Let’s Talk The Birthday Present/Millhaven Castle

It’s time to dig deeper into this book. It’s one a lot of you might not know anything about and it has two parts. The first story, The Birthday Present, was a futuristic idea that I actually wrote pages and pages and pages about. But it resulted in this shorter story instead. Originally I wanted to create a themed series, but I went on to other projects and this book became a stand-alone, so–no series. (But that might explain the “Homeschooler Fantasy Series Volume One” you’ll see burned into the print edition.) I’ll enlarge on it in an upcoming blog post.

Millhaven Castle, the second story in the book, was a bit of a problem because I went through 3 different-yet-very-similar versions of this story. Each one equally boring, I might add. After sorting all my stories, I’ve repackaged, rearranged, or rewritten almost all of them. But only the Millhaven/Alyce stories got actually trashed as just plain boring and useless. They had none of the strengths of the original story idea and were padded with unproductive areas that make me wince now.  Which is funny because people I knew always seemed to praise them. But then, I’ve often found people praise the weakest thing, so I should have known. But I must go back to explaining what I did next.

One of these boring little Alyce stories was published with The Birthday Present and I can’t get it out of the volume because it’s burned into the title. So I’ve rearranged the content and substituted 3 chapters from the full-length The Prince’s Ball. It’s now a trailer for the book, as well as 3 almost stand-alone funny chapters you can read in addition to The Birthday Present. Why is this important? Because I’ll be publishing The Prince’s Ball next year (if all goes well) and it’s nothing like the 3 previous versions: Millhaven Castle 2008; Millhaven Castle 2009; and Alyce 2013. It is the original, going back over 15 years, and has a load of characters and situations that put Alyce and her friends in perspective. And–of course–it’s a lot funnier. And longer. As you’ll see immediately if you pick up The Birthday Present and read the trailer.

And there will be more updates.

 

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New Horizons

The renovation is still in progress and 4 of the books have been redone. I did a lot of examination of book covers over the summer, and realized I had been choosing colors and fonts based simply on whether I thought they were pretty, NOT based on the emotive impression they give to others. So a complete overhaul was of course in order.

 

I’ve got 2 fantastic new covers for Facets of Fantasy and The Birthday Present/Millhaven Castle. (See above.) Facets turned out a little blue, but that’s better than green, and the black letters and silvery-gray back cover add up to the effect I wanted.

  • City of the Invaders is now in paperback as well as Kindle. It isn’t yet linked to the ebook on Amazon, but it will be soon. I’ve added chapter titles since the story felt bare without them. It has a lovely cover that’s not new, but some of you may not have seen it, so I’ve put it here.
  • There’s a new description of Ryan and Essie, since “his life will never be the same and neither will the lives of a whole lot of other people” is okay, but too vague.
  • I’m still working on Consuela—going to be a bit of effort there—and thinking about some cosmetic work to Victoria. A new cover and maybe that’s not all. It already has a new description, but I’m not sure that’s all I want to do.
  • To see any of the book details, go to the pages for each book at the top of this blog post. Ryan and Essie is in the “More Books” page.

I also paid a little more attention to genre marketing, although I feel surprisingly that’s not as important. (People really do judge books mostly by their covers as first. Probably because they like to do, at once, things they’re told never to do.) When looking at search keywords and classifications, I discovered that Amazon seems to have dropped the “YA” category. At least, I couldn’t find it although it can still be put in search keywords and is widely used online. But that wasn’t a problem.

And there will be more updates.

 

And The Sorting Goes On

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With Thanksgiving out of the way, I can finally admit I’ve been thinking about Christmas for some time. It’s so much better of a holiday. Our tree is up, our gifts are wrapped, our carols are playing, and our candles are burning. Andrea gave us all small T-candles last year themed on classic books. So we’ve got the scents of “Wood Between the Worlds,” “A Walk to Netherfield,” and “Marilla’s Kitchen” to accompany our activities. In practical terms that’s the scents of musty ferns, old lady’s bathroom, and boiled apples.

The candles got me sorting books—classics, new ones, and even my own publications. I’ve read a lot of great new books this year (got to put up a list sometime) and the classics—well, I’ll get to that in a minute.

