t’s been way too many weeks since I last posted, and nearly every day during that time I’ve tried to talk myself into doing it, knowing it would help me feel better. But it’s pathetic being too depressed to even be able to write down some thoughts about depression. I’m starting to pull myself together and force myself to do just a little bit every day that will help me feel productive. And while I certainly have some thoughts to share about my recent experiences and what I continue to learn, I feel more compelled today to take a completely different avenue in what I want to share.
For those of you who are not yet familiar with Horstberg, it is a fictional country in the heart of Bavaria, and it began germinating in my creative brain almost forty years ago. Of everything I’ve written—or will likely ever write—Horstberg is most dear to me. The journey experienced by these characters and the things they learn (all amidst some pretty intense plotlines) is as real to me as anything else in my life. As of a year or so ago, all five volumes of this series—which I have worked on amidst other projects for decades—were finally available to readers both in electronic and print form through amazon.com. The books have an average of 4.8 star ratings, and it’s wonderful to know they are out there. The problem is that without marketing funds available, it seems not very many people know they’re out there, so they aren’t selling nearly as well as I had hoped—which is depressing. (Reference to overall blog theme here.)
Nevertheless, I still have high hopes for the Horstberg Saga; I believe it’s a story that’s powerful enough and unique enough to break past barriers, and I keep hoping and praying that it will. As a writer, I’ve found an interesting conundrum in the reality of finally seeing a story like this in print. It’s like when an artist signs a painting, frames it, and hangs it in a gallery. It’s done, over, finis. After sharing years and years of a complicated journey with these characters, they no longer need me—like kids who have gotten married and they now have their own homes. I can check in with them, but my part in their story is done. Still, I have a remarkable string of memories related to my time in Horstberg, and the journey will always be dear to me.
Long before I ever considered writing for the LDS market, it was my dream to write powerful historical romantic suspenseful novels for a world market. If you’ve read and enjoyed “The Gable Faces East,” “Gables Against the Sky,” “Towers of Brierley,” and the “Buchanan Saga,” then you’ll know what I mean when I say that these books are different from those that I’ve written for the LDS market, even though not all of the other books necessarily have LDS content. My goal was always to write books that would be much more clean than what was out there, and that my characters would have a strong moral compass, and that sin and crime would always result in appropriate consequences. Many readers get that and understand it; others have judged these books (and me) very harshly, and hate mail has flowed forth. I still stand by them as being a far more clean and appropriate option, but I respect those who might prefer not to read them. (But please don’t write me hate mail about it.) For this and other reasons, I’ve released these books under the pen name Elizabeth D. Michaels, mostly just to differentiate the genre. I wish I could go back and put my pen name on those other books; perhaps it could have avoided some of the hating and cruel judgment that took place.
Anyway, back to Horstberg. Given that it IS a fictional country, not unlike Genovia in the Princess Diary movies, I was able to create my own laws and social dynamics for the country, even though I did my best to make it historically accurate to how things worked in Bavaria at the time. I would call the story a realistic fairy tale. There’s a castle and a royal family and happy endings, and there’s murder and treason and tyranny and all kinds of other drama along the way. But woven into this larger-than-life story that is capable of transporting a reader to another place and time, there are real social and emotional issues the characters go through that are timeless and full of life lessons.
I miss the magic of Horstberg, of being able to go there and see what needed revisions or adjustments. I can still go back and read my favorite scenes, and maybe one day enough time will have passed that I can just read it from start to finish again and actually enjoy it. (The editing process has a way of making you sick of stories even when you love them.) I envy readers who have the opportunity to start at the beginning and not know what’s going to happen, or even if they DO know, or they figure it out, they can enjoy the journey of getting there through the eyes of these remarkable characters.
For some reason I’m feeling very nostalgic about Horstberg, so in response to questions that readers have posed to me in regard to the project, I’m going to write a little about how it began and evolved through the next blog post....or two or three; we’ll see how it goes.
If you’ve not yet had the privilege of visiting Horstberg, I’m happy to say that there’s now a website with all the information you need in one place. Spoiler alert: Don’t read the backliners (what’s usually on the back of a book) for volumes two through five until you’ve finished reading the first book!
I’d love to hear your comments if you feel inclined to share here, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope that all of you who take the time to read what I write here will be richly blessed in your lives, and that you’re finding joy in the midst of summer.
God bless you all, Anita
P.S. My daughter Anna (amazing artist AND amazing daughter) did all of the cover art for these books. Go to the website just to see her beautiful paintings if nothing else. To see more of her work, you can go to www.artofannastansfield.blogspot.com