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.
The Birthday Present (incl. Millhaven Castle) has a lovely new cover! This was the first of my books to be published. Ironically, it's also the last to get a new cover. I tried renovating the cover several times this year, but I kept returning to old images and ideas. But this time something entirely new was brought forward in the design. The tricky part has always been articulating why these two stories belong together, but I'm learning more and more about the stories and that is shown in the new cover. With a serious, foggy-morning sort of ambiance and a strong blue color scheme, this cover reflects "The Birthday Present" story. And the historical (but not too accurate) nature of the girl's costume and her braided, elegant hairstyle bring in some of "Millhaven Castle."
And there will be more updates.
Millhaven Castle has always been a unique story. It wasn’t actually much like the original story with these characters that I’d worked on for years before, but it sprang up on its own with a little village of idyllic-but-look-more-carefully people living on the edge of an old secret in the kingdom. These people are the Sherbans and over time their culture has declined. But they’re still very dedicated to it and believe it or not, they think there’s something in all this opposition to a royal dynasty so long after said dynasty has become established. Nobody cares for their opinion, clearly, and constantly making dissent to the government your brand name is obviously not a great idea.
But Sherbans are very stubborn people and not as friendly as they look. Oh, they have down-home-values, sensible style of dress, rural farming and gardening ways, and all of that. But they know where the real value is even if they don’t see all the details and even if the situation looks risky. Long before it becomes apparent a Sherban named Alyce holds the secret to the Falknor’s succession, all the Sherbans remain confident there is some value in their culture after all.
They also aren’t as easily oppressed as they look. The reason a messenger from the king is such news in Alyce’s little corner of the world is because Capsells RARELY—and I mean RARELY-visit them. When Capsells come, they get chased off with rocks thrown by Sherban boys (Who have really good accuracy, by the way.) So they get left alone in the lovely vales of Milland. Sherban lands are the sort of peaceful, sweet place where you’d like to go on honeymoon. Except for the Sherbans being there, of course. Like I said, they’re not always the most welcoming.
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.