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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This is the week! The first installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel publishes this Friday, December 11th! Here’s a sneak peek to tide you over until then.
Penelope Grace was a remarkable girl.
Of course, that word – remarkable – can mean many different things, depending on whom you ask.
Upon entering the Saris household, you would first be taken to the kitchen for a warm cup of tea to fight off the early winter’s chill. There, Nurse Sasha – who oversaw everything – would happily offer you her opinion. She could hardly find it less than remarkable that a girl of sixteen could behave so like her nine-year-old brother as to be nearly indistinguishable.
Once welcomed and enlightened, you might continue to the living room and find a comfortable chair near Penelope’s mother, Mary, who is patiently mending the latest torn and dirt-stained dress. She would share with you how her daughter is remarkably and admirably unconcerned with what others think of her.
Over the years, her friends marveled to find that Penelope was just as likely to pick up an imaginary sword as an intricate piece of embroidery. Growing serious now, Mary would tell you of the many encouragements she has received to rein her daughter in.
But it is too rare a gift to see a child’s spirit endure into adulthood. As Penelope’s mother, she would ask, how could she do less than safeguard it?
But just then, young George would come bursting in, his great-uncle Alex not far behind, and insist on knowing what your conversation was about.
“Well, George,” Mary would ask with the warmest of smiles, “what do you think makes your sister remarkable?”
He would think hard about it for a minute or two but, his nose crinkling up as he grinned, would soon reply with a firm, “Two things.”
And then, leaning forward as if to share with you a very great secret, George would tell you a story. Just last week, Penelope had, remarkably, succeeded both in assembling an entire regiment of nutcracker soldiers in the foyer and in vanishing from sight before Nurse Sasha could certainly accuse her of having done it.
“And the second,” you would ask, sincerely eager to know.
“She is the only grown-up who isn’t only teasing me when she says she still believes in Father Christmas.”
Equally impressed by both these reasons, you might then turn to great-uncle Alex, whom you would find no less willing to join in the conversation.
He would have to say that Penelope was remarkable for her persistent delight in all things simple, yet extraordinary. Even now she remains as enchanted with his magic tricks as she was on the day he first arrived from Greece to share them with her.
But of all her family, acquaintances and friends, only her father, John – who has been listening by the crackling fire all the while – could tell you with absolute certainty what it was that made Penelope Grace genuinely remarkable:
To read more, subscribe below! For $3.99/month, you’ll receive a new installment each week, along with a special illustration to accompany the story and the chance to win an exciting gift in the coming weeks! See you Friday 🙂
This week, the winter magic begins. Subscriptions to Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel are officially open!
This winter tale will be delivered straight to your inbox in weekly installments, from December to February. All of the information you need to subscribe can be found below.
But first, a little treat for you! Read on for the synopsis (and if you’d like to see the illustration that accompanies it, be sure to hit the subscribe button!).
I can’t wait to share this story with you all, and I hope you enjoy this sneak peek at the adventure to come!
In a home nestled on a quiet, cobblestone street, a young girl is holding tightly to wonder.
Penelope Grace is looking out the window, breathing in the stillness of snow falling. Christmas is coming, and as she lovingly places each candle on the windowsills, warmth and light transform her family’s home.
She settles in by the fireside with her family, welcoming you to join them, as Great Uncle Alex challenges anyone present to uncover the secret of his magic tricks.
The mystery, as always, remains, yet everyone is content. All is quiet and good, as it should be.
But as the holiday approaches, Penelope learns how easily circumstance can mock joy. A nameless shadow is haunting her family, and there seems to be no hope of defending them against his relentless attacks.
Still, Penelope Grace is not content to stand by and do nothing, and so, on a cold winter’s night, she finds herself chasing an unexpected friend through the snow.
But which will prove stronger?
Shadow or Light? Despair or wonder?
Follow her now through an ice-laden forest, down a worn, frozen path, to a winter carousel covered in snow.
Do you suppose that you will find the answers there?
See this week’s illustration and get access to future installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel when you subscribe monthly today! This will give you access to all current and future book releases from 21:25 Books!
Welcome to the final week of Author Spotlight Month!
I had the privilege of interviewing Niki Florica! She has some great insight to share about balancing a passion for writing with a day job, what inspires her to pen the stories she does, plus a special shout-out to H.A. Pruitt!
Niki Florica is a passionate writer, blogger, and daydreamer who finds joy in Jesus, her Underwood typewriter, and in her daydreams-turned-stories. Driven to inspire her fellow young adult readers with plots that enchant, convict, and shine with Truth, Niki is dedicated to capturing that Truth in the fantastical. She plans to dive deeper into creative writing and literature in her university studies . . . unless, of course, she finds Narnia first.
There are so many genres to write in. What made you choose Christian fantasy? What do you think makes this genre unique/important?
I don’t think of myself as a writer of Christian fantasy as much as a Christian writer of fantasy . . . in other words, I dream of shining Truth to those who don’t already have it, in places they don’t expect to find it.
