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Character Names! Behind the Scenes of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves

Have you ever wondered how authors come up with character names?

For me, it’s different for every story I write!

When I wrote Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, many of the characters were based on family members (makes life easy, right?! 😅)

But when it came time for Chip’s tale, God had something different in mind.

I wrote this book in an illustrated journal, and as soon as I saw the owl pictured above, I heard the name, Abaline.

Although, it took me a few tries to decide on the spelling 😄

Alfeus’ name came to me spur of the moment, and, of course, Chip got his name from the charming young rabbit who used to sit outside my window.

Sometimes, there isn’t a certain way that character names come about. They just feel right.

And when God gives you that certainty, you learn not to question it 😊

How do you come up with character names? Do people you know inspire them or do the names just come as you’re writing?

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Next week, we’ll continue on our behind-the-scenes’ adventures for Chip’s story!

What would you love to know about the making of Chip?

I’ll also be sharing a review for H.A. Pruitt’s novel, Earth Quaking, a book that is very close to my heart.

Happy reading!

Alexandria

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How Does A Story Grow? Behind the Scenes of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves

Welcome to the next behind-the-scenes peek at the making of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves!

Let’s pick up the adventure where we left off, shall we?

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Once I started jotting down story notes and ideas, I knew a very different story from the one I’d first imagined was taking shape.

Chip’s friends – Riley and Sara – disappeared as God helped me see that this was an adventure that Chip had to set out on alone (at least, at the start 😉)

But what was the point of the adventure?

I still didn’t know, until I read a beautiful devotion early one morning.

Prayers are instantly noticed in Heaven…. Oftentimes a poor broken-hearted one bends his knee, but can only utter his wailing in the language of sighs and tears…. He may only look up with misty eye; but ‘prayer is the falling of a tear.’ Tears are the diamonds of heaven…”

Charles Spurgeon

Oh, when I read that, I knew God was telling me something. But He wasn’t finished speaking just yet…

Our God not only hears prayer but also loves to hear it… wherever there is a heart big with sorrow, or a lip quivering with agony… He marks it down in the registry of His memory; He puts our prayers, like rose leaves, between the pages of His book of remembrance, and when the volume is opened at last, there shall be a precious fragrance springing up therefrom.”

Charles Spurgeon

I was captivated. I now knew what the title of this unexpected story was meant to be, and, while I didn’t know what would happen to Chip along the way, I began to understand where the adventure was leading him.

God is spectacular, isn’t He?

He knew the shape and breadth of this story, and He patiently led me, revealing bits and pieces of it at the perfect times.

This is part of what I love most about being a writer. At the end of the day, I’m not the one creating these stories. God is the Author. He knows every word of these tales, and He’s given me the privilege of being the first reader, the one who gets to put pen to paper as the Creator of the universe takes the time to tell me a story.

I’m so thankful for this indescribable gift.

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Next week, we’ll explore the unexpected way God gave me character names and how the heart of this story kept taking shape!

If there’s anything you’d like to know about the making of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves, please share in the comments!

And don’t forget to add Chip on Goodreads and please leave a review once you’ve finished reading!

Until next week, happy reading!

Alexandria

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Book Review: Hoover’s Horn

Luna’s first adventure with her newfound friends has hardly ended, and the next one is already beginning…

Wizard Edwin is up to his magical tricks once again, and Hoover – Luna’s beloved (and sometimes grumpy) owl friend – has paid the price.

Transformed into a fierce rhinoceros and none too happy about it, Hoover demands to be turned back into his dignified, feathered self this instant.

But it will take all of Edwin’s magical resources and friends to undo this latest mishap, and they’ll soon learn that their hope rests on one noble gnome, Mr. Terracotta Glaze.

It seems impossible, but you never know, young reader. With a few willing friends and a wish fulfilled, Hoover might regain his feathers yet.

Hoover’s Horn is a wonderful continuation of The Cottonwood Chronicles. I continue to be delighted by Erica Richardson’s God-given gift for taking a whimsical tale full of child-like wonder and adventure and then filling it to the brim with heart-warming reminders of true friendship and what’s really worth treasuring in life.

If you’re longing for a story that’s sure to bring your family together for an adventure full of magic and delight, look no further than Hoover’s Horn, book two of The Cottonwood Chronicles, and all of the magical adventures yet to come.

