Well, snow is a part of winter for many of you, depending on where you live. But for me in central Texas, it’s rarely a factor. The last snow that covered the ground enough to make snowballs or a bit of a snowman was 16 years ago. Many winters go by with essentially no snow at all—perhaps a little ice or freezing rain. But this month we got a little miracle. Snow all day on a Sunday, white blanketing the ground and dusting trees with silver. Snowflakes fell on our faces as we made the biggest snowman we’ve ever had (okay, so it was small because we’re not used to making them) and made snow angels. Carved our dog’s name in huge snow letters on the front yard that actually lasted into the next day— P. U. F. F. Snow remained on people’s roofs and snowmen lingered in their yards for a couple of days even though temps were above freezing. It’s been almost 40 years (1982) since we had that much snow!
You should know that This Merry Summertime has review copies on BookSprout. They will be available over the next two weeks. Reviews can be put up anytime once you have downloaded the book, but new download copies will no longer be available after two weeks. I plan to start building a street team this year so I have reviewers lined up for when the third Palladia book releases. I'll give you a head's-up when I have a signup form, as this will give you a chance to advance read and give feedback on my first entirely new, never-before-seen work of fiction in 4 years. But prior to getting a street team together I've got MerrySummer on BookSprout because I can painlessly keep it there whenever convenient and I wouldn't mind getting a few reviews on this book. Feel free to be one of those reviewers--just follow the link to get started.
The Palladia Trilogy is gaining more detail since I want to fit the third Palladia book into the others in a way that develops a solid vision. I don’t want to use ideas that are very similar to the first books, so with #3 on the way I’m going down pretty deep into the subtleties of this future world to draw out a new protagonist who will synchronize well with ones from the earlier books and interact with them. But I have to give her something to do that makes Palladia 3 not only a unique story in itself but also a link that unifies the first two Palladia books together and determines what the overall purpose of the series is. At first, it never seemed that this book would be necessary, but when stories evolve and grow to meet an audience, good things start to happen and now it is beyond essential. I’m excited for it.
Description focus this week: The Test of Devotion. I used to think of this as a rugged story with an American western setting. I thought it was all action. And it also easily came across as dry as dust and mildly unfocused when I described it. From High Noon to The Magnificent Seven to childhood favorites like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and today’s space spinoff The Mandalorian, there’s a western for everyone. But while there are many kinds of western stories, they are not all alike, and turns out mine isn't really a simple action-adventure, although it looked that way when the description was so flat. After I upped the emotion and initial pull of the way the book is presented just a bit, what emerged instead was a focus on compassion and trust. It's a two-way conversation about respect that the characters gain through both their own effort and the changed feelings of those they know. The development of the story changed a while back to make Viajero more of a caring person than he’d been shown initially and since he carries a lot of the book's POV that really paid off in strengthening the overall theme into something about human integrity and reparation of divisive relationships.
And there will be more updates.
Digging deeper into The Test of Devotion always brings rewards, as I found when I returned to the first draft last year. It has such a great plot, in which interlocking characters pursue separate journeys with one goal in mind—what to do about beautiful, possibly out-of-her-depth, rebellious Arabella. It has POV characters for both sides of the plot, and we switch back and forth between them pretty systematically. Outside of Devotion, the only other novel where I've used multiple POV is Harrisons, but its function is merely practical for incidents that the narrators (Betty or Letty) might not be able to show if I used just one of them. In Devotion the two plots frame each other and head towards one conclusion, swirling around Arabella, as we follow two teenagers who are approaching the same story from different angles.
Viajero is a boy who is born and raised into the outlaw lifestyle, since his father is an outlaw. He also likes it pretty well and views it as a dashing role in society, which causes him embarrassment gradually as he meets new people while finding Arabella and he learns that becoming a criminal is not really an admired life decision. After he is hired by Arabella’s boyfriend to help him navigate an unfamiliar western landscape in search of her, we follow Viajero’s view on the adventure instead of Trevalyn’s.
Jenny, similarly, is a girl who is viewed as a helpful figure around Arabella and balances the Viajero/Trevalyn chapters with feminine situations in a hotel where she spends time with Arabella as a companion/assistant/friend. Her father, who runs the hotel where Arabella is staying, isn’t very popular and Jenny is self-conscious about her role in society, unlike Viajero. Although not formally hired as an attendant, she rapidly becomes one and we follow her efforts to help the attractive protagonist get out of danger.
And there will be more updates.
I almost forgot when I planned this post (1st post of the month will be in the Central Five Series) that it goes out to many of you on the 4th. Independence Day in the US! And that's actually great because the book for this week is a western and that's about as American as it gets.
The Test of Devotion is a story about danger and deception. The setting of the American West during the 1850s was perfect for telling this story of tough people, but behind the general surface of action-adventure are some subtle layers. It’s a surprisingly nuanced book. The Test of Devotion wasn’t the story it seemed to be several years ago and a lot of that goes right back to the people it is about. Its characters rise to the surface in unexpected ways, because in this story about deception most of its protagonists aren’t what they seem to be when you first see them.
So, the Central Five Characters that bring focus to this book are:
Arabella plays a big role in generating the entire plot. A brave and independent girl, she isn’t afraid to head out into the unknown. Although she is pretty and charismatic enough for the job, she finds she’s not quite heroine material just yet. Marrying a man who doesn’t wish her well puts her in danger of betrayal. But she comes through it all and earns the right to be the book’s protagonist.
Benito is an orphan with a delightful bad attitude. All spunk and spines, he takes care of himself although he has no money and no family except one negligent, adopted older brother (Viajero.) Benito always, repeat always, stands up for himself, whether you were challenging him or not, and he can singlehandedly start a rescue.
Governor Wallace achieved much in his past life before coming out to Texas to become a successful rancher. A wise mentor and a good friend, he’s viewed as invulnerable and noble by the young people in the story. He contributes little to the action since the others do so much for themselves, but pitches in when his authority is needed.
Jenny is the daughter of a missionary who bought a hotel in southern Texas. She’s a practical person who is up to dealing with anyone—even criminals like the sinister Hawk who shadows Arabella. She’d probably describe herself as nothing much, just a girl working in a hot, dusty place. And she’d be right—until she got involved in an adventure.
Lanmont brings all the intrigue to the story. As a smart man he is a natural for working in government and he’s a fast learner and takes quick action in everything he does. But he gets a little arrogant, a little full of himself, and starts a situation he can’t handle. Looking for an easy way out is rarely a good strategy—but it makes for a lot of twists and turns.
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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