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The Narrow Road of the Writing Journey

This morning, I sat still and listened.

That probably doesn’t sound too stupendous, does it? For me, it was a major victory. Over the last few months, I have fallen into the habit of reaching for my phone first thing in the morning. I check my email, look at the news, scroll for a long time on social media, check my email again, and by the end of this cycle, I’m left feeling exhausted and depleted before I ever get out of bed.

But this unhealthy habit also had another, unexpected (except in hindsight) consequence. I’ve written before about my struggle with discontentment and comparison. Naturally, spending my time on social media first thing gave me a full dose of both of those things, but I didn’t really realize it. While I was scrolling, I wasn’t actively thinking discontent thoughts, but that exhaustion that I was feeling afterwards should have been my first clue that that’s exactly what was going on.

I would go on with my day, get my writing done, and then feel so stymied, so lacking in passion or enthusiasm. There were things to do, but the energy just wasn’t there to do them. Have you ever been in a space like this?

Slowly but surely, I was caught up in thoughts that were so defeating. Things weren’t happening in the way that I hoped and the things that were happening, weren’t playing out in the specific way I thought they would.

All of this discontent was stewing, until, eventually, it turned into doubt. I began questioning if I were really meant to write, to start a publishing company. I wondered if all of this was really going to work out, or if I hadn’t heard God right all this time.

This isn’t exactly unusual in the writing journey, though, is it?

It’s a narrow road we tread. Sometimes, that road feels like a winding, twisting one. It disappears into a dark valley where we can’t see the next step forward. We’re stumbling and nothing seems straightforward or clear.

Other times, the road feels like a small path up a mountain. It leads you along a cliff edge, but it’s exhilarating and exciting, and the view at the end makes the peril and uncertainty so worth it.

I feel like I just came out of the valley this morning.

I sat down with my coffee, my phone remained far from my hands, and I spent time listening to the voice of my Savior. He led me to Psalm 23, and He reassured my long-exhausted heart that He sees what I don’t. He sees how all of this works out, how all of this is possible. He reminded me that He created me to be a writer, and He did it for a reason.

And we need reminders like this all the time, don’t we? We need reminders that we’re not crazy. That we were hand-crafted for this narrow road, to travel it with Him, and trust Him with the outcome.

So, here’s your reminder, my fellow word-slinging friend. You were made for this writing journey. You were given words that matter, and no moment of doubt, negative review, or roadblock can take that away from you.

We’ll take the narrow road of the writing journey together and follow our Creator’s lead. The view at the end is going to be breathtaking, isn’t it? 🙂

Alexandria

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Mid-week Writing Update!

Hi all!

I thought I’d drop in to share a writing update this week. I’ve never really done these before, but I think it will be fun to share how my next book is coming along! While scrolling on Facebook (instead of writing), I came across an ad for a summer writing challenge called Pizza for Pages.

This immediately caught my eye because I absolutely loved the reading challenges that they hosted in elementary school, where you earned a pan pizza for reading a certain number of books. Those were good times!

This writing challenge is inspired by those summer reading programs, and while you don’t earn free pizza, you do earn pizza-themed goodies if you reach your weekly goal for 8 out of the 10 weeks of the challenge.

At first, I was a little skeptical because National Novel Writing Month left me burnt out on writing challenges. I found the goal of almost 2,000 words/day for 30 days straight to be really overwhelming, and it just sapped my creativity. I didn’t like feeling that I was writing only for the sake of the word count, rather than really being still with God and following His lead for the story. Long story short, NaNo just does not work for me personally.

But with Pizza for Pages, you set your own word count goal! Mine is 2,500 words per week, for a total of 25,000 words by the end of the 10 weeks.

The first week, life happened, and I wrote a little over 1,000 words. Even though I didn’t reach my goal, I did write something!

This week, the writing is going very well! I’m on track to reach my goal by the end of this week, and I’m just falling in love with this story. I started writing it when I was 11 years old, but the older I got, the more I believed that I wasn’t capable of writing it, so I set it aside for so many years.

I think that’s why God allowed me to write Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel and Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves first. Writing them gave me confidence that this is God’s calling on my life and reassurance that He gives me everything I need to carry out that calling.

Now, I can write Fidelia (not the full title) and just enjoy the process, rather than being filled with dread and doubt every time I pick up the pen.

