Even When You Can’t See It

Have you ever longed to know the ending of a story a few hundred pages before The End?

Have you ever longed to see the finished painting before the first brush strokes reach the canvas?

Maybe God’s given you a calling, a dream, a drive to do something for His glory and His Kingdom.

But here you are, still at square one, with the vision so clear in your mind and seemingly invisible in the physical world.

Oh, I have been there.

I am there.

Are you?

Here is what God’s been teaching me in what I recently heard Dr. Sam Chand call “the messy middle,” that place between, where you’ve received your dream, but aren’t seeing fruit yet.

Yet.

Isn’t that the key word?

The one all our hope is hinged on?

It’s not bearing fruit yet.

On November 24th, I wrote these words:

“I’m so thankful for all You’re doing, both what I can see and what I cannot.”

Then, on Dec. 29th, I wrote this prayer in my planner: “Can’t believe how You’re moving, God. In ways I see and ways I can’t.”

God’s been weaving this lesson through my days. He weaves it through every one of yours.

I am moving, both when you can see it and when you can’t.

This is what He speaks over us, sons and daughters of the King who orchestrates everything, a perfect symphony.

He does all things well.

And this is what we can rest in, no matter how long we’ve been waiting:

We’ll always wait in good company. He never leaves.

And He is always working.

Even when we don’t understand.

Even when we can’t fathom what comes next.

Even when we can’t see it.

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I hope this encourages you, friends!

Please share below: what are you waiting on or struggling to see? How have you witnessed God at work?

I’d love for us to pray for and encourage one another!

Thank you for reading 🙂

Alexandria

An Excerpt from Installment Nine of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

The maze seeks to claim her.

Will Penelope Grace ever find her way out?

A new excerpt awaits you, reader.

Will you brave the bracken and thorns for yourself?

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She had only decided on two more paths when another rustle sounded behind her. Penelope stopped short, but would not look back, would not let her fear get the best of her.

One deep breath and she moved forward again, fighting to remain sure of herself.

This time something moved just to her right, not touching her, though she could feel the breath of it passing by. 

Another rush of movement to her left. Penelope jumped back as she glanced frantically around for its source. Her cloak ripped as it caught on a thorn. Quickly now, Penelope Grace bent to untangle it from the bracken, her fingers clumsy. 

The rustling sound grew louder, and as her cloak only grew more entangled, Penelope let out a cry of frustration and panic. 

Looking around for any kind of help, though she didn’t know what she expected to find, Penelope froze. 

A mass of thorns and brittle vines were unassumingly gathering in front of her, barring her way forward while she remained none the wiser. 

Frightened and enraged, she ran forward, at last succeeding in wrenching her cloak free. But the way was shut before Penelope could reach it, and she stopped just short of beating against the solid wall of bracken, knowing that would only leave her hands a bloody, aching mess. 

Penelope’s mind raced, but there were countless paths through this maze. Surely, she could retrace her steps and find another.

Racing down the path, Penelope nearly stumbled over the enormous husk of a root that she knew had not been there before. Undeterred, she ran on. Though the mist was growing thicker, she could see the light from the lantern that had illuminated the crossroads and knew she was close. 

She was almost on top of the barred path before she realized her mistake. 

She could not go back.

Neither could she go forward.

How many more paths would the bracken prevent her from reaching? How long before every way was shut?

There was no way out.

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This Friday, Part Two: Winter comes to a close, but Penelope Grace’s adventures are far from over.

To receive weekly digital installments, click below to join the fight for wonder. Or, if you would like to receive a unique, manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, contact us at 2125bks@gmail.com

Until this Friday,

Alexandria

An Excerpt from Installment Four of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Welcome to Part Two: Winter, being the second part of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel.

Please enjoy this excerpt from the story.

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She kept hoping her mother would turn around or that Georgie would return to the family room, ready to plead with their father once more with his usual mischievous grin.

No one appeared.

Penelope Grace, now alone with her father, summoned up her remaining courage and went to him. His back faced the rest of the room, and she nearly lost her nerve but made herself speak in the end.

“Papa, would you sit with me awhile?”

He did not stir.

“Papa?”

She waited a few moments for his response, though it hurt her to know how oblivious he was to her. 

When it was long past obvious that she would get no answer from her father tonight, Penelope, at last, followed in Georgie’s and her mother’s footsteps.

