I know of a certain badger named Romulus Took, whose home is full of all sorts of oddments, trinkets you’d be unlikely to find anywhere else.
For a badger, he’s an unusual sort, but I’ve grown to love him, and I believe you will, too.
Here’s a look inside Romulus’ burrow, and the items he’s acquired from a place called Elsewhere…
Any guess which is his favorite? 😉
I can’t wait for these postcards to make their way into the world! 📬
Until then, here’s an excerpt from Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves, featuring Romulus!
“It was widely accepted that Romulus Took was an odd sort of badger, though a well-loved one. He was notorious for collecting all sorts of trinkets from the human world; the badger was fascinated by them all, but it was candles that he loved best.
Chip’s father often related the day, quite some time ago, when Romulus Took had brought the first candles to Everleaf.
The skeptical and the enchanted alike had accepted Romulus’ gift with curiosity, which quickly turned to delight as, candle by candle, a small corner of Everleaf Forest was illuminated by dozens of flickering lights.
He never would say where he found the candles or the countless other oddments that filled his cozy home. No matter how many times Chip asked – and the badger had long ago lost track – all Romulus Took ever offered was a smile and wink, and perhaps, a self-satisfied, “Oh, Elsewhere.”
What do you think the secret of Elsewhere is? There’s certainly more to this badger than meets the eye!
Until you can uncover these secrets for yourself, please add Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves on Goodreads and be sure to follow me on Instagram so you don’t miss out on any writing updates!
The day is finally here!!! Happy release day to H.A. Pruitt and her new book, Earth Quaking!
All of the other books I’m currently reading will be promptly abandoned as soon as this story arrives on my doorstep, and I’m certain you’ll feel the same once you read this special excerpt!
“No, honestly, it wasn’t,” Ella instantly brightly assured her and, after chuckling at Kindle’s dumbfounded blinking, explained, “It was quite awful—all I thought I’d lost—for a long while, but one day I was so overtaken by the unfairness and all I felt because of it that I told my papa about it. And, Kin, I remember it just as he told me. He sat me down in a chair and knelt down beside me and pointed his finger right at my nose. He said, ‘Young lady, you are precisely where you ought to be and everything going on in your life is happening precisely as it ought to be. I found out a long time ago that we can’t go thinking this and that is the way it ought to be because this and that never was. All that you’re conjuring ain’t the life you was to live—this is, right as it is happening right now.’ He told me that, Kin, and I knew he was right. That all I had imagined … was not the life I was meant to live. My life happened as it did and our lives are happening like this right now because they are supposed to be happening this way. Everything that’s gone on has happened for some reason, and now you’re not at your home and I’m away from my papa for some purpose.
“Ever since he told me that, I’ve known that every bit of life happens as it should—never wrongly or mistakenly or out of order—but I’ve never really understood how so many strange, mundane, and mad things can all be for some real purpose until now. You see, it’s the makers, Kin. They’ve made everything, and not just the wood of these trees and things, but a plan and purpose for all of it and Anelthalien. There’s no other way they could know what we must do before we’ve done it. Do you see? It must be quite like when my papa stews a soup—he takes all sorts of mad bits of this and that, and you can never see how it will all turn out, but once it’s done and you taste it, you see how it all worked out. The makers aren’t just guessing at where we need to go or what to do when they tell us to go somewhere or do something—they know precisely why we four are the ones here and how all the strange, mundane, and mad bits of this journey are exactly what we need when we meet them and have some reason we may not see until it’s all done and worked out. Kin, all this is happening precisely as it ought, and we and Tad and Andrew are all precisely where we ought to be.”
There’s only one more day to wait for Earth Quaking, book two in the Anelthalien series, to release!
Anelthalien is one of my favorite books, and H.A. Pruitt is such a gifted writer, who boldly pens every word God gives her as this beautiful story continues to unfold.
If you’d like to learn more about this fantastic series, read the synopsis below and check out my review of Anelthalienhere.
If you ever knew something wasn’t quite right, Anelthalien is waiting.
Shaken from their encounter with the cloaked figure, Kindle, Tad, Ella, and Andrew continue their quest across Anelthalien to find and end the evil throne. Fractured by a secret among them, the heroes escape into a forest trembling with Anelthalien’s memories. Their goal to reach the evil throne dims, though, as the elements, obscure foes, and the past push them to doubt their mission and even if they can trust one another.
Kindle, Tad, Ella, and Andrew must remember who they can trust or their disunity will rip all hope away from them and Anelthalien.
Earth Quaking is the second book in the Christian fantasy series Anelthalien. Anelthalien begins the story of four teens who are transported to a strange land when they find mysterious necklaces. The four teens learn they are heroes who are tied to the salvation or demise of the land of Anelthalien. The Anelthalien series can be enjoyed by middle grade, young adult, and adult readers. Anyone who loves reading portal fantasy books with a deeper message would enjoy Anelthalien.
