Ryan and Essie’s plot involves a twist where the two children turn out to have parallel siblings living on the planet Caricanus. Ryan’s parallel sibling is a twin sister named Rianna and Essie’s is a brother who’s two years older than she is, named Ethan. The initial way the story was written had Ethan also being Essie’s twin, but by the time the story was finished it had changed to being a brother only. Maybe two sets of twins running around on this planet just felt like overkill or maybe it was some other reason. Anyway, Ethan looks very similar to his sister and fills the exact same role in the story as Ryan’s twin sister does.
Caricanus is like a mirror world to ours where these kids go to learn about some of the relationships in their lives. So two characters to look at are ones who are closely involved with the twins plot—Viltan and Kalvarina. They are the only two characters who really seem to know Ethan and Rianna before the secret of their identities as related to Ryan and Essie is revealed.
Viltan is someone we don’t know a lot about. He seems to be in his late teens, but could easily be older and just look young because he is not fully human. He is part Kinari, a race that appears in Facets of Fantasy’s story “Jurant,” so he has weird purple eyes. This purple color reflects a lot of his inner ambivalence since it is a blend of two opposing colors, red and blue. Because half-Kinari are rare, Viltan never fit in anywhere and ended up on Caricanus. While he’s not loyal or admirable, to the extent we get to know him through Ryan’s POV, Viltan is close friends with Ethan. He knows that Ethan is human (a secret at the time) though he does not know the significance of this, and he always protects Ethan’s identity.
Kalvarina is the princess of the last castle that the kids visit in the story. Because there is a battle happening and Essie ends up destroying the castle through a mistake, we don’t see much of this castle compared to the lengthy time spent in some of the others. It is in a cold climate and the people there have a harsh warrior culture. Rianna lives alone a little to the north of the castle, in an observatory where she watches the stars. This mirrors her brother Ryan, who is in an observatory when Essie first meets him. Rianna mostly tames Vlagtaffs, a mysterious bird race, and keeps to herself, but Kalvarina seems to know where she lives and comes to ask for her help. She’s the only person shown aware of Rianna’s existence before the end of the book, though it’s possible Kalvarina’s parents might have known.
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A Year with the Harrisons was published on retail sites fairly recently but had an appearance as a weekly serial years before. It was a rambling story with lots of extra incidental tidbits that didn't make the final cut and even some unpublished chapters that have now fallen by the wayside, but many of the situations that appear in the finished book today are still quite relevant and its theme has always been stable--it describes a big extended family who might be a little out of the mainstream but who are really just like everybody's family. They’re not the only relatives to squabble, to feel more different from each other than they are, and to have a busybody aunt. And because of that, every reader can see a lot of their own parents, cousins, and siblings in these characters.
The five central characters:
Brenda occupies a central place in the story and activates whole areas of the plots, influencing directly or indirectly almost every other character. A vibrant and talented musician who wears the concept of “star” like others wear perfume, she might be a little controlling, a little self-absorbed—at times, even a little teensy bit full of herself. Maybe? 😊 But her husband is quite right to call her One in a Million.
Toffy is the young male character we get to know the most. Although his father is an ambitious and rather callous person, Toffy is quiet and takes a laid-back approach to the family lifestyle of athletics. Toffy has much stronger convictions and beliefs than you’d think because he rarely talks about these things. He befriends Letty in spite of their polar-different backgrounds.
Joe is a middle-aged dad who works in a small town as a mechanic. His voice is always quiet and he blends in with other people. But he’s got a lot more wisdom than meets the eye and sees others far more than anyone realizes. A bit of an eccentric—and he’d probably like to call himself a mastermind of the good kind—he is usually in a perfect position to deal the final blow to a problem.
Luna is the oldest of Joe’s three daughters. She is a really serious person who views doing the right things with her life and giving people a good impression of homeschooled teens as so important that she worries when her family (quite frequently) doesn't look perfect. She is also crucial in uniting all sorts of little plots throughout the book, making her one of the most important characters.
Dr. Bunsen is the new pastor of the local church. He doesn’t get off on a good footing because he fires off a lot of rounds of suggestions for how the members could improve, setting them against him. He is angry about inadequacy in ministry to a hurting world, but his own life needs healing as much as that of anyone else he knows.
And there will be more updates.
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
Author of Science Fiction, General Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Anthology Fiction
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