Featured

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!

*

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.

*

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!

*

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

What Makes It Hard To Believe?

What makes it hard for you to believe that God hears and cares about your prayers?

For me, it’s the waiting. It’s so hard, isn’t it?

Like the impatient anticipation of waiting for a flower to bloom, waiting for a prayer to be answered or a longing to be satisfied is so difficult.

It can feel long and painful and desperate.

Hopeless.

As if God is silent or indifferent to our prayers.

But I don’t believe He is.

Still, we wrestle and we wonder.

Much like a young rabbit named Chip, who’s desperate to know if his cries are heard.

Who isn’t satisfied to sit still and just wonder.

Who’s willing to brave the most dangerous and thrilling of adventures to find out what he’s most desperate to know:

Does God hear our prayers? Do they even really matter to Him at all?

Wouldn’t you like to know the answer, too?

Follow the link in my bio to join Chip on a marvelous adventure through the land of Almea and find the answer for yourself…

The Kickstarter project for Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves is 47% funded!! Hurray! 

There are just 14 days left to reach my goal, and I would so appreciate your support!

If 25 people gave $50, we could reach the goal and bring Chip’s adventure to readers together!

Will you help me?

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported and encouraged me! I’m thankful for each one of you!

Waiting for the adventure to begin,

Alexandria

Featured

Book Review: Child of the Dragon Prophecy

I’m delighted to be sharing the cover reveal and my book review of Child of the Dragon Prophecy, a debut novel by Effie Joe Stock! Read on to learn more about the story, its release date, and where you can get a copy for yourself (and a friend!).

*

What if, all your life, the people you loved and the memories you cherished had been taken from you?

Stephania can’t even remember what she’s lost, but she knows this: there are blank spaces where memories should live, confusion where purpose should light the way, and stinging rejection where love should abide.

You must be wondering if Stephanie will ever uncover the mystery of who she is. But the real question is this: when the Child of the Dragon Prophecy learns the truth, will she wish she never had?

Child of the Dragon Prophecy introduces readers to Rasa, a land full of centaurs and magic, prophecies and loss. In this debut novel, the world-building is exceptional, and readers are sure to feel that they’re traveling right alongside Stephania, breathing in the same scents and taking in the same sights. While some of the characters’ development and the pacing felt off at times, Child of the Dragon Prophecy is a debut rich with conflicted and real characters who must, like us, learn to fight fear with an uncommon faith and let go of hatred in favor of wholehearted forgiveness and love.

*

Child of the Dragon Prophecy will be available on Amazon, Bookshop (by BookBaby), Effie Joe Stock’s website, and other retailers. It releases on June 8th!

Follow Effie on Instagram for exciting updates, including preorder availability, special editions, and preorder merch, and don’t forget to add Child of the Dragon Prophecy to your Goodreads list!

*

Thank you, Effie, for the opportunity to read an ARC of your novel! 🙂

Hoping your weekend is full of lots of books,

Alexandria

Featured

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 🙂

*

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!

*

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

*

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

Featured

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

Featured

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
Featured

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.

*

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.

*

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

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.

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…

*

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.

*

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

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.

*

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.

*

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