Earth Quaking is a fantasy adventure but also teaches spiritual truths and answers difficult questions of faith such as: Why do bad things happen? Who can I trust? Can I trust God and how do I know? How can I discern God’s voice from other voices?
Although Earth Quaking provides an escape into a wondrous fantasy land, it also equips readers with encouragement and Biblical truth that will help them in daily life.
More about H.A. Pruitt:
H.A. Pruitt is the Christian fantasy author of Anelthalien. She lives with her rowdy herd of guinea pigs and her sarcastic husband. She never wanted to be an author and would have been content to remain unknown to the world, but God decided that she would be perfect to hear the story of Anelthalien and share it with the world. Now H.A. Pruitt’s goal in all she does and writes is to listen to, obey, and glorify God.
Please add Earth Quaking on Goodreads and come back tomorrow to read a special excerpt from the book! I can’t wait to share it!
Haven’t read Anelthalien yet? I know of a few retailers who can solve that problem 😉
“Sally stood up, scanning the room filled with chattering, jostling garden gnomes. ‘I have one gnome who has not yet shed his wishdrop… I think he’d be pleased to help you out,’ she said, still scanning the room. ‘Cott? Cott? Where are you, Cott?’ Sally called. ‘I have some visitors for you!’
Luna lifted her head and noticed the conglomeration of gnomes on the staircase begin to shuffle and squeeze, as if making way for someone to pass through.
A stubby gnome popped out of the group, waving his hands in the air.
‘I’m here, Miss Sally!’ he hollered, continuing to weave his way through the crowd.
Luna noticed two gnomes trailing behind him. One had two cute braids sticking out from under her pointed hat. She wore a blue dress and had rosy cheeks. Behind her was a gnome who was even shorter and stubbier than the others. Luna knew right away he was a child – even though he had a large, white beard. He held onto his mother’s hand and waved cheerily at every individual they passed.
When the three gnomes finally reached Witch Sally, they bowed politely and introduced themselves.
‘The name’s Terracotta Glaze. ‘Tis a pleasure to make your acquaintance.’ He lifted his leg and showed them an inscription on the bottom of his boot. It said: 100% Terracotta. Then the gnome bowed humbly once again. His red pointy hat seemed to be so firmly attached to his head that it didn’t even wiggle as he bowed. Luna thought he was quite charming.
‘This here is my lovely wife, Dripdrop,’ Terracotta gave her a peck on the cheek, making a clinking sound like two glasses bumping into each other. He gestured to the smaller gnome. ‘And our son, Bert.’
Terracotta had a cheerful face and a shiny white beard – made of the same hard material as the rest of him – framing his face. He reminded Luna of the pictures her family, the Robbins, always hung around the house during Christmas time. What did they call the man with the red suit and white beard? But the gnome wasn’t wearing a red suit, just a red pointy hat. His clothing was blue, matching Dripdrop’s blue dress.
Edwin stepped forward, ‘It is an honor to meet you, Mr. Terracotta Glaze.’ Edwin extended his hand. ‘I am Wizard Edwin – an old classmate of Witch Sally’s.’
Terracotta extended his own little hand, reaching up to shake Edwin’s. Seeing the size of the garden gnome’s hand, Edwin corrected himself and instead of his entire hand stuck out a single finger, using it to shake hands.
‘Pleasure ta meet ya’! And call me Cott. My friends all call me Cott,’ the little gnome insisted, smiling warmly.”
I don’t know about you, but I feel sure that Terracotta Glaze is a friend worth having!
Get to know him better and join him as he helps return Hoover to his owlish state in Hoover’s Horn, book two of The Cottonwood Chronicles!
And check out these fun, whimsical coloring pages that Erica Richardson designed herself! I can’t wait to color them 🙂 You can see more and download your own coloring pages here!
And be sure to follow Erica’s writing journey on Instagram!
Next week, something different is coming…
Earth Quaking by H.A. Pruitt releases June 30th, and the celebration is just beginning!
Luna’s first adventure with her newfound friends has hardly ended, and the next one is already beginning…
Wizard Edwin is up to his magical tricks once again, and Hoover – Luna’s beloved (and sometimes grumpy) owl friend – has paid the price.
Transformed into a fierce rhinoceros and none too happy about it, Hoover demands to be turned back into his dignified, feathered self this instant.
But it will take all of Edwin’s magical resources and friends to undo this latest mishap, and they’ll soon learn that their hope rests on one noble gnome, Mr. Terracotta Glaze.
It seems impossible, but you never know, young reader. With a few willing friends and a wish fulfilled, Hoover might regain his feathers yet.
Hoover’s Horn is a wonderful continuation of The Cottonwood Chronicles. I continue to be delighted by Erica Richardson’s God-given gift for taking a whimsical tale full of child-like wonder and adventure and then filling it to the brim with heart-warming reminders of true friendship and what’s really worth treasuring in life.
If you’re longing for a story that’s sure to bring your family together for an adventure full of magic and delight, look no further than Hoover’s Horn, book two of The Cottonwood Chronicles, and all of the magical adventures yet to come.
