How can I put into words all that I loved about this story (and, to be perfectly honest, every book I’ve read by Lisa Howeler)? These stories always seem to find their way into my hands at the perfect time.
Sometimes, it’s that I’m going through the same thing as a character, like wrestling with guilt or shame. Other times, her books touch on something I’ve gone through in the past and the story and characters manage to shine new light and perspective on my experiences.
Lisa writes real, flawed, and beautiful characters. They are reflections of ourselves and of the people we know, and it’s a source of comfort and encouragement every time I get to spend a little time with them in Spencer Valley. This was a wonderful continuation of the story, and I’m really looking forward to reading book three and any other books to come.
You can find Harvesting Hope, as well as the other books in the Spencer Valley Chronicles, on Amazon.
If you’d like to connect with Lisa, head over to any of these places:
Speaking as a fellow author, it’s so fun and encouraging when we get to connect with the people who have enjoyed our books, so be sure to follow along on Lisa’s writing adventures!
And once you’ve read her books, please leave a review on Goodreads. It will make her day!
Next week, I’ll be sharing my review of The Innkeeper, a fantastic Christmas story (loosely inspired by A Christmas Carol) by Keaton D. Winter. This is a story that I’ll be re-reading year after year, and I’m really looking forward to sharing my review with you!
Speaking of Christmas, I think I might do a post about my favorite books to read at Christmas time!
Water Falling by H.A. Pruitt (cue my to-do list gathering endless amounts of dust until I’m finished)
Hunter by Joanna White (this one has been on my TBR for a long time, and I’m so excited to finally dive into it!)
What about you? What books have you read and loved lately? I’m always looking for recommendations, so please share in the comments!
It would mean so much to me if you would check out the list! Some of my very favorite books are featured and it was so fun to share more about why these stories are so important to me.
One thing I want to mention! There is a purchase link for Penelope Grace in the list. If you’d like to buy a copy, click the button that says Direct! The story is only available on Etsy, not on Amazon or Bookshop!
Hi everyone! It’s been a little while, but I’m excited to get back to the blog with a little tour of my Christian fantasy novel, Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel.
Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel is a winter tale told in three parts 🎄❄🕯
Part One: Christmas begins just as the holiday season is starting. I chose to start there for two reasons.
First, my mom loves Christmastime, and the story is inspired by her, after all, so I wanted to fill it with things she loves!
I also chose it because the holidays, which are meant to be so full of light and hope, often feel dark for those who are suffering loss and loneliness.
My family knows the joy and sadness that can come with this time of year, and I wanted to write a story that acknowledges both.
Whatever your holiday season looks like this year, I hope this story inspires and encourages you in the midst of it ❤
“Fighting for Me” by Riley Clemmons is one of the songs that inspired me while I was writing Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, especially once I got to Part Two: Winter ❄
Winter is a dark time of year for most and it’s a season that many dread.
But I have seen God show up for me and my family on the darkest of winter nights, radiant in all His power and glory, and I wanted to write a story that celebrated His faithfulness in dark times.
Whether winter is a season you love or one you strive to get through, I hope that Penelope Grace’s adventures through the world of Ellura shed a little warmth and light for you 💙
Part Three: Apricity is so special to me. 🕯 When I was thinking of the three parts of the story, Christmas and Winter came instantly.
But I knew that God was leading me to something a little extra special for the final part of the story.
I Googled words related to winter and God brought me to an article featuring a word that is now obsolete (or was, until I wrote Penelope Grace!)
Apricity means, “the warmth of the sun in winter,” and I knew instantly that this was the title of Part Three. I remember being unable to believe that this word was obsolete. It’s so beautiful!
And when I think about the meaning of it – the warmth of the sun in winter – I think, “What a necessary thing!”
Isn’t the time of year that can feel so dark and hopeless the time when we need the warmth of the sun most? Isn’t that the time of year when we need powerful reminders of God’s radiance and faithfulness?
Isn’t that when we need to remember that the dark and cold, the grief and depression that can grip our hearts at this time of year, aren’t frightening to God at all?
This is why I wanted to bring this word, Apricity, into the story. I wanted this final part to be a fresh reminder for everyone who needs it that God is not overcome by darkness. He obliterates every shred of it and, as if that weren’t remarkable enough, He then gives us the eyes to see the radiance He brings to take darkness’s place.
More than anything, I pray that you get to see that radiance for yourself this winter.
If you’d like a copy of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, it’s available exclusively in my Etsy store!
You can get a regular copy, one that is signed, or bundle a signed copy with a handmade ornament!
You can also check out reviews of the story on Goodreads! Thank you to everyone who has reviewed the book so far! I’m really grateful.
Next week, I’ll be sharing my review of Harvesting Hope by Lisa Howeler!
