so quickly that it seemed to be at a standstill, moving it was, in an impossibly high wall in front of them. It was similar to the wall of snow that the sprites had conjured to throw off their pursuers, but what rose before them seemed altogether impenetrable in comparison.
Briefly, Penelope caught sight of flickering blue light through the swirling snow. “What is this, Aralie?” she asked.
The snow sprite flew so near to Penelope that she could feel the breeze created by her beating wings. “This is our camp, Penelope, hidden by snow. No slave of the enemy can pass through this wall. You and your friends may pass through without fear.”
Tilly trotted through with no hesitation, her courage undaunted by the impressive sight. Penelope, however, remained still. Noticing her hesitation, Aralie said, “The snow will not harm you. It only prevents our enemies from entering.” And with that, the snow sprite flitted through the snow, as if to prove the truthfulness of her words.
Taking a deep breath, Penelope Grace passed through the snow. For a minute, the world was purest white, and then she stepped through into a sprawling camp that must have stretched two miles at least.
Everyone from the stronghold was here, and more. Fires were blazing at regular intervals, and the smell of warm food soon reached her. Penelope Grace nearly collapsed with relief. The war against Denagon was far from over, but for the moment, she was surrounded by friends and roaring fires, and she was safe.
Installment Eleven publishes this Friday, and then only one more installment remains.
I would so love for you to embark on this journey of wonder with us. It’s hard to believe wonder still exists in all the madness of the world right now, but I believe we need wonder the most when it’s most difficult to feel.
This year, I’m sharing a unique manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co., and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland. If you’d love to have a physical copy of this winter tale of wonder, please head to our contact page and get in touch.
Do you want to see wonder sweep away the chill from even the most bitter days?
After a devastating loss, Penelope Grace longs for nothing more, but a persistent shadow clings to her family, draining them of hope and the desire to fight.
Desperately, she tries to revive their sense of wonder, until, on the bleakest of nights, she is robbed of all she holds dear.
Yet, hope isn’t lost, and Penelope Grace finds herself following an unexpected friend through the freshly fallen snow, hoping for the restoration of all she has lost.
But the fight for wonder is just beginning, and the battle promises to grow more dark and fierce.
So, the question remains…
Will Penelope Grace hold onto wonder? Will she help those she loves do the same?
And what of you, dear reader?
When wonder is slipping through your fingers and the nights are cold and dark, will you allow despair to claim you?
Or will you see the glimmer of the sun on the snow and begin to understand how winter can be the springtime of the soul, if only you’ll let it?
The answers await you under snow-laden boughs, on a winter carousel, covered in snow.
I’ll meet you there ❄🎠
If you’d like to receive a unique, manuscript copy of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, I would love to share it with you!
This special edition of the story is done in beautiful manuscript form, printed on paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland, giving readers a unique, collector’s first edition.
I’m so excited to share with you an excerpt from Installment Ten of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel! I’ve loved sharing this story and my heart for wonder to be reignited in people’s hearts.
I hope you enjoy it, and be sure to read the news below about a manuscript edition of the story!
As Penelope Grace stepped beneath the arch and pushed the gate open, a creak from rusting hinges filled the air, nearly disguising the soft growl coming from behind her. She turned, dreading whatever new danger awaited, and found two wolves with hackles raised.
Penelope gasped when she saw them, not for fear of what they might do, but for the shock of seeing that their bodies were formed entirely from rough stone.
She knew they must be Denagon’s servants, though she wondered if that were by choice or force. Every inch of their carved frames made their ability to harm her clear, but Penelope’s attention was drawn to their eyes. Even as these creatures bared their fangs and began to advance, their eyes held something more than the hatred she had encountered in Denagon’s other slaves: a plea and real despair. The longer she looked, the less convinced she was that the wolves truly desired to harm her.
Knowing this was possibly her most foolhardy choice since arriving in Ellura, Penelope Grace reached out a hand to the nearest wolf, hoping against hope that she might cool his anger with a friendly touch.
Her fingers were nearly brushing against his muzzle when he lunged at her, jaws snapping. She jumped back with a yelp, while both wolves came closer, knowing she was trapped.
“This way, lass!” she heard a familiar voice shout.
There was no time to question the little fox’s appearance or how she had snuck past the wolves. She was here and had found a way for Penelope to escape the jaws of Denagon’s sentinels.
Just as both wolves lunged forward, Penelope Grace darted out of reach, and together, she and Tilly ran for the twisting pathways of a wilted, frozen garden, praying they might lose the wolves there.
Bare, rigid hedges lined the nearest pathway that Tilly led them down. Penelope did her best to keep up with the nimble fox, but she was already worn from her ordeal in the maze, and she could hear the scrabble of the wolves’ claws against the paving stones as they closed in. She risked a glance back; one wolf was directly behind, while the other sought to head them off to the right.
With a frustrated growl, Tilly took a sharp turn onto a curving path that, she hoped, would help them lose their pursuers.
But the wolves never missed a step and Penelope was left with the uncomfortable feeling that their pursuers were herding them. The feeling only hardened into belief when they reached an enclosed grotto that offered no escape. Penelope and Tilly whirled round to face the wolves…
Only a few more weeks remain before this wintry tale comes to a close…
But it’s not too late to join the adventure. If you’re longing for your sense of wonder to be renewed, please follow Penelope Grace on her journey through the land of Ellura, where wonder may yet prove victorious…
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Or, if you would prefer a print copy, I’m releasing a manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel and would love to share this unique copy with you! This edition of the story is done in beautiful manuscript form, printed on paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland, giving readers a unique, collector’s first edition.
