Well, snow is a part of winter for many of you, depending on where you live. But for me in central Texas, it’s rarely a factor. The last snow that covered the ground enough to make snowballs or a bit of a snowman was 16 years ago. Many winters go by with essentially no snow at all—perhaps a little ice or freezing rain. But this month we got a little miracle. Snow all day on a Sunday, white blanketing the ground and dusting trees with silver. Snowflakes fell on our faces as we made the biggest snowman we’ve ever had (okay, so it was small because we’re not used to making them) and made snow angels. Carved our dog’s name in huge snow letters on the front yard that actually lasted into the next day— P. U. F. F. Snow remained on people’s roofs and snowmen lingered in their yards for a couple of days even though temps were above freezing. It’s been almost 40 years (1982) since we had that much snow!
You should know that This Merry Summertime has review copies on BookSprout. They will be available over the next two weeks. Reviews can be put up anytime once you have downloaded the book, but new download copies will no longer be available after two weeks. I plan to start building a street team this year so I have reviewers lined up for when the third Palladia book releases. I'll give you a head's-up when I have a signup form, as this will give you a chance to advance read and give feedback on my first entirely new, never-before-seen work of fiction in 4 years. But prior to getting a street team together I've got MerrySummer on BookSprout because I can painlessly keep it there whenever convenient and I wouldn't mind getting a few reviews on this book. Feel free to be one of those reviewers--just follow the link to get started.
The Palladia Trilogy is gaining more detail since I want to fit the third Palladia book into the others in a way that develops a solid vision. I don’t want to use ideas that are very similar to the first books, so with #3 on the way I’m going down pretty deep into the subtleties of this future world to draw out a new protagonist who will synchronize well with ones from the earlier books and interact with them. But I have to give her something to do that makes Palladia 3 not only a unique story in itself but also a link that unifies the first two Palladia books together and determines what the overall purpose of the series is. At first, it never seemed that this book would be necessary, but when stories evolve and grow to meet an audience, good things start to happen and now it is beyond essential. I’m excited for it.
Description focus this week: The Test of Devotion. I used to think of this as a rugged story with an American western setting. I thought it was all action. And it also easily came across as dry as dust and mildly unfocused when I described it. From High Noon to The Magnificent Seven to childhood favorites like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and today’s space spinoff The Mandalorian, there’s a western for everyone. But while there are many kinds of western stories, they are not all alike, and turns out mine isn't really a simple action-adventure, although it looked that way when the description was so flat. After I upped the emotion and initial pull of the way the book is presented just a bit, what emerged instead was a focus on compassion and trust. It's a two-way conversation about respect that the characters gain through both their own effort and the changed feelings of those they know. The development of the story changed a while back to make Viajero more of a caring person than he’d been shown initially and since he carries a lot of the book's POV that really paid off in strengthening the overall theme into something about human integrity and reparation of divisive relationships.
And there will be more updates.
As we enter the new year, everyone has resolutions for 2021. Losing weight, managing money better, renovating your home, volunteering with youth—all of us have priorities. For myself on the writing front, I plan to finish The Palladia Trilogy this year. That’s a broader goal, thinking more globally. During this month I have just two goals. One is to get back to normal after last month, which was really busy because the holidays intersected with my uncle’s passing away—he died of carbon monoxide poisoning when his furnace malfunctioned and we were told about it on the 26th—and with disastrous plumbing that struck on a chilly New Year’s Eve and left us managing busted pipes and broken faucets for days over the weekend. My sister came on Jan. 2nd for a delayed Christmas party, and while this was nice because I hadn’t seen her in a while, it left me feeling a little bit with a full plate the week after Christmas.
The other is to redo my book descriptions so they sound less like slices of stale bread. I wanted to equalize all of my books last year because some got disproportionately more attention and others had gone unpublished—so I cut down to the basics and did a bare-bones description for each book. All pretty similar and detailing just what’s in the book’s plot components, nothing more. But now I think they are pretty much stabilized, so I’m looking for more of an emotional connection coming out of the blurbs.
A Year with the Harrisons got a makeover last month for market-oriented purposes. It felt complete as a story, but it had always wavered between YA and Women’s fiction--kind of an all-ages sort of thing. The original serial version had Letty as a college girl, but I kicked it down to high-schooler when I published the print in 2018 because the book’s homeschool focus was still big at that time and it made more sense to show a girl who was actually still learning at home. Education turned out not to be an important factor in this book at all, though, and the homeschool component has dwindled to just a couple of mentions here and there. Rather, it’s about an extended family of people who are proudly different from others and can easily get a little full of themselves about it—but isn’t everyone’s family like that? So I moved the book to New Adult, which a writing editorial I subscribe to defined as about women ages 18-30 going through still-youthful life experiences. This held an umbrella over plots with both the protagonists (Letty who is now 18 and Betty who is 28.)
Ryan and Essie also got some definition as I removed the brief mention (unlike in Harrisons it was always very brief) of the Essie character as homeschooled. The idea hadn’t been to explore education, but to polarize the kids even further so they were opposed in every way and couldn't relate to each other at first. But their antagonism isn’t what drives the story. Much more it’s what brings them together as they make moral choices for the first time. Digging into the description to draw out more emotion—since readers who aren’t on my newsletter don’t have the luxury of getting details sent their way twice a month—has been fun since the world of Caricanus has an angle as a creepy kind of place. It’s in ruins, but not abandoned and the followers of Trisagion are quite as questionable as they are austere and tough. So these two kids explore this place with a very deep history and decide what to do about the world, not about each other since they aren’t really a problem.
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
I write stories about human emotions--about the journey of life. Every step of it can be meaningfully great or simply terrible and you can only reach the end after experiencing many kinds of things that make you grow. Emotional travels are the travels of life and the road of living is not one planned out in notebooks or organized in Scrivener. It is felt in love, hope, and fear and developed through an understanding of why humans go through these. And, on top of that, my stories are adventure stories. History, fantasy, and daily modern situations are all adventures as long as you don't know for sure what's going to happen when you wake up each day. Because that would be like repeating the same day over and over again and who wants to do that?
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