Last Sunday I had a nice time out with two of my sisters, visiting the Scarborough Renaissance Festival up in Waxahachie, Texas. You see, it works like this—I am the oldest. Then there is Sister 2 (Hannah.) She got married at this Renaissance Festival in 2018. So when Sister 3 (Andrea) invited Sister 4 (Marianne) and I to go with her this month, I agreed because I wanted to see the pavilion where the wedding was held. The wedding day had been freaky—extremely cold for the time of year and we were freezing our toes off standing outside, some of us in costumes. (Me personally in plain street clothes, but still cold.) Think Pepa's wedding day being ruined by a hurricane type of freak weather. Encanto!
Wedding pictures were cut short because of the cold. Sister 4 and I went back to thaw out in our motel and didn't stay to enjoy the icy, windy Faire. Which meant, I realized when I revisited it, that I'd missed 98% of it. It was nostalgic to see the Pavilion again, now filled with some sort of crowd, so I didn't enter it because I was afraid I would disturb an event. I had really wanted to sit again on the bench I had sat at during the wedding to take a trip down memory lane. But this visit was different—hot and humid. I saw some jousting (huzzah), toured many shops but purchased only a few things, learned court dances, and admired some majestic birds of prey and the great skill of falconers who run a non-profit that cares for injured birds of prey.
Here are some pictures of the bits of merchandise that I got. A set of art cards signed by the artist; a little pottery sculpture of mushrooms (my aunt used to make things like this); some tiny earrings from a shopkeeper who helped us out and then we bought from him; and specialty lip butter from Sister 3, who likes the soap and candle stores in the Faire. I did not notice until Sister 4 pointed it out to me, but I bought the lip butter flavor Redrum—which is actually murdeR spelled backwards. Wow. Not sure what to think about that!
I also got some business cards made last week (finally) as well as some bookmarks, which means I now have something to give people when they ask about my work. I've been meaning to do this for literally years, but never got around to it. My first efforts at business cards were homemade affairs, about 15 years ago, because I couldn't afford anything else, but recently I've often wished I had real business cards or bookmarks to hand out. So I got those done at last—more pro than the last time!--so my name and website are written down and people can remember them after talking to me.
Celestine Princess rounds out the Palladia Trilogy. It was published late after my other books—4 years after my last new book, Bellevere House. When I started out, I just tried to get stories towards whoever would take a chance on reading them. But after 2017, something changed. For the first time there was an actual audience for these books. So it was like “what type person gets which book” and that process went on for about 2 years until I started to run out of books. At that point I rewrote the forgotten Test of Devotion, but it still wasn't enough because there were more readers who wanted a book and didn't have one. So I brought back some old skits from my blog, digging deep to find more material for people--This Merry Summertime—which filled a gap. But there were still some who didn't feel like they had a book. It's that moment of "Oh No, I missed something." Finally I realized I just did not have anything for these people, so I had to write one for them, and the obvious place to put it amongst my other books would be to tie up loose ends in Palladia. So Celestine was written to be a completion—and that's what is so great about it. If more and more people had not gotten interested in my work over the last few years, Celestine would never have been written.
My name is Arielle. I’m the one who doesn't like people who can't fit in.
Even when I'm one of them. In Dorilantz the conflict between the EC and Invaders isn’t a circular rigmarole between similar factions. It’s war. War on my village and my family, in particular. Which turns into a war on me.
You think I’m being angsty, don’t you? It can’t be that bad, you say. I’m exaggerating. But after a masked leader of the Invaders kidnaps you and forces you into a ritual of being shamed and mocked and yelled at over nothing, it’s hard not to draw your own conclusions. He’s out to get me. And he sure likes to tell me what to do.
He's terrifying. Everyone is so afraid of him they can barely speak in his presence. He carries a big heavy metal stick and he’ll hit you on the head with it too. And he used to be EC, it seems. When two girls from Palladia, named Katia and Consuela, came to help me, I learned the danger from The Man isn’t that he wants to hurt me. It’s that I could so easily become just like him. The line between EC and Invader was always murky—and it has never been thinner than now.
And there will be more updates.
