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
Ryan and Essie, chronologically, was published between Victoria: A Tale of Spain and The Test of Devotion. And ordinarily I group the books in pairs based on when they were published. The two story collections; the first two Palladia Series books; and the two novels about American 20th-century life are all natural fits for each other and it also happens they were published in adjacent years.
But Ryan and Essie doesn’t match the feel of either Victoria or Devotion. In fact, it’s incompatible as a mystical fantasy story set in deep space. These two books, meanwhile, have much in common with each other and were published very close together. So I’ve paired them as a couple and moved Ryan and Essie farther down in the list towards more recent books in spite of its technical time of publication. This is because it’s now the only one that doesn’t have a partner. (You have 9 books and you’re working in pairs of two, this is bound to happen! 😊) A new book will probably have a lot of compatibility with Ryan and Essie, especially if it’s a fantasy story.
I’ve found it logical to work with the books in pairs because books written very close together usually have the same emotions from readers. It's certainly possible for characters to be part of little cross-connections throughout my books, but audiences tend to feel similarly about books written close in pairs. So usually I write two books that explore a set of related ideas and then move on to another pair of books. But over time I’ve noticed that Ryan and Essie has stood outside of any conversations about my other books. This makes sense if another book is needed to make a pairing--I've only explored half of the ideas around this story, so it's a bit out of context. So why was Ryan and Essie published when it was if it had nothing to do with stories published at that time?
Well, this is really one of my oldest books. I started working with the ideas when I was still a juvenile. And perhaps whatever book eventually pairs with it will also have been a hidden part of my writing world for a very long time.
And there will be more updates.
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Ryan and Essie have always been there. When I was a little kid, I first drafted part of a story about how these two children found a distant planet. As a teen the royalty of Caricanus and their intrigues started to show up, with Tarvelas and Viltan. The story was finished much later, as an adult, when I added the ending and stitched it all together.
But I didn’t realize until even more years had passed that what had always been there was a sense of humor. Behind the zany comedy and adventure of kid's books lie a good deal of accidental (or at times intentional) satire of the adult world. Many things are mentioned in comedy for children as a way of exploring them. Adults often take things too seriously. Life is a serious, serious business. People have to work hard, be attractive, get married, get good jobs, plan for retirement, bury their parents, pay for health insurance, and make sure Christmas-with-the-relatives goes off perfectly. But what about the fun people had as kids?
Ryan, a miniature grown-up in the making, is already no fun. He’s uncurious, plays it safe, and always thinks about the bottom line. And he is also a funny character. It also makes a good learning experience for kids, who are used to having the adult world made fun of in their stories. Essie is all child and has the exact personality that makes many adults wish children would sit still. But kids don’t do that. And when Ryan wishes Essie would do that, when he is himself a kid, they are thrown into outer space in the sort of way that children like.
Well, until they grow up to be like Ryan.
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
I write peaceful stories with happy endings. When I started writing, I wanted to write the kind of books I like to read. I wanted them to be upbeat and friendly books that make you feel like you're being whisked off on an adventure with friends. And there's also a purposefulness in that because many stories already written miss out on a great deal of what people experience every day.
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