I recently started the book, Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table by Louie Giglio (by recently, I mean this morning!). I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while now, but have always managed to get distracted by other books on my list.
But FaithGateway is hosting a study of this book, starting in September, so now seemed like the perfect time to set distractions – literary or otherwise – aside and finally pick up this book. I’m so glad I did.
My thoughts have been the enemy’s playground for far too long. It’s so simple to let thoughts of shame, defeat, or temptation lead the way. My emotions become my biggest focus, and he’s having a field day before I know what’s happening.
Have you ever been there?
It seems like, just when things are looking up, he chooses to attack. I don’t think that’s on accident. A new edition of my first book is releasing at the end of this year, I’m working on my next story, and things are falling into place. Naturally, the enemy wants nothing more than to derail those good things. And, for the most part, I’ve been letting him.
Discouragement and comparison have gotten the best of me often and, when I’m beginning to feel at my most content, I will scroll past something that threatens to make that contentment topple.
This book, though – Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table – has fallen into my hands at just the right time, and I’m guessing it might be just the right time for you, too. All those struggles and attacks I just mentioned? I know I’m not the only one experiencing them because I know that mine is not the only God-given purpose that the devil would love to destroy.
It feels overwhelming. Like this battle is an impossible one to fight, let alone win. But this quote from Louie Giglio’s book helped me to remember that it’s not actually up to us.
“My place at the table didn’t mean that my enemies would be removed from the equation. In fact, the table was set right in the midst of my enemies. That captivated my imagination and held my attention.
“I didn’t need to vindicate myself. I didn’t need to clear my name. I didn’t need to control this equation or work overtime to improve it. My task was to concentrate on the Good Shepherd, the One who owned the table.
“My invitation was to put my trust in the One who prompted me to lie down in green pastures, the One who led me beside quiet waters and restored my soul.”
Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table, Louie Giglio
Our job is not to win the battle. Our job is to fix our eyes on the One who already has, the One who invites us to sit at a table laid with grace and compassion. We’ve already been given everything we need to live in all the fullness of peace and clarity that God has offered us. We’ve already been assured of victory.
Our hearts can become hardened into rock by all of the attacks, by all the discouragement, defeat, and despair that we get bombarded with.
But do you hear it? It’s the sound of stone breaking, of hearts beating fully and freely for the first time, of thoughts being reclaimed by the truth of what Jesus accomplished for us. And I believe God is using the message of this book and the promise of Psalm 23 to do it.
I recently read the most beautiful story about Robert Louis Stevenson.
One night, when Robert Louis Stevenson was a small boy, his nanny called him to come to bed. Oblivious to her summons, he was staring at something outside his nursery window. The nanny walked over, stood at his shoulder, and inquired patiently, “Robert, what are you looking at?”
The little boy, without taking his eyes away from the window, exclaimed in wonder as he pointed to the lamplighter who was lighting the streetlamps, “Look, Nanny! That man is putting holes in the darkness!”
You and I may not be able to change the world, but surely each of us can put a hole in the darkness!
The Joy of My Heart, Anne Graham Lotz
As soon as I read this story, I started thinking back on all of the remarkable books I’ve read over the last few years by my fellow authors and how much their stories matter.
In Anelthalien and Earth Quaking, H.A. Pruitt invites us into a world that is altogether different, where the characters reflect our own struggles and strengths and unexpectedly remind us that no part of our story can erase the purpose that God has uniquely prepared for us.
Lisa Howeler’s books, like A New Beginning or The Farmer’s Daughter, remind us that grace is real and that the insecurities we feel and the mistakes we make don’t disqualify us from receiving it.
M.H. Elrich’s Daughters of Tamnarae series reassures us that our worth is set in stone and showcases the delight God takes in weaving us into His grand story of love and redemption.
The first book in the Hope on the High Seas series, Free by Careena Campbell, reminds each reader who picks it up that pure faith, though it might be scoffed at, is true strength, and that the more we walk in step with God, the more fully we’ll get to know Him and the hope He offers.
Effie Joe Stock’s books, like Child of the Dragon Prophecy or Aphotic Love, confront the most intense emotions with a courage and boldness that can’t help but inspire her readers. Each page is a reminder that, just like her characters, you are brave enough to experience anger, grief, and pain without being defeated by them.
In Starganauts, C.E. Stone takes readers on a journey through the most crushing grief and uncertainty and displays God’s faithfulness in the midst of it. The whole story is a beautiful reminder that hope is possible even in the most intense battle and that victory and joy are waiting on the other side of it.
There are so many more authors and stories that have inspired me than I have room to share in one post, but I am so grateful for the chance to experience each and every one of these stories.
With every word you type, you are all putting holes in the darkness, reminding us how fragile the night really is when it comes up against God’s radiance.
