During the last 2 1/2 years, I’ve steadily blogged and posted on social media about working on all my previous material. My goal was to develop a coherent label, something people could recognize and feel confident about reading. They would know who I was and what I “offered,” a connection that was lacking in my early publishing years. Everyone drifts at first until they get a handle on something new, including publishing. At least, I really hope this is true—otherwise, I was just a super-clutz at first. 😊
While this was going on, I didn’t put out any additional books. My most recent book, A Year with the Harrisons, was just an older story that got delayed in publication. So after Bellevere House, which was part of a group project in 2017, I went on creative shutdown and into branding mode. Every time I would try to work on new ideas, I had to return to what was already out there and make it better. As a result, these earlier books became continually NEW as their audiences and marketing grew more structured to get them in line with a developing brand of low-key, pleasant fiction.
Working on all 9 books at once involved a bit of rewriting, some editing, a lot of new cover design, and major analysis. Lots and lots and lots of analysis of the story components and how they measured up. I became a one-track feedback machine, from my own perceptions to the reactions of other people. And as those books got whipped into shape, it was pretty full-time, you might say. It wasn’t possible to add a tenth—a really new publication—to the list yet, much as I wanted to.
But I am creating new ideas and I hope to move forward this year into the next phase—a new book!
And there will be more updates.
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For almost 15 years, A Year with the Harrisons remained the same. The book was begun in 2005, released to some early readers in 2010, and the primary difference when it was finally published in 2018 was that people weren’t as friendly about it as they’d been when reading the manuscript years earlier. A few touch-ups to polish it further and trim a little padding last year were just cosmetic work on a book that was now at a standstill. But the story itself remained steady and constant. In the book, the characters themselves, a family of homeschooled girls, comment on how stationary their world is. Their home, visited by their aunt 40 years ago as a teenager, is just the same when she steps back into it.
But this year, the Harrison time-warp finally wasn’t there anymore. Something really changed. It used to be a very bouncy, cheerful sort of book, packed with slightly cartoonish, slice-of-life incidents. (Think Dickens, since 19th-century novels were an inspiration for writing the Harrisons.) And that content is still there, but somehow A Year with the Harrisons has become very quiet. Letty, the heroine, seems to have changed a lot more than just her age shooting down from the first draft. She had been a college girl and was now in high school—not a huge change and mostly made to market the book a little younger since I publish a lot of books with that angle. But Letty is . . . different. After all these years of working with the character, I feel as if I suddenly don’t know her.
Betty, Letty's father’s cousin, helms the second half of the story, which is about Mr. Harrison’s side of the family. I included her to give a small-town flavor to the community where the Harrison girls live. Originally Betty seemed a bit cynical, a working woman and rather bored single mother managing her life. But lately it seems there’s more to her plot than that. Her interest in the homeschooling family is shown in the first chapter and while it’s not aggressive, I’d call it watchful. Observant of them. Every time she sees Letty, she asks her questions—to which Letty replies off-handedly, not aware that Betty might be watching her family. Letty’s lack of insecurity about this means she and Betty are pretty cordial considering they have little in common and Betty is much older.
And that’s just one of the relationships. In A Year with the Harrisons, something is not what it used to be. People have gone from this quiet story—but they’ve been replaced by someone else.
And there will be more updates.
This Friday (the 14th) Bellevere House will be $0.99 along with other books in The Vintage Jane Austen. Since a lot of you won't see this until Saturday, I'll keep the discount price for my book through the 15th. I don't know how many of the other series books will still be on sale, but you can look around. Here's the Amazon link for Bellevere and once you're there you can find the other books by clicking on the VJA series.
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The two stories in The Birthday Present book go together even though they look dissimilar. One is angsty-looking sci-fi—but it’s not really as depressing as it seems and has a happy ending. And the other is a comedy about a Cinderella-type girl who goes to a prince’s ball, but it doesn’t work out the way it’s supposed to in the fairy tale. But what makes them similar is they’re about daring escapes, just enough comedy, and a feeling of removal into a world that’s not yours. The heroes have improbable successes in which they find a way out of situations when you really thought they were tied in a box. And with a high proportion of interesting main characters, most of the central figures really do carry the story. (Unlike in some of my other books, where side characters took off.)
So, to capture all that daring escape etc emotion into five characters:
Alyce is the girl who went to a Cinderella-ball that ended up comically wrong. Once she discovers the Prince is the most selfish letdown in the history of princes, she manages to deal with it in a way that’s more amusing for the readers than it is anything else. It’s hard for the Prince to use her in a political scheme because he has no understanding of her personality.
Lord Harry, of course, ought to provide a bit of a solace as he is the Prince’s younger brother and he does actually like Alyce a great deal. But he’s not good at showing it because he’s a bit self-absorbed and not a good listener. He really ISN’T and this is something Alyce notices about him, but she likes him anyway because he does sincerely help her while she’s at the castle.
Lucy takes life seriously. And she has this hard-to-describe relationship with a man who is like a brother to her. Although he was against humans for a time, as he is not human, he and Lucy also have a lot in common because people can view her as a challenge to their status quo and someone they feel distant from, as they do him.
Emperor Aure is a super-powered humanoid called a GMF. His almost endless youth and strength meant he was impossible to get rid of. He was also a surprisingly fierce person and when he opposed humans, he was a menace. Although very old he still looks young and can communicate with Lucy, who he calls his “little sister,” because of their shared background.
Ralph is a boy from Alyce’s village. Like everyone in this town, he knows only other people from the village. He complains all the time and is never up to dealing with situations. Alyce barely notices him, but her friend Lulu freaks him out by pretending to want to date him. Ralph isn’t quite what he looks like—at least, for his sake I hope not!
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
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With so many great authors already out there, what do my books offer? Simply put, they are peaceful. While a lot of writers are genuinely telling a wonderful story I can't tell, I also see too many noisy and angry books on the market. Only a few actually examine mature or gritty situations--too many are just noisy with an unpleasant tone. Even well-intentioned books that preach good values aren't always pleasant. If the author is correcting and lecturing me or other people, it doesn't make for a peaceful reading experience.
Bellevere House has been featured on Ezvid Wiki video "10 Wonderfully Inventive Retellings That Interpret Classic Stories in a New Way." Click to see the video.