If you’re just discovering the wonder of Erica’s magical tales, you can find a copy of Luna’s Rescue on Amazon!
While you’re there, you might as well grab a copy of Hoover’s Horn, so you don’t have to wait a moment to find out what happens next 😉
When you’ve finished, please consider leaving a review on Goodreads! It’s the best and quickest way to help out your favorite authors!
You can join Erica’s writing adventures on Instagram 🙂
This Thursday, I’m sharing a special excerpt from Hoover’s Horn and a peek at the coloring pages that Erica designed for her stories!
I’m overjoyed to welcome Kimberly Duffy to the blog today! She shares what drew her to writing historical fiction, how struggles with grief and doubt wove their way into her stories, and what’s in store for her next book, Every Word Unsaid!
This interview was such a delight, and I hope you enjoy!
Grief and doubt are topics we often dance around, but you confront them with a remarkable honesty and courage. What led you to address both in A Tapestry of Light?
I have always struggled with fear. Some of my earliest memories are of OCD flares (which I was diagnosed with post-partum after my second child was born) and I can’t think of anything that scares me more than losing a loved one. As a reader and writer, I process through story. Through imagination and words. As someone who suffers with OCD, it is nearly impossible for me to turn those thoughts off. They are relentless, coming at me with a ferocity that sometimes has me paralyzed. They are graphic and disturbing. And for brief moments, when my breath is coming short and shallow and my heart is twisting, I think, “How would I survive this if it was more than intrusive thoughts?”
So I pour it all out in my stories. I live vicariously through my characters. I watch them suffer and struggle and, ultimately, discover they can survive. And that offers me a bit of hope. We’re resilient. We’re created for more than this place, these bodies, even the love we’ve discovered here.
And doubt…it’s something I’ve struggled with for about a decade. I have no idea where it came from. No idea what triggered it. My faith walk is split into the before and after—before, when I was certain of everything I’d been taught, and after, when nothing was as it should be. I deconstructed—that’s a buzzy word. Deconstruction. Thankfully, I didn’t wallow in the shards of my shattered faith. I cut myself loose of all the extraneous stuff that had nothing to do with Christ. Like Ottilie, I protected that fragile, single seed. And every time I found myself doubting, questioning, I said, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” It was enough. For YEARS. And then I began reading through the Bible. I filled myself with the word. I read apologists and great minds like CS Lewis and Chesterton. And eventually, the doubt began to flicker. It didn’t completely extinguish—every once in a while it is fed a little bit of oxygen—but mostly it leaves me alone.
Unfortunately, I felt very alone the entire time of my struggle. No one was talking about it. No one was addressing it. It was dismissed. And I don’t want any other Christian who struggles with it to feel as though they have no one walking beside them.
What first drew you to writing historical fiction?
I love history. I spent six months in tenth grade digging deep into the ancient Etruscans. Another six months in Ancient Rome. A good part of my 11th grade year researching everything I could on the Civil War. Most days, I shoved aside my history textbooks in favor of historical narratives, autobiographies, classic literature (I never studied a moment for any of my history exams yet I got a nearly perfect score on the AP test. I’m a big believer in learning history through what Charlotte Mason called “living books”.) I spent a bit of time scared of writing historical fiction—choosing instead to write contemporary romance—but my love for it eventually won out and from the moment I typed the first line of A Mosaic of Wings, I didn’t look back (or forward?) I love that people don’t really change. The same things we want and struggle with today are the same things they wanted and struggled with a hundred years ago. Human nature is fairly constant and, as a woman and mother of three girls, I’m fascinated by the amazing things women achieved in times when it was nearly impossible to step outside expected social norms and carve a path for themselves.
Historical fiction is an extremely popular genre. What do you think gives historical figures and events such a unique ability to speak into our present-day experiences?
I think there’s a comforting kind of familiarity that’s tempered with enough differences—enough years—to give us a bit of distance. It’s like seeing someone you know in the same stage of life dealing with something adjacent to your own personal struggles. It’s not exactly the same so you can comfort yourself by saying, “Well, that’s not happening, at least” but it’s close enough that you can watch and see how they handle it. Learn from their experience.
The descriptions in your novels are so stunning. What helps or inspires you when trying to bring a certain location or period to life for readers?
Thank you! I work hard to immerse my readers in every scene. I want them to feel and taste and see and hear everything my characters do. I’m lucky that I write during a time when photography was becoming more widely available and there are a ton of photographs available online. Especially when I was researching for Tapestry, there were so many of Kolkata during the 1880s-90s. I could see the streets, houses, fashions. I spend a lot of time collecting images in Pinterest boards and searching them for any detail I can add that will lend an engaging sensory detail to my stories. I also read a lot written during the time I’m writing. There’s no contemporary essay or article or book that can replace the authenticity of actual personal accounts.
What are you currently reading? Do you have certain books that you’re always recommending?