Right now, I’m on chapter two, and I’m spending time with an elf named Elezar under the leaves of Lydaea Forest. The story really feels like it’s beginning to take shape, and I’m so excited to see that continue. I have lots of ideas for chapter two swirling around in my caffeine-deprived brain, and I feel like I can’t write fast enough 🙂

What about you? How are your writing projects going? I’d love to celebrate with you if it’s going great or offer encouragement if it’s not (we all have those days!).

Have a happy rest of the week!

Alexandria

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“My Heart Is Steadfast.”

Do you ever struggle to trust that God is working things out for good?

This morning, I was reading Psalms 57 and 61, and I realized that, lately, my answer to that question has been a resounding, “Yes.” Sounds bad, right? But it’s true. Logically, I know that God is trustworthy, but that knowledge hasn’t necessarily been reflected in my thoughts or actions.

I see photos of people getting married or having children, and discontentment stabs me. I wonder why it hasn’t happened for me.

I get caught up in numbers and likes, and I forget that feeling seen or unseen by people doesn’t define or determine my worth. I forget that God is more than enough.

And God knows all this about me. He knows where my thoughts tend to go. He knows how the enemy attacks me. He knows all the ins and outs of you, too.

He knows us so intimately and cares for us so carefully. I had forgotten that. He used Psalm 61 to remind me.

I call to You as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.”

Psalm 61:2-3

I’ve read those verses before, but they held my attention this morning, more than they ever have before.

They reminded me of how close God is.

Of how trustworthy He is.

Of how, even when I don’t understand His timing or why certain things are happening (or not happening), I can take a deep breath and know He is right there next to me. And that’s enough. That’s all I actually need.

Instead of drowning in doubt, discontentment, or plain, old impatience, I can echo David’s words in Psalm 57.

My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast.”

Psalm 57:7

This is a heart space worthy of staying in, a space where we stop allowing circumstances to diminish or derail us, a space where God comes so, so close, and stays.

God used these verses to light up some dark places in my heart, and I’m confident He will do the same for you. What has He been teaching you lately?

Now, I’m off to brew coffee and befriend some (fictional) dragons.

Alexandria

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What’s Next For 21:25 Books?

Hi everyone,

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? I am so excited for all that God’s taught me over the last several months and for the way that He redirected all my plans. I definitely had a very specific vision of what life would look like by spring of this year and where 21:25 Books would be.

Then, life happened, and God showed me that, no matter how good I thought my plans were, His are so much better.

Initially, my plan was to design a full website with an online store and new blog. Roadblock after roadblock kept popping up, until I finally realized that those roadblocks were God’s loving way of telling me, “Not yet.”

I didn’t necessarily like hearing that answer at first (OK, I didn’t like it at all), so I kept trying to push my own agenda for a bit. After spending a lot of time talking to God about things, He led me to stick with this version of the blog. Not always, but for now. I felt such a weight lifted when I finally followed where He was leading.

So, what does this mean for the online store?

Well, it does exist, just not in the way I thought it would!

If you click on this fancy link, it will take you right to a form where you can browse my store and purchase any bookish items that you like! I’ll be adding more products as time goes on, but for right now, there are some beautiful bookmarks available and handmade wax seals for your stationary or craft projects! (Please note that shipping is U.S. only for now)

I discovered how passionate I am about making handmade bookish products to share with my fellow readers and writers, something that I would have missed out on if I had stuck with my original plan. It turns out that God knows best, after all 🙂

In other news, I just launched The Writers’ Nook, a pen-pal group for Christian women writers! I’m so full of anticipation for how God will allow us to encourage each other through this group. If you’d like to sign up, you can read all the information and do so here!

Receiving cards or letters in the mail is one of my favorite things (and a welcome break from all of the junk mail), and I thought, “How wonderful would it be for us writers to receive random notes of encouragement or congratulations when we hit a roadblock in the writing process or when we celebrate a book release?”

There are few things as special as finding a tangible reminder that you’re not alone in the writing process, and The Writers’ Nook is an opportunity for writers to offer that reminder to each other on a regular basis!

There is more news to come, but I’ll leave you with that for now! What’s new in your own writing/publishing journey? What has God been teaching you? I’d love for you to share in the comments.

Come visit on Friday, when I’ll be sharing a book review of Etania’s Calling by M.H. Elrich!

Happy reading & wordslinging [ my dad’s term for writing 🙂 ]

Alexandria

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Book Review: Letters from the Dragon’s Son

Jonathan Gudwyne is in trouble.