She stopped at the foot of the staircase when a faint touch of frigid air swept past her. The cold never troubled Penelope Grace, but it was unnatural to feel its touch indoors.

Wondering at the cause of it, Penelope searched the lower half of the house for an improperly latched window but found no such thing.

Frowning at the unwelcome mystery, she returned to the stairs, troubled, but at a loss for any sort of explanation. 

For every step Penelope Grace took, the air grew colder. Halfway up, she snatched her hand back from the banister with a sharp intake of breath. The light was dim, but she could still make out a small patch of ice, which was slowly expanding to cover the length of the polished wood.

Penelope stepped back, frightened and confused by what was happening. Her breath came in visible, panicked gasps as she rushed up the last of the stairs, the only way she could think of to escape the cold and ice.

Escape is rarely so simple.

A fresh gust of wind struck Penelope just as she reached the landing. Her eyes widening in horror, she barely succeeded in stifling a cry as she watched frost begin to curl its way around the pattern on the wallpaper.

It was the first time that Penelope remembered thinking of ice as something cruel.

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Installment Four publishes this Friday, Jan. 1st, and the fight for wonder is growing more dangerous than ever. Who knows what might happen next?

Once you’ve subscribed, you’ll receive four installments each month, illustrations that accompany the story, and the chance to win an exciting giveaway (announcement coming soon)! You’ll also have access to all past and future installments of our stories, so you can read them at any pace you like 🙂

Happy reading!

Alexandria

An Excerpt from Installment Three of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

This week, I have the pleasure of sharing an excerpt from the third installment of my novel, Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, in which the search for the Wilderbeast has an unexpected ending…

Read on.

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They raced down the snow-covered steps, each eager to catch their first glimpse of the Wilderbeast.

“Where should we look first,” George asked, his face vibrant with anticipation and joy.

“Well, she came up our steps from the right, so –“

“To the park! Race you!”

Penelope laughed and ran after him, her cloak flowing behind her as she hurried to catch up.

They were nearly there when George finally slowed, his cheeks bright pink from the cold.

“Do you suppose, Penelope,” he asked in between deep breaths, “that the Wilderbeast will hurt us?”

“Never! Wilderbeasts come to the brave of heart to take them on wild adventures. They would never hurt anyone.”

With the park now in view, she smiled and cried, “Come on!”

Both Penelope and George quickly lost track of time and the Wilderbeast, but their time in the park did them immeasurable good. For a while, they could remember that, despite their concerns, there was still hope if they would only look for it.

Sometime later, as they made their way home, Penelope felt all the more determined to help her father; she could see him failing, could see all his joy and warmth fading in time with Uncle Alex. Perhaps, this Christmas would not be the same, but Penelope Grace fiercely believed that it could still be good.

Only a few streets separated them from home when George, suddenly remembering, cried in dismay, “The Wilderbeast! We never found her!”

“It will be all right, George. You never know when she might appear.”

They spent the next several minutes debating with great animation what the Wilderbeast might look like. As they turned down their street, George stopped in his tracks, delighted that they no longer had to guess.

Halfway down the street, just a few feet from their doorstep, the Wilderbeast lay settled in the snow, as if waiting for them all this time.

She looked very much like a dragon, but rather than scales, her sleek frame was covered in fur of a soft violet color, dappled in blue and green. As Penelope and George drew near, the Wilderbeast rose, extending her gossamer wings and lowering her head to look at them with her great, green eyes, the color of moss on rain-soaked bark.

They were less than a hundred yards from her when George halted, looking up at the Wilderbeast in wonder.

“She looks so kind,” he breathed.

“That’s so those who look closely enough will know they don’t have to be afraid of her.”

He was quiet for a moment more, then, “What’s her name?”

“Lunella,” Penelope replied, “for the way her wings shimmer in the moonlight.”

Just then, the Wilderbeast, seeming to decide that the two were worthy companions, lay on the ground once more and extended her leg so that Penelope and George could climb up.

“Shall we get on,” Penelope asked.

George offered her nothing more than a smile for an answer, and together, they ran to the Wilderbeast, but then –

“What on earth are you doing?”

Their father stood on the doorstep, and the Wilderbeast disappeared like a dusting of snow snatched by an icy breeze.

