Victoria: A Tale of Spain, my 17th-century lower YA adventure story, wouldn’t have come about without a European trip I took about 9 years ago. The concept for the trip wasn't mine--I hadn’t even thought about going to Europe--and none of the locations and itinerary were chosen by me. In particular, I’d never thought of visiting Spain and I ended up staying there about 7 weeks one summer. If I had considered a trip of my own, it would probably have been focused on the British Isles because that’s the Europe I’m most familiar with from books and movies.
But sometimes things in life just JUMP out at you. They fly in your face and you seem surrounded by a milling blur of impressions, people surrounding you, loud voices, and confusing activities launched at you. Sometimes a story is hiding somewhere in that blur. A story that is launching itself directly into your face. And when anyone is coming straight towards you, let alone a story, you might as well say, “Well, Hello There” and accept it.
At first I didn’t get a lot out of that trip. Secretly, I’d always assumed it couldn’t have the slightest usefulness to my storytelling and to me, writing stories is absolute as a grade for whether I care about it. As a trip it was fun, yes, and had memorable moments. But I didn’t feel they were USEFUL moments. I didn’t see any incidents or places that I wanted to write about after months spent abroad. And when I’m not getting an idea for a story, I feel like moving on. But several years later, I wrote a small draft of a story set in Spain. It wasn’t much good—very angsty and melodramatic, with tense and unhappy family relationships and symbolic action sequences. Later I merged it into a light-hearted little novella that had used some of the El Escorial palace setting as an influence, though not much else in Spain.
I didn’t want to work on the merge of the two because it was a lot of effort for a setting and type of story that was so unusual I couldn’t see much of a real market for the completed book. But the story continued to call my name and Boom, Fly in My Face until I worked on it. And in the end, I’m glad I did. Victoria is a more interesting story than I believed it was and it definitely occupies a place in my books. After all, I like to do unusual ideas once I realize they DO have an audience.
And there will be more updates.
This week’s post is about Ryan and Essie, but before I launch into the post you should know about a GREAT giveaway opportunity. Until the 31st, my book The Birthday Present is free as part of a big January all-genre free book event. Many authors participating and over 80 books available. Download as many books as you want to by subscribing to the author’s newsletters here storyoriginapp.com/to/R78Fzt0
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Ryan and Essie have always been there. When I was a little kid, I first drafted part of a story about how these two children found a distant planet. As a teen the royalty of Caricanus and their intrigues started to show up, with Tarvelas and Viltan. The story was finished much later, as an adult, when I added the ending and stitched it all together.
But I didn’t realize until even more years had passed that what had always been there was a sense of humor. Behind the zany comedy and adventure of kid's books lie a good deal of accidental (or at times intentional) satire of the adult world. Many things are mentioned in comedy for children as a way of exploring them. Adults often take things too seriously. Life is a serious, serious business. People have to work hard, be attractive, get married, get good jobs, plan for retirement, bury their parents, pay for health insurance, and make sure Christmas-with-the-relatives goes off perfectly. But what about the fun people had as kids?
Ryan, a miniature grown-up in the making, is already no fun. He’s uncurious, plays it safe, and always thinks about the bottom line. And he is also a funny character. It also makes a good learning experience for kids, who are used to having the adult world made fun of in their stories. Essie is all child and has the exact personality that makes many adults wish children would sit still. But kids don’t do that. And when Ryan wishes Essie would do that, when he is himself a kid, they are thrown into outer space in the sort of way that children like.
Well, until they grow up to be like Ryan.
And there will be more updates.
This post is about The Birthday Present, but I'll start by mentioning a GREAT bundle where you can find fantasy and historical books for review! For the next 2 weeks I and 19 other authors are offering adventure books for review. Mostly fantasy, with a few historical and steampunk titles. I’m providing 2 books, Facets of Fantasy and The Test of Devotion. All the authors want reviews! You can read a sample (first two chapters, in my case) before committing to the book, so that then you’ll be confident of actually finishing and reviewing later. Authors will give books through download or through Amazon gifting. Click this link to start looking for a book to sink into. https://storyoriginapp.com/to/LMsaifd
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Something about The Birthday Present would never blend into my other story collection, Facets of Fantasy, although I could see the practicality of not burdening people with too many drifting little collections. Wouldn’t it be so much better to present them with just one? But The Birthday Present, although it seems similar to the Facets stories, is actually more realistic and not so much of a fantasy adventure. "Millhaven Castle," however, in spite of its superficial lightness does share that realistic-even-a-touch-depressing quality. Which brings out the question—what makes a story seem lighter and what makes it seem gloomier?
It’s not a quality in the plot’s incidents, since "Millhaven Castle" is mostly a comedy of manners (since it’s in an imaginary world I imagine fantasy of manners is most accurate.) It’s in the state of the world the characters live in. Millhaven’s dippy little rural kingdom isn’t as extreme as the far-future world of Birthday Present, but both societies are at the same point. They feel hopeless and almost bored, locked in a long-going dispute with another group of people, an endless civil war of sorts, that has ground them into a state of futility. They really are going in circles all the time, with nothing to say, going over these same concepts without any freshnesss and increasingly without any interest. But it’s the way they’ve always lived and they can’t change.
Or can they?
TBP isn’t a hopeless story at all and neither is "Millhaven Castle." Both stories start at the end of this long, useless path the characters have traveled, and by the end things are looking up. People start to make positive changes. They start to express individuality, their own wishes, and independence. Breaking out of this stagnated system into new life. The last words spoken in The Birthday Present are (guess what?) “Happy Birthday.” Birthdays are celebrations of the life you’ve lived the past year, not a statement of defeat. And they promise another year to come. Birthdays are about hope. And Alyce, finally released from a tedious and very selfish hostility that has culminated in a king viewing her as a threat, decides to burn that old ball dress she was forced to wear to visit him. “Which, now she thought about it, was what she’d always really wanted to do.”
Now that’s a happy ending.
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
I write peaceful stories with happy endings. When I started writing, I wanted to write the kind of books I like to read. I wanted them to be upbeat and friendly books that make you feel like you're being whisked off on an adventure with friends. And there's also a purposefulness in that because many stories already written miss out on a great deal of what people experience every day.
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