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The end of Part Two: Winter approaches, dear Reader. But, perhaps, it arrives with a little bit of light.
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Four weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, a wintry tale sure to spark your sense of wonder.
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Access to all past and future installments of the story, as long as you remain a subscriber!
Or, if you prefer a print copy, we are happily releasing our unique, manuscript edition of the story! This edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel is done in beautiful manuscript form, printed on paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland, giving readers a unique, collector’s first edition.
Please contact us if you’re interested in the manuscript edition or click below to subscribe for digital installments!
Will you brave the bracken and thorns for yourself?
She had only decided on two more paths when another rustle sounded behind her. Penelope stopped short, but would not look back, would not let her fear get the best of her.
One deep breath and she moved forward again, fighting to remain sure of herself.
This time something moved just to her right, not touching her, though she could feel the breath of it passing by.
Another rush of movement to her left. Penelope jumped back as she glanced frantically around for its source. Her cloak ripped as it caught on a thorn. Quickly now, Penelope Grace bent to untangle it from the bracken, her fingers clumsy.
The rustling sound grew louder, and as her cloak only grew more entangled, Penelope let out a cry of frustration and panic.
Looking around for any kind of help, though she didn’t know what she expected to find, Penelope froze.
A mass of thorns and brittle vines were unassumingly gathering in front of her, barring her way forward while she remained none the wiser.
Frightened and enraged, she ran forward, at last succeeding in wrenching her cloak free. But the way was shut before Penelope could reach it, and she stopped just short of beating against the solid wall of bracken, knowing that would only leave her hands a bloody, aching mess.
Penelope’s mind raced, but there were countless paths through this maze. Surely, she could retrace her steps and find another.
Racing down the path, Penelope nearly stumbled over the enormous husk of a root that she knew had not been there before. Undeterred, she ran on. Though the mist was growing thicker, she could see the light from the lantern that had illuminated the crossroads and knew she was close.
She was almost on top of the barred path before she realized her mistake.
She could not go back.
Neither could she go forward.
How many more paths would the bracken prevent her from reaching? How long before every way was shut?
There was no way out.
This Friday, Part Two: Winter comes to a close, but Penelope Grace’s adventures are far from over.
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Dangers abound for Penelope Grace and her friends.
Only one question remains.
Will you brave the dangers with them, reader?
Below them stretched a dark, endless valley that no sunlight seemed to reach.
Nothing grew there. The valley was stunted and barren, its flat expanse only broken by the twisted stronghold that rose up in its center like a scar on the land. Its towers, made of black, implacable rock, rose up. Ice smothered every surface, and in this view, Penelope Grace could see what people feared in her favorite season.
Svarthol was the long, dreaded march of endless winter, without the promise of new life to come.
Tilly interrupted her thoughts. “Are ye ready, Penelope Grace?”
“Yes,” she whispered, taking a deep breath as she continued to gaze down into the valley. “I don’t suppose daylight will be too helpful to us in there.”
“Aye. But ye have Light of an altogether differen’ sort to guide ye. Let’s be off,” Tilly concluded, not explaining her words as she trotted down the only rutted path to Svarthol.
Once they entered the valley, Penelope Grace was horribly on edge, though there were none of the dangers she had anticipated. None of Denagon’s creatures lurked behind the dry husks of once tall trees. Nothing stalked them or sought to prevent their progress on the long stretch to Svarthol’s entrance.
The valley was desolate and still, and Penelope was all the more terrified because of it.
Something was not right.
A vast expanse of land still separated them from Svarthol’s gates when Penelope Grace stopped short and whirled around, knowing that she had heard the whisper of something behind her.
The fox saw it and barked a warning that was drowned out by the roar of bursting earth and the dull murmur of creeping vines.
They were separated before a thing could be done.
Nearly choking on the dusty earth clouding the air, Penelope cried out, “Tilly!”
She spun about, peering through the dust-choked air for some sign of her friend. Reaching forward to keep herself steady, Penelope’s finger scraped against something sharp, and she jerked back in pain.
She stood still, breathing hard, listening, and waiting.
But when the dust at last cleared, Penelope Grace was alone, just as she had feared, shut in by a twisting maze of bracken and thorns.
What awaits Penelope Grace in the maze will be uncovered this Friday in Installment Eight of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel. You can subscribe below to receive installments of the story!
What will you receive when you subscribe? I’m so glad you asked! 🙂
Four weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel
Illustrations to accompany the story
A chance to win an art print of your favorite illustration (read all the details here)
Unlimited access to all past and future book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber!
Welcome to an excerpt from Installment the Seventh of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, in which a reminder is given of the meaning of wonder.
It would take them near a week to reach Svarthol, and Penelope felt her nerves grating against each other when she thought of all that time. She wondered how many of their neighbors and friends had also fallen prey to the wasting freeze, and she burned with anger at the way Denagon had perverted the beauty of winter into something that could only be understood as unforgiving and brutal.
There is a harshness to winter, it is true, but there is also a stillness that prepares the way for new life. To acknowledge one and reject the other is to rob winter of all its fullness and remarkable grace.