Currently I’m reading two nonfiction health books (I’m usually reading a health book of some sort) and trying to work through my TBR. I got super behind while I was on deadline. I just finished The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel which was fantastic. I started The Gentleman Spy by Erica Vetsch (her books are always very engaging) yesterday and am planning on finishing up doing a read aloud of The Hiding Place with my older two girls soon. I can’t say there’s any particular book I recommend all the time because it just depends on who is reading and what they enjoy.
Can you share any details with us about your next book?
I’d love to! Every Word Unsaid releases November 2, 2021 and it’s about Gussie Travers—globetrotting, adventure seeking, unintentional trouble making photographer who, through no fault of her own, creates a scandal and escapes to Poona, India—landing right in the middle of a bubonic plague epidemic. There’s an adorably geeky doctor hero, fun scenes set in some of India’s most beautiful cities, and a heroine who, no matter how hard she tries, can’t seem to escape the reach of the words that chase her.
Thank you so much, Kimberly, for doing this interview and offering such thoughtful, heartfelt answers!
“Sometimes little things held more strength than the grand.”
For Ottilie Russell, life has been an unending pattern of loss.
First, her father and siblings, wrenched away by illness.
Then, her mother, stolen away in a senseless accident that leaves her with the daunting responsibility of caring for her grandmother and younger brother, Thaddeus.
Ottilie is determined, though. Amidst the swirl of doubt and grief, she steels herself to use her unique gift for embroidery to honor her parents’ legacy and provide for her family.
But Ottilie soon learns that her mother’s plans for them were quite different than what she expects, and plans have been set in motion that promise to rip away everything that is familiar.
Everything comforting and reassuring.
As much as Ottilie has wrestled with her British and Indian heritage, she is about to find herself more torn between the two than ever before. The only way forward is to carefully gather the smallest scraps of faith and courage she has left and discover if they will be enough to make something with real strength.
Kimberly Duffy’s books are absolute wonders and a gift to anyone who reads them. In A Tapestry of Light, the pages are filled with characters who hold their darkest struggles up to the light with a courage and vulnerability that is exceedingly rare.
Readers will be comforted to know that they are not alone in their doubts or pain, challenged to ask the hardest questions, and emboldened to face their long-held fears.
There are countless lessons and comforts to be found in the pages of this book, but, by far, the most important one for me is this:
Sometimes, it is the smallest stitches that transform a tapestry into a work of stunning beauty, and, often, it’s the seemingly insignificant seeds of faith that make a person radiant with the hope that even a life fragmented by loss can be daily made whole.
A Tapestry of Light is available on Amazon and Bookshop, a really fantastic site that supports indie bookstores with every purchase!
I’m so excited to share my interview with M.H. Elrich! She shares the heart behind Etania’s Worth, the inspiration she hopes readers find in the story, and her plans for the rest of The Daughters of Tamnarae series!
Etania’s Worth is such a powerful, redemptive story. What inspired you to include characters who are struggling to receive grace and accept God’s calling on their lives?
First off, thank you for the compliment. I definitely wanted that to come across in my book, so it makes me happy that you discovered it! I was actually inspired by real life circumstance. I have also struggled with receiving grace and accepting God’s calling on my life. For a long time, I vacillated between doing an office job and teaching. Eventually, God convinced me to teach, albeit kicking and screaming, and I discovered he was right, I love it! So I can relate to Etania very much about not being sure if this is what God really wants. I also have thought I didn’t deserve God’s love or grace, so writing that for Etania came through easily.
What made you choose to write in the Christian fantasy genre? How do you think this genre uniquely speaks into readers’ fears or struggles?
I chose to write in the Christian fantasy genre because I realized it was impossible for me to separate my faith elements from my fiction. Many people are able to write clean fiction without faith elements, and maybe one day I will be able to do that. But right now, I find it easier to have a God character in Melchizedek and focus on the Christian audience. I think this genre speaks uniquely to Christians in that it inspires them in their faith. I think that more Christians need books that help them grow in their faith, and not through nonfiction, but through the fiction format. Plus, this helps the nerds like me out there who love fantasy, but also love God.
Parents are typically absent from young adult stories. I love that your book is different! What led you to give the parents such pivotal roles in the story?
I actually want to reverse reader expectations, so that’s a good catch. 😁 As a reader myself, I saw the absentee parents trope and thought: that’s not realistic! Most people have one or two parents. So I wanted to create a relationship dynamic with parents that was realistic. As a young woman, I wasn’t as close to my father as I am now. Formulating Etania’s relationship with Jakin was easier because of these experiences. I haven’t gone through exactly what Etania went through with her mother, but I know how I would feel if I did. Thus, I created parents that reminded me of my own, but different.
I walked away from Etania’s story with a fresh understanding of Who God is and who I am in Him. What do you most hope that readers take away from reading Etania’s Worth?
