Enjoy this special excerpt of Jessica Smith’s upcoming novel, Evergreen and the Silver Tree.
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.
“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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
Last year, I had the pleasure of exploring the world of Anelthalien for the very first time.
Now, I’m so excited to help my friend and fellow author, H.A. Pruitt, celebrate the release of book two, Earth Quaking!
We’re only a few short months away from the book’s release (it can’t get here soon enough!), so to tide us over until then, I’m sharing my review of this wonderful fantasy novel again!
Read on and grab a copy for yourself. This is a world you’ll want to return to again and again.
“To be a hero, Tad, you must be a shield for others; you must be the very thing that stands between a people and death and stabs back that death. Sacrifice makes a hero.”
Kindle never asked to be a hero. But when an unlikely discovery sweeps her away to an unfamiliar land called Anelthalien, she finds that is exactly what is being asked of her.
She and three other young adults – Tad, Ella, and Andrew – form an unlikely group as they travel throughout the land, trying to understand why the fate of Anelthalien is resting on their shoulders.
In their travels, they are taken in by a mysterious farmer, Azildor, who remembers much that others have long forgotten. He passes on his wisdom to the four heroes-in-the-making, believing as he does that, when the time comes, they will be willing to sacrifice what they must to keep Anelthalien safe from the dark powers seeking to overthrow it.
But whether or not they will embrace their identities as heroes remains to be seen, and all the while, Anelthalien’s fate hangs in the balance…
H.A. Pruitt has succeeded in creating an altogether unique world that readers will want to return to and explore again and again. Full of rich characters, adventures galore, and stunning illustrations, this is one of those truly important books that remind you of this: no matter your past, no matter your circumstances, you have a God-given purpose.
Perhaps, you’ll uncover what it is in the pages of Anelthalien.
Words are insufficient to express how dearly I love this story and how much it will always mean to me.
You can follow H.A. Pruitt’s writing (and guinea pig) adventures on Instagram and on her website.
Sometimes, it takes the words of family and friends to remind us of what wonder truly is.
For Penelope Grace, it’s taken the child-like faith of a beloved uncle, the patience of a wolf led by grace and the Wind, and the fierceness of a bold arctic fox.
When you’ve finished this winter tale of wonder, find the people who remind you of what wonder is and thank them.
They are more precious than we’ll ever know.
Thank you, Penelope Grace/Mom. I am so humbled that I get to be your daughter. Without your devotion to God and your fearless sense of child-like wonder, I wouldn’t have been able to write this story. I love you.
And to everyone who has come along on this winter adventure, thank you so very much. Sharing this story with you means more than I can say. I hope you’ve delighted in it as much as I have!
If you’d like a manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland, click here.
Through midnight tonight, everyone who purchases a copy will be entered to win an art print of one illustration from the story!
You can also subscribe below to receive digital installments.
Either way, I hope this story fills you with a sense of awe and wonder for our great King.
Living in wonder with you,
Join the Fight for Wonder
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Next week, there will be an announcement for something new from 21:25 Books 🙂 Can you guess what it is?
The final excerpt from Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel is here, and the last stand against all that seeks to destroy wonder is about to take place.
Are you ready for one last adventure?
Then read on.
The next two days passed by in a haze of preparation for others and confusion for Penelope Grace. Please do not misunderstand me, reader; Penelope helped where she could, refusing to sit idle because of her fear of the coming confrontation, but fear it she did.
All others in the camp seemed so assured to her eyes, so confident that they would meet their foes head-on, no matter the cost to themselves. And Penelope fully intended to join them in their efforts.
She thought not at all of turning back, only of failing.
As the hours passed, she became more and more convinced of her own inability to face Denagon and emerge victoriously. She was too weak, too inexperienced, too young. How could they ask this of her and expect any other outcome but defeat?
Denagon’s power was too immense in comparison to her little strength, and whatever Apricity she carried, Penelope dared not believe that it was enough.
Even as she served alongside others, her thoughts swirled around this doubtful center, and her fear grew, and her faith dwindled.
Aira noticed the change in her but chose to wait still, knowing that it was something Penelope would have to understand in her own time. Tilly, likewise, noticed the girl’s darkening mood and decided that enough was enough.
She plopped down next to Penelope Grace on the darkening evening of the second day and looked her squarely in the face. “Don’t ye think it’s high time to stop feelin’ sorry for yerself?”
Penelope flinched at the reminder of the fox’s harsh words in the tower room of Svarthol and had no answer for the bold fox.
Tilly pressed on, undeterred. “Well? What’s troublin’ ye so?”
She stared at Tilly for a moment more before the words flooded out, her words only whispered. “You said it yourself, Tilly. ‘Fool of a girl.’ And you were right. It was foolish to barricade us in the tower, thinking we were safe, that I had somehow outsmarted him.
“It was foolish to believe that I could best him.” She paused. “You should have seen it, Tilly, the way the darkness swept over the land.”
For a moment, Penelope Grace stared into the fire before them, and Tilly waited, knowing they’d yet to reach the heart of the matter. “I was so relieved when we made it here, Tilly. But over the last two days, I find myself wondering. Our camp seems so large, and there are so many here who are willing to fight for Ellura. But having seen the darkness, having seen Denagon face-to-face, I can’t help but wonder, is it enough? Am I?”
Are you wondering along with Penelope Grace?
You can read the story by subscribing below for digital installments OR by clicking here to receive a special manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Ireland.
GIVEAWAY: Through this Friday, Feb. 26th, everyone who purchases a copy will be entered to win an art print of one illustration from the book! You can see the artwork on Instagram.
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This week, refuge awaits for Penelope Grace and her companions.
But will they make it?
Subscribe below to read digital installments OR click here to receive a unique manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland.
Join the Fight for Wonder
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