Yet, hearts often grow dismayed during the long stretches of winter nights; Penelope Grace watched it happen to those she loved and had fought against the sharpness of despair herself. She felt a growing desire to defend, not only the beauty of winter itself but also the hearts of all who struggled to find joy during this time of year. She wanted to fight against Denagon’s attacks and keep him from succeeding in his destructive work.
Uncle Alex had said she was created to weave joy and delight – wonder – into people’s lives, and now, when so many lives were at risk of freezing straight through, could she do any less than what he said? No matter how impossible, she must try, and with this thought fueling her, Penelope Grace walked purposefully through Ellura, hardly seeing the beauty of the world around her through the first day of travel.
Aira watched her closely. She feared what determination might do to the girl, for she had seen for herself the way that a desire to save could undo a human. But she held her tongue for the moment, watching still, but patiently.
On the second day of their journey, she separated from the company, believing that a particular grove was nearby and that such a place might spark something different in Penelope’s heart. By evening the wolf returned, her supposition proven right. As the sky darkened and countless stars winked into sight, Aira and Penelope left the campsite and wound their way through the forest.
“Aira, where are we going?” Penelope asked, wanting only to rest after two days of unfamiliar exertion.
“Hush, child,” the wolf replied, her tone kind but firm. “You’ll scare them off.”
Penelope Grace tried her best to remain silent from that point on, but the snowy ground had turned to hoar frost beneath her feet, and each footfall betrayed her with a loud crunch. Despite her own difficulties, Aira somehow had no trouble walking silently through the snow, and Penelope thought to herself how grateful she was that the wolf was not her enemy.
After some time, they came to the edge of a small grove, one that Penelope would have certainly missed for the trees were quite close together in this part of the forest. Carefully now, she tiptoed to the edge of the grove and peered beyond the branches, hurrying to stifle an awestruck gasp as she did so.
The plants, grass, and trees themselves – every inch of this wintry grove – were all covered in beautifully crisp frost. This sanctuary in the heart of the forest was cloaked in blue light, though Penelope Grace could not find its source; it seemed to emanate softly from everything and everyone present as if they were reflecting the light of a silver-blue sun.
At first, she could not discern details, but soon Penelope noticed beautiful small figures gliding through the air.
She thought that frost fairies populated the grove, but when she leaned down to quietly ask Aira, the wolf corrected her. “Snow sprites. Similar in nature, but with a beauty quite their own. Now, look.”
Penelope edged as close as she dared to the smallest of gaps in the trees where she might see the snow sprites more closely. To her delight, several were beginning to swirl through the snow as they circled the grove, and they flew quite close.
Each snow sprite wore beautiful, deep blue gowns, etched with frost and shimmering with the clearing’s light. Their hair was silvery-white, and their skin a pale blue. There seemed to be hundreds of them, and as they all flew about the grove, they began to hum the most enchanting tune.
You can almost hear it, can’t you? Like the melody from a favorite music box that you can’t quite remember, but nevertheless, remains with you.
Penelope listened, not daring to make a sound.
The snow sprites slowly gathered around a frozen pool in the center of the grove. The sound of their melody stayed soft as each took their turn in gliding across the pool’s frozen surface, leaving behind a precise etching in the ice. As every snow sprite made their simple contribution, they left the grove behind them, and they continued in this way until the frost-covered sanctuary stood empty.
Penelope looked questioningly at Aira, and the wolf gave her a slight nod, indicating it was safe now to enter the grove. She stepped carefully through the small gap and approached the pool, gasping to see the impossibly intricate snowflake traced into its icy surface.
“Their winter dance is a yearly tradition of the snow sprites. They travel from all across Ellura to make their contribution to the snowflake.”
“It’s beautiful, Aira. But why do they do it?” Penelope asked.
The wolf looked up at her intently before answering. “It is a celebration to honor the One who made them, to rejoice in the delight and wonder of being created.”
Aira fell silent, but then met Penelope’s gaze earnestly. “You see, Penelope Grace, it is not so much that you are living in wonder. It is Who you are living in wonder of.”
At this, the wolf turned, and Penelope Grace followed, feeling once again the conviction that she had just heard words that were worthy of remembering.
What are you in living in wonder of, reader?
Join us this Friday for the next installment of Penelope’s adventures.
We are proud to present Installment Six of a story most wondrous, where swans of blown glass guard a secret, a necklace of silver and blue holds a memory, and Apricity is discovered in a land of ice and snow.
All manner of adventure is coming, reader, and the fight for wonder promises to grow fierce.
Will you take part?
Join the Fight for Wonder
Subscribe below to receive weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, a winter tale of wonder.
This week, it is my delight to share with you an excerpt from the next installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, where a mystery awaits at stairway’s end…
Before another question could escape her, Aira padded through the crisp snow to walk beside her. “We are nearly there. Follow me closely, Penelope Grace.”
Anticipation raced from one to the next, filling them all, making their steps quicken as they drew near to a frozen lake, quite different from the persistently running river that Penelope saw was its source. Perhaps a dozen feet separated the two bodies of water, and Penelope gasped in delight as she saw the rushing water transform into frozen rivulets that created a crystalline path to the lake.
At the center of the lake, some four feet apart, were two beautiful swans, crafted from what looked to be blown glass.
Penelope Grace stood at the water’s edge, a small smile on her face. “How beautiful,” she whispered.
“Aye,” Aira agreed. “But what lies beneath is altogether more wonderful.”
