My parents have always gardened. Spending my childhood on a farm, my earliest memories are of things growing in the soil and of animals that eat the growing things. Tall corn that’s green when the short waving wheat is golden. Cattle chewing on grass and feed in large square fields separated from me only by a fence. Corner plots of soybeans, acres of yellow canola (grown by somebody else, not us), and the many fruit trees that have come and gone in our orchard. Fruit trees have a limited life cycle, assuming borers don’t get to them even earlier. 😊
So we’ve usually had a garden. My mother tried to grow almost everything at least once when I was a kid. When I was older, cement blocks were installed around the garden to bolster it up because that area of the yard floods a lot if it rains. (Lots of deep standing puddles = bad for what you grow, especially root vegetables. Pretty obvious!) Last year we started gardening again. Our garden used to be bigger, but this year we're only using about a third of our old garden space. In the picture, you can see a new patch we’ve just carved out. This picture was taken a month ago and we now have onions planted there. Soon there will be other vegetables too. Behind the hay is a little patch of reddish leaves, which is the strawberry bed. We planted the strawberries last year. Prior to that, we hadn’t grown strawberries for about 35 years. They look small and flat now because of the winter, but they will perk up and have a crop this year.
To me, the work of being an author—including rewrites and marketing—is a lot like the gardening and growing cycle. It’s O.K. to be imperfect. Not every idea will catch on. There's a lot of trial and error and a lot of audience factors that you can't change any more than gardeners can control the weather. Seeds are planted all the time and don’t come up. We set out a lot of parsley plants last year and only about 5 toughed it out all through the winter. And the same with books. You just look instead at the ones that do grow. And keep growing. And keep growing.
And yield a harvest!
And there will be more updates.
With more coronavirus cases reported close to home, grocery shelves stripped bare, and stores and public places closing each day, the pandemic of COVID-19 occupies a large part of my thoughts as it does for everyone these days. No one is free or safe from being affected by this situation, or even from contracting a case of this deadly virus themselves. My thoughts go out to each and every one of you, wherever you may live or however the virus is changing your life right now. Pray for your friends and loved ones, respond to your community’s crisis in a sensitive and wise way, care for those more at risk among you, and never forget to wash your hands!
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"How The Test of Devotion Was Saved,” a little play on words from the classic movie “How the West Was Won,” would be appropriate for talking about my only western story. Very much like the West itself, Devotion’s road hasn’t been easy. It didn’t fit with my other work. Like Victoria: A Tale of Spain it used Spanish-speaking culture as a backdrop, but the stories Devotion most resembled were actually City of the Invaders (with its criminal angle) and Bellevere House (with its use of historical Americana.) These stories already utilized those elements in my work. So I often wondered if Devotion was even necessary.
It was a challenging book for me to write. I couldn’t remember Lanmont’s first name. I couldn’t remember the alias he used for the first few chapters until his identity was revealed. In the middle part of the story, where Arabella was rescued, I found my eyes sliding off the page. I couldn’t concentrate. (Not a great mindset to be in when looking to publish a book!) Even this year, when the book pushed forward a notch, I still had more typos than average for my first drafts. Giving it to an editor got rid of that problem. But it sounds like Devotion was a largely merited flop. It was too late to recover it and maligning of the early launch by readers was pretty fair.
But then . . . some stories take time. They grow in the telling. Slowly, Devotion slipped into place. It didn’t jar as much, I found the material much easier to work with. The character relationships started to make sense, the errors disappeared, and I could see Lanmont more clearly. In fact, he’s one of the best characters. (Even if he is kind of a jerk.) And so The Test of Devotion is not what it used to be. It’s become a really good story. Even with its many flaws, bumpy launch, and gritty, abrasive tone, there's something to love in this book. It's a story of unlikely friends overcoming differences to help someone else out and that's one thing the world always needs more of. Because it was published fairly recently, I’ll be talking about its characters in posts a little bit down the road.
And there will be more updates.
Last week I talked about the central five characters that bring a focus to Facets of Fantasy and about how this is one of my oldest--and most interacted-with--books. And this week Facets is part of a giveaway bundle of fantasy books. The giveaway lasts until the end of March and contains a wide diversity of books--epic, high fantasy, coming of age adventure, young adult, fairy tale, mythology-based stories, etc. There are several books I really liked the looks of! You can download as many of these books as you want by subscribing to author's newsletters here. You can also get Facets of Fantasy along with the other books if you want to read it--just enter your email. If that doesn't work, use this link instead to get it directly.
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All of my early books were sci-fi or fantasy. Beginning with the first part of Victoria published as an ebook in 2014, I started to do historical writing which continued for several years. Of my first 5 books, 4 are sci-fi, fantasy, or dystopian. Of my last 4 books, only one is (Ryan and Essie.)
Some people don’t like to read speculative fiction, particularly. They prefer realistic, especially historical, works. So I wanted to try and capture new characters who might be more likely to appear in a realistic setting. It’s not like you’re going to hate my speculative or hate my historical because they are for entirely different audiences. If I wanted to reach two audiences, I’d have two pen names. Some readers prefer the feel of historical and others prefer sci-fi or fantasy. It’s two ways to tell the same type of story. In fact, I’m open to doing both in the future.
In Consuela, these two sides of my work are almost absurdly manifested. Consuela was originally set in a quasi-historical world (think Disney’s recent Cinderella movie) that it shared with early drafts of Victoria. Later it was unpublished and when it returned, it became part of the City of the Invaders dystopian world. (City of the Invaders is the highlight book for next month, so I will be talking more about it soon.) Consuela remained a comedy story even though that’s not the norm for dystopian. I just felt that it was more emotionally connected to Invaders now than to Victoria, which was steadily moving in its own direction as a historical work set in Spain. But it goes to prove that the bridge between my two main genres is easily crossed. In fact, I'd describe my books as interconnected. That’s why I’m looking forward to publishing more. Every new story adds perspective on the earlier books as well as introducing new characters for readers to play around with. 😊
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
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When I set about defining my books, I wanted them to be positive places where a gentleness emanated from the pages. A hopeful safety lies in gentleness and there's also an honesty to it. A whirlwind of pushy book blurbs and hot characters (or whatever type character the author wants you to admire) can conceal a reality underneath. A quiet--possibly even lurking--reality that's more visible if you dial down the volume. That lurking reality isn't necessarily bad, but like anything quiet, it gets drowned out by conflict and angst. Peaceful fiction can help explore the truth that noisy books ignore.
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.