You can check out all of these wonderful stories at the links above! If you have any book recommendations, share them below. I’m always looking for an excuse to add another bookshelf to my library 🙂
I’m overjoyed to welcome Kimberly Duffy to the blog today! She shares what drew her to writing historical fiction, how struggles with grief and doubt wove their way into her stories, and what’s in store for her next book, Every Word Unsaid!
This interview was such a delight, and I hope you enjoy!
Grief and doubt are topics we often dance around, but you confront them with a remarkable honesty and courage. What led you to address both in A Tapestry of Light?
I have always struggled with fear. Some of my earliest memories are of OCD flares (which I was diagnosed with post-partum after my second child was born) and I can’t think of anything that scares me more than losing a loved one. As a reader and writer, I process through story. Through imagination and words. As someone who suffers with OCD, it is nearly impossible for me to turn those thoughts off. They are relentless, coming at me with a ferocity that sometimes has me paralyzed. They are graphic and disturbing. And for brief moments, when my breath is coming short and shallow and my heart is twisting, I think, “How would I survive this if it was more than intrusive thoughts?”
So I pour it all out in my stories. I live vicariously through my characters. I watch them suffer and struggle and, ultimately, discover they can survive. And that offers me a bit of hope. We’re resilient. We’re created for more than this place, these bodies, even the love we’ve discovered here.
And doubt…it’s something I’ve struggled with for about a decade. I have no idea where it came from. No idea what triggered it. My faith walk is split into the before and after—before, when I was certain of everything I’d been taught, and after, when nothing was as it should be. I deconstructed—that’s a buzzy word. Deconstruction. Thankfully, I didn’t wallow in the shards of my shattered faith. I cut myself loose of all the extraneous stuff that had nothing to do with Christ. Like Ottilie, I protected that fragile, single seed. And every time I found myself doubting, questioning, I said, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” It was enough. For YEARS. And then I began reading through the Bible. I filled myself with the word. I read apologists and great minds like CS Lewis and Chesterton. And eventually, the doubt began to flicker. It didn’t completely extinguish—every once in a while it is fed a little bit of oxygen—but mostly it leaves me alone.
Unfortunately, I felt very alone the entire time of my struggle. No one was talking about it. No one was addressing it. It was dismissed. And I don’t want any other Christian who struggles with it to feel as though they have no one walking beside them.
What first drew you to writing historical fiction?
I love history. I spent six months in tenth grade digging deep into the ancient Etruscans. Another six months in Ancient Rome. A good part of my 11th grade year researching everything I could on the Civil War. Most days, I shoved aside my history textbooks in favor of historical narratives, autobiographies, classic literature (I never studied a moment for any of my history exams yet I got a nearly perfect score on the AP test. I’m a big believer in learning history through what Charlotte Mason called “living books”.) I spent a bit of time scared of writing historical fiction—choosing instead to write contemporary romance—but my love for it eventually won out and from the moment I typed the first line of A Mosaic of Wings, I didn’t look back (or forward?) I love that people don’t really change. The same things we want and struggle with today are the same things they wanted and struggled with a hundred years ago. Human nature is fairly constant and, as a woman and mother of three girls, I’m fascinated by the amazing things women achieved in times when it was nearly impossible to step outside expected social norms and carve a path for themselves.
Historical fiction is an extremely popular genre. What do you think gives historical figures and events such a unique ability to speak into our present-day experiences?
I think there’s a comforting kind of familiarity that’s tempered with enough differences—enough years—to give us a bit of distance. It’s like seeing someone you know in the same stage of life dealing with something adjacent to your own personal struggles. It’s not exactly the same so you can comfort yourself by saying, “Well, that’s not happening, at least” but it’s close enough that you can watch and see how they handle it. Learn from their experience.
The descriptions in your novels are so stunning. What helps or inspires you when trying to bring a certain location or period to life for readers?
Thank you! I work hard to immerse my readers in every scene. I want them to feel and taste and see and hear everything my characters do. I’m lucky that I write during a time when photography was becoming more widely available and there are a ton of photographs available online. Especially when I was researching for Tapestry, there were so many of Kolkata during the 1880s-90s. I could see the streets, houses, fashions. I spend a lot of time collecting images in Pinterest boards and searching them for any detail I can add that will lend an engaging sensory detail to my stories. I also read a lot written during the time I’m writing. There’s no contemporary essay or article or book that can replace the authenticity of actual personal accounts.
What are you currently reading? Do you have certain books that you’re always recommending?
Currently I’m reading two nonfiction health books (I’m usually reading a health book of some sort) and trying to work through my TBR. I got super behind while I was on deadline. I just finished The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel which was fantastic. I started The Gentleman Spy by Erica Vetsch (her books are always very engaging) yesterday and am planning on finishing up doing a read aloud of The Hiding Place with my older two girls soon. I can’t say there’s any particular book I recommend all the time because it just depends on who is reading and what they enjoy.