Tilly trotted up. “I’m so glad we can agree on somethin’, Aira,” she said, her small teeth flashing as she let out a high-pitched yowl as if announcing their arrival.
Penelope waited with bated breath, but nothing happened at first. Then, the graceful birds began to turn in an ever-widening circle across the lake’s icy surface. They reminded Penelope of clockwork animals as they drew closer and closer to the shore, leaving behind them a wide opening in the lake.
At last, one swan ceased its glide across the lake directly in front of their company. Just behind it, the surface of the lake had disappeared to reveal a set of stairs carved out of ice and stone. They reminded Penelope Grace of the creaky wooden stairs on the second floor of her home, not for their appearance, but for the way each drew you in, whispering to you of what might be found at stairway’s end.
What do you think awaits Penelope Grace at the bottom of the stairs?
Join the fight for wonder and find out this Friday.
It’s a new week, and I hope it’s full of wonderful books!
I have the pleasure of sharing my review for Champion of Valdeor by Sandralena Hanley, a wonderful story that makes you feel as if you’ve just stepped inside an old Arthurian legend.
You can read my full review below!
The people of Valdeor are waiting, breathless with anticipation, as they hope for the promised new beginning to arrive.
They are unaware that their hopes rest on a young shepherd boy, Alloryn, and Lauressa, a princess from another age, hidden from her people for countless years.
One must decide if he is willing to embrace an unexpected identity and purpose, while the other must embark on a quest to learn if she possesses the virtues necessary to be a queen.
Neither is prepared for what comes next.
The people of Valdeor are waiting for a new beginning.
But will it ever come?
In Champion of Valdeor, Sandralena Hanley has crafted a tale reminiscent of Arthurian legends. Readers who are longing for a story full of epic quests, daring champions, and virtuous rulers of legend, will find none of that missing here.
While the tale might have benefitted from being longer, so that some characters could be developed further, Champion of Valdeor remains a deeply enjoyable read, full of what we all long for most: adventures abundant, heroes just and true, and a purpose truly worth pursuing.
Champion of Valdeor is available on Bookshop and Amazon. And don’t forget to leave a review on Goodreads once you’ve finished reading!
Later this week, there’s a new excerpt for Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel and the next installment! Don’t forget that all subscribers are entered to win an art print of their favorite illustration from the story 🙂
You can find more information on the giveaway here and subscribe below!
It’s finally time to share the giveaway that I’m hosting for our subscribers, and I’m so excited! 🙂
I’ll be giving away an art print of one of the illustrations that accompany Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel! Above is a sneak peek of the illustration that goes with this week’s installment.
The winner may choose their favorite illustration and a physical copy will be sent to them!
Here are all the details:
This giveaway is open to all those who subscribe to receive weekly installments of Penelope Grace! (You can subscribe below for $3.99/month!) What do you get when you subscribe? Four weekly installments, their accompanying illustrations, and access to all past and future book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber!
The giveaway will be open until February 18th and the winner will be announced on February 22nd! Winner will be randomly selected.
The nitty gritty: This giveaway isn’t affiliated with WordPress. You must be 18 or older. US only. Void where prohibited. Winner will be contacted via email. No personal information will be used or shared.
That’s all! I’m really excited to be sharing this story with you all 🙂 The next installment will be available tomorrow!
This week, Penelope Grace is about to make an altogether wondrous discovery. Read the start of the adventure below, then return here this Friday for the unveiling of the winter carousel…
With a deep breath, Penelope Grace ducked beneath the lowest-hanging branches and stepped into the forest.
It was not long before she realized that they were, indeed, still following a path. Though it was worn and covered in thick patches of ice and snow, it was there, and it offered Penelope a measure of comfort.
The wolf followed faithfully behind, watchful for any danger.
But they were alone in this winter forest, and Penelope and the wolf continued on quietly, both understanding that the silence of this place was sacred and worth leaving undisturbed.
They walked in this way for some time, until, all of a sudden, the wolf trotted ahead of her.
Penelope could feel the creature’s expectation fill her as well, and her heart began to beat faster as they approached a clearing in the forest.
Without warning, the wolf ran forward, gracefully maneuvering the small gap in the trees that marked the entrance to the clearing, and Penelope followed suit.
Gently pushing aside the branches of an evergreen, Penelope Grace stepped into the clearing and found that she could not take another step. She was stunned and enchanted.
On the opposite side of the clearing stood an ice-blue carousel, covered in snow.
She could see from this distance that ice had coated the carousel’s gleaming silver poles, while patches of snow disguised the carousel’s animals. Only the moonlight illuminated it, setting countless glittering snowflakes ablaze, and Penelope Grace admired its reflected light.
The carousel looked as if it had been forgotten for a hundred endless winters until the ice and snow had come to cover it and claim the carousel for its own. Almost, it seemed wrong to do anything but leave it untouched.
The wolf thought otherwise.
It came to stand behind Penelope and nudged her forward.
But what happens next, you ask?
Only two more days to wait 😉
You can join the fight for wonder below!
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I happened upon this children’s mystery adventure by Karen Inglis several weeks ago, and I’m so glad I did! This is a charming, endearing tale, absolutely perfect for families to read and enjoy together. Read my full review below!
Have you ever wondered what mysteries might await you in the garden?
Don’t leave it unexplored, reader.
