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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!

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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.

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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!

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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

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

The final excerpt from Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel is here, and the last stand against all that seeks to destroy wonder is about to take place.

Are you ready for one last adventure?

Then read on.

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The next two days passed by in a haze of preparation for others and confusion for Penelope Grace. Please do not misunderstand me, reader; Penelope helped where she could, refusing to sit idle because of her fear of the coming confrontation, but fear it she did.

All others in the camp seemed so assured to her eyes, so confident that they would meet their foes head-on, no matter the cost to themselves. And Penelope fully intended to join them in their efforts.

She thought not at all of turning back, only of failing.

As the hours passed, she became more and more convinced of her own inability to face Denagon and emerge victoriously. She was too weak, too inexperienced, too young. How could they ask this of her and expect any other outcome but defeat?

Denagon’s power was too immense in comparison to her little strength, and whatever Apricity she carried, Penelope dared not believe that it was enough.

Even as she served alongside others, her thoughts swirled around this doubtful center, and her fear grew, and her faith dwindled.

Aira noticed the change in her but chose to wait still, knowing that it was something Penelope would have to understand in her own time. Tilly, likewise, noticed the girl’s darkening mood and decided that enough was enough.

She plopped down next to Penelope Grace on the darkening evening of the second day and looked her squarely in the face. “Don’t ye think it’s high time to stop feelin’ sorry for yerself?”

Penelope flinched at the reminder of the fox’s harsh words in the tower room of Svarthol and had no answer for the bold fox.

Tilly pressed on, undeterred. “Well? What’s troublin’ ye so?”

She stared at Tilly for a moment more before the words flooded out, her words only whispered. “You said it yourself, Tilly. ‘Fool of a girl.’ And you were right. It was foolish to barricade us in the tower, thinking we were safe, that I had somehow outsmarted him.

“It was foolish to believe that I could best him.” She paused. “You should have seen it, Tilly, the way the darkness swept over the land.”

For a moment, Penelope Grace stared into the fire before them, and Tilly waited, knowing they’d yet to reach the heart of the matter. “I was so relieved when we made it here, Tilly. But over the last two days, I find myself wondering. Our camp seems so large, and there are so many here who are willing to fight for Ellura. But having seen the darkness, having seen Denagon face-to-face, I can’t help but wonder, is it enough? Am I?”

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Are you wondering along with Penelope Grace?

You can read the story by subscribing below for digital installments OR by clicking here to receive a special manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Ireland.

GIVEAWAY: Through this Friday, Feb. 26th, everyone who purchases a copy will be entered to win an art print of one illustration from the book! You can see the artwork on Instagram.

U.S. only. Void where prohibited. This giveaway is not affiliated with WordPress or Instagram.

Until this Friday, when the fight for wonder comes to a close,

Alexandria

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

This week, dangers abound and Penelope Grace and her friends are desperately seeking refuge.

Do you suppose they’ll find it?

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The companions were just reaching the rise of a crisp snowbank when the other snow sprites appeared, speaking so quickly in their small voices that Penelope Grace failed to catch the words. But Aralie understood their warning, and she turned to the others. “Denagon’s creatures are ahead, moving to cut us off. They must have spotted us from above. We must change course. Follow me!”

She darted to the right, and they rushed to keep pace with her as she flew ahead. Penelope could hardly breathe for the biting wind and her own exhaustion. Her legs felt weak beneath her, but she pushed on, knowing that if she could reach the camp, she could rest. But the thought of rest only made her feel more sluggish, and she stumbled despite her best efforts.

Immediately, Aira was there, speaking encouraging words and helping her to stand once more. “Think of Georgie, Penelope Grace. Think of your family, and run with me.”

With a ragged breath, she nodded, praying that the camp was not far and that her feet would carry her the distance. She barely made it several paces before a cry sounded from above, alerting them all to the presence of Denagon’s winged slaves.

Penelope risked a glance up just as the creature swooped down towards her. Though she dodged in time, its jagged claws snagged on the hood of her cloak, and she lost her balance in the deepening snow.

Scrambling to her feet as the creature screamed in frustration, Penelope whirled around to face the next attack just as the snow sprites shot past her. Penelope Grace’s eyes widened as she watched their remarkable work, unaware until now what the sprites were capable of.

Before her, a wall of thick, swirling snow appeared, blinding the enemies pursuing from behind and affording Penelope and her companions safe passage, if only for a short time.

Aralie came to hover before Penelope’s eyes. “Hurry now! The camp is not far from here, but the further away we fly, the more fragile the wall will become.”

With that, they were off. Penelope could see Elafry and the others racing ahead of her through the trees. They ran a great distance, yet Penelope still saw no sign of the camp. The trees nearby looked hazy, and it was not long before she could hardly make them out at all. In fact, the whole forest about her was fading from sight, hidden by a blanketing of white.

Nevertheless, she could clearly see the faint blue light of the snow sprites flying just ahead, which proved enough. Moments later, the snow sprites halted, and the others along with them. Penelope Grace could see nothing but white in front of them, and for a moment, she could not comprehend what she was looking at.

