Last year I became a driving teacher. Our family uses the popular Driver Ed in a Box method because graduates of this program have over 80% reduction in collisions. (Disclaimer: IF they follow the program. I made an error in teaching things out of order and you'll see below what happened to me....) After months of listening to audio, watching video, scanning the road for hazards, and practicing parking on hot summer afternoons, I started to see spots before my eyes. Spots of anxiety, of trying to prepare for any possible error, of worry that someone is going to back into my car. I’m endlessly afraid of a collision because as the teacher, I am responsible. But situations come up through the actions of other drivers, actions I can’t control, and I still have to be the responsible adult.
Actually, this has been a fantastic experience. I’ve loved spending more time with my sister working as a team on something and it was amazing to see how much knowledge I had that I could pass on to her. Now you might wonder, if this was so great, WHY I was paranoid all the time. That’s easy. 😊 It’s because our second day together in the car, I introduced some material too early and soon we smashed through a pillar on the porch and bent the side of the lawnmower like a plastic plate. It’s a good thing the lawnmower was there otherwise she would have driven through the house! That was a terrifying afternoon. We got very lucky, of course. The pillar was easily replaced and the lawnmower could be bent back into shape. The car was not damaged. This picture is of our driveway, the lawnmower (see on the right), and our neighbor’s dogs who happen to be there. But I show you this picture because we didn’t take one right after the collision. We were too busy and I was thinking “got to take responsibility for this” the whole time. But it made me a much better teacher in the end and I think a smarter person too.
Any of you ever tried to do something you haven’t done before? New, for the first time? Learning or teaching can both be scary and nobody out there can say they nailed them right away. They might act like they were flawless. But actually they simply don’t remember the past very clearly and are lumping their since acquired skills with the memories of first learning as if the two had existed side by side. There is a rule (always applied with a bit of a sarcastic smile) that hindsight is 20/20. But with every rule you’ll find an exception and it's those who pretend they had no trouble along the journey. Their hindsight is frankly myopic and inaccurate. We all make mistakes starting out--especially if we are busy and juggling several things at once. And everyone I know is always proud to say they've been busy and have had too much going on.
This Merry Summertime was a charming example of a flop when I released it a couple of years ago. That was my fault since I was very busy when I published it--apparently too busy to notice what really links the book is not humor, but young women because it says so in the subtitle. It's "An Anthology Celebrating Family, Fantasy, and Young Women," not "A Collection of Satirical Short Stories." Like when I taught my sister driving techniques out of order though they were clearly delineated in front of me, I was just being stupid and I wrote a description for the book as a set of satires when that's not even what's in it. (The result of stress, is my theory. 2020 was a hard year.) True there is a lot of comedy in the book, but it only serves to lighten the mood around some pretty serious ideas. Each story features women and girls who dictate the plots even when the men and boys think they have all the power. Naturally, since 85% of the anthology deals with bygone eras of history. And with last Monday being Valentine's Day, it's neatly appropriate to talk selling points on a book that praises the power of women in their relationships, since every short in it has a romantic plot too. 😊
A book for princesses of every age . . .
Young or old, are you a Princess? Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter at all. Powerful or commonplace, it isn’t important. Girls are princesses and women are princesses at heart. This set of seven comedy stories about royals and royalty celebrates the princess in everyone. Here are the names of the protagonists—the very royal young ladies.
Meet Arangiphaten: A haughty Egyptian queen whose romance with a vampire puts a lot of teenagers into sometimes slapstick danger—and eventually love triumphs over all.
Meet Helena and Nora: Two ordinary young women who get tangled up in Shakespeare’s magical world of romance—one as an actress playing Ophelia and one as a character in a comedy revision of All’s Well That Ends Well.
Meet Ella: A Cinderella in a land filled with fairies who think they’re better than people—until one of them takes a lot of interest in her.
Meet AnnaRuth and Everwynne: Teenage girls filled with all the angst and self-importance of growing up, as well as all its beauty.
Meet The Heroine: True to her name, a lovely young woman who comes like a princess to a befuddled western town and eventually restores it to sanity.
Light-hearted with just enough snark to be true to human nature, wit adds depth to these classic tales of love and friendship. In their families, their friendships, and their romances, girls bring a special touch to the world.
And there will be more updates.
Quiet Sense of Completion
In the last few years, I've played a lot of handheld video games on my phone. They’re easy, free, and some are quite addictive. I’ve tried collecting baby dragons, meandering through a Chinese imperial court, and crushing 157 levels of heart-shaped candies. Right now I am designing outfits in an Asian fashion game called Love Nikki: Dress-Up Queen and playing a Star Wars game with some competitive gameplay and acquisition of an assortment of characters from this sci-fi franchise. Galaxy of Heroes began as a way to introduce characters from every era of the Star Wars franchise, including the non-canonical (but extremely popular) Old Republic, as well as the controversial Prequel Era, the acclaimed Original (Imperial) Era, the new Sequel Era, and several successful TV series set in various periods. I learned about some of the characters in the SW Universe from playing this game, long before I actually saw the source material.