Don’t leave a stone unturned, for a secret is waiting just beneath the bushes, and it might be you who uncovers it…
In this delightful children’s mystery adventure, Karen Inglis has created a story that is perfect for families to enjoy together. They’ll feel all of Tom and Stella’s sadness as the two children adjust to an unfamiliar new home, grumble along with Tom at caretaker Charlie Green’s antics, celebrate the arrival of an unexpected friend, and cry for joy as the mystery is, at last, uncovered and a life-long adventure revealed.
The Secret Lake is a chance to read and wonder and adventure together that no family will want to miss.
You can join Karen Inglis’ Readers’ Club here, where you’ll receive a free poster of The Secret Lake and a crossword puzzle inspired by the story!
Welcome to Part Two: Winter, being the second part of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel.
Please enjoy this excerpt from the story.
She kept hoping her mother would turn around or that Georgie would return to the family room, ready to plead with their father once more with his usual mischievous grin.
No one appeared.
Penelope Grace, now alone with her father, summoned up her remaining courage and went to him. His back faced the rest of the room, and she nearly lost her nerve but made herself speak in the end.
“Papa, would you sit with me awhile?”
He did not stir.
She waited a few moments for his response, though it hurt her to know how oblivious he was to her.
When it was long past obvious that she would get no answer from her father tonight, Penelope, at last, followed in Georgie’s and her mother’s footsteps.
She stopped at the foot of the staircase when a faint touch of frigid air swept past her. The cold never troubled Penelope Grace, but it was unnatural to feel its touch indoors.
Wondering at the cause of it, Penelope searched the lower half of the house for an improperly latched window but found no such thing.
Frowning at the unwelcome mystery, she returned to the stairs, troubled, but at a loss for any sort of explanation.
For every step Penelope Grace took, the air grew colder. Halfway up, she snatched her hand back from the banister with a sharp intake of breath. The light was dim, but she could still make out a small patch of ice, which was slowly expanding to cover the length of the polished wood.
Penelope stepped back, frightened and confused by what was happening. Her breath came in visible, panicked gasps as she rushed up the last of the stairs, the only way she could think of to escape the cold and ice.
Escape is rarely so simple.
A fresh gust of wind struck Penelope just as she reached the landing. Her eyes widening in horror, she barely succeeded in stifling a cry as she watched frost begin to curl its way around the pattern on the wallpaper.
It was the first time that Penelope remembered thinking of ice as something cruel.
Installment Four publishes this Friday, Jan. 1st, and the fight for wonder is growing more dangerous than ever. Who knows what might happen next?
Once you’ve subscribed, you’ll receive four installments each month, illustrations that accompany the story, and the chance to win an exciting giveaway (announcement coming soon)! You’ll also have access to all past and future installments of our stories, so you can read them at any pace you like 🙂
What a wonderful story this was! I’m thrilled to share my review of The Princess Companion with you all today and sincerely hope you grab a copy for yourself! Read my full review below (and can we all take a moment to admire that gorgeous cover?!).
The kingdom of Arcadia is failing.
Chaos and unrest are brewing on every side, but the Queen, believing herself a failure, knows just who to turn to: a fairy godmother, who aided her once, many years ago…
Alyssa is just a woodcutter’s daughter, unseen by many, in search of work. But when she is separated from her companions one night and happens upon the Winter Castle, Alyssa finds herself unexpectedly employed as the Companion to the young princesses, Lily and Sophie.
Yet, there is more going on in the royal family than meets the eye. Prince Maximillian is being groomed for the throne, but as he and Alyssa grow closer, he only grows more restless, for the King and Queen are determined to see him marry royalty, a true princess worthy of the crown and the kingdom.
But, perhaps, the truest princess, unassuming and kind, has been among them all this time…
Melanie Cellier has crafted a refreshing and delightful take on The Princess and the Pea. This story is full of the villainous and valiant alike and breathes fresh life into an often overlooked fairy tale. Yet, for all its wonderful characters, twists, and turns, The Princess Companion is most to be cherished for the way it invites readers to believe once again, or, perhaps, for the very first time, that true love conquers all.
You can connect with Melanie Cellier on Goodreads, Instagram, and her website, where you can subscribe to her newsletter and receive regular updates on all things bookish!
The Princess Companion (and all the other wonderful books in The Four Kingdoms series) can be found on Bookshop and Amazon.
Last week, Part One: Christmas of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel came to a close. This Friday, the next part of the adventure begins in Part Two: Winter. Join the fight for wonder below and receive weekly installments of the story!
This week, I have the pleasure of sharing an excerpt from the third installment of my novel, Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, in which the search for the Wilderbeast has an unexpected ending…
They raced down the snow-covered steps, each eager to catch their first glimpse of the Wilderbeast.
“Where should we look first,” George asked, his face vibrant with anticipation and joy.
“Well, she came up our steps from the right, so –“
“To the park! Race you!”
Penelope laughed and ran after him, her cloak flowing behind her as she hurried to catch up.
They were nearly there when George finally slowed, his cheeks bright pink from the cold.
“Do you suppose, Penelope,” he asked in between deep breaths, “that the Wilderbeast will hurt us?”
“Never! Wilderbeasts come to the brave of heart to take them on wild adventures. They would never hurt anyone.”
With the park now in view, she smiled and cried, “Come on!”
Both Penelope and George quickly lost track of time and the Wilderbeast, but their time in the park did them immeasurable good. For a while, they could remember that, despite their concerns, there was still hope if they would only look for it.
