When I sat down to write the third Palladia book, I looked at a blank screen and a well-worn keyboard. The Word document had nothing on it. It was a white, fat letter-size rectangle that was bigger than the print-formatted files of already published books that I’d been looking at recently. Since 2016 I hadn’t actually drafted a new story, although I had published Bellevere House and done a lot of platform-building. All of my life, I had written stories. Every day—every other day—every month. I had never gone so long without writing a new story until the last five years. Last year I wrote 3 brief outlines--just broad sketches, without details, for books I planned for the future. But thinking about a story and writing it are absolutely dissimilar experiences. As I started letting the new characters of Palladia 3 take shape on that Word document, I felt so stiff. I had almost forgotten how to let words just flow out of me in a first draft for fiction. I wanted to edit every few paragraphs. Looking at that screen, I realized that though I had written and written for so much of my existence, I was actually RUSTY! Previously, I’d never been out of commission long enough to be rusty.
But once the story started, from the first page it developed a strong voice that quickly took charge of the narrative. For some of my other books, I drifted through the first drafts as I tried to find how they should be plotted. Palladia #3 burst out with a hefty dose of young adult angst and a protagonist with a pretty specific personality. Many details demanded a style of writing I wasn’t even used to doing—quite physical, visceral angst and fear, a lot of small details like shoes, raindrops on eyelashes, and italicized personal thoughts. The heroine starts out with her home being attacked and it grows into a personal journey for her from there. She's often panicking or angry or she makes poor decisions. Ordinarily, I want to emphasize dialogue and have the characters talk to each other as I hear their voices in my head. I’m an auditory learner. But this MC, Arielle, doesn’t listen to other’s voices very well. She notices physical details and physical things that happen to her. Which is probably fine, since Palladia is a YA series. This third one just took it in the angsty young adult voice direction right from the get-go.
I'd forgotten also how good characters and stories are when they act more like people with minds of their own than like cardboard dolls for an author to prop up, costume, and move around. In the transfer from my head to my keyboard, this book just got a lot more fun.
And there will be more updates.
There Is Life After Beta
My books were, practically speaking, in a beta phase at the time they were first made public. I rarely used beta readers beforehand and would present my ideas in “published” form and then get some feedback about them. The books received the usual gamut of initial responses that happen to a new story. But since I was writing stories that were formative during their first run, these early reactions, even if they lingered in reviews or commentary, became outdated after the books entered a second phase. Once it began this second phase, each book went through a unique development based on its needs. But it was always geared towards finding the story— the finished product—out of that original beta publication.
Syncing was required for The Birthday Present and Facets of Fantasy. When I learned these volumes of shorter stories were to be viewed as contiguous, in a sense—as linking together in some way instead of serving as unrelated shorts—the task was to untangle them from each other and find the right combinations that reflected this core linkage.
Longevity was important to A Year with the Harrisons, since it dealt with what was potentially a flash-in-the-pan topic. It was presented very informally at first, a serialized weekly installment run on my FB fan page. About 8 years later I felt there had been enough real interest for me to proceed with a publication.
Context was necessary for the Palladia books (City of the Invaders & Consuela.) Both of them were shown early on as short little sketches and while their storylines were on the right track, there just wasn’t enough detail. Information about a larger world was needed, and eventually a more dramatic underlying structure around these stories began to appear.
Definition was important for Victoria: A Tale of Spain and The Test of Devotion. When these two first went public, they were vague on some of the character development and didn’t always clarify what needed to be understood about the personal relationships in the stories. For this reason, they were some of the most confusing for readers. As they developed, the books that emerged differed from the initial drafts in ways that made the stories clearer.
Accessibility was central to Bellevere House and Ryan and Essie. Both stories were shown sufficiently and neither of them needed more time to determine reader interest or any structural organization. But in both books, the story was very subtle and deeply embedded. So they faced a communication problem, with readers not being able to access the story immediately. Connecting readers to these books has been a priority.
And there will be more updates.
Preview: This Merry Summertime
Last month I mentioned that I will be publishing a little collection of shorts this year. To add to that, the anthology will be called This Merry Summertime and will contain 7 short stories and satirical comedy scripts, and one novella. The satirical comedy scripts are very short screenplays that tell a typical, cliché story in a funny way. But they are creative, with invented characters, and explore the genre as well.
The title was chosen because the storylines for every piece take place during the summer. A couple have scenes in the spring or early autumn, but the bulk of the story has a warm summer feeling to it and several stories are set exclusively in the warm months of the year.
The 7 pieces are titled:
Actually, the idea of publishing these blindsided me without warning. A very few of you might have been around long enough to remember some of these little skits, which were shown to a few blog readers about 6 years ago. But the concept behind these shorts wasn’t serious at the time and they returned to my USB flash disk where they remained buried up until last month. I thought of them as a rather wistful memory of a very different time in my publishing career, one that was rich in personal relationships but much less professional than it has since become. Everwood briefly appeared in a now-out-of-stock single of "The Amulet of Renari", because at the time I wasn’t sure if Renari would fit permanently with the other Facets stories. But it ended up doing so and Everwood went back into the USB disk.
If I ever stumbled on any of these while sorting my files, publishing them never occurred to me. But then, like a motorcycle coming sideways out of a forest, these stories zoomed back into view. And the next thing I knew, I was compiling them together and preparing to publish them. Movies at the Beach requires a bit of trimming and it will still be the longest in the book when it’s done. But the changes I’m doing are slight and basically these little skits are resurrecting themselves. In terms of the imagery of a motorcycle trying to run you down, they mean business too. At least, that doesn’t sound like a vehicle that wants to be argued with.
And there will be more updates.
Young Adult Fiction Writer
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