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What do you suppose awaits Penelope Grace and Georgie inside? To find out and join the fight for wonder for yourself, subscribe below to receive weekly installments of the story through February 2021.

Installment Three releases this Thursday, and Penelope Grace is about to discover that she is running out of time…

Until then,

Alexandria

Book Review: The Edge of Everywhen

What a delight sharing this story is going to be with you! Read my full review of The Edge of Everywhen by A.S. Mackey below!

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“Be astonished! Be astounded! For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe if you were told.” Habakkuk 1:5, NRSV

Something astonishing, indeed, awaits you, dear Reader.

On the pages of The Edge of Everywhen, you’ll find a young girl, Piper, frightened and desperate for what has been lost to be returned…

Her brother, Phoenix, an altogether rare young man, longing to be seen and understood…

A father, fighting to be reunited with his family…

And Aunt Beryl, with a cold, reserved heart, longing to be warmed.

Do you hear the echoes of your own story in any of theirs? Then, read on.

But be warned!

Something astonishing, indeed, awaits you, dear Reader, for between the covers of The Edge of Everywhen, you’ll encounter a story that will bring you closer to God and closer to the person you were handcrafted to be.

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There truly are not sufficient words to express how wonderful this story is, so I’ll leave you with a simple plea: please read The Edge of Everywhen. You won’t regret a minute of this adventure and will, I believe, walk away from it forever changed.

My heartfelt gratitude to A.S. Mackey for having the courage to write this story.

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 grab a copy of The Edge of Everywhen from Bookshop (a fantastic site that allows you to support indie booksellers!), Lifeway, or Books-A-Million.

Be sure to connect with A.S. Mackey on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads!

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This Thursday, Installment Three of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel publishes!

You can read an excerpt here and subscribe below 🙂 It’s been my great joy to share this winter tale of wonder with you, and I can’t wait for the story to continue!

Until then,

Alexandria

The Inspiration Behind Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Good morning, everyone!

Today, I want to share a quick post about what inspired me to write Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel.

Listen below!

The Inspiration Behind
Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

I hope you enjoyed learning more about what inspired me to write this story and that you’ll enjoy all the installments to come!

To read a special sneak peek of the story and subscribe to receive future installments, click here!

The second installment publishes this Friday! And remember, once you subscribe, you have unlimited access to all past and future installments, so you can read the story at whatever pace you like 🙂

Until then,

Alexandria

A Sneak Peek at Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel!

This is the week! The first installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel publishes this Friday, December 11th! Here’s a sneak peek to tide you over until then.

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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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To read more, subscribe below! For $3.99/month, you’ll receive a new installment each week, along with a special illustration to accompany the story and the chance to win an exciting gift in the coming weeks! See you Friday 🙂

Until then,

Alexandria

Interview with Lisa R. Howeler

Welcome to the third week of Author Spotlight Month!

It was such a joy to interview Lisa! Below, she shares more about what inspired her story, A New Beginning, what resting in the Father’s love looks like for her, and what to do when you’re caught in a creative slump.

Read on!

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Lisa Robinson-Howeler is a writer and photographer from Northeastern Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and two children. She is a former small-town newspaper reporter who decided to write her first novel in 2019. Her fiction focuses on issues of personal failings and triumphs, romance, and personal growth through faith and life lessons. Lisa has had her writing and photography featured in newspapers, magazines, and online nationally and internationally. In addition to being a new novelist, she is a blogger and a homeschooling mother.

What inspired you to write a story that deals with forgiving yourself and finding freedom from your past?

The inspiration for A Story to Tell, the first book I wrote, was my great-grandmother and great-grandfather’s story. A New Beginning is a sequel to A Story to Tell. In other words, A New Beginning was still inspired by my great- grandmother and great-grandfather’s story. 

 My great-grandmother sort of “ran off” with my great-grandfather around 1910 and got married, but I didn’t really want to write a book based in the early 1900s so I moved the story up to the 1950s and, of course, changed the story slightly. I kept the names of my great-grandparents in a way. Blanche was my great-grandmother’s name, but my great-grandfather was Howard. In the book, the characters are Blanche and Hank.

In real life, Blanche moved away from her hometown to live with Howard about an hour away. They were only married a couple of months when Blanche became pregnant. She returned to her family when my grandfather was about a year old and not long after she divorced my great-grandfather and my grandfather was given my great-grandmother’s maiden name. No one in the family was allowed to talk about my great-grandfather Howard and for much of my life that was still the way it was, even though Howard did make contact with my grandfather to try to make some sort of amends after my great-grandmother passed away.