Honestly, that is the message I wanted people to take away from my story! I’m so happy you got it! 😀 I recently added to the novel the key verse, “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is far above rubies.”-Proverbs 31:10 KJV. I want every young woman who reads this book to realize that God loves them and values them far more than rubies.
Can we look forward to a sequel to Etania’s story?
Yes! Finally, after two years of finishing my credential and the draft of Etania’s Calling, I am able to work on finishing it. I hope to come out with the sequel in December, God willing, and publish the next book in Etania’s series the year after that. Therefore, Etania’s story will take place over three novels, Etania’s Worth, Etania’s Calling, and Etania’s Destiny. After I finish working on Etania’s stories, I intend to start publishing three books on Etania’s daughter, Lavanna, and at least one book on Etania’s mother, Tala. That should complete my Daughters of Tamnarae series, but who knows? God may inspire me to write more. The best way to stay tuned to my book progress is to join my email list or to follow me on Instagram.
I talk about it more on those two platforms than anywhere else.
Thank you so much for the interview!
Thank you so much for doing this interview! Follow M.H. Elrich’s writing journey at the links above, and be sure to grab a copy of Etania’s Worth on Amazon or Bookshop!
Next week, I’ll be featuring my review of A Tapestry of Light and an interview with the author, Kimberly Duffy! I can’t wait!
What a delight to share this wonderful story with you this week! Read my full review of Etania’s Worth by M.H. Elrich below! And come back on Thursday for a special interview with the author!
“Etania. She felt Melchizedek’s voice, warming her whole body… Lean on me.”
The land of Tamnarae and its people are at terrible risk. Melchizedek is no longer amongst them, and the forces of Malstorm, known as the Skazic, are rising once more.
Yet, there are those blessed with Neuma – unique gifts bestowed by Melchizedek Himself – who remain loyal and are willing to risk all to fight for what is good and true.
But when Etania, along with her family and friends, is called to join the fight, she discovers that leaning on Melchizedek in faith is the greatest battle of all…
Etania’s Worth is such a remarkable story. Full of adventure, love, betrayal, and courage, it’s a novel that is sure to entertain readers of all ages and challenge them to face their fears with bold faith.
The characters struggle with real brokenness and doubt, but what truly sets this story apart is the redemptive arc that most of the characters experience. Reading a novel where many characters learn to receive grace and healing was so refreshing. I’m sure that readers will agree, as they turn the last page, that we need more stories as brave and full of faith as Etania’s Worth.
I’m so grateful that I had the chance to read this remarkable story!
Pick up a copy for yourself and a friend at Amazon or Bookshop (a wonderful site that supports independent bookstores with every purchase)!
Join me on Thursday as I share a wonderful interview with M.H. Elrich!
I’m excited to welcome D.M. Sonntag, author of The Lightning Bride, to my blog today! She shares news of her upcoming book release, what encourages her amidst the challenges of being an indie author, and what she believes sets her book apart from other YA fantasy!
Read on below and check out my full review of The Lightning Bridehere!
The Lightning Bride includes both mythical creatures and characters with magical powers. What inspired you to include those elements in the story?
I’ve always been fascinated with magical powers and constantly think on all the various ways someone could manipulate an element, like fire. I wanted to give the main character of The Lightning Bride, Maylie, something more than just one elemental component, so I made her an energy mage and explored the boundaries and usages of that magical power.
While I enjoyed the Little Mermaid as a child, I didn’t really get into those mythical creatures until Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stanger Tides. The movie introduced the concept that mermaids could walk on land once they dry, and be somewhat malevolent. I was fascinated and wanted to do something more on that. I wondered how they reproduce and got the inspiration from vampires that these somewhat malevolent fanged mermaids bit women to make more mermaids.
What’s your favorite thing about the YA fantasy genre?
I love the escape into another world with fantasy in general, and when it’s YA the main characters are typically teenagers thrust into life changing situations. It’s empowering to read about young characters who overcome trials and accomplish their goals when the world said they couldn’t due to being “just kids.” It was challenging enough when I was a young adult in the real world, so I loved reading stories about characters just like me in fantasy worlds where I could escape my reality and gain inspiration from their triumphs. If they could ride dragons or slay monsters, I could pass that physics test.
YA fantasy is an incredibly popular genre and there are a lot of books to choose from. What do you think sets The Lightning Bride apart from other YA fantasy novels?
I have yet to read a popular YA fantasy book centering on pirates! I could be very wrong and they are out there, but normally if I pick up a YA fantasy book, it’s either about faeries or vampires the majority of the time. Neither of those creatures are in my Kingdom Isles novels, because I wanted to write something that isn’t overdone and sets it apart from other YA novels.
Pursuing indie publishing presents unique challenges. What has encouraged you through those challenges? What are some ways that you encourage/support other authors?
Finding a community has definitely encouraged me. I could not have accomplished everything that I have alone, and it’s strengthening to know that there are others struggling with the same things that I struggle with, because we can help each other and hold each other accountable. Some ways that I encourage and support other authors is reading their books and promoting their works. As an indie author myself, I know how important reviews are, not only to help the authors become seen but provide feedback on how to improve their writing. I also try to market books that I’ve read and loved as equal if not more than my own book, especially in my day job or to my family and friends.
