I haven't posted on A Year with the Harrisons in a while so I'll do so while it's being promoted this month. PLUS, it is currently part of the Spectacular Summer Giveaway. If you missed getting a copy of Harrisons in the Children’s Book Giveaway a couple of weeks ago, you can snag it today. But you should check out this giveaway in any case. It's an all-genre event with romance, fantasy, some short stories, books about cooking, contemporary novels, and adventure. Harrisons is a YA comedy that really brings grownup and younger readers together, so it has been in two pretty different collections this month. This giveaway is more for adult readers than the last one and has a great set of books.
Check it out here. And if you try to download A Year with the Harrisons and it doesn’t work because you're already subscribed, use this link for a direct download. But only for my book. Be sure to check out all the others at the link above.
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A Year with the Harrisons is a story about people who are hiding from their past. A lot of the situations in the book are funny, as the characters' bumbling through relationships is often amusing. But like many dramas, coming of age stories, and women’s fiction, complicated family ties that lead to many plot twists are essential to its structure. The two central plots involve two branches of a Texas family, the Harrisons, who haven’t dealt with things about their past relationships to other family members. The plots parallel through the characters of Joe Harrison, a homeschooling father of three teenage girls, and his first cousin once removed, Betty Harrison, a former celebrity who now works at a local diner. While both of these people quietly move in very different spheres, blending in with their chosen social circles, they really have a lot of connection to each other. A connection that can’t be denied and that never goes away.
They are both tied to Betty’s mother, a famous pop singer. But Betty has left her mother to pursue a separate life and has never dealt with any of the emotions about that painful split. She’s a single mother whose young daughter attends an ordinary small-town school. Joe moved into an unusual lifestyle of home-education for his children and has almost cut himself off from the outside world. The girls are isolated and have few friends except at church, since Joe, unlike Betty, has become very religious. You’d never think to see either Joe or Betty that they even knew each other. But of course that's how the story begins, not how it ends.
This is mostly a very cheerful book, because Betty and Joe do end up making good decisions. There are a lot of young people in the book, with prominent plots focused on teenage girls as well as a bit of mild romance between Joe’s daughter Letty and a football player. But these core relationships among the older people build a foundation for the story. Except for the pastor Dr. Bunsen, a minor character whose effort to change the ministries at his church fails, everyone in the circle of the Harrison family and the Shotgun family (who shadow them throughout the book) end up finding there’s always a solution to things if you just deal with them. Betty becomes close to her mother again, all the young people grow into their budding new lives, Joe proves more knowledgeable than anyone anticipated, and the villain, Mr. Shotgun, conveniently pops off.
Perhaps a bit of a contrivance on that last one, but I’d certainly like to think it was at least a little bit real. Facing things is always the best way because when confronted with a direct accusation of identity almost everything bad will immediately disappear. There’s a reason why light always turns trolls to stone.
And there will be more updates.
Ryan and Essie, chronologically, was published between Victoria: A Tale of Spain and The Test of Devotion. And ordinarily I group the books in pairs based on when they were published. The two story collections; the first two Palladia Series books; and the two novels about American 20th-century life are all natural fits for each other and it also happens they were published in adjacent years.
But Ryan and Essie doesn’t match the feel of either Victoria or Devotion. In fact, it’s incompatible as a mystical fantasy story set in deep space. These two books, meanwhile, have much in common with each other and were published very close together. So I’ve paired them as a couple and moved Ryan and Essie farther down in the list towards more recent books in spite of its technical time of publication. This is because it’s now the only one that doesn’t have a partner. (You have 9 books and you’re working in pairs of two, this is bound to happen! 😊) A new book will probably have a lot of compatibility with Ryan and Essie, especially if it’s a fantasy story.
I’ve found it logical to work with the books in pairs because books written very close together usually have the same emotions from readers. It's certainly possible for characters to be part of little cross-connections throughout my books, but audiences tend to feel similarly about books written close in pairs. So usually I write two books that explore a set of related ideas and then move on to another pair of books. But over time I’ve noticed that Ryan and Essie has stood outside of any conversations about my other books. This makes sense if another book is needed to make a pairing--I've only explored half of the ideas around this story, so it's a bit out of context. So why was Ryan and Essie published when it was if it had nothing to do with stories published at that time?
Well, this is really one of my oldest books. I started working with the ideas when I was still a juvenile. And perhaps whatever book eventually pairs with it will also have been a hidden part of my writing world for a very long time.
And there will be more updates.
This little detail didn’t appear in the book’s manuscript, but the dusty gravel road bending among green trees that the Harrison family lives beside is called “Harrison Lane” after them. It was actually named by the county because they’re almost the only house on that road and when every road had to be named something (to keep things in order) they asked Mr. Harrison “What’s your last name?” He said “Harrison” so they named the little gravel byway after him.
A small point like this can give you an idea of how long the Harrisons have been around, in a fixed way, in one place. A very long time. And they are well-respected within the community—in a way—although people do think they’re kind of odd. People in small towns can be very narrow-minded, you know. There is something quietly lovely about their home and the girls, who’ve always lived this way, don’t know how nice and cozy their lives might look to other people.
Anybody in their right minds would view the Harrisons as people you’d want to know. They have a great home life, a great home, a great religious faith, and a great loyalty to each other. Anyone who tries to bother them (like the polygamists who appeared in an intermediate draft of the book) are very mistaken about what this family represents. That's why this area was originally presented as very amusing, because it never occurred to me anyone could be bothered by it. The concept of such people trying to take advantage of the Harrison girls is categorically funny to anyone who perceives what the story is really about. But after I received feedback from several people that they took it quite seriously, I felt it was being misunderstood and removed it as a distraction. Meanwhile, our protagonists return to being the Harrisons of Harrison Lane, which is what they would have done in any case whether this area was included or not.
You don't run into people like the Harrisons very often. They truly are unusual, but that’s not always a bad thing.
And there will be more updates.
Author of Science Fiction, General Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Anthology Fiction
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