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!
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!
Will you brave the bracken and thorns for yourself?
She had only decided on two more paths when another rustle sounded behind her. Penelope stopped short, but would not look back, would not let her fear get the best of her.
One deep breath and she moved forward again, fighting to remain sure of herself.
This time something moved just to her right, not touching her, though she could feel the breath of it passing by.
Another rush of movement to her left. Penelope jumped back as she glanced frantically around for its source. Her cloak ripped as it caught on a thorn. Quickly now, Penelope Grace bent to untangle it from the bracken, her fingers clumsy.
The rustling sound grew louder, and as her cloak only grew more entangled, Penelope let out a cry of frustration and panic.
Looking around for any kind of help, though she didn’t know what she expected to find, Penelope froze.
A mass of thorns and brittle vines were unassumingly gathering in front of her, barring her way forward while she remained none the wiser.
Frightened and enraged, she ran forward, at last succeeding in wrenching her cloak free. But the way was shut before Penelope could reach it, and she stopped just short of beating against the solid wall of bracken, knowing that would only leave her hands a bloody, aching mess.
Penelope’s mind raced, but there were countless paths through this maze. Surely, she could retrace her steps and find another.
Racing down the path, Penelope nearly stumbled over the enormous husk of a root that she knew had not been there before. Undeterred, she ran on. Though the mist was growing thicker, she could see the light from the lantern that had illuminated the crossroads and knew she was close.
She was almost on top of the barred path before she realized her mistake.
She could not go back.
Neither could she go forward.
How many more paths would the bracken prevent her from reaching? How long before every way was shut?
There was no way out.
This Friday, Part Two: Winter comes to a close, but Penelope Grace’s adventures are far from over.
To receive weekly digital installments, click below to join the fight for wonder. Or, if you would like to receive a unique, manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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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It’s a new week, and I hope it’s full of wonderful books!
I have the pleasure of sharing my review for Champion of Valdeor by Sandralena Hanley, a wonderful story that makes you feel as if you’ve just stepped inside an old Arthurian legend.
You can read my full review below!
The people of Valdeor are waiting, breathless with anticipation, as they hope for the promised new beginning to arrive.
They are unaware that their hopes rest on a young shepherd boy, Alloryn, and Lauressa, a princess from another age, hidden from her people for countless years.
One must decide if he is willing to embrace an unexpected identity and purpose, while the other must embark on a quest to learn if she possesses the virtues necessary to be a queen.
Neither is prepared for what comes next.
The people of Valdeor are waiting for a new beginning.
But will it ever come?
In Champion of Valdeor, Sandralena Hanley has crafted a tale reminiscent of Arthurian legends. Readers who are longing for a story full of epic quests, daring champions, and virtuous rulers of legend, will find none of that missing here.
While the tale might have benefitted from being longer, so that some characters could be developed further, Champion of Valdeor remains a deeply enjoyable read, full of what we all long for most: adventures abundant, heroes just and true, and a purpose truly worth pursuing.
Champion of Valdeor is available on Bookshop and Amazon. And don’t forget to leave a review on Goodreads once you’ve finished reading!
Later this week, there’s a new excerpt for Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel and the next installment! Don’t forget that all subscribers are entered to win an art print of their favorite illustration from the story 🙂
You can find more information on the giveaway here and subscribe below!
I happened upon this children’s mystery adventure by Karen Inglis several weeks ago, and I’m so glad I did! This is a charming, endearing tale, absolutely perfect for families to read and enjoy together. Read my full review below!
Have you ever wondered what mysteries might await you in the garden?
Don’t leave it unexplored, reader.
Don’t leave a stone unturned, for a secret is waiting just beneath the bushes, and it might be you who uncovers it…
In this delightful children’s mystery adventure, Karen Inglis has created a story that is perfect for families to enjoy together. They’ll feel all of Tom and Stella’s sadness as the two children adjust to an unfamiliar new home, grumble along with Tom at caretaker Charlie Green’s antics, celebrate the arrival of an unexpected friend, and cry for joy as the mystery is, at last, uncovered and a life-long adventure revealed.
The Secret Lake is a chance to read and wonder and adventure together that no family will want to miss.
You can join Karen Inglis’ Readers’ Club here, where you’ll receive a free poster of The Secret Lake and a crossword puzzle inspired by the story!