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A Winter Tale of Wonder is Coming

A winter tale of wonder is coming, reader. The fire is crackling in the hearth and the melody of a winter carousel is softly playing as its frost-covered animals begin to turn. The tale invites you to set foot in the land of Ellura, but it begins on a snowy November night in London, where a young woman is holding tightly to wonder.

Here is the prologue for you to read and enjoy, and I hope you will join me for the whole adventure

Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Prologue

Penelope Grace was a remarkable girl.

Of course, that word – remarkable – can mean many different things, depending on whom you ask.

Upon entering the Saris household, you would first be taken to the kitchen for a warm cup of tea to fight off the early winter’s chill. There, Nurse Sasha – who oversaw everything – would happily offer you her opinion. She could hardly find it less than remarkable that a girl of sixteen could behave so like her nine-year-old brother as to be nearly indistinguishable.

Once welcomed and enlightened, you might continue to the living room and find a comfortable chair near Penelope’s mother, Mary, who is patiently mending the latest torn and dirt-stained dress. She would share with you how her daughter is remarkably and admirably unconcerned with what others think of her.

Over the years, her friends marveled to find that Penelope was just as likely to pick up an imaginary sword as an intricate piece of embroidery. Growing serious now, Mary would tell you of the many encouragements she has received to rein her daughter in.

But it is too rare a gift to see a child’s spirit endure into adulthood. As Penelope’s mother, she would ask, how could she do less than safeguard it?

But just then, young George would come bursting in, his great-uncle Alex not far behind, and insist on knowing what your conversation was about.

“Well, George,” Mary would ask with the warmest of smiles, “what do you think makes your sister remarkable?”

He would think hard about it for a minute or two but, his nose crinkling up as he grinned, would soon reply with a firm, “Two things.”

And then, leaning forward as if to share with you a very great secret, George would tell you a story. Just last week, Penelope had, remarkably, succeeded both in assembling an entire regiment of nutcracker soldiers in the foyer and in vanishing from sight before Nurse Sasha could certainly accuse her of having done it.

“And the second,” you would ask, sincerely eager to know.

“She is the only grown-up who isn’t only teasing me when she says she still believes in Father Christmas.”

Equally impressed by both these reasons, you might then turn to great-uncle Alex, whom you would find no less willing to join in the conversation.

He would have to say that Penelope was remarkable for her persistent delight in all things simple, yet extraordinary. Even now she remains as enchanted with his magic tricks as she was on the day he first arrived from Greece to share them with her.

But of all her family, acquaintances and friends, only her father, John – who has been listening by the crackling fire all the while – could tell you with absolute certainty what it was that made Penelope Grace genuinely remarkable:

“Wonder.”

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Join me for the carousel ride and the fight for wonder. Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel releases this November!

Alexandria

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Putting Holes in the Darkness

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.

Whether you’re reading The Cottonwood Chronicles, Peregrine, or Astrid and the Marble Tower, Erica Richardson’s books are full of stunning and much-needed reminders that you never go unnoticed or unseen by God, no matter how small, insignificant, or different you might feel.

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.

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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 🙂

Alexandria

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Book Review: Starganauts by C.E. Stone

Have you ever struggled to trust God’s plan?

Kaity Anderson knows this struggle all too well. All the world seemed radiant and full of hope as her wedding day dawned, until the unthinkable happened. During the reception — an event that should have been marked by joy — an alien gunship launched an attack against Earth, leaving the surface of the planet irrevocably destroyed.

They had been warned it was coming. A strange prophetess, Samantha, had spoken of the coming destruction, yet none had really believed her. Still, just before the attack arrived, she was there, ready and willing to take those willing to believe her in a space ship that would take them far from the imminent danger.

Choosing to do so, Kaity, her husband, and a few others watch in horror from the ship as their home, loved ones, and fellow humans are destroyed. Crippled by loss, they arrive on an unfamiliar planet, where greater challenges and victories await them than they could have ever imagined.

Up to this point, I have not been a big fan of sci-fi books, but after reading Starganauts, I consider myself officially converted. C.E. Stone has created such an expansive universe, full of characters whose strengths and weaknesses are so relatable and impactful.

The action scenes of the story are vivid and exciting, but also well-balanced with moments that make you think and challenge you in your walk with God right along with Kaity, Samantha, and the other characters. I am so excited to see where the rest of this series takes readers and am sure that more wonderful galactic adventures are in store!

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You can grab a copy of Starganauts here and follow C.E. Stone on Instagram!

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Adventures in Junk Journaling!

For the past few months, I’ve been exploring the world of junk journaling, and it’s become one of my favorite creative projects! I thought it would be fun to share my progress 🙂

One of the things I love about junk journaling is the way it takes items that people might otherwise consider to be trash.

Things like torn paper, old cardboard, bits of twine or lace.

Things that people take one look at and think, “Unusable. Past the point of usefulness or worth.”

These broken things become part of a bigger piece of art, and suddenly, they’re striking and beautiful and inspiring.

The more time I’ve spent making this junk journal, the more I’ve realized how the process mirrors God’s careful fashioning of us.

He takes these broken pieces that make up our lives, unafraid of their sharper edges, and He remakes them into something radiant and new.

Suddenly, we’re beautiful. Suddenly, we’re part of a bigger, God-fashioned work of art, and we get to see how those pieces we thought were useless come together to make the artwork precisely what it was meant to be all along.