Sometime later, as they made their way home, Penelope felt all the more determined to help her father; she could see him failing, could see all his joy and warmth fading in time with Uncle Alex. Perhaps, this Christmas would not be the same, but Penelope Grace fiercely believed that it could still be good.
Only a few streets separated them from home when George, suddenly remembering, cried in dismay, “The Wilderbeast! We never found her!”
“It will be all right, George. You never know when she might appear.”
They spent the next several minutes debating with great animation what the Wilderbeast might look like. As they turned down their street, George stopped in his tracks, delighted that they no longer had to guess.
Halfway down the street, just a few feet from their doorstep, the Wilderbeast lay settled in the snow, as if waiting for them all this time.
She looked very much like a dragon, but rather than scales, her sleek frame was covered in fur of a soft violet color, dappled in blue and green. As Penelope and George drew near, the Wilderbeast rose, extending her gossamer wings and lowering her head to look at them with her great, green eyes, the color of moss on rain-soaked bark.
They were less than a hundred yards from her when George halted, looking up at the Wilderbeast in wonder.
“She looks so kind,” he breathed.
“That’s so those who look closely enough will know they don’t have to be afraid of her.”
He was quiet for a moment more, then, “What’s her name?”
“Lunella,” Penelope replied, “for the way her wings shimmer in the moonlight.”
Just then, the Wilderbeast, seeming to decide that the two were worthy companions, lay on the ground once more and extended her leg so that Penelope and George could climb up.
“Shall we get on,” Penelope asked.
George offered her nothing more than a smile for an answer, and together, they ran to the Wilderbeast, but then –
“What on earth are you doing?”
Their father stood on the doorstep, and the Wilderbeast disappeared like a dusting of snow snatched by an icy breeze.
What do you suppose awaits Penelope Grace and Georgie inside? To find out and join the fight for wonder for yourself, subscribe below to receive weekly installments of the story through February 2021.
On the pages of The Edge of Everywhen, you’ll find a young girl, Piper, frightened and desperate for what has been lost to be returned…
Her brother, Phoenix, an altogether rare young man, longing to be seen and understood…
A father, fighting to be reunited with his family…
And Aunt Beryl, with a cold, reserved heart, longing to be warmed.
Do you hear the echoes of your own story in any of theirs? Then, read on.
But be warned!
Something astonishing, indeed, awaits you, dear Reader, for between the covers of The Edge of Everywhen, you’ll encounter a story that will bring you closer to God and closer to the person you were handcrafted to be.
There truly are not sufficient words to express how wonderful this story is, so I’ll leave you with a simple plea: please read The Edge of Everywhen. You won’t regret a minute of this adventure and will, I believe, walk away from it forever changed.
My heartfelt gratitude to A.S. Mackey for having the courage to write this story.
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.
You can grab a copy of The Edge of Everywhen from Bookshop (a fantastic site that allows you to support indie booksellers!), Lifeway, or Books-A-Million.
Prepare yourself, dear reader, for a curious tale of deep-sea rescue in this week’s installment of Penelope Grace’s adventures.
The fight for wonder is just beginning…
Join the Fight for Wonder
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Each week, I’ll be sharing an excerpt from my story, Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel. This week is full of all sorts of mischief!
Listen below, or, if you prefer, you can read the excerpt below the video!
Penelope Grace braced herself before entering the dining area, knowing that the moment she did, all sorts of silliness would ensue. George had told Uncle Alex and herself that they must find the most ridiculous costumes imaginable. But he gave them this warning: once they all sat down for supper, they must not, under any circumstances, laugh.
It can only seem fair that Penelope Grace set out to create a costume so absurd that George could not hope to win at his own mischievous game.
Taking a deep breath, she entered the room to find their plates already filled with piping-hot food and Uncle Alex sitting in great state at the head of the table.
A soft purple blanket was wrapped around his shoulders, secured by what Penelope suspected was one of Mama’s favorite brooches. But by far the most amusing was the Christmas wreath, full of pine cones and bright red ribbon, sitting on top of his head – a makeshift crown, she guessed.
He gestured for her to sit down. It was then that she noticed the umbrella. He planted it firmly on the carpet, as if it were some sort of grand staff, and met Penelope’s gaze, daring her not to be amused. The laughter nearly escaped her then.
Adopting a solemn expression, she adjusted her makeshift sword belt – made out of evergreen garland and very uncomfortable indeed – before striding forward with the utmost confidence. Regretfully, she only managed a few steps before she tripped over her weapon of choice: Nurse Sasha’s broom. Penelope looked up quickly, though, hoping to catch Uncle Alex in a laugh, but was chagrined to find that he was maintaining his composure.
He cleared his throat as she took a seat with as much dignity as possible. “A most unfortunate choice for a sword,” he lamented, before quickly taking a drink. But Penelope smiled, knowing he was really trying to disguise a laugh.
“Where is Georgie,” she asked. No sooner had the words left her lips then she heard her brother clearing his throat just outside the door.
“Tonight, Penelope,” he declared in a very dignified tone, “I am Sir George, a noble knight, and defender of the realm!”
He entered the room then, and Penelope knew she could not hope to find a more striking figure in all England. She first noticed one of Nurse Sasha’s freshly ironed tablecloths draped dramatically across Sir George’s shoulders and secured with a clothespin.
