Over the past couple of years, I’ve been given quite a few clothes that I’ve never or rarely worn. So last month I looked at them and thought, “you know, you never wear these because you’re not sure if they coordinate together and what goes with what. That means you most likely WILL never wear them unless you start trying them on and putting them into outfits.” I started putting stray pieces into sets. I assigned a dedicated blouse/poncho/something to wear on top for each skirt or pair of pants. And I went on until, eventually, I turned a pile of random things into something less random, something with a purpose. For clothes, since being worn is their purpose, I guess they now have one.
Millhaven Castle and The Birthday Present used to be random little strays too. While people liked Millhaven Castle, it didn’t belong with the semi-epic fantasy mood of Facets of Fantasy, so to improve Facets of Fantasy I took MC out. It was too short to stand alone, so it went to The Birthday Present. These two stories didn't fit with anything else I'd written, but they didn’t seem to go together either. Presenting them as a contrast was my initial idea, but that’s like wearing bright green with bright red. It only works sometimes, like at Christmas, and other times it’s just silly.
A sci-fi story about how mutants almost wiped out humans just had nothing to do with Millhaven’s little spinoff of period drama. Until I noticed (and my readers probably saw it before I did!) that Millhaven's setting needn’t actually be viewed as historical. In fact, while castles are from an older culture they still exist and can even be inhabited. Farming, socializing through dancing, and people holding a position of wealth or importance over others happen today and could certainly exist in the future. So gradually the visualization of Millhaven Castle moved from a separate world into another story about the Birthday Present world. The Birthday Present is about the old conflict between humans and mutants being ended. Millhaven Castle is a little episode that takes place within the society of the mutants themselves. Typical, middle-class people who aren’t connected to the royalty or the military that appear in TBP. The different regions of the country have a lot of autonomy and their regional leaders almost have a position of minor kings, like Lord Timson.
So the people in these two stories are in such different spheres that they have never interacted with each other, keeping their episodes distinct. I have already added a new introduction to the book, called "The World of Aure's Dominion," in which the connection between the two stories is clarified, plus I have assigned regional tags to the story locations. The Birthday Present mostly occurs in the Kaline district, of which Arnea is the capital, and Millhaven Castle takes place in the Milland district, of which Flangost is the capital. And the book's description now elaborates that GMFs are like superheroes gone bad and they tried to crush normal humans instead of saving them. Although that's not the end of the story, of course.
And there will be more updates.
This week I'm examining The Birthday Present in more detail and The Birthday Present and Ryan and Essie are both on sale. They are priced at $0.99 each, which is the lowest price they've had in about a year. Both are in group sale events and not only can you find some new authors (or maybe authors you’ve noticed for a while and this time their book is on sale!), you can see what types of books are similar to mine. Market context has historically been a little hard to get on these two books, specifically, so I encourage you to check out these sales.
The Summer SFF Bargain Books promo has The Birthday Present and emphasizes fairy tales, academy stories, military sci-fi, and attractive protagonists on the covers. It has mostly adult books, but with a few YA sprinkled in. Click here to visit it.
The Marvelous and Magical Fantasy promo has Ryan and Essie and a good list of intelligent, thought-provoking fantasy (think A Wrinkle in Time) that doesn’t sacrifice adventure while exploring ideas. It has books for all ages from children's to adult. Click here to visit it.
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I am starting a little series, In a Nutshell, based off of the Five Central Characters series that has been going on monthly. It explores some of the central five characters for each book in a more detailed way. And for The Birthday Present the ones to look at are Lucy from “The Birthday Present” and Lord Harry from “Millhaven Castle.”
In “Birthday Present,” it isn’t told from Lucy’s POV as much as from that of one of the boys at the military school she visits. Her important relationships are with the human beings in the colony she comes from. Aure, the other focus of the story, relates mostly to the culture he oversees, including the boys Lucy befriends. But Lucy has a job to do towards changing the society Aure has created. She is a very attractive and brave person in spite of her faults. She can be a bit stubborn, she is around very dangerous things without seeming to realize it, and she argues a lot. But that doesn’t negate her courage and her dedication to doing the best she can. She’s a well-intentioned girl even if she’s a bit overwhelmed by the things around her, and you don’t have to be perfect to do a good job or to stand up for what’s right.
In "Millhaven Castle," it’s similar in that the POV character, Alyce, isn’t quite what motivates the story. She is grabbed by the protagonists, Lord Harry and those around him like his brother. Lord Harry drives the story and his relationships with other Capsells determine a lot of what he does. Alyce sort of walks right into a situation that has a lot of anger bubbling up within it and she doesn’t quite understand because Harry is a very angry and moody person, but he tries to restrain it by acting in a jerky manner, all fits and starts. He is quick-tempered, often interrupts, and behaves oddly because he’s upset about things around him. He helps Alyce to show his disapproval of his brother, does not really explain why he’s helping, and does not let her see what a caring person he can really be. His inability to explain his motives is a hint they might not be 100% good, but he is viewed as a sympathetic character anyway.
So, both characters show there is a lot of subtext within The Birthday Present book. Both the stories have many relationships that are only hinted at. But sometimes it’s best to write that way because readers will be smart enough to figure out what’s going on.
And there will be more updates.
This post is about The Birthday Present, but I'll start by mentioning a GREAT bundle where you can find fantasy and historical books for review! For the next 2 weeks I and 19 other authors are offering adventure books for review. Mostly fantasy, with a few historical and steampunk titles. I’m providing 2 books, Facets of Fantasy and The Test of Devotion. All the authors want reviews! You can read a sample (first two chapters, in my case) before committing to the book, so that then you’ll be confident of actually finishing and reviewing later. Authors will give books through download or through Amazon gifting. Click this link to start looking for a book to sink into. https://storyoriginapp.com/to/LMsaifd
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Something about The Birthday Present would never blend into my other story collection, Facets of Fantasy, although I could see the practicality of not burdening people with too many drifting little collections. Wouldn’t it be so much better to present them with just one? But The Birthday Present, although it seems similar to the Facets stories, is actually more realistic and not so much of a fantasy adventure. "Millhaven Castle," however, in spite of its superficial lightness does share that realistic-even-a-touch-depressing quality. Which brings out the question—what makes a story seem lighter and what makes it seem gloomier?
It’s not a quality in the plot’s incidents, since "Millhaven Castle" is mostly a comedy of manners (since it’s in an imaginary world I imagine fantasy of manners is most accurate.) It’s in the state of the world the characters live in. Millhaven’s dippy little rural kingdom isn’t as extreme as the far-future world of Birthday Present, but both societies are at the same point. They feel hopeless and almost bored, locked in a long-going dispute with another group of people, an endless civil war of sorts, that has ground them into a state of futility. They really are going in circles all the time, with nothing to say, going over these same concepts without any freshnesss and increasingly without any interest. But it’s the way they’ve always lived and they can’t change.
Or can they?
TBP isn’t a hopeless story at all and neither is "Millhaven Castle." Both stories start at the end of this long, useless path the characters have traveled, and by the end things are looking up. People start to make positive changes. They start to express individuality, their own wishes, and independence. Breaking out of this stagnated system into new life. The last words spoken in The Birthday Present are (guess what?) “Happy Birthday.” Birthdays are celebrations of the life you’ve lived the past year, not a statement of defeat. And they promise another year to come. Birthdays are about hope. And Alyce, finally released from a tedious and very selfish hostility that has culminated in a king viewing her as a threat, decides to burn that old ball dress she was forced to wear to visit him. “Which, now she thought about it, was what she’d always really wanted to do.”
Now that’s a happy ending.
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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