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.