But he shouldn’t be. It doesn’t make sense. Much of what he’s longed for has been fulfilled in these last months.

He is reunited with Izzy, they’ve settled into their homestead, and they’re building the life and family they’ve dreamed of.

And yet, something is not quite right. Something feels stagnant and off-kilter, and it is not long before Jonathan realizes that the rot can be found in his own heart. And when an unexpected and shattering loss occurs, Jonathan finds himself pushed to the breaking point, altogether unsure that he’ll survive what’s consuming him from the inside.

Avery is a man longing for reconciliation and certain he doesn’t deserve it. In fact, if you were to ask him, he’d tell you that what he most deserves is as much pain as can be inflicted for all the suffering he’s caused others.

Still, he hopes. Hopes for forgiveness. Hopes for his boy to see him for the man he’s become rather than the one he’s been.

The possibility seems far-fetched. Still, there’s always a chance for his hopes to be fulfilled. Always a chance for the dragons of our pasts to be, at last and finally, laid to rest.

Letters from the Dragon’s Son is one of my favorite books of all time. For the way it raised my hopes, for the way it lifted my eyes to see my own past through the only proper lens: grace.

We all have parts of our pasts that we are ashamed of, and, like Avery, we all tend to shy away from the grace, mercy, and forgiveness that Jesus freely extends. We know we’re not worthy, so, why bother, right?

But Tammy Lash has woven an intricate story that lovingly, but firmly, refuses to leave its readers in that rut of guilt and shame.

This is a story that lifts you out of the ashes.

This is a story that helps you see yourself and others clearly, perhaps, for the first time.

This is a story full of characters that reflect our own struggles and victories, in all their imperfect glory.

If you’re longing for hope, forgiveness (or the ability to forgive), and a new beginning, this is the story I’ll suggest over and over and over again.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

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You can find a copy of Letters rom the Dragon’s Son here.

And be sure to read book one, White Wolf and the Ash Princess.

You can connect with Tammy Lash on Instagram and Goodreads.

Happy reading!

Alexandria

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Character Names! Behind the Scenes of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves

Have you ever wondered how authors come up with character names?

For me, it’s different for every story I write!

When I wrote Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, many of the characters were based on family members (makes life easy, right?! 😅)

But when it came time for Chip’s tale, God had something different in mind.

I wrote this book in an illustrated journal, and as soon as I saw the owl pictured above, I heard the name, Abaline.

Although, it took me a few tries to decide on the spelling 😄

Alfeus’ name came to me spur of the moment, and, of course, Chip got his name from the charming young rabbit who used to sit outside my window.

Sometimes, there isn’t a certain way that character names come about. They just feel right.

And when God gives you that certainty, you learn not to question it 😊

How do you come up with character names? Do people you know inspire them or do the names just come as you’re writing?

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Next week, we’ll continue on our behind-the-scenes’ adventures for Chip’s story!

What would you love to know about the making of Chip?

I’ll also be sharing a review for H.A. Pruitt’s novel, Earth Quaking, a book that is very close to my heart.

Happy reading!

Alexandria

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Book Review: Hoover’s Horn

Luna’s first adventure with her newfound friends has hardly ended, and the next one is already beginning…

Wizard Edwin is up to his magical tricks once again, and Hoover – Luna’s beloved (and sometimes grumpy) owl friend – has paid the price.

Transformed into a fierce rhinoceros and none too happy about it, Hoover demands to be turned back into his dignified, feathered self this instant.

But it will take all of Edwin’s magical resources and friends to undo this latest mishap, and they’ll soon learn that their hope rests on one noble gnome, Mr. Terracotta Glaze.

It seems impossible, but you never know, young reader. With a few willing friends and a wish fulfilled, Hoover might regain his feathers yet.

Hoover’s Horn is a wonderful continuation of The Cottonwood Chronicles. I continue to be delighted by Erica Richardson’s God-given gift for taking a whimsical tale full of child-like wonder and adventure and then filling it to the brim with heart-warming reminders of true friendship and what’s really worth treasuring in life.

If you’re longing for a story that’s sure to bring your family together for an adventure full of magic and delight, look no further than Hoover’s Horn, book two of The Cottonwood Chronicles, and all of the magical adventures yet to come.

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If you’re just discovering the wonder of Erica’s magical tales, you can find a copy of Luna’s Rescue on Amazon!