One of these characters was a villain named Cad Bane. He appeared in a handful of episodes in the Clone Wars TV series, which I didn’t see when it first came out. I discovered this character had been an original concept from the first Star Wars movie in 1977, but never actually made it into the film. So he was recycled and popped up decades later on TV. He’s based on western outlaw types and is a killer-for-hire with a huge cowboy hat. Really belongs with the “space western” angle of this franchise. But when the game developers started to use a new upgrade chip—called a “zeta” chip—they didn’t apply one to Cad Bane. Zeta chips come with new abilities for the character and since zetas came years after the game started, a lot of the characters were reworked to include zetas. But not this guy, although he was very popular. When asked why this was, the developers just shrugged. They seemed lost for words. Why didn’t Cad Bane get a “zeta” ability? Well—he just didn’t. They simply couldn’t think of any new abilities to give him.
As I’ve worked through my books, 4 of them went through mild to substantial rewrites. Palladia grew and grew and now it seems there’s more to The Birthday Present as well. The long-forgotten MerrySummer stories suddenly popped back up too. And after linking Birthday Present into the Palladia timeline, the first place I looked, naturally, was Facets of Fantasy. Would it develop gaps in and connections in this way? And what about Ryan and Essie? But neither of them did. A long-running theme with both Facets and Ry/Es was that I always thought there was more to the story. For years I fiddled with little sequels to the Facets stories. Ry/Es ends on a note of possibility the children might return to Caricanus. But the only sequel that really went anywhere was the one for “The Trouble with Taranui,” which eventually became City of the Invaders. The only link I was able to make between Facets and my other books was to tie it into Ry/Es—a tenuous thread that never quite fleshed-out fully, but that also did feel real and sincere. There IS something in common between these two books.
They are both fantasy set in outer space. The world of "Halogen Crossing" is so high-tech it could easily be set on a distant planet and not a fantasy world. "Jurant" is already set in outer space. I tied Renari in by having Ryan’s long-lost twin—also an astronomy buff—tells the mythology of the planets she looks at, one of which is Renari. So Renari is a planet on which fantasy things happen, not a fantasy world. But after creating those linkages, the stories in Facets just closed over into their own dimension and Ryan and Essie drifted around them like a satellite. I couldn’t connect or expand them any further and I couldn’t write more stories to continue them.
I’ve felt this was problematic because I want to do an epic fantasy novel, preferably Christian speculative, and I would like it to sync into my already existing books rather than create an extraneous new world. But the worlds in Facets only seem to exist in these 3 stories. I can’t seem to write more about them, though the promise is always looming like a fruit just out of reach. Ryan and Essie was written with a blatant idea of sequels in mind and its ancient mythology would be suited to the story I want to write next. But again, Ry/Es is complete. It ends where it does. Just like Palladia and Birthday Present started to expand, Facets and Ry/Es have contracted and become stable. They belong together. So when I do write that epic fantasy book, I’ll have to find a way to develop the world that lines up with my other work, but doesn’t include these two books. I’m sure I will, though, when the time comes. Coming up with ways to get stories written is what authors DO.
And there will be more updates.
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Halfway through the 4th Palladia book, I took a break to go back into Celestine Princess and start some minimal editing--finding some overly long paragraphs to be trimmed and some dialogue to be clarified. All basic stuff for a second look at a book before getting it on to the next phase. The more I write Palladia books, the more of them keep coming. It seems there’s always more to the story when it comes to this projection of the future 300 years from now. And over time, the “always more we need to explore” aspect has spread beyond Palladia into my other sci-fi and fantasy work.
Aside from Ryan and Essie, my other SFF books are unrelated novella and novelette collections, since I got a lot of short fiction ideas early in my writing journey. That was all well and good until a small glitch between The Birthday Present and Palladia set up a domino effect. TBP had always been this individual futuristic story spinning on its own orbit. It had more links to the seemingly unrelated Millhaven Castle than to anything else and since it was out of print for years, there was even less reason to worry about it. But as Palladia grew and grew, I realized it was important that the timelines between these two visions of the future not clash.
It’s fine for different authors to describe wildly different concepts of a future that’s been invented for their fiction—one, for instance, shows the world as collapsing into dust-piles and nonstop thievery as a result of an ecological disaster, while another author instead shows the exact distance in the future (say, 100 years) as so high-tech that robots have replaced people and everyone is extraordinarily wealthy except for some unfortunate rebels that the robots don’t like. But works by the SAME author should not contradict each other. Whatever history of a fantasy world or of the future you are constructing, it still has to be logical even if it’s imaginary.
I’d already set The Birthday Present 1000 years in the future, long after Palladia. But if it was set 1000 years after our time, Aure would be ruling at the time of the Palladia stories and I’ve yet to write one where he’s anywhere in sight. So instead, a marginal tweak of just a few numbers set The Birthday Present 1000 years after the time of Palladia—1300 after our time. Why does this matter? Well, once I made the change for the sake of consistency, I realized I needed to write more about this dimly seen farther future. Palladia has four books now to detail its era, but the TBP era has scant coverage. And, of course, I noticed another thing right away.
What happened in those 1000 years between Palladia and The Birthday Present/MC? So not only do we really need another book about the characters who appear in The Birthday Present so we can see more of the “Aure’s Dominion” era, there are all sorts of gaps between the two eras. And yes, there now are two “eras” for a lengthy future scenario instead of a couple of unrelated sci-fi books because lining up them up also linked them by default. I will say I am very much looking forward to finding out if all of my sci-fi and fantasy books are going to reveal hidden cracks and gullies like this. 😊
And there will be more updates.
Young Adult Fiction Writer
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