That’s what I found when I headed onto my porch this morning. It’s been rainy off and on for weeks and the lawn and corn fields that surround my house are so green you wouldn’t believe what this place will look like in a few months. (Aka. Dry and Brown.) The air is cool and refreshing and when the sun shines it’s just right—enough to be warm but not enough to make you feel like you’re the burrito in a dish of baked enchiladas. As I sit here typing this blog post, I have opened my window blinds and the sun pours in, often covered again by clouds as more showers lurk in the air. Sometimes I’m reminded of Lamentations 3: 22--23, which states “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning" (ESV). It hasn’t always been a peaceful or encouraging road over the last few years, but we who are Christians are never told that life will be either of those things. Sometimes it will be challenging and those challenges are tests of our faith. This phrase just means they are tests of whether we really believe in what we’re doing and in what we say we stand for.
I have always enjoyed watching a short 1-hr long TV movie made decades ago for children. It belonged to a series that was partly educational and each episode in the series was about a fictional child who had a short adventure getting to know a famous composer. The one that stuck around for me was about the Italian opera composer Rossini. A little girl in the episode traveled through a magic mirror to learn her grandmother had worked as a dancer in Rossini’s company. Rossini, unlike everyone else, was able to see the little girl and thought she was probably the daughter of a cast member. When The Barber of Seville got off to a terrible start—it was, to use just the right word, a fiasco—Rossini quit. Not because he was scared of the mobs coming to torch his home, but because he felt writing music wasn’t rewarding. The little girl tried to encourage him to continue because she had picked up a playbill from her grandmother’s box of old things in the real world before she went through the mirror. It was for William Tell, an opera Rossini hadn’t even written yet, and which is one of his most famous. (Lone Ranger music, anyone? That theme comes from Rossini’s opera.) Rossini said that he always swore he’d just write music as long as it was fun. If it stopped being fun—he’d quit. But he realized he had much more to do in the future and did indeed have a long career ahead of him.
Similarly, I’ve often felt recently that writing isn’t “fun” anymore and like Rossini, I always did it because I loved it. A few books got off to a rough start, just like The Barber of Seville (which became very popular after its debut, by the way!), but that wasn’t why I felt discouraged. It was that all the life seemed to be getting drained out of me as I went on and on writing blog posts and churning out new books. I have seen many career authors who just seem to go on writing because they can’t stop—the inspiration, the joy of writing, has been replaced by honed marketing, perfect genre mastery, really good rapport with fans, and experience as an expert. But I never get the feeling these authors are having FUN. I think it's really just a kind of daily work for them and it’s hard to write good books the way you might turn out good packages in an Amazon shipping department. I felt some of that syndrome creeping over me and I dreaded it.
But, after a period of feeling blue and having a lot of things going on in my life that weren’t writing related, I felt the beautiful spring air on my face and I realized God really does renew things. He renews the world every morning. He renews people’s lives every time they ask Him. And he renews joy in doing what we do with our lives. A joyless life is not His—and if you respond to challenges and tests correctly, you will come through to the kind of joy that He wants. A deep-seated sort of Having Fun with Being Alive. It’s a lovely spring day outside and I find it’s a lovely spring day in my heart as well. And I hope that is the same for you and if it isn’t, if you’re still confused and still feeling gray and blue and all sorts of depressing shades of this and that—I know it can be better soon.
And there will be more updates.
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.
Young Adult Fiction Writer
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