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An Interview with Careena Campbell

Happy release day to Free, a YA Christian historical fiction novel by Careena Campbell!

To celebrate, I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with Careena, where she shares what led her to write YA historical fiction, tips for authors curious about cover design, and what she hopes readers will get out of reading her debut novel!

Enjoy 🙂

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Tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a writer and published author! What first inspired you to pick up the pen? 

As a little girl, a pen was just another outlet for my ever-active imagination. As I got older, I wanted to write so I could create the kinds of books I had always wanted to read–books full of adventure that featured main characters that would set a good example of character to me. I wanted young people like me to go on wild adventures that inspired them to live closer to Jesus. 

Of all the genres you could write in, what drew you to YA historical fiction?

I have always been fascinated by the past. The way people lived, how they thought, and how it was similar or different to me always filled me with wonder and curiosity. I chose YA because I was the same age as YA protagonists. I will soon be beyond the YA age myself, but I still have a special place in my heart for teen readers. Adolescence is such a moldable time, and teen minds are like a sponge. I want to give them good, wholesome stories that they can “soak up” with excitement, that also help build their character into that of strong adults. 

Top three tips to help cure writer’s block! Go! 🙂

I feel like this is cheating because I actually did a YouTube video on this topic a while back. I’ll try not to quote it though! My best two tips are taking a break or reevaluating your outline. If you feel void of any inspiration on what to do next, a short break can help. If that doesn’t work, there may be a piece of the story missing from your outline. Of course, not everyone uses an outline to plan their story, but I personally find it a great way to avoid getting “stuck”!

You designed your own cover for Free. Do you have any advice for other independent writers who are looking to venture into the world of cover design?

Look at lots of different book covers. While it’s good to pay special attention to those of a similar genre to your own, look at other genres too. You might see a useful design element that was less common in the genre you had previously been looking at. Also, don’t be afraid of creating “mock-up” book covers by collaging a bunch of pictures together. I’ve lost count of the exact number, but I created at least five different versions of the book cover for Free. While you don’t want to use Pinterest and similar sites for your final cover, they can be very useful for finding images to practice with. I searched for and downloaded ocean and person pictures so I could practice getting the right layout. 

Today is release day for Free! Congratulations! What do you most hope readers get out of reading this story?

I want to remind readers of their identity in Christ–that, no matter the circumstances, if we remember Whose we are, there is an unlimited spring of hope and courage available to us. We are free to shine for the Lord, no matter what may happen, and free to celebrate our identity in Him. 

What are some of the books you’ve recently read and enjoyed?

I know I’m behind on the classics, but in January I finished Pride and Prejudice! I thoroughly enjoyed the worlds Austen created and can’t wait to explore more of them. Her characters were so funny, lovable, and–at times–embarrassing, they felt like they might really be your neighbors in the next manor over. I also recently enjoyed the Tales of Faith series by Amanda Tero. It consisted of three novelettes, each a Christian retelling of a different fairy tale. They were so clean and uplifting, and yet at the same time riveting and full of adventure. I will certainly be reading more of her books in the future!

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You can order Free on Amazon and follow along on all of Careena’s adventures on Instagram and her website, The Anchored Writer!

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Next week, an adventure begins. Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves publishes this spring, and the Kickstarter officially opens next week! My heart is overflowing with expectation for how God is going to restore our reassurance in His heart and His intent, listening ear for our prayers.

I hope you’ll join me in the next chapter of 21:25 Books’ story. It’s my greatest desire to fill the world with books about Him and the good things He does, and I hope I get to continue doing just that all of my days.

Until tomorrow,

Alexandria

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The Manuscript Edition: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Do you want to see Light illuminate darkness?

Do you want to see wonder sweep away the chill from even the most bitter days?

After a devastating loss, Penelope Grace longs for nothing more, but a persistent shadow clings to her family, draining them of hope and the desire to fight.

Desperately, she tries to revive their sense of wonder, until, on the bleakest of nights, she is robbed of all she holds dear.

Yet, hope isn’t lost, and Penelope Grace finds herself following an unexpected friend through the freshly fallen snow, hoping for the restoration of all she has lost.

But the fight for wonder is just beginning, and the battle promises to grow more dark and fierce.

So, the question remains…

Will Penelope Grace hold onto wonder? Will she help those she loves do the same?

And what of you, dear reader?

When wonder is slipping through your fingers and the nights are cold and dark, will you allow despair to claim you?

Or will you see the glimmer of the sun on the snow and begin to understand how winter can be the springtime of the soul, if only you’ll let it?

The answers await you under snow-laden boughs, on a winter carousel, covered in snow.