As I got older, and after hearing this story a few times, I started to wonder what Howard had done that made Blanche leave him and eventually divorce him. I also started to wonder what it had been like for Blanche in the aftermath of it all – if she was able to forgive herself for running away with Howard, for trusting someone that family lore says wasn’t very nice or trustworthy, and then having a child with him. Or was it more of a struggle for her to forgive Howard for whatever he had done? And as she worked through those struggles, did she also wonder if she would ever find happiness, or love, again?

In my books, Howard’s character, Hank, is abusive and an adulterer. In real life, I don’t know that Howard was abusive, but family legend says he was an alcoholic and a womanizer and most likely an adulterer. So, while I pondered Blanche’s life and the role of forgiveness for her, I also began to ponder the fact that my grandfather was eventually able to forgive his father, in a way, by at least talking to him before he died. There were redemption and forgiveness all over the story of my great-grandparents, mixed in with what had to have been a lot of bitterness for betrayal, broken hearts, and rejection. 

That same redemption and forgiveness have been peppered throughout my own life as well. These are subjects that have been conquered for me in some ways and are a work in progress in others.

(An aside: While researching for the first book, I also learned that my great-grandfather ran away with his nephew’s wife shortly after divorcing my great-grandmother and that woman abandoned her husband and daughter to be with him. Even more betrayal, yes, but even more opportunity for redemption and forgiveness I hope came for them all before they passed away.)

Shame and regret are weapons that the enemy so often uses against us. What helps you rest in God’s love and forgiveness?

This is a hard one for me in some ways because I don’t always trust in God’s love and forgiveness. Isn’t that awful? I know that I have been taught he forgives us and sees us as his child, no matter what we do, but when I make a mistake, I will dwell on that over and over. There are times I struggle to forgive myself almost more than I struggle to forgive others. I am quicker to make an excuse to understand why someone else acted the way they did than I am to understand why I acted the way I did. If that makes sense. 

What helps me remember that Christ loves me as I am, though, is the very fact he died on the cross for me – for us. He died not because I was perfect, but because he is. When God looks at us he doesn’t see our mistakes – he sees Christ. God also sees his child, who he loves, and who he grieves for when he sees us make mistakes.

Many people dream of writing a book but are held back by the fear of not being good enough. What encouragement would you offer them?

First, don’t look at it as writing a book. Look at as writing a chapter. Then another. Then another. Then another until your story is done and you have a book. It’s such a daunting task when you think you are writing “a whole book.” I shared chapters for my first book on my blog and my readers wanted to know what happened next so I just kept writing the story for them. Before I knew it, I had a book completed. It wasn’t the best book ever written and I’d love to rewrite that first book someday, but it was a book and it was a story I wrote. I knew I wanted to try it again. 

 I definitely don’t feel good enough, but one thing I’ve reminded myself is that every reader has different tastes, likes, interests so what I’m writing may not be one reader’s “cup of tea” while it will be exactly what another reader enjoys. Plus, I remember the saying “practice makes perfect.” The more I do this whole “writing a book” thing, my hope is I’ll keep getting better. Will I ever be an award-winning author? I don’t know and I’m not worried about that. I’m simply having fun telling stories. The bottom line of this whole writing thing for me is to have fun. I worked for 14 years as a newspaper reporter. It’s what my degree is in. By the end, writing wasn’t fun anymore. I was also a photographer after I left newspapers and tried to make a career of it. It killed my love of photography for a few years. Once I gave up on the idea that I needed to make money from either of those things, I loved them again. 

Life is so short. You never know what will happen if you simply sit down and just start writing. My main advice is to not look at writing as a way to make money, but as a way to share what you want to share – whether a story or encouragement or advice. Whatever it is, your goal should be connecting with people more than connecting with a paycheck because it’s never guaranteed you will be paid, or at least paid well, for what you write. 

If you find yourself in a creative slump, what helps you get out of it and find inspiration?

Creative slumps happen often to me. For writing slumps, I either read a well-written book or watch a well-made movie. I need a good story to ignite ideas for my own stories. And sometimes I even watch a bad movie or read a not-so-great book to remind me what I don’t want to create. 

