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An Excerpt from The Uncertainty of Fire

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.

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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.

           “God’s forgiven me. Colin’s forgiven me,” Mattie rasps.

            I cast my gaze downward. 

“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!

I’ll meet you back here then!

Alexandria

Featured

An Excerpt from Evergreen and the Silver Tree

A mystery waits to be solved.

A fantasy world waits to be explored.

Are you ready for the adventure?

Good 🙂

Enjoy this special excerpt of Jessica Smith’s upcoming novel, Evergreen and the Silver Tree.

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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.

Crushed.


“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!

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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!

Alexandria

Featured

Anelthalien: An Excerpt

Have you ever longed for a family?

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!

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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.

Best not to keep him waiting 😉

Happy Reading,

Alexandria

Do You Suppose She’s A Wildflower?

See that gorgeous bloom right there? It’s called a Balloon flower, and boy, am I glad that they come up every year.

A real fascination with flowers has been growing in me. This year, I wanted to watch one of these beauties bloom.

The pictures don’t do it justice. These buds are such a deep purple, and their color gets more vibrant and intense the closer they are to blooming.

Early one morning, I ventured outside and crouched down to wait.

It took some time for the petals to open.

In other circumstances, impatience would have gotten the better of me, but on that particular morning, I was captivated.

I sat there with a silly grin on my face, completely delighted to witness the slow bloom of this flower. The petals were about halfway open when His whisper came: I am captivated by watching you grow.

It changed the whole moment.

I am captivated by watching you grow.

I was so entranced by this flower blooming, but my momentary delight is nothing compared to the steadfast joy God feels as He watches every one of His children become more fully who they’re meant to be in Christ.

Let this truth soak in.

You’re a wildflower, girl.

And you have a Father in Heaven Who is delighting – spilling over with JOY – to watch you bloom.

I’m praying that you feel so held and adored today.

And would you please pray for me? I have some exciting ideas for how 21:25 Books can grow, but I want to make sure I only follow where God leads. Thank you!

Until next time,

Alexandria

Welcome to 21:25 Books

Happy Monday! I thought it would be nice to do a quick intro post for everyone who’s new around here 😊

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I’m Alexandria, fantasy writer & owner of 21:25 Books. I’ve dreamed of starting a Christian publishing company for a couple years now, & in October 2019, I took the leap & did it! God led me to John 21:25 on a Sunday morning when I was wondering what on earth was next.

This was His answer, sweeter than I could have guessed: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

Welcome to 21:25 Books, friend, a home for stories & writers who are passionate about filling this world with books about Him & the good things He does. For now, it’s just me & my pen, but I’m expectant for all He’ll do in the future.

*

What about you? What God-given dreams are you praying for or witnessing come alive?

Alexandria

Love Without Boundaries

Yesterday, I read a devotion from Loop that I can’t forget. I’ll share it at the end of this post, but for now, I want to share the lines that are staying with me, particularly now because of everything happening in our world

“My love in you is what equips you to give freely and love without boundaries. Only when you love freely, with your personality and with your gifts – can My freedom be experienced in you. And that is what people find captivating.”

Loop

We’re living in a time when people are telling us where we can go and what we can do and that, right now, it’s best and safest not to draw physically close to one another.

And this strange reality could shut us down. It could make us close ourselves off and hide away, could make us put up walls that no one could ever hope to get through.

But I think we have an unprecedented opportunity that could put all the darkness of this time to shame.

Yes, we could turn inward and forget about everyone around us.

Or we could love people with an uncommon love and give with an uncommon generosity.

I’ve seen evidence of both, but I’m choosing to believe that the uncommon act of loving without boundaries will prove the stronger.

Because while it’s painful and unknown to not be allowed to gather together, we don’t have to be physically present to love well.

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle towards everyone.”

Titus 3:1-2 (NIV)

So, send a message to someone you haven’t spoken to in a long while. Make a meal and leave it at someone’s door. Create something that will put a smile on people’s faces. Check on your neighbors and show kindness to strangers. (It doesn’t have to be anything grand, just genuine.)

Because the boundaries that are in place really have no power to stop us from loving others at all.

How have you been showing love and generosity in all the madness? I’d love for you to share.

Alexandria

Here’s the Loop devotion if you’d like to read the whole thing:

Hope & Laughter – Free Resources for Your Family

Life is unexpected right now, to say the least. I felt God prompting me to create a post to share some free resources to help bring some hope and laughter into a chaotic time. Personally, I plan on doing plenty of watercolor painting, coloring, and reading! Here are some other ideas for you and your family:

For the Colorists

Image Copyright Johanna Basford

Johanna Basford creates the most beautiful inky wonderlands that are just waiting for a splash of color! Grab some colored pencils or crayons and give it a go with these free coloring downloads.