I’ll meet you there ❄🎠

If you’d like to receive a unique, manuscript copy of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, I would love to share it with you!

This special edition of the story is done in beautiful manuscript form, printed on paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland, giving readers a unique, collector’s first edition.

Please fill out this form to receive your copy: https://forms.gle/XdMEY692rLvr61An6

I pray God uses this story to reignite your sense of wonder!

Alexandria

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Installment Ten of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Welcome to Installment Ten of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, in which the fight for wonder is nearing its end…

To read on, click below or head to our contact page to get in touch if you would like to receive a unique manuscript edition of this winter tale.

Join the Fight for Wonder

What do you get when you subscribe?

  • Weekly installments (through February 26th) of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel
  • Illustrations to accompany the story
  • A chance to win an art print of your favorite illustration (details here)
  • Unlimited access to the story, as long as you remain a subscriber
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An Excerpt from Installment Seven of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Welcome to an excerpt from Installment the Seventh of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, in which a reminder is given of the meaning of wonder.

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It would take them near a week to reach Svarthol, and Penelope felt her nerves grating against each other when she thought of all that time. She wondered how many of their neighbors and friends had also fallen prey to the wasting freeze, and she burned with anger at the way Denagon had perverted the beauty of winter into something that could only be understood as unforgiving and brutal.

There is a harshness to winter, it is true, but there is also a stillness that prepares the way for new life. To acknowledge one and reject the other is to rob winter of all its fullness and remarkable grace.

Yet, hearts often grow dismayed during the long stretches of winter nights; Penelope Grace watched it happen to those she loved and had fought against the sharpness of despair herself. She felt a growing desire to defend, not only the beauty of winter itself but also the hearts of all who struggled to find joy during this time of year. She wanted to fight against Denagon’s attacks and keep him from succeeding in his destructive work.

Uncle Alex had said she was created to weave joy and delight – wonder – into people’s lives, and now, when so many lives were at risk of freezing straight through, could she do any less than what he said? No matter how impossible, she must try, and with this thought fueling her, Penelope Grace walked purposefully through Ellura, hardly seeing the beauty of the world around her through the first day of travel. 

Aira watched her closely. She feared what determination might do to the girl, for she had seen for herself the way that a desire to save could undo a human. But she held her tongue for the moment, watching still, but patiently. 

On the second day of their journey, she separated from the company, believing that a particular grove was nearby and that such a place might spark something different in Penelope’s heart. By evening the wolf returned, her supposition proven right. As the sky darkened and countless stars winked into sight, Aira and Penelope left the campsite and wound their way through the forest.

“Aira, where are we going?” Penelope asked, wanting only to rest after two days of unfamiliar exertion.

“Hush, child,” the wolf replied, her tone kind but firm. “You’ll scare them off.”

Penelope Grace tried her best to remain silent from that point on, but the snowy ground had turned to hoar frost beneath her feet, and each footfall betrayed her with a loud crunch. Despite her own difficulties, Aira somehow had no trouble walking silently through the snow, and Penelope thought to herself how grateful she was that the wolf was not her enemy. 

After some time, they came to the edge of a small grove, one that Penelope would have certainly missed for the trees were quite close together in this part of the forest. Carefully now, she tiptoed to the edge of the grove and peered beyond the branches, hurrying to stifle an awestruck gasp as she did so.

The plants, grass, and trees themselves – every inch of this wintry grove – were all covered in beautifully crisp frost. This sanctuary in the heart of the forest was cloaked in blue light, though Penelope Grace could not find its source; it seemed to emanate softly from everything and everyone present as if they were reflecting the light of a silver-blue sun.

At first, she could not discern details, but soon Penelope noticed beautiful small figures gliding through the air. 

She thought that frost fairies populated the grove, but when she leaned down to quietly ask Aira, the wolf corrected her. “Snow sprites. Similar in nature, but with a beauty quite their own. Now, look.”

Penelope edged as close as she dared to the smallest of gaps in the trees where she might see the snow sprites more closely. To her delight, several were beginning to swirl through the snow as they circled the grove, and they flew quite close.

Each snow sprite wore beautiful, deep blue gowns, etched with frost and shimmering with the clearing’s light. Their hair was silvery-white, and their skin a pale blue. There seemed to be hundreds of them, and as they all flew about the grove, they began to hum the most enchanting tune. 

You can almost hear it, can’t you? Like the melody from a favorite music box that you can’t quite remember, but nevertheless, remains with you.

Penelope listened, not daring to make a sound. 

The snow sprites slowly gathered around a frozen pool in the center of the grove. The sound of their melody stayed soft as each took their turn in gliding across the pool’s frozen surface, leaving behind a precise etching in the ice. As every snow sprite made their simple contribution, they left the grove behind them, and they continued in this way until the frost-covered sanctuary stood empty. 