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If you’re just discovering the wonder of Erica’s magical tales, you can find a copy of Luna’s Rescue on Amazon!

While you’re there, you might as well grab a copy of Hoover’s Horn, so you don’t have to wait a moment to find out what happens next 😉

When you’ve finished, please consider leaving a review on Goodreads! It’s the best and quickest way to help out your favorite authors!

You can join Erica’s writing adventures on Instagram 🙂

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This Thursday, I’m sharing a special excerpt from Hoover’s Horn and a peek at the coloring pages that Erica designed for her stories!

Alexandria

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A Special Sneak Peek: Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves

Have you ever wondered what mysteries and adventures might wait just beyond the tree line?

Let me introduce you to Everleaf Forest and a special sneak peek at my illustrated children’s book, Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves

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Not so very long ago, on a spring day much like this one, a young rabbit named Chip was waiting for something.

I’d tell you what it was now, but I wouldn’t want to spoil things.

The forest of Everleaf was Chip’s home, and oh, was it the grandest of forests, full of old, strong oaks covered in rich green moss. Rutted paths, nearly overgrown now, carved their way through the land, though it seemed only the animals travelled them.

Everleaf was one of those forests that set the imagination ablaze; the longer you spend walking beneath its boughs, the less surprised you would be to find a fairy flying for cover behind feathery ferns or a group of elves disappearing from view just around the next bend.

And yet, surrounded as he was by the wondrous, Chip was still waiting for just one thing, and it seemed it would never come.

He waited and waited until the sun sank below the treetops and the animals returned to their burrows and nests. The great owl, Nesbit, emerged from the grandest oak in the clearing, and even still, Chip was there.

Blinking his wide, amber eyes several times, Nesbit looked down at the young rabbit. “Still waiting, are we?” he asked with a rustle of his feathers as he settled on his nighttime perch.

“Yes,” Chip replied, not a little disappointed that all his diligence had gotten him precisely nowhere.

“Hmm. Perseverance is what’s needed here, young Chip. Perseverance!” Nesbit proclaimed, startling several disgruntled birds from their dreams.

“Yes, Nesbit. Thank you,” Chip replied, trying very hard to sound grateful. He and Nesbit had the same conversation every night, and the owl’s commanding declaration of “Perseverance!” had yet to make him feel better.

Thankfully, his mother’s clear voice rang out from the entrance of their home at just that moment. After offering Nesbit a quick, “Good night,” Chip bounded away to their cozy burrow, eager for supper after yet another long day spent waiting.

He had only just entered and laid eyes on the feast Mama had prepared when a voice loudly intoned, “Perseverance, my lad! Perseverance!” and Chip nearly jumped out of his skin.

His father appeared, waving a stick in the air with great authority, almost dropping it as he shook with amusement at his own joke.

“Not you, too!” Chip reprimanded, though his laughter soon echoed his father’s.

“Another inspiring speech tonight, I take it?” Joshua teased.

“He means well,” Chip’s mother chided.

“I know, Bess,” Joshua replied with a grin, “but it was worth it for the way this one’s fur bristled in fright when he heard the dreaded cry of, “Perseverance!”

He waved the stick in the air once more, chasing a laughing Chip around the small log table, nearly crashing into it as his son dashed out of reach.

“Now, see here, Joshua Raddish!” Bess cried, though Chip knew she wasn’t really angry. “We spent all day gathering this supper, and I’ll not have you send it flying with your shenanigans!”

A practiced expression immediately transformed Joshua’s face as he and Chip obediently froze. “Of course, Bess, dear. Absolutely no shenanigans here,” he said, carefully setting the stick down on the floor, a look of mischief barely concealed by his mock seriousness.

Bess fixed him with a look that made it clear she was not at all fooled, then turned to their son. “I hope you didn’t fill up on that sweet meadow grass today. Your papa and I have a special treat for your birthday.”

She gestured to the center of the low table, and Chip’s eyes grew wide. Nestled amidst the usual grass and leafy greens was the largest clump of clover he had ever seen and several choice flowers, enough for them to each enjoy two.

“Where did you go to find these?” Chip breathed in awe.

“A fair distance,” his father replied vaguely.

They sat down, all of them eager to enjoy this special meal. Chip rubbed his paw against his left ear as he always did when he was excited or nervous.