I’ve had a heart for the fantastical since before I was old enough to recognize it, dreaming of Peter Pan and Narnia, getting lost in my own imagination, finding God in faraway places. I think we all want to be transported beyond the ordinary, but what’s amazing is that Truth can be brought to life in those far-off worlds in dazzling ways. God isn’t limited by physical reality—He can meet us in our imaginations just as easily. When fantasy meets Truth, it brings us closer to the wonder and creativity and greatness that is God . . . and by knowing Him there for a little, we can know Him better here . . . to paraphrase good ol’ C.S. Lewis.
Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to balance their dream of writing with a day job?
It’s so different for everyone, but I’d say: find a time that works for you, offer it to God, and don’t panic when things come up that take temporary priority. God knows our dreams, and He’ll bring them to fruition in His time if that’s part of His plan, so relax, focus on living for Him first and foremost, and find a system that allows you to enjoy writing, not to see it as an extra heap of stress. I often use writing to take “breaks” from work throughout the day, so I have a reason to make time for it—for my own sanity! Whether your sweet-time is late nights, early mornings, or lunch breaks, there’s no perfect formula. Just write when you can, and entrust it (and your dream) to God!
Supporting indie authors is so important. What are some ways that readers can do that?
Anything you can do to give an indie author extra exposure is a huge support! Bookstagram is a great way to do that—if readers are like me, they fall in love with book covers before they even meet the stories—but book reviews, social media shout-outs, and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth are all great ways to support.
If you want to go the extra mile, I strongly believe in personal connection. Authors don’t just need support for their books, they need support as people. If you loved their book, find a way to reach out and tell them. Engage meaningfully with their social media posts if you can. Be the person who lets them know—sometimes on days that they may really, really need it—that what they’re doing is worthwhile.
Are there any indie authors whose books you would recommend readers check out?
I know she’s already been featured this month, but I am just so inspired by H.A. Pruitt and her novel, Anelthalien. Seeing the passion she pours into her story and how God is using her gifts to glorify His name is just incredible. She inspires me as a person and as an aspiring author, and a project filled with that much Godly love is bound to be truly powerful!
What are you currently reading?
I’m waiting for Brandon Sanderson’s new Stormlight Archive novel, but I may wait until the end of the semester to dive into that adventure—or risk binge-reading right through exams.
Are there any current projects that you can share with us?
Yes! Thanks to NaNoWriMo 2020, I’m currently knee-deep in a contemporary YA standalone novel—a complete departure from anything I’ve tackled so far. It was partially inspired by the newest Little Women film (I still haven’t gotten around to finishing the book—I know, I know!) and it’s inspiring me to take a break from fantastical creatures to tap into something simple and intimate. The story follows a cluster of small-town, slightly-Irish teens—a girl, her two brothers, and the almost-brother-but-maybe-something-else neighbour boy—and how their love for each other is threatened by the space creeping in between them. Each character expresses themselves differently (which is fun for me) and they all struggle with something unique that they feel the need to bury, hide, or fight on their own. I’m already so in love with this little gang and so invested in their healing. Even people who love each other deeply can exist lightyears apart, but God can make a family out of strangers and constellations out of stars, and I can’t wait to see Him breathe His healing power into this story.
That’s all for Author Spotlight Month! A huge thank you to all the authors who were kind enough to participate: H.A. Pruitt, Richard Spillman, Lisa Howeler, and Niki Florica! Go read all their wonderful stories 🙂
Next week, we’ll be going somewhere new, to a home nestled on a quiet, cobblestone street, where a young girl is holding tightly to wonder…
Today, I’m so excited to share with you a new-to-me book, Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster.
What a wild, adventurous ride this book turned out to be! You can read my full review below.
Have you ever wished for something lost to be found?
Esme is a young girl, full of unwavering hope, who has continued to wish for the same thing: that her mother, Ariane, lost at sea many years ago, is still alive and will return home. Long after everyone else has given up, Esme still believes that her mother’s return is possible.
But the search for her mother takes an unexpected turn as headaches and visions from the past begin to plague Esme, all of them leading her to a land that she thought only existed in Ariane’s stories.
Could the stories be more than just that?
Soon enough, Esme discovers how very real Aeolia is when she unexpectedly discovers it as she walks along the beach. Suddenly, she is plunged into a land full of magic, sirens, and mysterious Gifts that allow Aeolia’s residents to give shape to water and sing impossible things into existence.
But all is not well. Full of wonder as this world might be, people’s Gifts are failing and the land is wracked by earthquakes that threaten to reduce Aeolia to rubble. Still, there is hope. Clues abound in Ariane’s paintings, and Esme and her friends bravely follow them, determined to uncover the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and Aeolia’s failing magic.
Elizabeth Foster has handcrafted a fantastic world that will long remain in the memories of all who are willing to explore it. Every description seems like paint swept across canvas, creating vivid images of Aeolia that leave readers wondering if it just might be real. But perhaps the most stunning thing of all is that Esme’s Wish reminds us that having hope isn’t childish at all; it is bravery at its finest and we should all take hold of it as fiercely as Esme, the young woman courageous enough to go in search of lost things.
Happy Monday! I thought it would be nice to do a quick intro post for everyone who’s new around here 😊
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?