Are there any fellow indie authors you’d like to give a shout-out to?
Absolutely! I would not be where I am today without Genevieve Crownson, author of The Argos Dynasty trilogy and Cage of Glass. She convinced me to self-publish and gave me the tools and resources to get my foot in the door.
Matthew Romeo has become one of my good friends in the writer community on Instagram, and we’ve learned we’re very similar in our writing styles and elements that we enjoy to read. He just completed his sci-fi fantasy trilogy, The Maven Knight!
Luke Courtney is also another fellow, whose fantasy worldbuilding is absolutely incredible and I call the new indie Tolkien. He is always super supportive of my writing and we’ve bonded over our shared love for the Witcher series.
A. M. McPherson is about to release her debut novel, The Guardian’s Daughter, in September! We met through beta reading of my prequel novella, The Mermaid’s Shadow, and became immediate friends (similar to that scene in Stepbrothers) by finding out the fandoms we’re both into.
What can you tell us about upcoming projects or releases?
The Lightning Bride is just the first of many! The Mermaid’s Shadow is already out, and it is a prequel novella following the mother of my main character in TLB. The Golden Wolf will be Book Two in the Kingdom Isles series which I hope to release in August, and there will be a third and final book in this series. I also have two more prequel novellas planned, though am unsure if one is getting released before or after Book Three.
After the Kingdom Isles, I have so many projects! My most immediate is a YA trilogy about werewolves and vampires in a small-town theater, then after that a generational seven book steampunk series.
Thank you so much for joining me for this interview!
This week, I’m sharing my book review of D.M. Sonntag’s YA fantasy novel, The Lightning Bride! Read on for my full review and come back here on Thursday for a special interview with the author!
Have you ever wondered where you belong?
Maydeline Shadow is wondering the same thing and all the more as her family’s life and reputation in the Northern Kingdom begins crumbling.
Reviled for their connection to a world of mermaids and magic, it seems that the Shadow family is relying on Maylie to find a husband who can restore their standing.
But as Maylie searches, she realizes that her family is swept up in a story years in the making, hunted by a crazed mage who is desperate for revenge. And as the days pass, the most urgent question becomes if the Shadow family will survive the danger at all…
The Lightning Bride is an action-packed, YA fantasy novel that blends myth and magic in an exciting and unique way. Whether you’re looking for adventure on the sea or longing to know what dangers might lurk beneath the waves, this story will have something to intrigue and delight YA readers.
The biggest difficulty I had while reading The Lightning Bride was finding Maylie unrelateable at times. I struggled to connect to her character, and it made it difficult to root for her throughout the story.
That being said, there are many strong aspects to this novel. I particularly loved the way that so many different cultures were included and explored.
All in all, D.M. Sonntag has created a unique world, one that readers looking for a fantasy adventure will enjoy!
The Lightning Bride is available on Amazon! Once you’ve finished the adventure, please leave a review on Goodreads! A simple review is one of the very best ways you can support authors!
You can connect with D.M. Sonntag on her website and Instagram, so you don’t miss out on any writing updates or news about new book releases!
This Thursday, D.M. Sonntag joins us for an author interview!
What are some of your current reads? I’d love to know who your favorite indie authors are and always welcome ideas for books and authors to feature on my blog!
I’m so excited to share my interview with C.D. Hulen as we continue to celebrate the recent release of his sci-fi novel, Abort!
Read on to learn more about the inspiration for Abort, C.D. Hulen’s advice for fellow indie authors, and his thoughts on how to include a powerful, faith-based message in novels!
I really enjoyed reading your novel! What inspired the story of Abort?
Thanks so much! Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what inspired me, outside of God of course (as all things work according to His will). This particular story concept came to me almost fully formed, which wasn’t super common for me. I thought it would make a good book, so I wrote down the idea and then promptly forgot about it for about 6 months. But obviously, I found it again, and here we are.
One common pro-life argument that is used to confront abortion is that of comparing unborn children to people in a coma who are going to wake up (both are dependent on others, neither are highly responsive, and both are in their respective states for a limited amount of time, i.e., the person in a coma will wake up and the child will be born). This particular argument was definitely an inspiration. After the initial stages of writing, I drew inspiration from other sources, such as my Christian faith, my Dad’s suggestions, Ray Comfort’s videos on abortion, and Paul Washer’s articulation of the gospel, in order to add more depth to the story.
Throughout the story, Mason wrestles with divided loyalties and the distinction between right and wrong. Was he a difficult character to write? What do you think makes characters like him so compelling?
Definitely one of the most difficult things about writing Mason was keeping the reader from being completely disgusted by him. What he’s trying to do is terrible, and readers generally don’t want to root for that, so it was a struggle to balance the sympathetic aspects of his character without excusing his actions. I think his relatability and understandability help make him compelling. Although the reader hopefully won’t agree with his mission, they can understand why he’s doing it, and can relate to the many trials he faces on the HS10.