Unusual though it may seem, it was Chip’s left ear that had given him his name. On the night he’d been born, Mama always said, he was instantly revealed to be perfect in all ways to them, and that included the chip missing from his left ear.

No one could say why he had been born with it, but it made the young rabbit uniquely Chip, and his parents had immediately known what his name ought to be.

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If you’re longing to discover more about Chip and join him on his adventures, please consider supporting my Kickstarter so that Chip’s story can be told to young (and young at heart!) readers!

You’ll receive a hand-bound, manuscript edition of Chip’s story with illustrations to color and many more fun surprises! I can’t wait to share it all with you!

Waiting for you in Everleaf Forest,

Alexandria (and Chip)

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An Interview With Erica Richardson

I’m so excited to share my interview with Erica Richardson, author of Luna’s Rescue! She offers insights into finding a balance between writing and parenting, what inspired her to write middle-grade books, and what readers have to look forward to as The Cottonwood Chronicles continue!

Have you entered the giveaway for a print copy of Luna’s Rescue?! There’s still time left! Head to my Instagram to enter, and I’ll announce the winner on Friday. This is an adventure you won’t want to miss out on 🙂

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Share with us a little bit about Luna’s Rescue and what inspired you to write it!

The transition to parenthood was a lot harder for me than I had expected (especially being a stay-home mom). Being a mother to my kids has been very natural in so many ways, but “staying home” has been a lot less natural! It’s a tricky balance because staying home with my kids is important to me and I really love being their primary care giver. I spent the first several years of motherhood searching for an outlet that would help me recharge, grow intellectually, and connect with other people. I did a lot of praying and searching to find something that would be a good fit for our family. One of the things I eventually tried was getting a pet! I have adored animals for as far back as I can remember. Long story short, we ended up getting a crested gecko, which I named Luna. Through some miraculous combination of having Luna in our home and reading some middle-grade books I’d gotten ahold of, I felt inspired that I could write a book. I had tried to write books when I was a teenager (Lord-of-the-Rings-never-ending-journey types of books), but I had never considered writing a book as an adult.

 The One and Only Ivan really inspired me because it was a beautiful story with a simple plot and loveable animal characters. There is something so pure about animals. Animals and children have that in common. I started getting ideas about the things Luna would do if she were to go on an adventure. From The One and Only Ivan and Hello, Universe, I learned that a storyline doesn’t have to be complicated to be beautiful and worth reading. That encouraged me.

I’m a writer—a long winded one—so I apologize for the long answer! But one more thing that might be useful to someone… I’ve dealt with some mental health issues throughout my life but couldn’t quite put my finger on what they were until several years into motherhood. I learned that I have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Before learning about my own diagnosis, I had never met or talked to anyone with OCD. I just thought of it as an adjective that people use when they describe themselves as very organized (which I now understand is a disservice to those who actually have the disorder). I now understand that OCD made college very challenging for me. I got great grades and excelled in my classes, but I would go through phases of intense anxiety where I would change my major again and again and again! It was very stressful. I have changed my major 7 or 8 times in school (probably more), which has made it very hard to finish! After leaving school to be home with kids, then going back to school, then having to stop due to health problems, my self-confidence took a pretty big blow. I started to feel like I couldn’t finish anything! I wanted to finish something or accomplish some kind of goal so badly! 

Writing children’s books has brought me so much peace in that sense because it is something that I can finish! Finishing my first book, Luna’s Rescue, left me in a bit of a shock. I kept thinking to myself, Did I REALLY finish? Is it done? Did I actually do it? I actually got really stressed out after publishing my book because I was convinced that I hadn’t really finished! I still haven’t fully processed the fact that I’ve finished and published books!

Anyways, it was such an answer to prayers to be led to writing—an outlet that I could focus on to channel my mind in a productive way, rather than letting my mind obsess over stressful, unproductive things. Writing has been a great blessing to me and definitely an answer to prayer.

What do you love most about writing for middle grade readers? What do you think makes middle-grade fantasy an important genre?

I’m 28 years old on the outside and 10 years old on the inside. Writing for young kids feels natural to me because I share the same interests and sense of humor as many of them. I’ve loved writing for a long time, but it has been so thrilling to finally have found a niche that really fits me.

