My parents have always gardened. Spending my childhood on a farm, my earliest memories are of things growing in the soil and of animals that eat the growing things. Tall corn that’s green when the short waving wheat is golden. Cattle chewing on grass and feed in large square fields separated from me only by a fence. Corner plots of soybeans, acres of yellow canola (grown by somebody else, not us), and the many fruit trees that have come and gone in our orchard. Fruit trees have a limited life cycle, assuming borers don’t get to them even earlier. 😊
So we’ve usually had a garden. My mother tried to grow almost everything at least once when I was a kid. When I was older, cement blocks were installed around the garden to bolster it up because that area of the yard floods a lot if it rains. (Lots of deep standing puddles = bad for what you grow, especially root vegetables. Pretty obvious!) Last year we started gardening again. Our garden used to be bigger, but this year we're only using about a third of our old garden space. In the picture, you can see a new patch we’ve just carved out. This picture was taken a month ago and we now have onions planted there. Soon there will be other vegetables too. Behind the hay is a little patch of reddish leaves, which is the strawberry bed. We planted the strawberries last year. Prior to that, we hadn’t grown strawberries for about 35 years. They look small and flat now because of the winter, but they will perk up and have a crop this year.
To me, the work of being an author—including rewrites and marketing—is a lot like the gardening and growing cycle. It’s O.K. to be imperfect. Not every idea will catch on. There's a lot of trial and error and a lot of audience factors that you can't change any more than gardeners can control the weather. Seeds are planted all the time and don’t come up. We set out a lot of parsley plants last year and only about 5 toughed it out all through the winter. And the same with books. You just look instead at the ones that do grow. And keep growing. And keep growing.
And yield a harvest!
And there will be more updates.
During the last 2 1/2 years, I’ve steadily blogged and posted on social media about working on all my previous material. My goal was to develop a coherent label, something people could recognize and feel confident about reading. They would know who I was and what I “offered,” a connection that was lacking in my early publishing years. Everyone drifts at first until they get a handle on something new, including publishing. At least, I really hope this is true—otherwise, I was just a super-clutz at first. 😊
While this was going on, I didn’t put out any additional books. My most recent book, A Year with the Harrisons, was just an older story that got delayed in publication. So after Bellevere House, which was part of a group project in 2017, I went on creative shutdown and into branding mode. Every time I would try to work on new ideas, I had to return to what was already out there and make it better. As a result, these earlier books became continually NEW as their audiences and marketing grew more structured to get them in line with a developing brand of low-key, pleasant fiction.
Working on all 9 books at once involved a bit of rewriting, some editing, a lot of new cover design, and major analysis. Lots and lots and lots of analysis of the story components and how they measured up. I became a one-track feedback machine, from my own perceptions to the reactions of other people. And as those books got whipped into shape, it was pretty full-time, you might say. It wasn’t possible to add a tenth—a really new publication—to the list yet, much as I wanted to.
But I am creating new ideas and I hope to move forward this year into the next phase—a new book!
And there will be more updates.
There are still a few loose ends that need to be tied up with my other books. But I’m starting to look ahead to working on Temmark Osteraith. I wanted to do that months ago, but things can get set back. It’s important to lay a solid foundation and getting all my books in order was an essential part of that. It’s actually building a house to last instead of throwing some sticks together because you need shelter in the moment.
The world of Temmark Osteraith used to be the “Milland” world and appeared in a couple of stories about a girl named “Alyce” who got into all kinds of trouble. So it feels long ago—but also moving forward in an important way. I finished most of the story of what will now be Temmark Osteraith fifteen years ago and I’m such a different person now, in a lot of ways, that I think the audience attitude to the book now will be quite different from the audience for Milland. Or even for some of my other books published more recently.
Temmark Osteraith has maybe a bit of a wilder aspect, if you’d like to call it that, than the old world of Alyce’s Milland. It was this very off-beat, funny, kind of adventure in a period-historical type of world. Whereas in Temmark Osteraith we have a futuristic world, characters that aren’t even human, and a house that still a bit resembles an old mansion, but with an unpredictable personality of its own. A lot is different now from that original draft—setting, character names, some of the plot, you name it—but it still has things that are similar too. A bridge between the past and where my writing is today, to the extent I think it actually brings out the story that was always underlying Milland instead of replacing it.
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.