Christian sci-fi isn’t a genre that I, personally, hear much about, and it was exciting to read your novel! What about sci-fi do you believe uniquely positions the genre to share a faith-based message?
There’s definitely not much Christian sci-fi in mainstream media—none in film that I’ve seen, and not a ton in literature. But anyway, I think science fiction can be uniquely poised to tackle current issues as well as delve into compelling allegories. The concept of Abort was perfectly setup for a science fiction setting—I didn’t even consider another genre! I also believe that with science fiction you have something that Fantasy can struggle with—a real presentation of the gospel. This can be done in contemporary and historical fiction for sure, but fantasy generally relies heavily on gospel allegories if it wants to approach the Christian theme (Jesus). Science fiction has the privilege of dealing with the real thing.
What are some of the obstacles you’ve faced as a self-published author and what enabled you to overcome them? Do you have any encouragement to offer fellow writers who want to follow that same route?
I think the battle against anonymity has been the hardest. I can learn how to write good prose, design a book cover, and develop compelling characters, but as an author who started with zero platform, it’s been challenging. I think what’s to be learned is that it’s all up to God. If He wants the book to go far, it will. If not, it won’t. I have to hold my dreams loosely, trust His plan, and be faithful. If the marketing of this book has taught me anything it’s that God is in control.
A note of practical advice for writers: keep writing, keep getting feedback, and write again. It’s a long slog sometimes, but the more you do it, the better you get. And if you’re a Christian who is writing fiction, don’t tack your faith onto it. What I mean is that the gospel isn’t an afterthought, so if you’re a Christian and writing a story, don’t force the gospel into it, allow it to permeate the entire thing. Don’t sprinkle the gospel onto your story, soak your story in the gospel. All or nothing. Don’t be afraid to be preachy but tell a good story, make it real, and give it over to God.
Can you share any details with readers about your current or upcoming projects?
Well, I don’t want to share too much, but I’ve always got story ideas in my head. People who’ve followed me for a while know that I’ve wanted to write a musical, as well as refurbish and finish my historical fantasy trilogy. I also have some more Christian sci-fi stories brewing which address the current issues of the woke church and Christless conservatism. All that to say, I’m not sure what I’ll do yet, but whatever it is, I want God to be glorified.
Thank you so much to C.D. Hulen for joining me for this interview!
Happy Release Day to C.D. Hulen and his brand-new novel, Abort!
This is a science-fiction adventure unlike any other, and I’m thrilled to share my review below (and an interview with the author later this week)!
When Commander Mason Wyatt wakes up on a starship, he has more questions than answers.
Discovering his mission should have been a comfort, but the clock is ticking to complete it, and Mason finds himself stuck with a partner who is asking difficult questions, questions that unsettle his understanding of right and wrong and that put his precarious reputation at further risk.
When he first awoke on the starship, Mason thought the most important thing was to complete the mission, but as time runs short, he must decide if he even has the right to do what the mission demands…
C.D. Hulen has created a masterful, stand-alone sci-fi novel that is both a thrilling adventure through space an intriguing exploration into a character’s struggle with right and wrong.
With a faith-based perspective that effortlessly permeates the entire story, Abort is a novel that will both entertain and challenge readers, and it’s certainly an adventure that they’ll never forget.
Have you ever read a book that left you with the feeling that you’ve never encountered anything like it before?
For me, that book is Anelthalien by fellow author, H.A. Pruitt.
This story is something special, friends.
It follows four young, reluctant heroes – Kindle, Tad, Ella, and Andrew – all of whom are looking for something different, longing for an escape. As they travel through an unfamiliar land – encountering friends, questions, and mysteries – each of them must decide if they will accept their role as heroes or turn their backs on Anelthalien and its people altogether. It’s a thrilling and powerful adventure!
But, perhaps, even more remarkable than the journey the characters go on is the wonder this story works on every single one of its readers.
While journeying through Anelthalien alongside the four heroes, I witnessed true courage.
I was reminded of what patience (even with the most seemingly unloveable) looks like.
I encountered the Savior and learned what being a hero truly requires.
And I emerged better for it.
All because of a courageous woman who was simply willing to pen the words of Anelthalienexactly as God gave them to her.
What a remarkable gift that I can never properly thank her or God for.
Pick up this book, fellow readers, because Anelthalien isn’t only something different; it’s something altogether rare.
What an honor and joy to be part of this blog tour that celebrates one of my very favorite books and authors!
Grab a copy of Anelthalien for yourself and a friend, and get ready for the next installment of the journey, Earth Quaking, releasing June 30th! I can’t wait!
Connect with H.A. Pruitt on Instagram and her website to follow her writing (and guinea pig) adventures! I’ve been so blessed to get to know her, and you will be, too! 🙂
Have you ever wondered what mysteries and adventures might wait just beyond the tree line?
