This Merry Summertime is now available for preorder on Amazon Kindle. It will be on sale for $0.99 during the preorder period, which runs for the next couple of weeks. A paperback edition and ebook preorders on other retailers will follow soon. Click the link to visit the preorder page for the Amazon US store. The book is available on all other Amazon retailers as well.
Summer has always been one of my favorite times of year and it's been a blessing to come in from a warm summer day and work on such a warmhearted, cheerful book as this. As usual when I dive back into something I’ve worked on before, I always think it will take “only a few days” to whip it into shape and it actually ends up taking a couple of months. But it’s still been fairly easy compared to the process with some of my other books and that's probably because the book's happy tone made it fun to work with. It has a really joyful theme of reconciliation. Here's the blurb:
This Merry Summertime is an anthology of seven comedy shorts. 4 of them (Sarcophagus; In the End the Story Ended; The Destiny of Princes; and A Matter of Life and Hair) are entertaining scripts that gently satirize the genres of paranormal fantasy, literary classics, silent film, and western romance while providing fresh takes and strong characters to tell these archetypical kinds of stories. The other 3 (Ella Substituted; Movies at the Beach; and Everwood) are short stories that use comedy adventure and mild fantasy elements to explore family life and young women’s place in the world. The theme of the book is reconciliation and renewal as the characters traverse through fiction tropes to find eventual peace and meaning in their lives and the stories celebrate youth, especially for girls, but for everyone who has happy memories of a time in their lives when life was an eternal—and sometimes hilarious—summer.
This Merry Summertime became a book about crossing divides, learning when it's foolish to get mad, and building up after mistakes. As I worked on making seven individual concepts come together in one book, I realized that every story focused on this theme. There’s a mummy and vampire couple who strangely remind you of people you know: a teenage girl who realizes she’s almost missed out on a really good friendship: an idealistic 19th-century woman who argues with her boyfriend and accidentally sets the town against her only to see it turned to rights: a Cinderella who brings divided kingdoms together without meaning to: and several others who round out a collection that is all about second chances.
And there will be more updates.
Throughout the process of retelling Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park into the 1930s, I continually realized just how good this book really is. This is something that you might not expect because Mansfield Park is about people who have a truly flawed outlook on life. The negative relationships of the Bertram set superficially look like Austen’s other characters, who socialize a great deal and have a great deal to say about each other’s mistakes. But actually, Mansfield Park is about a different group of people from her other work, so it greatly interests readers even though it has never quite blended with her other books.
In Mansfield Park, Austen ventured out of storytelling that had worked very well for her in earlier novels like S&S and P&P and that she would return to in Emma. Instead of people who are delightfully human and foolish, the Bertrams have a bad way of viewing the world. In short, they really need to rethink their lives. Their motives are different from Austen’s other characters, many of whom are shallow or struggle with the shallowness of others. The Bertrams have a lot more wrong with them than that. There are occasional characters in the other novels to whom a rooted outlook on how to live--essentially a belief system--is important. But they are individuals and don't reflect the entire book. In Mansfield, philosophy is a way of life and it's not a good philosophy either.
Mary Crawford mentions that she’s shocked how interesting she found these people and how relevant they are since they live far from London, a center of intellectual thought and trends. There’s something about the people of Mansfield that locks you into their orbit and their fascinating, but flawed relationships. Even Fanny actually belongs at Mansfield, as she learns when she is sent back to live with her family. It’s not adjusting to a different style of living that’s hard for her. It’s because she has nothing in common with her birth family. She is a part of the Mansfield conversation—just not the same part that the others are.
Challenging a flawed worldview and the people who hold it while not ignoring the complexity that not all bad people are irredeemable (which is hard to show without seeming soft on wrongdoing) is always a courageous thing to do. While this book is generally viewed as only fairish in execution—and so are virtually all movies, remakes, and retellings of it, including mine—the fact Austen tried to write it is one of the things I like about her. It made me have great respect for her and that is why I chose this book to retell.
And there will be more updates.
I almost forgot when I planned this post (1st post of the month will be in the Central Five Series) that it goes out to many of you on the 4th. Independence Day in the US! And that's actually great because the book for this week is a western and that's about as American as it gets.
The Test of Devotion is a story about danger and deception. The setting of the American West during the 1850s was perfect for telling this story of tough people, but behind the general surface of action-adventure are some subtle layers. It’s a surprisingly nuanced book. The Test of Devotion wasn’t the story it seemed to be several years ago and a lot of that goes right back to the people it is about. Its characters rise to the surface in unexpected ways, because in this story about deception most of its protagonists aren’t what they seem to be when you first see them.
So, the Central Five Characters that bring focus to this book are:
Arabella plays a big role in generating the entire plot. A brave and independent girl, she isn’t afraid to head out into the unknown. Although she is pretty and charismatic enough for the job, she finds she’s not quite heroine material just yet. Marrying a man who doesn’t wish her well puts her in danger of betrayal. But she comes through it all and earns the right to be the book’s protagonist.
Benito is an orphan with a delightful bad attitude. All spunk and spines, he takes care of himself although he has no money and no family except one negligent, adopted older brother (Viajero.) Benito always, repeat always, stands up for himself, whether you were challenging him or not, and he can singlehandedly start a rescue.
Governor Wallace achieved much in his past life before coming out to Texas to become a successful rancher. A wise mentor and a good friend, he’s viewed as invulnerable and noble by the young people in the story. He contributes little to the action since the others do so much for themselves, but pitches in when his authority is needed.
Jenny is the daughter of a missionary who bought a hotel in southern Texas. She’s a practical person who is up to dealing with anyone—even criminals like the sinister Hawk who shadows Arabella. She’d probably describe herself as nothing much, just a girl working in a hot, dusty place. And she’d be right—until she got involved in an adventure.
Lanmont brings all the intrigue to the story. As a smart man he is a natural for working in government and he’s a fast learner and takes quick action in everything he does. But he gets a little arrogant, a little full of himself, and starts a situation he can’t handle. Looking for an easy way out is rarely a good strategy—but it makes for a lot of twists and turns.
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
This blog serves as the newsletter for Sarah Scheele.com. Posts are delivered to your inbox every Saturday. For fast subscription instead of visiting a link to another website, fill out the form below and you will receive the 9-Chapter Sampler shown above, in PDF. To get the book in Epub or Mobi formats you will need to use the external link above.
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.