If you're an author, you'll hear a lot of advice about making the majority of your books link together into a series. Preferably a long series, perhaps with connected novellas, prequels, and other perks. The reasons usually given are: that it's honestly easier to keep writing in a world that's already been created, spinning out more stories in that world, than to invent new worlds and characters from scratch every time; and also that it gives readers a feeling of continuity. They know pretty much what they are going to get from you because it's all in the same world, whereas if you do lots of standalone projects, lovely and unique as each might be, readers aren't sure they will have the same feelings about your new book as about your last one because it's simply 100% different.
Ease of writing--what I call "lazily churning out"--books isn't appealing for me, nor should it be to anyone who is thinking carefully. Readers can always tell when an author has put in a thorough effort and as a series or loose set of interconnected books, shorts, and prequels drags on they will recognize that dialed-in feeling. I read an interesting article recently, when I was looking up behind-the-scenes on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (a great old western, by the way.) When I scrolled down, I saw bits of an interview with two actors in the series Yellowstone, about what it was like to work with Kevin Costner. Kevin Costner has been around a long time. He made some of his famous movies when I was a kid. So by now he has been a household name for years. The others said they were surprised by how hardworking and humble he was. He never treated the production in a cavalier way, he was never arrogant, and he never expected to do less because he was a big star. The quality of the work remained as important to him as it was when he first started acting. The article clearly portrayed their respect for this man.
So interconnecting my books because it's sheerly easier to get readers involved in the same world, with minimal effort from me, is definitely not my goal. BUT there is a good reason to link my books more closely. The reason is not author comfort, it's reader comfort. I've bounced all over the place in many genres and while I have certainly taken the time to work hard on each book, readers might not be sure what they're getting. (Other than that it is a quality story, of course.) Exactly what quality story, though? In a time when about 90% of books are a burn experience for readers--and trust me, I read a lot because I love books and I've been burned many, many times--trust is really important. (It's also true that many times I have loved a book I read, obviously, or I would not still be writing or reading now!) I've been mulling for a while now about how to connect my stories better. I do have one trilogy, but the rest are all stand-alones in different genres. How could I link them? The best way is of course to write a reader magnet--a story meant to be given away as a sample--because I need one anyway. In the past I've given away my actual books in place of a dedicated magnet and that's not a great strategy.
For several months I've been planning to write a new story to be used promotionally that will link all my stories together through the element of time travel. Because I have historical eras I'll need a way to get those characters to interact with modern ones and since I have science fiction books, a character in one of them can find a time-travel machine. Time-travel also makes it possible to alter the ages of the characters so they can be older or younger or even meet an older version of themselves. The concept is for a few selected characters from each book to bump into each other using time-travel and then have an adventure together, with a small appendix in the back that lists which books they came from so you can read more about a character you really enjoyed in the sample. I'm also planning additional stories using the same idea (episodic adventures for my characters in time travel) to be sold as exclusive content on my website and I hope to add other products besides fiction into the webstore.
I have been so busy I keep putting it off. I haven't found the time to just sit down and write a story these days. But I'm going to get this story written soon, so consider this announcement a prophecy of sorts. I will put up a short-term link for you to get the story when it's done. Its main purpose is to attract newsletter subscribers, after all, and to start readers off with a linked, connected view of all my stories and how they fit together. The download will expire quickly though so you'll want to snap it up when you open that email.
And there will be more updates.
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.
Young Adult Fiction Writer
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