Last month I listened to a webinar on how to do audiobooks. I’d always considered them out of my range because it was way (and I do mean WAY) too expensive to hire out the work and DIY was hopelessly technical. I knew the market for audio was huge, but I always thought of it as a somewhat optional format and not only because of cost. It was because unless you can get Shakespearean actors or better yet a cast recording with multiple voices (both of which were what I listened to on cassette tape growing up) listening to an audiobook doesn't half match what you can imagine in your head while reading. But there's actually a pretty big market for simple author recordings because readers want to feel close to authors and hearing their voice adds that sense of trust, like they know how the author perceives and intends the book to be.
While nothing really comes close to equalling an ensemble with multiple voices for recording fiction, especially if it's a complex book with lots of characters, it's fairly straightforward and inexpensive to do simple author recordings yourself. Once I realized there is actually a market for authors reading their own books (rather than author reading being a necessity when other narrators aren't possible), I came away from the webinar buzzing with questions, plans, and movements towards creating my own audiobooks. There are three primary reasons for my doing audiobooks.
It will take a little while to get the ball rolling on this, because there is a learning curve involved. But having mastered all the formatting of print and ebooks, it is really exciting for me to break into something new. Suddenly everything feels so fresh. My books come alive in my head in an entirely new way and I’m sure they’ll do that for readers (cough, listeners) as well. With this Sunday being Easter, it’s joyful to reflect on how much of a quiet rebirth is taking place in my writing. Those dead times of very little engagement are part of the journey. This will happen to every writer eventually. But it doesn’t have to be the end of the story and for me personally, as a Christian, renewal after everything falls apart is what I truly believe in.
The second Palladia book, Consuela, is a story that came back from nothing. And like most things that were resurrected, it looks quite different in its new form. It was the middle part of a series, wedged between two halves of what became Victoria: A Tale of Spain. Although it was a lively story, it wasn’t doing anything for anyone, really. My sister once told me frankly she didn’t know why I wrote it and I think at the time that’s how a lot of people felt about my writing overall! Victoria was really a sort of biopic about my family and my trip to Europe in 2011. Consuela, however, was a work of fiction. It was a very, very loose spinoff retelling of a classic novel and the characters are exclusively fiction. After its publication in 2014, it was also abruptly discontinued. While I didn’t know why way back in 2018. I did start to realize it should separate from Victoria, so I revived it in an entirely new form. It took a while for this transition to solidify because people can have trouble accepting a big change like that. (This actually happened to Jesus during the Easter story, by the way. "You can't be here. You're dead, right?") So many out there will be a doubting Thomas when faced with something that goes against what they expect. The actual narrative in Consuela really hasn't changed that much—but the way it is placed among my works means everything.
My name is Consuela. I’m the one who doesn’t want to fit in.
In 2335 on Earth almost everybody is either EC or Invader. If you’re caught in between them or mixed-class, it’s tough. I’m bored by the whole thing, though. I’m an Invader to the core—I’ve got everything down pat. And I wish I wasn’t just exactly what I’m supposed to be.
My secret is I’ve always wanted to know more about the EC. I don’t know why we’re supposed to hate them. And when this random old EC woman asks me to come with her as a translator (because guess what, centuries of fighting between our two groups has created lots of barriers!) I couldn’t turn it down. What I didn’t anticipate was how much trouble my new friend is in. I always thought EC were pack-minded and loyal, but it seems I was wrong. I might turn a few heads by spending time with Miss Plummer—but if your friends turn out to be your enemies, maybe you need your enemies to become your friends.
It's Palladia, though. Here both enemy and friend are words that so often mean the same thing. Would you trust me? I’ve got to shrug and say maybe you shouldn’t.
And there will be more updates.
Most people will only be nice to someone if they can profit from it.
You’ve seen it. You know I’ve seen it too. So have all your friends and all my friends. Christians often say that God’s love is “unconditional” and for years that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. It didn’t sound very appealing because the phrase "unconditional love” implied there was such a thing as conditional love. Theoretically, conditional love shouldn't really exist. For love to be real it has to involve giving to someone else with a motive other than profit. But what people were trying to say is that we CALL a lot of things Love, Affection, or Caring, but it's not the real deal. “So-and-so is my best friend, my bestie best bestie”—until it benefits me to take something from them, bump them out to get a bigger platform on social media, or judge them to increase my own standing. “So-and-so is my spouse and we are unbelievably happy, praising each other all the time”—and they divorce a few years later. “So-and-so is my new favorite author or musician or actor”—until a while later you’ve never heard of them or even actively want them to quit producing material.