She offers loads of tutorials on her website, and if you’re interested in drawing, she also offers a free Inky Art School on Facebook where she teaches you to draw for free!

For the Learners

Image Copyright Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

Every day at 3 P.M. EDT, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden will be hosting a Facebook Live where they feature one of their amazing animals and include an activity that your family can do from home! Today, they’re featuring the cutie above, Fiona!

Another great resource is Future Learn!

While you can choose to pay for more features, all of their online courses are free and they offer an incredible variety!

For the Opera Lovers

Image Copyright: Jack Vartoogian, Getty Images

At 7:30 P.M. every night, the Metropolitan Opera is streaming a different opera for free. Crazy for La Traviata? Searching for something to fill your Monday evening? Now’s your chance!

For Sunday Worship and All the Days In Between

On Max Lucado’s Facebook page, he is hosting a time of live prayer and worship each Sunday morning. This is a great opportunity to still participate in a worship service from home!

I also love the First5 app, available for free through Proverbs31 Ministries. Every day, there’s a new five-minute devotion that helps you dive deeper into the Word and understand what it means more clearly! They’ve done everything from Old to New Testament (and they have a plan devoted to the Psalms). You can move at your own pace and catch up any time! It’s a great way to spend the first few minutes of your day with Jesus.

Lastly, here’s a beautiful prayer from writer, Wendy Blight. Hope in the King of kings is what we need most right now, and I think this prayer is a beautiful way to allow God’s peace to replace anxiety in your heart.

If you know of any other free resources for people as we prepare to hunker down, please comment below! Now is the perfect time to be supporting and helping each other through this time however we can.

Lastly, these are the Psalms I’ve been clinging to the last few days: Psalms 23, 27, 91, 93, and 94. So full of the Truth and promises we need right now.

Praying for peace and laughter to settle on your hearts and homes,

Alexandria

The Wilderness Road

If you had told me six months ago that I would be writing a blog post, I wouldn’t have believed you.

If you had told me that, not only would I be writing a blog post, but that I would also be content and excited about doing it, I’d have laughed.

Six months ago, everything was mapped out in my head. I was going to publish my first book, Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, in serial form. It was going to be a wild success, and who knew what would be next?

But that’s where my plan got all twisted; my idea of success was all wrapped up in popularity, money, approval, you name it.

And God knew it.

“It so happened that after Pharaoh released the people, God didn’t lead them by the road through the land of the Philistines, which was the shortest route, for God thought, ‘If the people encounter war, they’ll change their minds and go back to Egypt.’ So God led the people on the wilderness road, looping around to the Red Sea.”

Exodus 13:17-18

I’m so thankful that He sees what I don’t.

From a worldly perspective, my first attempt at publishing independently wasn’t successful at all. And a month ago (OK, a week), if I’d been brutally honest, I would have had to admit just how bitter and disappointed and honestly stunned I was that this didn’t go how I planned.

Flash forward a few days later to when I actually started listening to what God had to say.

He brought me to two verses in Exodus to show me how I’d begun to wander from what He intends my writing to be and to remind me of how intimately He knows me.

He knew I would get wrapped up in worries and fears about money and success. He knew that my motives would get twisted, all because I was more worried about acquiring approval and having something concrete to show people, so I could say, “Look! See? This whole writing thing is worthy of being taken seriously!”

And I believed the lie that my words are only worthy of consideration if I have a dollar sign or a certain number of likes to hold up next to them.

And He knew, and He waited until I was ready to know it, too.

So, here we are six months later, on a website that’s unexpectedly become a blog. A place to share a love of stories and Jesus and the written word. There’s a lot left to learn about doing this for His glory rather than my own. I’m still being led on the wilderness road, looping around to the Red Sea, still unaware of what exactly is coming next, but certain now that it’s something unexpected and good.

Walk with me?

Alexandria

Welcome to 21:25 Books

I’ve dreamed of starting a Christian publishing company for a couple years now, and now, it’s official! God led me to John 21:25 on a Sunday morning when I was wondering what on earth was next.

This was His answer: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” Welcome to 21:25 Books, a home for stories and writers who are passionate about filling this world with books about Him and the good things He does.

I’ll share more of my story in the coming days, friend. Until then, welcome! Grab a chair and a warm drink, and let’s settle in to share our love for Jesus and good books.

Alexandria