My books were, practically speaking, in a beta phase at the time they were first made public. I rarely used beta readers beforehand and would present my ideas in “published” form and then get some feedback about them. The books received the usual gamut of initial responses that happen to a new story. But since I was writing stories that were formative during their first run, these early reactions, even if they lingered in reviews or commentary, became outdated after the books entered a second phase. Once it began this second phase, each book went through a unique development based on its needs. But it was always geared towards finding the story— the finished product—out of that original beta publication.
Syncing was required for The Birthday Present and Facets of Fantasy. When I learned these volumes of shorter stories were to be viewed as contiguous, in a sense—as linking together in some way instead of serving as unrelated shorts—the task was to untangle them from each other and find the right combinations that reflected this core linkage.
Longevity was important to A Year with the Harrisons, since it dealt with what was potentially a flash-in-the-pan topic. It was presented very informally at first, a serialized weekly installment run on my FB fan page. About 8 years later I felt there had been enough real interest for me to proceed with a publication.
Context was necessary for the Palladia books (City of the Invaders & Consuela.) Both of them were shown early on as short little sketches and while their storylines were on the right track, there just wasn’t enough detail. Information about a larger world was needed, and eventually a more dramatic underlying structure around these stories began to appear.
Definition was important for Victoria: A Tale of Spain and The Test of Devotion. When these two first went public, they were vague on some of the character development and didn’t always clarify what needed to be understood about the personal relationships in the stories. For this reason, they were some of the most confusing for readers. As they developed, the books that emerged differed from the initial drafts in ways that made the stories clearer.
Accessibility was central to Bellevere House and Ryan and Essie. Both stories were shown sufficiently and neither of them needed more time to determine reader interest or any structural organization. But in both books, the story was very subtle and deeply embedded. So they faced a communication problem, with readers not being able to access the story immediately. Connecting readers to these books has been a priority.
And there will be more updates.
It didn’t begin this way in the initial drafts, but by the time The Test of Devotion was completed it had grown into a celebration of old-fashioned storytelling. In fact, I thought it was going to be rather a modern story, a genre-market oriented short western romance (think the now defunct Love Inspired Historical.) Since that didn’t work out, the story drifted for a long while until I was seized with a new idea for it. And I love new ideas because they tend to mean a new audience. I was pleased there might be a new direction for this forgotten story and the rewrite moved pretty far towards describing that new concept—the “Why Don’t They Make Them Like They Used To?” feeling in so many of us.
You’ve read and seen it many times in reviews for classic vintage and retro products, in back-cover copy for classic TV shows, in casual conversations with friends. Someone always laments that “they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.” Stories we grew up watching and reading from when we were kids—stories we were raised on by our parents and grandparents. It’s not a feeling of nostalgia, which is rooted in the past, but a respect for something you’d like to continue into the present day. To reboot, to bring again. You regret that new generations can’t be exposed to these classics.
For The Test of Devotion two such “good, old-fashioned” ideas merged into one. The vintage television western, like Roy Rogers or Bonanza, with its family-values tone that didn’t scrimp on the action-packed adventure angle. And the classic novels that so many kids find on library shelves alongside modern bestsellers like The Lightning Thief. Tucked into any kids or young adult section of the library you’ll find older stories like Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer, and Ivanhoe—and, in the case of influences for this book, Kenilworth by the same author as Ivanhoe. Books that certainly inspired me to read and write more when I was growing up.
Why don’t they make them like they used to? Well, the answer is simple. Because they DO make them. The minute someone says that, it means they’d like to see something old-fashioned repeated again. People have been saying that since the dawn of time, harking back to a perennial yearning for Eden. And once they express that wish, a new old-fashioned story pops up again.
And there will be more updates.
The published books on my website are approx the same length, about 52K, except for Consuela. It's a little bit shorter. At first I presented many books as novellas, individual longer short stories, long collections of stories, or even the occasional novel. But as I worked with the books, stories took a more mainstream shape. Novels got cut. Novellas merged with each other. Extra stories that padded out books disappeared. All of them became a very similar page count (250-280 pages) and suddenly all the little random "stories" had been replaced by streamlined books.
I didn't start out with this in mind, because although my stories were often an awkward length, I've read and enjoyed books of any length and I didn't plan to add or crop words just to fulfill someone's idea of a book. But I'm glad it happened. Nowhere is this new streamlined kind of book more visible than in "Victoria." It started as a novella of 30K words, then it shrank to a much shorter story. Then it blended with "Alyce," an even shorter story (about 18K) that had been once released as part of the same series. After I went back to the old, longer version of Victoria--keeping the merge with Alyce--I had to rewire my mind to realize this is a novel now. I'd become programmed to automatically think of Victoria and Alyce as short. But together, they became a full novel. (Well, for older kids, about age 12. An adult would probably call this a novella--but it IS for kids, so that's just fine.)
A Year with the Harrisons shrank to become a similar length and when two of the Facets stories were removed, Facets of Fantasy was also comparable. And so is Bellevere House, which started longer, but after a special rewrite just about Ed and Faye's relationship, became exactly the same length as the others.
Yes! My books, like tangled hair, got themselves straightened out.
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.