Understanding came in a flash. Though the snow was spinning so quickly that it seemed to be at a standstill, moving it was, in an impossibly high wall in front of them. It was similar to the wall of snow that the sprites had conjured to throw off their pursuers, but what rose before them seemed altogether impenetrable in comparison.

Briefly, Penelope caught sight of flickering blue light through the swirling snow. “What is this, Aralie?” she asked.

The snow sprite flew so near to Penelope that she could feel the breeze created by her beating wings. “This is our camp, Penelope, hidden by snow. No slave of the enemy can pass through this wall. You and your friends may pass through without fear.”

Tilly trotted through with no hesitation, her courage undaunted by the impressive sight. Penelope, however, remained still. Noticing her hesitation, Aralie said, “The snow will not harm you. It only prevents our enemies from entering.” And with that, the snow sprite flitted through the snow, as if to prove the truthfulness of her words.

Taking a deep breath, Penelope Grace passed through the snow. For a minute, the world was purest white, and then she stepped through into a sprawling camp that must have stretched two miles at least.

Everyone from the stronghold was here, and more. Fires were blazing at regular intervals, and the smell of warm food soon reached her. Penelope Grace nearly collapsed with relief. The war against Denagon was far from over, but for the moment, she was surrounded by friends and roaring fires, and she was safe.

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Installment Eleven publishes this Friday, and then only one more installment remains.

I would so love for you to embark on this journey of wonder with us. It’s hard to believe wonder still exists in all the madness of the world right now, but I believe we need wonder the most when it’s most difficult to feel.

This year, I’m sharing a unique manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co., and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland. If you’d love to have a physical copy of this winter tale of wonder, please head to our contact page and get in touch.

Holding on to wonder with you,

Alexandria

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Installment Eight of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Welcome to Installment Eight, reader, in which a maze is entered and the way is lost.

Choose your next step carefully, and read on…

Join the Fight for Wonder

Here is everything you’ll receive when you subscribe:

  • Weekly installments 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)
  • Access to all past and future book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber!
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An Excerpt from Installment Eight of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Dangers abound for Penelope Grace and her friends.

Only one question remains.

Will you brave the dangers with them, reader?

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Below them stretched a dark, endless valley that no sunlight seemed to reach. 

Nothing grew there. The valley was stunted and barren, its flat expanse only broken by the twisted stronghold that rose up in its center like a scar on the land. Its towers, made of black, implacable rock, rose up. Ice smothered every surface, and in this view, Penelope Grace could see what people feared in her favorite season.

Svarthol was the long, dreaded march of endless winter, without the promise of new life to come.

Tilly interrupted her thoughts. “Are ye ready, Penelope Grace?”

“Yes,” she whispered, taking a deep breath as she continued to gaze down into the valley. “I don’t suppose daylight will be too helpful to us in there.”

“Aye. But ye have Light of an altogether differen’ sort to guide ye. Let’s be off,” Tilly concluded, not explaining her words as she trotted down the only rutted path to Svarthol.

Once they entered the valley, Penelope Grace was horribly on edge, though there were none of the dangers she had anticipated. None of Denagon’s creatures lurked behind the dry husks of once tall trees. Nothing stalked them or sought to prevent their progress on the long stretch to Svarthol’s entrance.

The valley was desolate and still, and Penelope was all the more terrified because of it.

Something was not right. 

A vast expanse of land still separated them from Svarthol’s gates when Penelope Grace stopped short and whirled around, knowing that she had heard the whisper of something behind her.

“Tilly…”

The fox saw it and barked a warning that was drowned out by the roar of bursting earth and the dull murmur of creeping vines.

They were separated before a thing could be done. 

Nearly choking on the dusty earth clouding the air, Penelope cried out, “Tilly!”

No answer. 

Tilly!

She spun about, peering through the dust-choked air for some sign of her friend. Reaching forward to keep herself steady, Penelope’s finger scraped against something sharp, and she jerked back in pain. 

She stood still, breathing hard, listening, and waiting. 

But when the dust at last cleared, Penelope Grace was alone, just as she had feared, shut in by a twisting maze of bracken and thorns.

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What awaits Penelope Grace in the maze will be uncovered this Friday in Installment Eight of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel. You can subscribe below to receive installments of the story!

What will you receive when you subscribe? I’m so glad you asked! 🙂

  • Four weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel
  • Illustrations to accompany the story
  • A chance to win an art print of your favorite illustration (read all the details here)
  • Unlimited access to all past and future book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber!

So, what do you say?

Until this Friday,

Alexandria

Book Review: Champion of Valdeor

It’s a new week, and I hope it’s full of wonderful books!

I have the pleasure of sharing my review for Champion of Valdeor by Sandralena Hanley, a wonderful story that makes you feel as if you’ve just stepped inside an old Arthurian legend.

You can read my full review below!

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The people of Valdeor are waiting, breathless with anticipation, as they hope for the promised new beginning to arrive.