Let me introduce you to Everleaf Forest and a special sneak peek at my illustrated children’s book, Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves…
Not so very long ago, on a spring day much like this one, a young rabbit named Chip was waiting for something.
I’d tell you what it was now, but I wouldn’t want to spoil things.
The forest of Everleaf was Chip’s home, and oh, was it the grandest of forests, full of old, strong oaks covered in rich green moss. Rutted paths, nearly overgrown now, carved their way through the land, though it seemed only the animals travelled them.
Everleaf was one of those forests that set the imagination ablaze; the longer you spend walking beneath its boughs, the less surprised you would be to find a fairy flying for cover behind feathery ferns or a group of elves disappearing from view just around the next bend.
And yet, surrounded as he was by the wondrous, Chip was still waiting for just one thing, and it seemed it would never come.
He waited and waited until the sun sank below the treetops and the animals returned to their burrows and nests. The great owl, Nesbit, emerged from the grandest oak in the clearing, and even still, Chip was there.
Blinking his wide, amber eyes several times, Nesbit looked down at the young rabbit. “Still waiting, are we?” he asked with a rustle of his feathers as he settled on his nighttime perch.
“Yes,” Chip replied, not a little disappointed that all his diligence had gotten him precisely nowhere.
“Hmm. Perseverance is what’s needed here, young Chip. Perseverance!” Nesbit proclaimed, startling several disgruntled birds from their dreams.
“Yes, Nesbit. Thank you,” Chip replied, trying very hard to sound grateful. He and Nesbit had the same conversation every night, and the owl’s commanding declaration of “Perseverance!” had yet to make him feel better.
Thankfully, his mother’s clear voice rang out from the entrance of their home at just that moment. After offering Nesbit a quick, “Good night,” Chip bounded away to their cozy burrow, eager for supper after yet another long day spent waiting.
He had only just entered and laid eyes on the feast Mama had prepared when a voice loudly intoned, “Perseverance, my lad! Perseverance!” and Chip nearly jumped out of his skin.
His father appeared, waving a stick in the air with great authority, almost dropping it as he shook with amusement at his own joke.
“Not you, too!” Chip reprimanded, though his laughter soon echoed his father’s.
“Another inspiring speech tonight, I take it?” Joshua teased.
“He means well,” Chip’s mother chided.
“I know, Bess,” Joshua replied with a grin, “but it was worth it for the way this one’s fur bristled in fright when he heard the dreaded cry of, “Perseverance!”
He waved the stick in the air once more, chasing a laughing Chip around the small log table, nearly crashing into it as his son dashed out of reach.
“Now, see here, Joshua Raddish!” Bess cried, though Chip knew she wasn’t really angry. “We spent all day gathering this supper, and I’ll not have you send it flying with your shenanigans!”
A practiced expression immediately transformed Joshua’s face as he and Chip obediently froze. “Of course, Bess, dear. Absolutely no shenanigans here,” he said, carefully setting the stick down on the floor, a look of mischief barely concealed by his mock seriousness.
Bess fixed him with a look that made it clear she was not at all fooled, then turned to their son. “I hope you didn’t fill up on that sweet meadow grass today. Your papa and I have a special treat for your birthday.”
She gestured to the center of the low table, and Chip’s eyes grew wide. Nestled amidst the usual grass and leafy greens was the largest clump of clover he had ever seen and several choice flowers, enough for them to each enjoy two.
“Where did you go to find these?” Chip breathed in awe.
“A fair distance,” his father replied vaguely.
They sat down, all of them eager to enjoy this special meal. Chip rubbed his paw against his left ear as he always did when he was excited or nervous.
Unusual though it may seem, it was Chip’s left ear that had given him his name. On the night he’d been born, Mama always said, he was instantly revealed to be perfect in all ways to them, and that included the chip missing from his left ear.
No one could say why he had been born with it, but it made the young rabbit uniquely Chip, and his parents had immediately known what his name ought to be.
If you’re longing to discover more about Chip and join him on his adventures, please consider supporting my Kickstarter so that Chip’s story can be told to young (and young at heart!) readers!
You’ll receive a hand-bound, manuscript edition of Chip’s story with illustrations to color and many more fun surprises! I can’t wait to share it all with you!
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
Click below to read digital installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel! Once subscribed, you’ll have unlimited access to all of our digital book releases.
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…
To subscribe and receive weekly digital installments (along with illustrations and the chance to win an art print!), click below.
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.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive the manuscript edition!
The end of Part Two: Winter approaches, dear Reader. But, perhaps, it arrives with a little bit of light.
Join the Fight for Wonder
What will you receive when you subscribe?
Four weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, a wintry tale sure to spark your sense of wonder.
Illustrations to accompany each installment
A chance to win an art print of your favorite illustration (giveaway details here)
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.
To receive weekly digital installments, click below to join the fight for wonder. Or, if you would like to receive a unique, manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, contact us at email@example.com
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!