I love that kids are honest. When I give my manuscript to my test readers, I know that the feedback they give will be honest. And when they say, “I loved it” or “I couldn’t put it down!” I know they are being genuine and not just being polite. It’s really rewarding.

I think that writing fantasy for middle-grade readers is important because these kids are in a very formative time of life. Whether or not they have access to books (and whether or not they enjoy those books) can have a big impact on their educations and reading throughout the rest of their lives. I also feel it’s important to teach good values and lessons in middle-grade literature. I want my readers to finish my books feeling entertained, but even more importantly, inspired. There are so many different messages being thrust at young people in today’s world. I feel honored to have the chance to share messages with young people through my books, and I take the responsibility of providing clean content with good moral lessons very seriously.

Do you have any advice for fellow writers who are balancing a writing career and parenthood? How have you seen motherhood and writing influence each other?

Firstly, my kids inspire me! They are full of creativity, light, and—putting a shameless plug in for Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel here—wonder! My kids are examples to me every day of seeing the wonder and beauty in the world. They see it in everything—bubbles, macaroni and cheese, playing in the grass, etc!

As far as advice… If any of you figure out how to balance a writing career and parenting, please contact me and tell me your secret! Honestly, trying to find a balance is one of the constant challenges of mortal life, in my opinion. 

A few thoughts are: 

1.) Let your kids be involved (to an extent!) with your writing process. My kids respond better to me being on my computer when I explain to them what I’m doing. I’ll tell them what book I’m working on, what the storyline is, and about the characters. I’ll talk through what I’m doing as I design covers. They especially like seeing the covers being made. As far as the actual writing, they lose interest pretty quickly, but they are more likely to be satisfied with giving me time and space if I give them a chance to hear about what I’m doing than if they just see me on the computer and have no idea what I’m doing on it. (My kids are all too young to be able to read, by the way.)

2.) For me, as a stay-home mom, it can be so ridiculously hard to respect myself, my time, and my space. I’ll fight down a dragon if it calls my kid a rude name, but if my kid disrespects me, it can be easy to just take it and shrug it off. I’ve learned that for my well-being, and the well-being of my whole family, I need to take care of myself. I have to set healthy boundaries and teach my kids to respect me. So, on that note, it’s so important that as parents who are also writers, we are able to teach our children healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries makes life so much better. My kids need to know that there is time for me to be totally present with them, and that there is time for me to be able to work on my writing. Before learning that, I often felt that my kids had to have my undivided attention ALL. THE. TIME. …That left me feeling like an oatmeal-brained zombie who then felt excessive amounts of guilt for not being a great mom (because I HAD NO ENERGY OR SPARK!) It’s so important that parents, especially stay-home moms, recognize that their personal pursuits are of value. Being a writer has made me a better mom. And my kids need that healthy, happy mom! So, I need to keep up my writing, which will in turn keep me feeling healthier and more balanced, which will enable me to be a great mom.

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I am reading The Last Rabbit by Shelley Moore Thomas. The Trebors by Caroline C. Barney is on top of my current reads pile. And Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel will be leaping straight to the top of my reading pile once I receive my copy! Looking forward to it! (The word “carousel” is surprisingly hard to spell!)

You’re currently working on your next book! What do readers have to look forward to as The Cottonwood Chronicles continue?

This is really exciting, but I actually just recently finished Hoover’s Horn, which is the second book in The Cottonwood Chronicles (Luna’s Rescue being the first). I’m in the very final stages of having this book ready for publication. The readers of The Cottonwood Chronicles have a wild ride ahead of them. They can definitely look forward to going on some unexpected adventures and meeting some very unique, lovable characters, including a garden gnome named Terracotta Glaze who is a very restless spirit.

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You can purchase Luna’s Rescue and Hoover’s Horn on Amazon! And make sure to check out Erica’s story, Lisa’s Ugly Glasses 🙂

Want to follow along on all of Erica’s writing adventures? 🙂 Head to her Instagram so you won’t miss out on any exciting updates!

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Thank you again to all of the wonderful authors who have joined me for excerpts, interviews, and giveaways (Oh my!) over the last few weeks! It has been such a delight to get to know all of you and share your stories with readers! I can’t wait to see all the wonders God does through the words you write over the years to come 🙂

Do you have a favorite author you’d like to see featured on the blog? Please let me know! I’m always looking for recommendations!

Hoping your weekend is full of good books,

Alexandria

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