  • The Birthday Present/Millhaven Castle has a new cover (see above) and is now officially a teaser for upcoming The Prince’s Ball. Since I don’t need extra Milland stories floating around, Alyce has been discontinued and the older purple Facets containing a different Millhaven Castle version will soon follow.
  • City of the Invaders will be back on Kindle and coming to paperback soon, and Consuela is in the process of a complete rewrite that gives it a French Revolution backdrop and a lovely new cover.
  • Victoria’s still around (this story’s always been special to me) but it means less than it used to and is slipping to the back.
  • Facets of Fantasy cover is getting tweaked slightly (less of that vile green and more ice-gray) and Halogen Crossing has replaced the Taranui/Invaders story in it. Sci-fi, especially near-futuristic, is so different from fantasy that no one interested in Taranui/Invaders would pick it up in a volume that said ‘fantasy” on it.
  • I’m digging back into my old notes and extras for American Homeschooler and am considering working on it. It feels a bit dated (almost 8 years old) but with some updates it could maybe come to print soon. It was always one of my most popular stories.
  • Lexie-and-Petra is still being drafted, although I’ve taken off from it to put all my other books in order.

As for classics—

LWW, Silver Chair, Horse and His Boy—ditch. Now there’s a surprise, there was a time when I lived in that book. But then, that was 20 years ago. Voyage of the Dawn Treader—not sure what’s up with this one.

The Secret Garden—in. I love all versions, although the 90s one doesn’t quite have the same tone. A Little Princess—out. I don’t know what I ever saw in this tedious, slow-paced tale of a young girl’s misery.

Oscar Wilde—out. I’ve always loved his humor about pompous, complacent people, but recently his literary presence has a morbid tone. I know, he did write Salome, but there’s a lot more to him—well, apparently not anymore

Reexamining The Pickwick Papers as I work on Consuela, not sure if I still like it. Our Mutual Friend—OUT, OUT, OUT. Am considering digging into The Old Curiosity Shop.

The Hobbit back in—I read it one time as a child and thought it was boring and silly. But it’s grown on me. Two lovely old hardcover B&N volumes of FOTR and TTT are locked up in the attic. Something about those white covers drives me nuts. But I have two tiny old paperbacks, the ones I grew up on, and I do keep them around.

Shakespeare is mostly out the window. There’s barely such a thing as “Shakespeare” in the old sense because the plays are for such different people. I do still like Much Ado About Nothing (the 90s movie—the play less) and As You Like It and Henry V. When my dad was fanatically into Henry V, I got more than a little tired of it. So I’m puzzled as to why it’s still here.

I can’t seem to get rid of Sherlock. I think it’s extremely dull and a bit ridiculous. I haven’t enjoyed any episode I’ve ever seen of it and Benedict Cumberbatch mildly gets on my nerves. I have an Oxford magnet from Europe that seems to be the same sort of thing and I can’t GET RID OF IT. I tried and it CAME BACK. (Kind of like Hulk when he tried to kill himself.)  . . .

And there will be more updates.

An Inconvenient Beauty Review

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An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

Miss Isabella Breckenridge is young and beautiful- and in a most awkward predicament. Her future depends on marrying for money, not love and as quickly as possible. Griffith, Duke of Riverton likes every moment of his life in his own control. But aware that he must face the same odds as Isabella, and marry to secure his fortune, he chooses what he is certain is the perfect wife- Miss Frederica St. Claire, who is secretly in love with a soldier presumed dead two years previous- Arthur Saunderson. But Griffith finds himself inexplicably drawn to the fragile Isabella and chance circumstances insist on throwing the errant pair in each other’s way. Will Griffith realize his true feelings before he courts the wrong woman? And will Isabella see past the haughty guise of the Duke and fall in love?

I was a little disappointed by this witty Regency romance. Kirsti Ann Hunter’s world sparkles with marriage proposals and money and rolling English countryside, but the romance itself falls short of expectation. Griffith’s blundering between Isabella and Frederica began to be tedious as chapter after chapter the arrogant Duke was unable to process the reality that Isabella was his preference. Isabella was a strong and sympathetic character who stood up to every dire situation that faced her, even an impromptu stitching of Griffith’s wound when he fell from a roof. Frederica was an interesting character in her own light, and I couldn’t help wishing there was more to her star-crossed story with Arthur. But no, instead we crept back to Griffith procrastinating about the mere fact that love EXISTS, and he hadn’t made a place for it in his linear worldview. Ryland was a fascinating side character and the incident at the boy’s school with the bat guano made for a suspenseful beginning. But he faded as the story progressed, to my disappointment. I could have read more of his wit instead of Griffith’s sulking. An entertaining read with something lacking.

Interview of Me and More

I’ve got a couple of little tidbits today. First, the VJA blog tour is underway and Deborah O’Carroll at Road of a Writer has done an interview of me. To see it, read mini-reviews of the book series, and enter the contest giveaway, click here. Check out www.vintagejaneausten.com for a complete list of the blog stops and all reviews and interviews for the collection during the tour.