Sometimes during those slumps, I walk away from whatever piece I’m working on for a while to give my brain some time to detox and recover. Then there are other times I keep writing through the slump. Whatever I’m writing during that time may be awful, but I hope that I will eventually write myself out of the slump. 

Talking to people is another way I pull myself out of a slump. I’m a people watcher and there are times something I see or hear in real life will trigger an idea for a future story.

Can readers hope to see another book that focuses on Blanche’s story? Are there any projects that you’re currently working on that you’d like to share with readers?

I do have plans for another book that will be a branch off from Blanche’s story. It is going to be called Related by Blood and will focus on Blanche’s son Jackson and his relationship with his biological father Hank. 

I’ve also started a story that will either be a novella or a full-length novel about Lily, who is mentioned in A New Beginning. The book will simply be called Lily and will be a little more challenging to write and read (for some) than some of my books because it will deal with difficult subjects like child abuse, teenage pregnancy, and addiction. 

I just published a novella dealing with rekindling the passion in marriage called Rekindle and it is currently available on Amazon and Kindle, as well as through Kindle Unlimited. I hope to have it available through other sellers this winter as I figure out how to offer books places other than Amazon. The book focuses on Liam and Maddie Grant who are in the midst of a divorce when they are forced into quarantine after Liam comes in contact with someone who has a rare virus (yes, I wrote this during the onset of the COVID situation). The book also follows the story of Liam’s brother Matt, a United States Senator, who is also forced into quarantine and begins to think about how much he has neglected his marriage and family to pursue his political career. This book may be the basis for a future series, but I haven’t decided that for sure yet.  I’m also in the middle of writing The Farmer’s Daughter, the first in a series. The book should be out sometime in February 2021. It is about Molly Tanner, a 26-year old woman who is still living on her family’s farm but wonders if she should start her own life by leaving the farm and finding out what else is out there in the world for her. While the book does include a romantic element, it also follows the story of the Tanner family, who is fighting to keep their family farm and store from going under during hard economic times.

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I can’t wait to read more of Lisa’s books. She is a truly talented writer, and you won’t want to miss any of her novels!

You can grab a copy of A New Beginning and Rekindle on Amazon!

And be sure to follow Lisa’s blog, so you don’t miss any updates on current projects & future releases. You can also follow her on Instagram and Goodreads.

Next week is the final week of Author Spotlight Month (already!), and I’ll be sharing an interview with Niki Florica!

Until then,

Alexandria

Book Review: The Awakened by Richard Spillman

Cover Image Courtesy of Goodreads

This week, I have the privilege of sharing my review of The Awakened by Richard Spillman. I can’t think of enough good things to say about this novel! You can read my full review (and grab a copy for yourself!) below.

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“Perhaps faith really is trusting that something meaningful lies beneath the surface of the senseless, that purpose exists in the randomness of life, that joy is independent of your circumstances….”

Lazarus, who goes by L, has been holding onto faith for 2,000 years. As an Awakened – one whom Jesus resurrected from the dead – his purpose is to faithfully serve God as he takes part in the spiritual warfare raging around the world.

Demons, known as UDs, who have taken up residence in human bodies, are everywhere, and they want nothing more than to distort and destroy the image bearers of God, proving once and for all that humans are irredeemable.

Though L is growing weary, he refuses to give up. But the battle is growing more complicated. More often, L wonders if the end times are approaching and if he is equal to the task appointed to him.

Still, with the help of a few unexpected, but not unwelcome, friends, L finds that his faith is rekindling, and he is more certain than ever before that the Light has overcome the darkness.

But the battle isn’t over yet…

With heart-pounding action and believable characters that quickly feel like old friends, Dr. Richard Spillman has created a story that is resonant, fast-paced, and timely, not to mention impossible to put down. Reminiscent of Frank Peretti’s novels, The Awakened is full of suspense and the timeless truth that, even in the midst of so much uncertainty, there is a steadfast Hope we can rely on.

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You can purchase a copy of The Awakened at Barnes and Noble or Bookshop, a wonderful site that supports independent booksellers with every purchase! It is also available on Amazon.

Be sure to leave a review on Goodreads! Reviews are a great way to support authors.

Later this week, I’ll be sharing an interview with the author, Richard Spillman!

Until then,

Alexandria