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!
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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
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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 finally time to share the giveaway that I’m hosting for our subscribers, and I’m so excited! 🙂
I’ll be giving away an art print of one of the illustrations that accompany Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel! Above is a sneak peek of the illustration that goes with this week’s installment.
The winner may choose their favorite illustration and a physical copy will be sent to them!
Here are all the details:
This giveaway is open to all those who subscribe to receive weekly installments of Penelope Grace! (You can subscribe below for $3.99/month!) What do you get when you subscribe? Four weekly installments, their accompanying illustrations, and access to all past and future book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber!
The giveaway will be open until February 18th and the winner will be announced on February 22nd! Winner will be randomly selected.
The nitty gritty: This giveaway isn’t affiliated with WordPress. You must be 18 or older. US only. Void where prohibited. Winner will be contacted via email. No personal information will be used or shared.
That’s all! I’m really excited to be sharing this story with you all 🙂 The next installment will be available tomorrow!
This week, Penelope Grace is about to make an altogether wondrous discovery. Read the start of the adventure below, then return here this Friday for the unveiling of the winter carousel…
With a deep breath, Penelope Grace ducked beneath the lowest-hanging branches and stepped into the forest.
It was not long before she realized that they were, indeed, still following a path. Though it was worn and covered in thick patches of ice and snow, it was there, and it offered Penelope a measure of comfort.
The wolf followed faithfully behind, watchful for any danger.
But they were alone in this winter forest, and Penelope and the wolf continued on quietly, both understanding that the silence of this place was sacred and worth leaving undisturbed.
They walked in this way for some time, until, all of a sudden, the wolf trotted ahead of her.
Penelope could feel the creature’s expectation fill her as well, and her heart began to beat faster as they approached a clearing in the forest.
Without warning, the wolf ran forward, gracefully maneuvering the small gap in the trees that marked the entrance to the clearing, and Penelope followed suit.
Gently pushing aside the branches of an evergreen, Penelope Grace stepped into the clearing and found that she could not take another step. She was stunned and enchanted.
On the opposite side of the clearing stood an ice-blue carousel, covered in snow.
She could see from this distance that ice had coated the carousel’s gleaming silver poles, while patches of snow disguised the carousel’s animals. Only the moonlight illuminated it, setting countless glittering snowflakes ablaze, and Penelope Grace admired its reflected light.
The carousel looked as if it had been forgotten for a hundred endless winters until the ice and snow had come to cover it and claim the carousel for its own. Almost, it seemed wrong to do anything but leave it untouched.
The wolf thought otherwise.
It came to stand behind Penelope and nudged her forward.
But what happens next, you ask?
Only two more days to wait 😉
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