My first book, The Birthday Present/Millhaven Castle is back in print and there’s a companion Kindle ebook at last. (It took about a decade for this item to come to Kindle.) It’s not yet linked with the paperback, but the ebook is here. I’ve also tried to tidy up a few loose ends (publishing this, linking this, unpublishing that, etc) and general author housekeeping.

And while I putter away at things, the girl with the icy green eyes, who likes to work on cars, says Hi, I’m Lexie.  I was adopted by people who live on a huge farm in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know anything about my birth parents except they “had some problems.” It’s lonely here because most of my friends have gone to college and the only one still around is Petra, my best friend, who is a leprechaun-in-disguise. Which is why she is such a troublemaker. It is also why I won’t let her drive. I always want to do the driving anyway–but we really are more likely to get arrested if Petra drives because she destroys things. And Petra has hordes of relatives who live in the east of our state. 

And one day she introduces me to them. Mostly because I had to drive her to see them. I was afraid I’d get sued if she crashed into something using my car. So then I get this weird phone call for somebody else and . . . that is the start of a long day.

Sorting, Part 1

I’ve been pretty quiet online, but off-the-blog I’ve been up to stuff. We’ve been needing a spring cleaning for, like, 20 years, and over the last couple we’ve steadily been at it. Clearing stuff out turned into a ritual of sorting the good and bad stuff going back a whole lifetime. What wasn’t carted off or thrown away was redistributed within the family. And while I did that, I began to get rid of all my old story ideas and spin out a new one. An idea that won’t go away.

It’s funny what we dug up, threw away, polished up, or put on display. Many things I’d thought I treasured were sent to Goodwill or the book sale without a second thought. Old boxes of memories from my childhood were thrown open and sorted—much now seemed meaningless and was discarded. There were too many pictures on the walls and they were in the wrong rooms. We rearranged. I realized I’d been using for about ten years a crystal jewelry box shaped like a heart and I’d forgotten where it came from. Why was it in my life? (Turns out it was a gift from a wealthy schoolteacher who knew my mother. She gave it to me when I was 7 and our house was a disaster zone, so it’s a miracle it didn’t get broken.) We must have gotten rid of so many things . . . when I go in my room it looks weirdly empty.

I was completely shocked when I found a frenemy from middle school had actually been a meaningful relationship. I had nothing from the other girls, but several small gifts from her that I now keep safe. What a surprise. And that unknown, rather young uncle on the side. His gifts lurked around the house and we kept finding them. They’re STILL HERE. Turns out he was way more of a factor in our lives than we’d thought. Entertainment underwent a revolution. So much less Jane Austen. So much less Narnia. Sacrilege! Narnia was such a staple in our lives we got duplicates of everything when our parents moved. We couldn’t be trimming down the NARNIA. But we were—except for Prince Caspian. Which is really odd, because I’ve always disliked it. And yes, some of those souvenirs from the European trip 6 years ago are staying because, though flawed, it was an important event. I was surprised by the ones I kept, though.

And while I thought about measuring for a china cabinet (LONG story on that china thing, for another post), a girl with blonde hair, done in spiky tails on both side of her head, and icy green eyes, kept appearing in my mind. A girl who’s good with a rifle and a tomboy about fixing cars, but who has never known her mother. Or anything about her father. But she does have a silly, talkative friend she’s known since they were nine. When this friend takes Blonde-Hair Rifle-Girl to her great-great-great aunt’s diamond jubilee, they run into a cousin who looks like a lady in a 19th century painting. A specific 19th century painting. And then Blonde-Hair has enough adventure to satisfy even a girl who dreams of winning the Daytona 500.

I’ll be back.

 

Winning the Battle for the Night

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Winning the Battle for the Night by Faith Blatchford.

This was an interesting book from Chosen publishers, about the importance of sleep and dreams in our lives. I liked it, but I didn’t love it because the main gist seemed to be that the purpose of sleep is to give you spiritual/prophetic dreams from God. I didn’t exactly have a problem with this, as I know many people have such dreams, and at times in my life I’ve had dreams I felt were important, but it wasn’t a topic I’m really, really interested in. The book is really well-written and organized, with thoughtful tips about how to remove distractions to sleep, like turning off your phone; the physical value of sleep on the body’s organism; fear of the dark in children and adults; and dealing with our children’s dreams or nightmares. There was also a list of Biblical persons with important dreams, and even more modern ones, such as Abraham Lincoln dreaming of his assassination or a woman dreaming about 9/11 before it occurred. These little factoids made the book worth picking up, but there was so much emphasis on the prophetic dreams aspect of the Bible that if you don’t plan on having any (or are one of those people who don’t get them very often) you’ll find this book just fair overall.