Penelope looked questioningly at Aira, and the wolf gave her a slight nod, indicating it was safe now to enter the grove. She stepped carefully through the small gap and approached the pool, gasping to see the impossibly intricate snowflake traced into its icy surface.

“Their winter dance is a yearly tradition of the snow sprites. They travel from all across Ellura to make their contribution to the snowflake.”

“It’s beautiful, Aira. But why do they do it?” Penelope asked.

The wolf looked up at her intently before answering. “It is a celebration to honor the One who made them, to rejoice in the delight and wonder of being created.”

Aira fell silent, but then met Penelope’s gaze earnestly. “You see, Penelope Grace, it is not so much that you are living in wonder. It is Who you are living in wonder of.”

At this, the wolf turned, and Penelope Grace followed, feeling once again the conviction that she had just heard words that were worthy of remembering.

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What are you in living in wonder of, reader?

Join us this Friday for the next installment of Penelope’s adventures.

Wondering what you’ll receive when you subscribe? Here’s all the information you need:

  • Four weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel
  • Illustrations to accompany the story
  • Entry to our giveaway to win an art print of your favorite illustration (details here)
  • Access to all past and future book releases from 21:25 Books, as long as you remain a subscriber

I hope you’ll join the adventure!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Installment Five: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

It’s time for the next installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, and it promises to be an enchanting one!

In case you missed the announcement yesterday, I will be giving away an art print of one of the illustrations that accompany this story to one subscriber!

All the details can be found here, and as a special treat, everyone can see this week’s illustration below:

The Winter Carousel

Now, let the tale of wonder continue!

Subscribe and Join the Fight for Wonder!

What do you get when you subscribe?

Four weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, illustrations to accompany the story, and the chance to win one art print of your favorite illustration!

You’ll also have access to all past and future book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber.

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

This week, Penelope Grace is about to make an altogether wondrous discovery. Read the start of the adventure below, then return here this Friday for the unveiling of the winter carousel…

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With a deep breath, Penelope Grace ducked beneath the lowest-hanging branches and stepped into the forest.

It was not long before she realized that they were, indeed, still following a path. Though it was worn and covered in thick patches of ice and snow, it was there, and it offered Penelope a measure of comfort. 

The wolf followed faithfully behind, watchful for any danger. 

But they were alone in this winter forest, and Penelope and the wolf continued on quietly, both understanding that the silence of this place was sacred and worth leaving undisturbed.

They walked in this way for some time, until, all of a sudden, the wolf trotted ahead of her.

Penelope could feel the creature’s expectation fill her as well, and her heart began to beat faster as they approached a clearing in the forest. 

Without warning, the wolf ran forward, gracefully maneuvering the small gap in the trees that marked the entrance to the clearing, and Penelope followed suit.

Gently pushing aside the branches of an evergreen, Penelope Grace stepped into the clearing and found that she could not take another step. She was stunned and enchanted.

On the opposite side of the clearing stood an ice-blue carousel, covered in snow.

She could see from this distance that ice had coated the carousel’s gleaming silver poles, while patches of snow disguised the carousel’s animals. Only the moonlight illuminated it, setting countless glittering snowflakes ablaze, and Penelope Grace admired its reflected light.

The carousel looked as if it had been forgotten for a hundred endless winters until the ice and snow had come to cover it and claim the carousel for its own. Almost, it seemed wrong to do anything but leave it untouched.

The wolf thought otherwise.

It came to stand behind Penelope and nudged her forward.

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But what happens next, you ask?

Only two more days to wait 😉

You can join the fight for wonder below!

You’ll receive four weekly installments of the story, exclusive illustrations, and have the chance to win an exciting giveaway, which will be announced tomorrow on our social media (@2125Books).

You’ll also have unlimited access to all past and future book releases, so you can read past installments at any pace you like, as long as you remain a subscriber!

Sound fun?!

In the meantime, why do you think the wolf led Penelope to the carousel? I’d love to hear your guesses!

Until Friday,

Alexandria

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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

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Book Review: The Reindeer Girl

Today, I get to share with you all one of the most charming and meaningful children’s stories I’ve read in some time. It was an absolute delight to read, and I can’t recommend it enough! Check out my full review below.

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Lotta is on her very first visit to Norway and can’t decide if she is more excited to meet her Oldemor (great-grandmother), Erika, for the first time or to catch a glimpse of the reindeer that color her great-grandma’s stories with so much wonder and excitement.