Can you share any details with us about your next book?
I’d love to! Every Word Unsaid releases November 2, 2021 and it’s about Gussie Travers—globetrotting, adventure seeking, unintentional trouble making photographer who, through no fault of her own, creates a scandal and escapes to Poona, India—landing right in the middle of a bubonic plague epidemic. There’s an adorably geeky doctor hero, fun scenes set in some of India’s most beautiful cities, and a heroine who, no matter how hard she tries, can’t seem to escape the reach of the words that chase her.
Thank you so much, Kimberly, for doing this interview and offering such thoughtful, heartfelt answers!
I’m so excited to share my interview with C.D. Hulen as we continue to celebrate the recent release of his sci-fi novel, Abort!
Read on to learn more about the inspiration for Abort, C.D. Hulen’s advice for fellow indie authors, and his thoughts on how to include a powerful, faith-based message in novels!
I really enjoyed reading your novel! What inspired the story of Abort?
Thanks so much! Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what inspired me, outside of God of course (as all things work according to His will). This particular story concept came to me almost fully formed, which wasn’t super common for me. I thought it would make a good book, so I wrote down the idea and then promptly forgot about it for about 6 months. But obviously, I found it again, and here we are.
One common pro-life argument that is used to confront abortion is that of comparing unborn children to people in a coma who are going to wake up (both are dependent on others, neither are highly responsive, and both are in their respective states for a limited amount of time, i.e., the person in a coma will wake up and the child will be born). This particular argument was definitely an inspiration. After the initial stages of writing, I drew inspiration from other sources, such as my Christian faith, my Dad’s suggestions, Ray Comfort’s videos on abortion, and Paul Washer’s articulation of the gospel, in order to add more depth to the story.
Throughout the story, Mason wrestles with divided loyalties and the distinction between right and wrong. Was he a difficult character to write? What do you think makes characters like him so compelling?
Definitely one of the most difficult things about writing Mason was keeping the reader from being completely disgusted by him. What he’s trying to do is terrible, and readers generally don’t want to root for that, so it was a struggle to balance the sympathetic aspects of his character without excusing his actions. I think his relatability and understandability help make him compelling. Although the reader hopefully won’t agree with his mission, they can understand why he’s doing it, and can relate to the many trials he faces on the HS10.
Christian sci-fi isn’t a genre that I, personally, hear much about, and it was exciting to read your novel! What about sci-fi do you believe uniquely positions the genre to share a faith-based message?
There’s definitely not much Christian sci-fi in mainstream media—none in film that I’ve seen, and not a ton in literature. But anyway, I think science fiction can be uniquely poised to tackle current issues as well as delve into compelling allegories. The concept of Abort was perfectly setup for a science fiction setting—I didn’t even consider another genre! I also believe that with science fiction you have something that Fantasy can struggle with—a real presentation of the gospel. This can be done in contemporary and historical fiction for sure, but fantasy generally relies heavily on gospel allegories if it wants to approach the Christian theme (Jesus). Science fiction has the privilege of dealing with the real thing.
What are some of the obstacles you’ve faced as a self-published author and what enabled you to overcome them? Do you have any encouragement to offer fellow writers who want to follow that same route?
I think the battle against anonymity has been the hardest. I can learn how to write good prose, design a book cover, and develop compelling characters, but as an author who started with zero platform, it’s been challenging. I think what’s to be learned is that it’s all up to God. If He wants the book to go far, it will. If not, it won’t. I have to hold my dreams loosely, trust His plan, and be faithful. If the marketing of this book has taught me anything it’s that God is in control.
A note of practical advice for writers: keep writing, keep getting feedback, and write again. It’s a long slog sometimes, but the more you do it, the better you get. And if you’re a Christian who is writing fiction, don’t tack your faith onto it. What I mean is that the gospel isn’t an afterthought, so if you’re a Christian and writing a story, don’t force the gospel into it, allow it to permeate the entire thing. Don’t sprinkle the gospel onto your story, soak your story in the gospel. All or nothing. Don’t be afraid to be preachy but tell a good story, make it real, and give it over to God.
Can you share any details with readers about your current or upcoming projects?
Well, I don’t want to share too much, but I’ve always got story ideas in my head. People who’ve followed me for a while know that I’ve wanted to write a musical, as well as refurbish and finish my historical fantasy trilogy. I also have some more Christian sci-fi stories brewing which address the current issues of the woke church and Christless conservatism. All that to say, I’m not sure what I’ll do yet, but whatever it is, I want God to be glorified.
Thank you so much to C.D. Hulen for joining me for this interview!