In his right hand, he held a whisk, a weapon sure to inspire fear in the hearts of the land’s greatest enemies. Slowly, he approached the table. Penelope and Uncle Alex could only assume this was to give them more time to admire his nobility. Once seated, Sir George observed them both carefully for any sign of merriment.
So far, they had contained it, but Penelope could not resist the urge to tease her brother. George, however, beat her to it. “How are you enjoying Sherwood Forest, Penelope?”
She hesitated, confused, before remembering that her hat for this evening was borrowed from their many games of Robin Hood.
“Oh, it’s lovely this time of year,” she replied, “though the Sheriff is giving us untold trouble, as always. I do hope you can find time in between quests to visit us.”
“I would like that very much.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes, each devising the best way to make the others laugh. Eventually, Penelope landed on just the thing. “Sir George, I hesitate to mention this, but I cannot help but notice that your helmet has several holes in it.”
He adjusted the colander indignantly. “It is the consequence of my many daring escapades.”
“Of course,” Penelope replied with a small smile. “Forgive me.”
At this point, Uncle Alex interjected. “Sir George, I wonder if you would be so kind as to share some tales of these daring escapades with us.”
“Yes, it would be my honor.”
His tone was very formal and impressive, but Penelope had to confess that the effect was somewhat spoiled when the colander slipped down over his eyes.
Her laughter nearly bubbled over, and Penelope looked down quickly, pursing her lips and fighting to mask it.
George, instantly noticing her difficulty with immense delight, asked with the sincerest of looks, “Is there something sour on your plate, my lady?”
Penelope cleared her throat before answering. “On the contrary, Sir George, the food is, as always, delicious.”
“I’m so happy to hear that,” he replied with a grin, fully intending to tease her further.
But just at that moment, Nurse Sasha came bustling in. She glanced at them briefly as she placed dessert on the table, then gave a start and looked back. They met her startled expression with perfect innocence, as if nothing at all was out of the ordinary, save George, who refused to make eye contact.
After a flabbergasted silence, Nurse Sasha seemed about to leave well enough alone until she took a good look at George’s costume. “George,” she managed to sputter, “is that my tablecloth?”
“No,” he said with admirable restraint, before quickly looking away for something more interesting to stare at.
Nurse Sasha crossed her arms and began to tap her foot, fully aware of his ploy. “George,” she said expectantly.
He turned back to face her with a startled look, as if only just realizing that she was there. “Yes?”
“My whisk, if you please.”
Slowly, and with great dignity, he passed the whisk to Nurse Sasha, who promptly snatched it from his hand and exited the room with much huffing and muttering.
Uncle Alex, Penelope, and George sat quietly for perhaps three seconds before they burst out laughing, unable to restrain their joy any longer.
“I believe this calls for chocolate cake by the fire,” Uncle Alex said. The joyous delight in his eyes would have convinced even the strictest of parents that it was an excellent idea. It was certainly enough to persuade George, who rushed to get three plates.
Penelope smiled. “I’ll be there shortly, Uncle Alex. Save me a piece?”
Penelope gathered their dinner plates and carried them to the kitchen. Between their many mischievous exploits and the care of the household itself, Nurse Sasha did quite enough for them already and would, perhaps, appreciate some help. She had just finished washing the dishes when Nurse Sasha arrived, carrying what remained of her chocolate cake.
When she saw what Penelope had done, she said, “Oh, just when I was fixing to stay angry with you for that mountain of nutcracker soldiers!”
“What soldiers,” Penelope asked before dancing from the room, the faintest hint of a smile in her eyes.
Thank you so much for reading! If you were one of the characters, what would your costume have looked like? I’d love for you to share your silliest ideas in the comments 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt and will join us for Installment Two this Friday! You can subscribe below to receive every installment of this wintry tale of wonder!
What a pleasure it is to introduce you all to The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer. This is a story you’re sure to find a treasured space for on your shelves. Read on for my full review!
Addie’s world has been turned upside down, and her expectations for what the future holds have been unceremoniously shattered. After learning that she can no longer pursue her college degree because of her family’s financial ruin, Addie has a choice: give in to despair or trust God to bring hope and purpose to circumstances that feel so uncertain and frightening.
When an opportunity comes to join a team of packhorse librarians who deliver books to the people of Boone’s Hollow, Addie believes that God is doing just that.
But when she arrives, Addie finds that superstition and prejudice have taken deep root, and finding her place in Boone’s Hollow will prove more difficult than she ever expected. Still, she is not without friends in this new place. A kindly old woman, Nanny Fay, and Emmett, an acquaintance from college, stand beside Addie through it all and might, in the end, make staying in Boone’s Hollow worthwhile.
It is no easy thing to craft a fictional community of people so exquisitely that readers immediately feel as if they’ve known the characters all their lives, but Kim Vogel Sawyer has done exactly that. And for all the characters’ faults and idiosyncrasies, they also possess strength and a willingness to grow in equal measure. Between these pages live real people who must bravely confront painful obstacles and who will leave all who pick up The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow with a longing to visit and learn from them again and again.
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.
You can connect with Kim on her website, Goodreads, and Twitter! She has so many wonderful stories to share, and I have no doubt you’ll want to dive into each one!
This Friday, Installment Two of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel publishes! Subscribe here to receive this winter tale of wonder! You’ll have unlimited access to this story (and all future ones) as long as you remain a subscriber. I hope you’ll join us! 🙂
Follow Penelope Grace on her wintry adventures when you subscribe today! For 3.99/month, you’ll receive four installments of the story, exclusive illustrations, and the chance to win an exciting prize in the coming weeks!