But it just so happens that neither one disappoints, for one evening, just before Christmas, Lotta dozes off to the sound of another story and wakes to find herself in an altogether different, but just as enchanting world. Only there will she discover whether or not she truly carries the heart of a reindeer girl within her.

It is rare indeed to find a children’s story woven with such enchantment and wonder that both adults and children alike will find themselves reluctant to put it down. Filled to the brim with charming illustrations and rich information about Norwegian and Sami culture, The Reindeer Girl will not only sweep you away on a magical adventure, but will also leave you with a fresh appreciation for wildlife and the precious stories our grandparents and great-grandparents have to tell us, if only we’d curl up by the fire and listen.

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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Holly Webb has penned so many fantastic stories! After you read The Reindeer Girl, here are some more enchanting tales for you to explore with your whole family:

  1. Emily Feather and the Starlit Staircase
  2. The Girl of Glass
  3. The Hounds of Penhallow Hall
  4. The Silver Pony
  5. Frost

You can explore more stories for yourself and learn more about Holly on her website, Facebook, or Instagram!

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Next week, I’ll be sharing more about our upcoming release, Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel. I can’t wait to share this wintry adventure with you all!

Until then,

Alexandria

Interview with Richard Spillman

I had the privilege of interviewing Richard Spillman, author of The Awakened, and I’m so excited to share the insights he offered into his inspiration for this fantastic novel.

You can read Richard’s author bio and my full interview with him below.

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Richard Spillman has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and has taught Computer Engineering for over 30 years retiring five years ago. 


Since a university professor has summers off, he used that time for mission work. In 2004 he founded the Kingdom is Near (KIN) Ministries. Though KIN he has supported an orphanage in Uganda as well as a church/school for kids from conflict zones in the Philippines. The primary call of KIN has been to take individuals, who other ministries would not consider, on short term missions overseas that is, people who have come to Christ but have a history of drugs, prison time or homelessness. He has also taught in DTS for YWAM in Mali, South Korea, India and the Philippines.

The Awakened is such a powerful story. What real-life events and/or personal experiences inspired you to write it?

In 2014 my team was ministering in the jungles of the Philippines when ISIS discovered we were there and got hold of our cell phone numbers. For a week, they called us telling us to stop, turn over a pastor to them and leave the area or they would hunt us down. We took precautions but didn’t obey any of their commands.

It was a scary time but one in which we all felt the protection of the Lord. When I got home I was moved to write my trilogy which plays out the conflict between good and evil on a world wide scale.

Writing a book can be extremely intimidating for someone who is just starting out. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

The number one thing to do is go to book conferences. There you can take classes but even more important you can meet authors in every stage of writing. You will find that what you learn from other authors can be invaluable in helping you to recognize and get over the bumps in the road we all face.

Which authors or stories have inspired you the most over the years? Why?

As I grew up I immediately fell in love with science fiction especially the Dune and Foundation series. The way these books made alternative universes come to life, to be places I’d love to visit impressed me. Later in life I discovered my all time favorite story in The Lord of the Rings. Not only did it also bring another world to life, the people (and others) seemed so real. Finally I ran into the writings of C.S. Lewis. The way he brought God into his stories touched my heart.

When it came my turn to write a story I selected something where I didn’t have to create an entirely new world, never-the-less I wanted the way I tweaked our world to appear in every sense real. I wanted my characters to be real to deal with real struggles. Most of all I wanted God to appear as a natural part of the story in a way that could grab the heart of the reader.

What led you to write a story that specifically revolves around end times?

That wasn’t my goal but it turned out to be a natural consequence of my goal. I wanted to write something that dealt with the nature of the absolute evil I encountered in the Philippines. I wanted to explore its motives and its methods. It just turned out that the moment in history when evil of this scope will be easiest to see is the end times, hence my time period.

When can readers hope to see book three of The Lazarus Chronicles available?

That’s a good question. I wish I could say soon but every time I would make progress something freaky would happen to slow me down. I fell and broke a couple of ribs. Once they healed my wife fell and broke her arm. I’ve had issues from my childhood rise up and terrorize me. I’ve never had so much difficulty writing. It’s required a lot of prayer to get through all this. But recently there has been a turn around (I’m sure thanks to many people around the world praying for me and my family) and I seem to be on the right track to get this turned in early next year and out before December. I’m real excited about it because there are some big surprises coming.

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While you wait for the third book to release, you can grab a copy of The Awakened and book two, The Ascension, on Bookshop, which supports independent booksellers with every purchase!

They are also available on Amazon: The Awakened and The Ascension

Be sure to follow Richard Spillman on Instagram, Litsy, and Goodreads, so you don’t miss the latest news about his books!

Next week, I’ll be featuring Lisa R. Howeler and her book, A New Beginning!

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