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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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Free: Book Review and Excerpt!

Today is an exciting day in the bookish world!

I had the pleasure of being on the launch team for Careena Campbell’s debut novel, Free.

If you’re looking for an adventure on the high seas, full of hope and the promise of true freedom, this YA Christian historical fiction novel is the perfect book for you!

Read my full review below, and get swept up in the adventure for yourself in a special excerpt of the story 😊

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Very few books allow you to encounter freedom, and Free is certainly one of them.

As the book opens, readers are introduced to a young woman named Ruth, who is forced into service on a merchant ship. Fearful and confused, she still manages to bring a pure heart and joyful spirit to every trial and adventure she faces on the high seas.

Still, despite her abundance of both kindness and patience, the men remain resistant, confused by her unwavering faith and uncommon humility towards those who have treated her so unfairly.

But freedom can come to the hardest of hearts, and hope remains that, one day, Ruth will find herself in the company of those who know they are wholeheartedly free.

Careena Campbell has penned an exceptional tale, full of adventure, high stakes on storm-tossed waves, and, above all, the longing for freedom and a place to belong.

With characters rich in faith, internal struggles, perseverance, and humility, Careena has crafted a book perfectly suited to lovers of YA historical fiction, and, at the same time, produced that rare thing: a story that leaves readers with hearts wide open to the miraculous and full of faith that they, too, can be free.

Read an excerpt from Free below:

Ruth limped the few short steps to the edge of the ship. Her hands floated up to the railing as she gazed upwards. The night sky was encrusted with millions of brilliant stars, each twinkling one after the other. They stretched out all the way to the horizon, where they cast their reflections over the ocean. The sea, like a great blue blanket covered with shining sapphires, rocked back and forth as the wind gently caressed its water. The waves seemed to sigh in contentment, as if they were settling down to sleep, as they softly swooshed over each other.

Ruth’s heart beat fast as she was overtaken with the beauty and the majesty of God’s creation. She could not resist praising and thanking the Creator of this breathtaking scene, and her awe bubbled over in soft song. 

“This is my Father’s world, 

and to my list’ning ears,

All nature sings and round me rings

 The music of the spheres…”

The nearby sailors turned, surprised to hear the gentle strains of a song floating from the ship’s edge. 

  “…This is my Father’s world, 

I rest me in the thought,

  Of rocks and trees of skies and seas—

  His hand the wonders wrought…”

For a moment, they watched the maiden fairly sing. Why was she so calm? Didn’t she understand the danger they were facing? 

But Ruth, for once, did not even notice them. She was swept up in the beauty of God’s peace. 

She reflected on her own situation as she sang the final verse:

  “This is my Father’s world; 

O let me ne’er forget

  That though the wrong seems oft so strong,

  God is the ruler yet. 

  “This is my Father’s world! 

The battle is not done!

  Jesus who died shall be satisfied, 

  And earth and heav’n be one.

“Yes,” Ruth thought. “The battle is not done. God isn’t finished with me, and He’s not finished with the sailors, either. I will press on. I know He is still working!” 

Ruth’s heart swelled with joy and contentment. Leaning out over the ship’s railing, she folded her hands to pray. “Lord,” she whispered, “please bless the sailors and help them to come to know You. And help me to be brave even when things aren’t this peaceful. Amen.” 

Ruth straightened up and smiled as she returned to her room for the night. Now she felt she could face her future, for God had reminded her of His presence. 

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Free releases this Thursday, March 11th! You can help Careena celebrate release day by pre-ordering Free and adding it on Goodreads!

You can learn more about Careena and connect with her on The Anchored Writer.

And don’t miss my interview with Careena this Thursday!

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Lots of exciting new things are beginning on 21:25 Books! Watch for announcements on Instagram 📖🌹

Wishing you happy reads,

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 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

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Installment Six: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

We are proud to present Installment Six of a story most wondrous, where swans of blown glass guard a secret, a necklace of silver and blue holds a memory, and Apricity is discovered in a land of ice and snow.

All manner of adventure is coming, reader, and the fight for wonder promises to grow fierce.

Will you take part?

Join the Fight for Wonder

Subscribe below to receive weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, a winter tale of wonder.

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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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Installment Four of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Welcome to Installment Four of this most wonder-filled tale, Reader, in which Penelope Grace discovers an unexpected friend.

Join the Fight for Wonder

Read Penelope Grace’s adventures and discover the fate of wonder for yourself…

When you subscribe, you’ll receive four weekly installments each month, illustrations to accompany the adventure, and the chance to win an exciting giveaway, which will be announced next week!

You’ll also have unlimited access to all of our past and future publications, so you can read our stories at any pace you like 🙂

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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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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

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Synopsis: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

This week, the winter magic begins. Subscriptions to Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel are officially open!

This winter tale will be delivered straight to your inbox in weekly installments, from December to February. All of the information you need to subscribe can be found below.

But first, a little treat for you! Read on for the synopsis (and if you’d like to see the illustration that accompanies it, be sure to hit the subscribe button!).

I can’t wait to share this story with you all, and I hope you enjoy this sneak peek at the adventure to come!

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In a home nestled on a quiet, cobblestone street, a young girl is holding tightly to wonder.

Penelope Grace is looking out the window, breathing in the stillness of snow falling. Christmas is coming, and as she lovingly places each candle on the windowsills, warmth and light transform her family’s home.

She settles in by the fireside with her family, welcoming you to join them, as Great Uncle Alex challenges anyone present to uncover the secret of his magic tricks.

The mystery, as always, remains, yet everyone is content. All is quiet and good, as it should be.

But as the holiday approaches, Penelope learns how easily circumstance can mock joy. A nameless shadow is haunting her family, and there seems to be no hope of defending them against his relentless attacks.

Still, Penelope Grace is not content to stand by and do nothing, and so, on a cold winter’s night, she finds herself chasing an unexpected friend through the snow.

But which will prove stronger?

Shadow or Light? Despair or wonder?

Follow her now through an ice-laden forest, down a worn, frozen path, to a winter carousel covered in snow.

Do you suppose that you will find the answers there?

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Monthly Subscription

See this week’s illustration and get access to future installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel when you subscribe monthly today! This will give you access to all current and future book releases from 21:25 Books!

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Be sure to share Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel with family, friends, and anyone you know who is in need of a little wonder this year.

Until next week,

Alexandria