Central Five: Ryan and Essie
Ryan and Essie is a children’s story that started with some drafts written when I was quite young. Of course, that original story got a substantial polish by the time I returned to the manuscript about twenty years later. But the idea of two children who are pushed together by a larger world that wants them to team up was what always defined the book, from the childish draft into the finished story that built itself around Ryan and Essie’s incompatibility. At times this space adventure and its world-building of the planet of Caricanus show evidence of a young mind learning to tell a story. But I wouldn’t be the first author to complete an idea that they discovered in early writing years and the two protagonists do have a vividness that tugged me back into finishing their story after putting it aside for so many years.
So for the Five Central Characters that bring focus to this weird, but special little story. Since Ryan and Essie are both critical to the book, I’ve foregone both of them so neither one gets favored. So these FCC characters explore the world that wants these kids to work together so badly.
Prince Alavtar is the son of a king who rules a hidden castle built out of diamonds. It is the only castle in the eastern and middle part of the planet that wasn’t wiped out by an ancient war and it remains a hidden sanctuary. Alavtar is Essie’s first friend in the planet, but he is a sensitive and at times emotional young man who becomes vehement and negative when her unfamiliarity with the planet causes his friend Crissy to die.
Lyssia is a dishonest, backstabbing girl who is going nowhere in her life. She works as a henchman for the villainous King Karpalff who rules most of the southern part of the planet, but she has one gift—she can shape-shift. Befriending Ryan immediately in the deserted caves around the ruined ruby castle, she takes advantage of his ignorance to rope him into Karpalff’s service. It’s only at the end that Ryan learns she’s not even human.
Princess Tarvelas is a brilliantly gifted young lady with wisdom that makes her seem far older. She lives in the emerald castle on the western side of the world and is deeply connected to the spiritual side of the Caricanus universe. They worship a deity called Trisagion and Tarvelas has rare direct access to him. A reclusive and intense person, she accepts death and betrayal from Ryan as she is trying to teach him about the planet, rather than ever let go of her ideals.
Viltan is a drifting scavenger who seems to pride himself on being disloyal to everyone. He comes from the galactic world outside of Caricanus—it’s one of many inhabited planets far from Earth—and assists confused Ryan with tasks from Karpalff. Self-absorbed and ostentatiously distant, Viltan refuses to adopt the thinking of the bickering Caricanan castle-states and shows that by trying to work for them all.
Princess Kalvarina is from the pearl castle. Her home is isolated and remote, locked in an endless war with a northern king who is loosely allied to Karpalff. A young warrior who keeps her feelings to herself, Kalvarina is Tarvelas’s cousin and shares a close bond with her. But her home life leaves her bitter and always hungry for affirmation and certainty, as her mother is unkind to her and favors her brother all the time.
And there will be more updates
A Tale of Two Families
I haven't posted on A Year with the Harrisons in a while so I'll do so while it's being promoted this month. PLUS, it is currently part of the Spectacular Summer Giveaway. If you missed getting a copy of Harrisons in the Children’s Book Giveaway a couple of weeks ago, you can snag it today. But you should check out this giveaway in any case. It's an all-genre event with romance, fantasy, some short stories, books about cooking, contemporary novels, and adventure. Harrisons is a YA comedy that really brings grownup and younger readers together, so it has been in two pretty different collections this month. This giveaway is more for adult readers than the last one and has a great set of books.
Check it out here. And if you try to download A Year with the Harrisons and it doesn’t work because you're already subscribed, use this link for a direct download. But only for my book. Be sure to check out all the others at the link above.
. . . .
A Year with the Harrisons is a story about people who are hiding from their past. A lot of the situations in the book are funny, as the characters' bumbling through relationships is often amusing. But like many dramas, coming of age stories, and women’s fiction, complicated family ties that lead to many plot twists are essential to its structure. The two central plots involve two branches of a Texas family, the Harrisons, who haven’t dealt with things about their past relationships to other family members. The plots parallel through the characters of Joe Harrison, a homeschooling father of three teenage girls, and his first cousin once removed, Betty Harrison, a former celebrity who now works at a local diner. While both of these people quietly move in very different spheres, blending in with their chosen social circles, they really have a lot of connection to each other. A connection that can’t be denied and that never goes away.
They are both tied to Betty’s mother, a famous pop singer. But Betty has left her mother to pursue a separate life and has never dealt with any of the emotions about that painful split. She’s a single mother whose young daughter attends an ordinary small-town school. Joe moved into an unusual lifestyle of home-education for his children and has almost cut himself off from the outside world. The girls are isolated and have few friends except at church, since Joe, unlike Betty, has become very religious. You’d never think to see either Joe or Betty that they even knew each other. But of course that's how the story begins, not how it ends.
This is mostly a very cheerful book, because Betty and Joe do end up making good decisions. There are a lot of young people in the book, with prominent plots focused on teenage girls as well as a bit of mild romance between Joe’s daughter Letty and a football player. But these core relationships among the older people build a foundation for the story. Except for the pastor Dr. Bunsen, a minor character whose effort to change the ministries at his church fails, everyone in the circle of the Harrison family and the Shotgun family (who shadow them throughout the book) end up finding there’s always a solution to things if you just deal with them. Betty becomes close to her mother again, all the young people grow into their budding new lives, Joe proves more knowledgeable than anyone anticipated, and the villain, Mr. Shotgun, conveniently pops off.
Perhaps a bit of a contrivance on that last one, but I’d certainly like to think it was at least a little bit real. Facing things is always the best way because when confronted with a direct accusation of identity almost everything bad will immediately disappear. There’s a reason why light always turns trolls to stone.
And there will be more updates.
A Book That Stands Alone
Ryan and Essie, chronologically, was published between Victoria: A Tale of Spain and The Test of Devotion. And ordinarily I group the books in pairs based on when they were published. The two story collections; the first two Palladia Series books; and the two novels about American 20th-century life are all natural fits for each other and it also happens they were published in adjacent years.
But Ryan and Essie doesn’t match the feel of either Victoria or Devotion. In fact, it’s incompatible as a mystical fantasy story set in deep space. These two books, meanwhile, have much in common with each other and were published very close together. So I’ve paired them as a couple and moved Ryan and Essie farther down in the list towards more recent books in spite of its technical time of publication. This is because it’s now the only one that doesn’t have a partner. (You have 9 books and you’re working in pairs of two, this is bound to happen! 😊) A new book will probably have a lot of compatibility with Ryan and Essie, especially if it’s a fantasy story.
I’ve found it logical to work with the books in pairs because books written very close together usually have the same emotions from readers. It's certainly possible for characters to be part of little cross-connections throughout my books, but audiences tend to feel similarly about books written close in pairs. So usually I write two books that explore a set of related ideas and then move on to another pair of books. But over time I’ve noticed that Ryan and Essie has stood outside of any conversations about my other books. This makes sense if another book is needed to make a pairing--I've only explored half of the ideas around this story, so it's a bit out of context. So why was Ryan and Essie published when it was if it had nothing to do with stories published at that time?
Well, this is really one of my oldest books. I started working with the ideas when I was still a juvenile. And perhaps whatever book eventually pairs with it will also have been a hidden part of my writing world for a very long time.
And there will be more updates.
Young Adult Fiction Writer
Join the newsletter below! This signup has no reader magnets attached but I am preparing a freebie to be offered as part of the welcome email in the near future.
Check out my list of Top 5 Best Children's Adventure Books About Family and Exploring I've Recommended on Shepherd.com!