While you’re there, you might as well grab a copy of Hoover’s Horn, so you don’t have to wait a moment to find out what happens next 😉

When you’ve finished, please consider leaving a review on Goodreads! It’s the best and quickest way to help out your favorite authors!

You can join Erica’s writing adventures on Instagram 🙂

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This Thursday, I’m sharing a special excerpt from Hoover’s Horn and a peek at the coloring pages that Erica designed for her stories!

Alexandria

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An Interview With Kimberly Duffy

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!

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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.

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Thank you so much, Kimberly, for doing this interview and offering such thoughtful, heartfelt answers!

A Tapestry of Light is available on Amazon, Bookshop, and other booksellers!

Be sure to also check out Kimberly’s stunning debut novel, A Mosaic of Wings. It will always be one of my favorite stories!

You can connect with Kimberly on her website, Instagram, or Facebook!

Once you’ve read (and fallen in love with) the stories, be sure to leave a review on Goodreads. Reviews are one of the best and easiest ways to help the authors we love!

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Next week, it’s time for a marvelous adventure! I’ll be sharing my review and an excerpt from Hoover’s Horn, a children’s book by another favorite author of mine, Erica Richardson!

Happy reading!

Alexandria

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Book Review: A Tapestry of Light

“Sometimes little things held more strength than the grand.”

For Ottilie Russell, life has been an unending pattern of loss.

First, her father and siblings, wrenched away by illness.

Then, her mother, stolen away in a senseless accident that leaves her with the daunting responsibility of caring for her grandmother and younger brother, Thaddeus.

Ottilie is determined, though. Amidst the swirl of doubt and grief, she steels herself to use her unique gift for embroidery to honor her parents’ legacy and provide for her family.

But Ottilie soon learns that her mother’s plans for them were quite different than what she expects, and plans have been set in motion that promise to rip away everything that is familiar.

Everything comforting and reassuring.

As much as Ottilie has wrestled with her British and Indian heritage, she is about to find herself more torn between the two than ever before. The only way forward is to carefully gather the smallest scraps of faith and courage she has left and discover if they will be enough to make something with real strength.

Kimberly Duffy’s books are absolute wonders and a gift to anyone who reads them. In A Tapestry of Light, the pages are filled with characters who hold their darkest struggles up to the light with a courage and vulnerability that is exceedingly rare. 

Readers will be comforted to know that they are not alone in their doubts or pain, challenged to ask the hardest questions, and emboldened to face their long-held fears.

There are countless lessons and comforts to be found in the pages of this book, but, by far, the most important one for me is this:

Sometimes, it is the smallest stitches that transform a tapestry into a work of stunning beauty, and, often, it’s the seemingly insignificant seeds of faith that make a person radiant with the hope that even a life fragmented by loss can be daily made whole.

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A Tapestry of Light is available on Amazon and Bookshop, a really fantastic site that supports indie bookstores with every purchase!

You can connect with Kimberly on her website and Instagram.

Join us Thursday for an interview with the author!

Until then, happy reading!

Alexandria

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Book Review: Etania’s Worth

What a delight to share this wonderful story with you this week! Read my full review of Etania’s Worth by M.H. Elrich below! And come back on Thursday for a special interview with the author!

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Etania. She felt Melchizedek’s voice, warming her whole body… Lean on me.”

The land of Tamnarae and its people are at terrible risk. Melchizedek is no longer amongst them, and the forces of Malstorm, known as the Skazic, are rising once more.

Yet, there are those blessed with Neuma – unique gifts bestowed by Melchizedek Himself – who remain loyal and are willing to risk all to fight for what is good and true.

But when Etania, along with her family and friends, is called to join the fight, she discovers that leaning on Melchizedek in faith is the greatest battle of all…

Etania’s Worth is such a remarkable story. Full of adventure, love, betrayal, and courage, it’s a novel that is sure to entertain readers of all ages and challenge them to face their fears with bold faith.

The characters struggle with real brokenness and doubt, but what truly sets this story apart is the redemptive arc that most of the characters experience. Reading a novel where many characters learn to receive grace and healing was so refreshing. I’m sure that readers will agree, as they turn the last page, that we need more stories as brave and full of faith as Etania’s Worth.

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I’m so grateful that I had the chance to read this remarkable story!

Pick up a copy for yourself and a friend at Amazon or Bookshop (a wonderful site that supports independent bookstores with every purchase)!

Join me on Thursday as I share a wonderful interview with M.H. Elrich!

Until then, happy reading!

Alexandria