A Year with the Harrisons was published on retail sites fairly recently but had an appearance as a weekly serial years before. It was a rambling story with lots of extra incidental tidbits that didn't make the final cut and even some unpublished chapters that have now fallen by the wayside, but many of the situations that appear in the finished book today are still quite relevant and its theme has always been stable--it describes a big extended family who might be a little out of the mainstream but who are really just like everybody's family. They’re not the only relatives to squabble, to feel more different from each other than they are, and to have a busybody aunt. And because of that, every reader can see a lot of their own parents, cousins, and siblings in these characters.
The five central characters:
Brenda occupies a central place in the story and activates whole areas of the plots, influencing directly or indirectly almost every other character. A vibrant and talented musician who wears the concept of “star” like others wear perfume, she might be a little controlling, a little self-absorbed—at times, even a little teensy bit full of herself. Maybe? 😊 But her husband is quite right to call her One in a Million.
Toffy is the young male character we get to know the most. Although his father is an ambitious and rather callous person, Toffy is quiet and takes a laid-back approach to the family lifestyle of athletics. Toffy has much stronger convictions and beliefs than you’d think because he rarely talks about these things. He befriends Letty in spite of their polar-different backgrounds.
Joe is a middle-aged dad who works in a small town as a mechanic. His voice is always quiet and he blends in with other people. But he’s got a lot more wisdom than meets the eye and sees others far more than anyone realizes. A bit of an eccentric—and he’d probably like to call himself a mastermind of the good kind—he is usually in a perfect position to deal the final blow to a problem.
Luna is the oldest of Joe’s three daughters. She is a really serious person who views doing the right things with her life and giving people a good impression of homeschooled teens as so important that she worries when her family (quite frequently) doesn't look perfect. She is also crucial in uniting all sorts of little plots throughout the book, making her one of the most important characters.
Dr. Bunsen is the new pastor of the local church. He doesn’t get off on a good footing because he fires off a lot of rounds of suggestions for how the members could improve, setting them against him. He is angry about inadequacy in ministry to a hurting world, but his own life needs healing as much as that of anyone else he knows.
And there will be more updates.
Bellevere House is a reworking of a classic novel (Mansfield Park) and the source material has a sizable influence on what plots and characters appear in the book. The original book is a soap opera in which the characters run a pretty big gamut of situations. Like all Jane Austen's novels, knotted family situations and complex romantic character development are given free rein to grow, and Mansfield Park is by nature a complicated type of story. Austen's fearlessness encouraged me to examine situations I hadn't written about before and took me out of my usual storytelling to broaden my writing.
After I worked with them, these Central Five Characters became a little bit mine as well as Austen’s. But you can definitely still recognize that they were once hers.
Uncle Warren is the head of the Haverton family. He is unusually wealthy for the Depression era and is sometimes a threatening figure to others, since he is rather self-centered and motivated by what he feels is a “bigger picture” instead of individual feelings. While far from the world's best dad, he does genuinely try to be involved with his children's lives—like Sir Thomas, who is an imperfect but often misunderstood Austen father.
Aunt Cora is the middle-aged sister of Uncle Warren’s wife. She lives with the Haverton family and spends all her time doing—well, basically nothing. In the past, she was a devious and active woman who got situated around her rich relatives. She was also very much full of herself and now she doesn't quite know when to stop getting on people's nerves, which makes her a really funny character.
Horace was inspired by Henry Crawford, one of Austen’s most dashing and frustrating characters. It’s understandable why the talented young Henry has wowed whole generations of fans, but he has real limitations that contribute to his demise. In Bellevere, Horace Carter embraces religion as a path to gain social acceptance after moral transgressions, sharing Henry’s inability to quite understand those he wishes to be near.
Faye is Uncle Warren’s niece. A quiet young woman, she comes from a poor family and while she's not angsty about it, she acknowledges the social reality of her position and gains from being useful to those around her. Otherwise, she has few opinions on the lives of others, simply trying to deal with opportunities or challenges as they present themselves. But you certainly shouldn't make her mad, as her cousin Ed finds out when awkward efforts to flirt with her by being rude backfire.
Jane Watson appears as a thread in all the VJA retellings. She’s a concept of what Austen might have been like had she lived in the 1930s and although she only appears for a couple of scenes in Bellevere, she is very meaningful. The variations on her differ from book to book, but all agree that she is a strong person and keenly observant without being petty. Family, community, and feminism are all important qualities to her and her work as a journalist makes her objective.
And there will be more updates.
This Merry Summertime was published just a couple of months ago, but in some ways it’s an older book because most of the stories in it are between 6 and 8 years old. I call it my “missing piece,” for two reasons: It rounds out my publications to an even 10; and it finalizes everything I’ve made public, in whatever form, into a formal publication. The stories in this anthology were aired briefly on my blog once upon a time, but I got busy with other things and it was years before I knew these missing pieces were just as much a part of my writing as the ones that had been in print for a long time.
And that being the case, they should be given a paperback, a share of attention, and a list of Five Central Characters that bring focus to This Merry Summertime:
Queen Arangiphaten is a comedy character, a legendary Egyptian mummy who has resurrected, and at times a very ordinary woman. She’s all star power, royal swagger, and haughty dignity—plus she’s quite adept at harnessing moonlight into cheesy lightning. But behind her efforts to protect her ancient monument from vampires and American teenagers, she is a woman who just wants to spend time with the man she was married to for a thousand years.
Count Rousillion, also known as Bertram, is a man who astounds with his inattention to reality. "In the End the Story Ended" is a retelling of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays and Bertram is based on the hero. He is unable to rise to the occasion. No matter what the occasion is, and no matter how much we’d like to sympathize with him as he is hounded by a creep—Bertram seems incompetent at living life.
Mr. Marcus Stone is the director of a children’s movie that has spun off from a popular TV series. Fussy, strict, and usually angry, he is not pleased at all when twins Hal and Hetty accidentally crash his movie more than once. Since they’re not in school, they got mixed up with his actors instead and while Mr. Stone doesn’t hesitate to express his displeasure, he keeps running into their family. Every time he believes it will be the last time, but it never is.
Nora Ashford is an attractive young actress in Regency England. "The Destiny of Princes" imitates vintage-era historical films, with elaborate costumes and descriptions of silly, over-the-top acting, so Nora’s demeanor is part vintage, part Regency and all swoon, creating a myriad of stagy poses, hysterical sobbing, and melodramatic situations as she tries to impress smug, fastidious Beau Brummel while the Prince Regent and his minions pursue her.
Mrs. Dimwit is a confidential friend of the Heroine in "A Matter of Life and Hair." Contrary to what her name suggests, she's actually very astute. But as a woman in later middle age living in a slightly-pretty western town, she enjoys her life very much. She is unambitious and feels she’s exactly where she wants to be, so she can be gently insensitive to the feelings of others and surprise them with statements that are tactless or odd. This occasional thoughtlessness contributes to the comedy, but she is respected by everyone, especially by the Heroine--who never hesitates to take her advice.
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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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.