When I discovered this craft, I never anticipated the way God would use it to help me know Him better, but I am so grateful He did.

What’s something unexpected that God’s shown you lately?

I’m heading back to junk journaling and writing for now, but I’ll be back here on Friday to share a writing update and my review of Starganauts by C.E. Stone!

Alexandria

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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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Cover Reveal: The Weight of Air by Kimberly Duffy

Happy Cover Reveal Day to Kimberly Duffy and her upcoming novel, The Weight of Air. I have loved every book that Kimberly has written, and I’m sure this one will be no exception 🙂

Below, I’m sharing the book blurb, as well as links to fun pre-order goodies!

The Weight of Air releases on February 7th, 2023!

Book Blurb:

In 1911, Mabel MacGinnis is Europe’s strongest woman and has performed beside her father in the Manzo Brothers Circus her entire life. But at his unexpected death, she loses everything she’s ever known and sets off in the company of acrobat Jake Cunningham for America in hope of finding the mother she’s just discovered is still alive.

Isabella Moreau, the nation’s most feted aerialist, has given everything to the circus. But age and injury now threaten her security, and Isabella, stalked by old fears, makes a choice that risks everything. When her daughter Mabel appears alongside the man who never wanted to see Isabella again, Isabella is forced to face the truth of where, and in what, she derives her worth.

In this evocative novel from Kimberly Duffy, the meaning of strength takes center stage as the lives of three circus performers become entangled beneath the glittering lights and flying trapeze of Madison Square Garden.

Pre-Order Details:

You can pre-order The Weight of Air from Amazon and Baker Book House! When you pre-order from Baker Book House, you’ll receive some fun pre-order goodies!

I can’t wait to read this story! Have you ever read any books by Kimberly Duffy? She is one of my very favorite authors. Click the titles to read my reviews of A Tapestry of Light and A Mosaic of Wings.

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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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Book Review: A Forever Summer

Happy Release Day to Havelah McLat and congratulations on your debut novel!

I’m so excited to share my review! Read on 🙂

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During a golden summer, many years ago, Katherine built sandcastles and went on adventures with a young boy in Westchester Bay. Now a young woman, she and her sister have returned for the first time to sort through forgotten memories and come to terms with the loss of their father.

Memories, in particular, are rare treasures for Katherine, having lost them years ago in a terrible crash. While searching through old belongings, Katherine stumbles across letters addressed to her from a boy named Janson, and unexpected pieces begin falling into place. She thought that she was simply returning to put their family’s old vacation home in order before saying goodbye once and for all; instead, memory after memory is returning to her, all through the help of an unexpected friend, who might turn out to be something more.

 Havelah McLat has written an impressive debut, full of heart, warmth, and charm. The main characters, Katherine and Janson, go on journeys in the story that are a joy for readers to share in. They are real, flawed, and relatable, and I enjoyed getting to know them and spend time with them. While there were certain parts where the dialogue felt somewhat unrealistic, the story, as a whole, is really well-written and so charming. This is the perfect summer beach read for anyone who is looking for a sweet story about love and legacy that will encourage and uplift them.

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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A Forever Summer is available on Amazon and you can add it on Goodreads.

Follow Havelah McLat on Instagram!

Thank you so much, Havelah, for the chance to read your first book and celebrate release day with you!

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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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Book Review: Etania’s Calling

For Etania and the peoples of Tamnarae, a new danger is lurking. Jazel is bent on seeking revenge, and no one will be safe until she is defeated once and for all. Desperate to hunt her down, Etania’s father pleads for her assistance and Etania reluctantly agrees. Accompanied by her suitor, Keyel, and a charming young prince, the company sets out on a quest that will decide the fate of the land. But Etania is keeping a secret, and should she share it with the wrong person, it could derail their hunt for Jazel, fracture her relationships with those she loves most, and leave the fate of Tamnarae more uncertain than ever. Etania’s calling is certain, but her ability to trust the One who gave it to her is yet to be decided…

It’s not often that a main character’s journey so closely mirrors your own. Etania is fully aware of her calling, yet she struggles both to fully trust that it’s possible for her to live it out and to not try to do so in her own strength. At so many points, her strengths and weaknesses resonated with me, as a reader, in such a powerful way. The reason I don’t find this surprising is that one of M.H. Elrich’s greatest strengths as a writer is to weave realistic characters with flaws, eccentricities, and God-given gifts.

It is nearly impossible not to find pieces of yourself in Etania, Keyel, or even Zaden. The result is a powerful story of learning to surrender and trust, to fully embrace your God-given calling with your whole heart so that others can be inspired to do the very same. After reading Etania’s Calling, there is no doubt that M.H. Elrich has courageously embraced her own gift, and every reader who picks up this story is going to be better for having read it.

I’m very much looking forward to the Daughters of Tamnarae series continuing and am so grateful for the opportunity to read this book. 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 keep up with writing updates from M.H. Elrich on Instagram and Goodreads!

Etania’s Calling, as well as the first book in the series, Etania’s Worth, are available on Amazon.

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What books have you read and enjoyed lately? Share any recommendations in the comments! I’m always looking for new books to read. If you’re an author, please don’t be shy about suggesting your own stories!

Hoping your weekend is filled with good books,

Alexandria