This is the week! The first installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel publishes this Friday, December 11th! Here’s a sneak peek to tide you over until then.
Penelope Grace was a remarkable girl.
Of course, that word – remarkable – can mean many different things, depending on whom you ask.
Upon entering the Saris household, you would first be taken to the kitchen for a warm cup of tea to fight off the early winter’s chill. There, Nurse Sasha – who oversaw everything – would happily offer you her opinion. She could hardly find it less than remarkable that a girl of sixteen could behave so like her nine-year-old brother as to be nearly indistinguishable.
Once welcomed and enlightened, you might continue to the living room and find a comfortable chair near Penelope’s mother, Mary, who is patiently mending the latest torn and dirt-stained dress. She would share with you how her daughter is remarkably and admirably unconcerned with what others think of her.
Over the years, her friends marveled to find that Penelope was just as likely to pick up an imaginary sword as an intricate piece of embroidery. Growing serious now, Mary would tell you of the many encouragements she has received to rein her daughter in.
But it is too rare a gift to see a child’s spirit endure into adulthood. As Penelope’s mother, she would ask, how could she do less than safeguard it?
But just then, young George would come bursting in, his great-uncle Alex not far behind, and insist on knowing what your conversation was about.
“Well, George,” Mary would ask with the warmest of smiles, “what do you think makes your sister remarkable?”
He would think hard about it for a minute or two but, his nose crinkling up as he grinned, would soon reply with a firm, “Two things.”
And then, leaning forward as if to share with you a very great secret, George would tell you a story. Just last week, Penelope had, remarkably, succeeded both in assembling an entire regiment of nutcracker soldiers in the foyer and in vanishing from sight before Nurse Sasha could certainly accuse her of having done it.
“And the second,” you would ask, sincerely eager to know.
“She is the only grown-up who isn’t only teasing me when she says she still believes in Father Christmas.”
Equally impressed by both these reasons, you might then turn to great-uncle Alex, whom you would find no less willing to join in the conversation.
He would have to say that Penelope was remarkable for her persistent delight in all things simple, yet extraordinary. Even now she remains as enchanted with his magic tricks as she was on the day he first arrived from Greece to share them with her.
But of all her family, acquaintances and friends, only her father, John – who has been listening by the crackling fire all the while – could tell you with absolute certainty what it was that made Penelope Grace genuinely remarkable:
To read more, subscribe below! For $3.99/month, you’ll receive a new installment each week, along with a special illustration to accompany the story and the chance to win an exciting gift in the coming weeks! See you Friday 🙂
What more perfect way to end this wintry week than with this beautiful winter tale about young Sofia’s perfect snow day?
The Snow Dancer is the perfect book for you and your family to read together on a snowy evening. Find my full review (and links to purchase) below!
On a chilly winter’s morning, the world blanketed in snow, a young girl named Sofia wakes up with a longing.
When a snowy day comes along, most children dream of snowball fights and sledding with their friends, but Sofia can think of only one thing: venturing out in the quiet of morning to dance through the frozen landscape, through the stillness and softness of freshly fallen snow.
With illustrations by Merce Lopez that beautifully render Sofia’s love for winter and dance, Addie Boswell succeeds in perfectly capturing all that is best about the winter season and those glorious snow days that all children look forward to. Readers of all ages will be happily swept along with Sofia as she dances, like a snow fairy twirling through the wonder of new-fallen snow.
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.
You can find a copy of The Snow Dancer on Bookshop, a website where you can support independent booksellers with every purchase! It is also available on Amazon.
Connect with Addie Boswell on her website. Merce Lopez can be found on Goodreads.
That’s all for this week! Next week, the first installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel publishes! You can subscribe here!
This week, the winter magic begins. Subscriptions to Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel are officially open!
This winter tale will be delivered straight to your inbox in weekly installments, from December to February. All of the information you need to subscribe can be found below.
But first, a little treat for you! Read on for the synopsis (and if you’d like to see the illustration that accompanies it, be sure to hit the subscribe button!).
I can’t wait to share this story with you all, and I hope you enjoy this sneak peek at the adventure to come!
In a home nestled on a quiet, cobblestone street, a young girl is holding tightly to wonder.
Penelope Grace is looking out the window, breathing in the stillness of snow falling. Christmas is coming, and as she lovingly places each candle on the windowsills, warmth and light transform her family’s home.
She settles in by the fireside with her family, welcoming you to join them, as Great Uncle Alex challenges anyone present to uncover the secret of his magic tricks.
The mystery, as always, remains, yet everyone is content. All is quiet and good, as it should be.
But as the holiday approaches, Penelope learns how easily circumstance can mock joy. A nameless shadow is haunting her family, and there seems to be no hope of defending them against his relentless attacks.
Still, Penelope Grace is not content to stand by and do nothing, and so, on a cold winter’s night, she finds herself chasing an unexpected friend through the snow.
But which will prove stronger?
Shadow or Light? Despair or wonder?
Follow her now through an ice-laden forest, down a worn, frozen path, to a winter carousel covered in snow.
Do you suppose that you will find the answers there?
See this week’s illustration and get access to future installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel when you subscribe monthly today! This will give you access to all current and future book releases from 21:25 Books!