They are unaware that their hopes rest on a young shepherd boy, Alloryn, and Lauressa, a princess from another age, hidden from her people for countless years.

One must decide if he is willing to embrace an unexpected identity and purpose, while the other must embark on a quest to learn if she possesses the virtues necessary to be a queen.

Neither is prepared for what comes next.

The people of Valdeor are waiting for a new beginning.

But will it ever come?

In Champion of Valdeor, Sandralena Hanley has crafted a tale reminiscent of Arthurian legends. Readers who are longing for a story full of epic quests, daring champions, and virtuous rulers of legend, will find none of that missing here.

While the tale might have benefitted from being longer, so that some characters could be developed further, Champion of Valdeor remains a deeply enjoyable read, full of what we all long for most: adventures abundant, heroes just and true, and a purpose truly worth pursuing.

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You can connect with Sandralena on Instagram and her author website!

Champion of Valdeor is available on Bookshop and Amazon. And don’t forget to leave a review on Goodreads once you’ve finished reading!

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Later this week, there’s a new excerpt for Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel and the next installment! Don’t forget that all subscribers are entered to win an art print of their favorite illustration from the story 🙂

You can find more information on the giveaway here and subscribe below!

What do you get when you subscribe?

  • Four weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel
  • Illustrations to accompany the story
  • A chance to win our giveaway
  • Access to all past and future book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber!

That’s all the bookish news I have for today! I hope to see you back here for the next installment of Penelope Grace’s wintry adventures!

Alexandria

Book Review: The Secret Lake

I happened upon this children’s mystery adventure by Karen Inglis several weeks ago, and I’m so glad I did! This is a charming, endearing tale, absolutely perfect for families to read and enjoy together. Read my full review below!

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Have you ever wondered what mysteries might await you in the garden?

Don’t leave it unexplored, reader.

Don’t leave a stone unturned, for a secret is waiting just beneath the bushes, and it might be you who uncovers it…

In this delightful children’s mystery adventure, Karen Inglis has created a story that is perfect for families to enjoy together. They’ll feel all of Tom and Stella’s sadness as the two children adjust to an unfamiliar new home, grumble along with Tom at caretaker Charlie Green’s antics, celebrate the arrival of an unexpected friend, and cry for joy as the mystery is, at last, uncovered and a life-long adventure revealed.

The Secret Lake is a chance to read and wonder and adventure together that no family will want to miss.

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You can join Karen Inglis’ Readers’ Club here, where you’ll receive a free poster of The Secret Lake and a crossword puzzle inspired by the story!

Head to Bookshop, Books-A-Million, or Amazon to pick up a copy of The Secret Lake!

You can also follow Karen Inglis on Facebook or Instagram to receive all the latest updates on her new releases!

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That’s all for today! What are you currently reading?

I’ve just started The Champion of Valdeor by Sandralena Hanley (review to come next week!), and I’m already knee-deep in reading challenges for 2021!

This Friday, the next installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, a winter tale of the fight for wonder, releases! I hope you’ll join us for the adventure. You can do that here:

In the next day or so, I’ll be announcing a fun giveaway for subscribers!

Stay tuned!

Alexandria

Book Review: The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow

What a pleasure it is to introduce you all to The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer. This is a story you’re sure to find a treasured space for on your shelves. Read on for my full review!

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Addie’s world has been turned upside down, and her expectations for what the future holds have been unceremoniously shattered. After learning that she can no longer pursue her college degree because of her family’s financial ruin, Addie has a choice: give in to despair or trust God to bring hope and purpose to circumstances that feel so uncertain and frightening.

When an opportunity comes to join a team of packhorse librarians who deliver books to the people of Boone’s Hollow, Addie believes that God is doing just that.

But when she arrives, Addie finds that superstition and prejudice have taken deep root, and finding her place in Boone’s Hollow will prove more difficult than she ever expected. Still, she is not without friends in this new place. A kindly old woman, Nanny Fay, and Emmett, an acquaintance from college, stand beside Addie through it all and might, in the end, make staying in Boone’s Hollow worthwhile.

It is no easy thing to craft a fictional community of people so exquisitely that readers immediately feel as if they’ve known the characters all their lives, but Kim Vogel Sawyer has done exactly that. And for all the characters’ faults and idiosyncrasies, they also possess strength and a willingness to grow in equal measure. Between these pages live real people who must bravely confront painful obstacles and who will leave all who pick up The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow with a longing to visit and learn from them again and again.

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 connect with Kim on her website, Goodreads, and Twitter! She has so many wonderful stories to share, and I have no doubt you’ll want to dive into each one!

The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow is available to purchase at Bookshop (a fantastic site that gives you the chance to support indie booksellers), Books-A-Million, and Barnes & Noble.

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This Friday, Installment Two of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel publishes! Subscribe here to receive this winter tale of wonder! You’ll have unlimited access to this story (and all future ones) as long as you remain a subscriber. I hope you’ll join us! 🙂

Until then,

Alexandria