I enjoyed working on the MerrySummer stories this year and it took just as much effort to revise and republish an older book as it would to create a new one. The fun of exploring a whole new world of ideas wasn't there like it is with something being discovered for the first time. However, I cut a lot of fluff from “Movies at the Beach” and tweaked “Sarcophagus” and “A Matter of Life and Hair” to make them more generalized satires instead of referring to specific works as they had in a few places. "Movies at the Beach" was really a short story concept and it shrank naturally as I fitted it for the anthology--long ago I had tried unsuccessfully to lengthen it into a standalone. Reworking also requires some creative effort, since it's impossible to remove a sentence without thinking of something to replace it and next thing you know you're rewriting. Channeling this creative effort into MerrySummer made me look forward even more to brainstorming new projects next year.
Writing is in some ways my entire life—not excluding more important concepts like religion or giving too much priority to something transient like the effect of a fictionalized world on an audience’s mind. But it is something I focus on all the time, with this desire to bring these imagined places before people’s attention until they respond to them, until they feel—“Yes, that’s real. That interests me because the concepts are just a reflection of what I see around me or what I’d like to see around me in the case of something fantastical or out-there.” So I guess I began to lament that MerrySummer hadn’t made it into a formal state quite a few years before. Because I was torn between on the one hand thinking—“I suddenly realize these stories have got to be there too,” and then thinking—“But that will delay the other things I’m working on by another year at least.”
However, the great thing about telling stories, and the rewarding thing about it, is that they exist for a reason. Every story ever written, not that anyone could possibly keep track of how many there have been, was based on an audience's need at one time. Maybe the need for that story didn’t last very long, like even less than a year or just a few months or so. But while it was there, the story existed for a reason. Some stories, of course, catch a nerve in audiences that makes them last much longer because they express a greater or longer-lasting need. So getting a perspective on all stories as a really vital form of expression, I look at MerrySummer not as yet another older story—or set of little stories in this case, but they string together-- I’ve polished up a bit while there are so many other ideas waiting. You have to think—“It meets a need right now. It has a reason to be out there.” And then I feel very proud of it.
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.
This week The Test of Devotion is on sale as part of a nice collection of discounted historical fiction books. All books are priced at $1.99 or less and the sale includes both historical romance and more general historical fiction. Genres include Regency, Christian, and Western. So whatever you prefer (or all of them if you love to soak up lots of historical!) follow this link to scout out some great new authors. I don't see as many sales of historical books compared to other genres on StoryOrigin, so this isn't one to miss.
This Merry Summertime's preorder phase is complete and the book is now live on Amazon. I have enrolled it in KU for one cycle, which means at this time it can be read for free if you have Kindle Unlimited. I’m still preparing the book for Apple, Kobo, etc, and KU should open up reading options for some of you in the meantime.
There is also a print edition which you can check out here for those of you who dig the good old-fashioned smell of paper. Just follow the link.
I look forward to posting about the five central characters and digging down into these stories a little bit more in the next couple months. When you know what kind of story you’re telling, it’s much easier to articulate that story to an audience so they can respond to it and locate elements that interest them. But while I have a general idea for how the book is positioned, since it’s new it is also good to let it get out there for the next couple weeks so responses can play a part in putting together exactly where this book falls in the plane of my publishing.
Here is the blurb again if some of you missed last month’s post about the book’s release:
This Merry Summertime is an anthology of seven comedy shorts. 4 of them (Sarcophagus; In the End the Story Ended; The Destiny of Princes; and A Matter of Life and Hair) are entertaining scripts that gently satirize the genres of paranormal fantasy, literary classics, silent film, and western romance while providing fresh takes and strong characters to tell these archetypical kinds of stories. The other 3 (Ella Substituted; Movies at the Beach; and Everwood) are short stories that use comedy adventure and mild fantasy elements to explore family life and young women’s place in the world. The theme of the book is reconciliation and renewal as the characters traverse through fiction tropes to find eventual peace and meaning in their lives and the stories celebrate youth, especially for girls, but for everyone who has happy memories of a time in their lives when life was an eternal—and sometimes hilarious—summer.
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
I write peaceful stories with happy endings. When I started writing, I wanted to write the kind of books I like to read. I wanted them to be upbeat and friendly books that make you feel like you're being whisked off on an adventure with friends. And there's also a purposefulness in that because many stories already written miss out on a great deal of what people experience every day.
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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.