The list could go on forever, but I won’t bore you with it. There are so many examples of manipulative behavior that feigns closeness but serves yourself. Best friend, praising someone else, or calling someone a favorite are forms of showing affection. And in this case conditional affection that evaporates in the face of a new opportunity. By contrast, a relationship with God or with anyone who really cares about you is sincere. However, ire, rage, and hostility can also be emotions that are insincere. Most find that hard to believe because they assume if something is negative it must be true! Perhaps it’s the personal threat of negativity. It makes us insecure, certain that the emotions are genuine because our vulnerability is genuine. Well, we might really be vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean that our critics mean what they say. Their criticism and accusations, like their love and friendship, can evaporate in a minute if they suddenly feel it’s expedient to be fond of us. 😉
For instance, it’s common these days to use absurdly intense labels to describe others, like racist, terrorist, or Nazi. People are shocked by literally everything. Almost everything is the next great threat to society and an emergency. But this does not mean that the people saying this really mean it. They are just getting all worked up because it helps them achieve their goals. They have Conditional Negativity, which is just like Conditional Friendship--a thing of the moment. This behavior creates great cynicism about any publicly stated opinions. For example, they might describe Russian president Vladimir Putin and a typical pedestrian on a small-town street corner exactly the same way (namely as a terrible danger to mankind) although Putin invaded another country and the typical pedestrian merely said something they didn't particularly like. As far as they're concerned the pedestrian is just as guilty of killing people as Putin is because they don't care what those words really mean. Frequent exhibitions of overblown, obviously motivated reactions on every topic make us just roll our eyes and feel that we can't believe what anyone says even if it is true. We now assume all the emotions shown are fake. It can be hard to trust people and to believe they have real feelings about you or about anyone else.
I didn’t think of it at the time, but when writing City of the Invaders I felt very far from the issues it explores and that’s something I’m proud of. I wanted to be free of ulterior motives when writing a very charged type of storyline. So I picked a scenario where I was an outside observer, unlike the protagonist Katia who is deeply tied to all the conflicts in the narrative. It’s an urban story, about subcultures within a mega-city and about a rather nasty divide that simmers between two groups that are always at war but have a lot in common. This story is likely to remind people of politics in real life and to create strong feelings. I knew readers believed I was personally invested in it (for instance, the little tidbits about performing on stage came from my real experiences, didn't they?) And if I had been invested, it wouldn't have been a good story at all. But things that tied into something I'd done weren't important memories of mine and the broader-reaching plot was remote from my preoccupations. As I look back on this book, I realize it was really pretty good. When certain situations are very complex, the worst thing you can do is to have too many opinions. A tale about a big city on the brink of war, written by a girl who always lived on a peaceful farm, was about as much creative distance as was humanly possible! 😛
My name is Katia. I’m the one who doesn’t fit in.
It’s 2335 and people on Earth have been fighting in two clans for centuries. We’ve got colonies all over the solar system now—you know, those cities on Mars people have been planning to build like forever? I wish I had been born out there because they have no fighting between two groups that are essentially identical and won’t admit it. True, EC can read and don’t handle technology and for the Invaders it’s the opposite. But that's just a cosmetic difference over two sides who are similar in every other way. If you say that, though, you'll get in big trouble.
I don’t live in one of those outer-space colonies. I live on Earth. And in the portion of Earth where I live, the former imperial regions, everybody is EC or Invader. Except me. Did you notice I haven’t told you which one I belong to? That’s right. Because I belong to both of them. And that means I really belong to neither. I’m the “weird kid.” The outcast. The one who does everything wrong.
I'm not sure if they think getting involved in gangster politics and accidentally wrecking the opening night of a theater production counts as wrong. But that isn't going to keep me from doing it.
And there will be more updates.
Young Adult Fiction Writer
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