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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Reality's Fire is Here!

The Reality Chronicles trilogy comes to a close with the advent of the final book, Reality's Fire.

As of today, the paperback has made its appearance on Amazon, though it is still in process as the cover image isn't up as of this writing. And there are no copies yet to sell, however, you can pre-order and Amazon will ship them when they come in. Additionally, there is the Kindle version for the ebook lovers. In the next few days, expect to see the book appear at B&N both paperback and for Nook, as well as it is currently available at Smashwords in formats that can be read by most any ereader out there.

For more information on the book, you can visit my page which gives you the book's blurb, a sample chapter, and links to where you can buy it.

I thought this would be a good time to give some behind the scenes look at this series. I've told some of this on other sites, in interviews, but I'll go a little deeper here.

The Reality Chronicles series isn't an allegory proper, but does have some allegorical elements to it. Unlike some stories, God is simply God, not some strange name in this alternate world. But certain things do represent other things in an allegorical manner. For instance, as I've written on this blog before, the steam house is an eight-sided building. For history buffs, this represents the baptismal font, which in the early church, was eight-sided representing the eighth day of creation brought on by Jesus Christ's death and resurrection.

And some might complain that Jesus is never mentioned in the books. And that would be true, and yet He is on nearly every page and story. He forms the backdrop for all that takes place, and is present in the climax of Reality's Fire. And that is the beauty of allegory. It not only indicates that something stands for something else (Jesus is the vine, we are the branches), but what the relationship between the two are based on the relationship of the known. (All branches are one in the vine, and so we are one in Christ.) So the allegorical elements in this story, some obvious, some not so obvious, show a relational revealing more than they show a ontological revealing.

But even every relationship in an allegory doesn't translate. Saying Jesus is the vine and we are the branches doesn't mean if the locus come along and eat at us, that Jesus is powerless to stop them, just as a vine would be powerless to stop an insect from eating at its leaves. But where it is an intended relationship, sometimes such things can make us see areas of our lives in relation to each other and God in a new light. Those without ears to hear, will just hear a good story. Which is fine too. Even those can show some good things to us.

So it is in that vein that I started out writing a little short story in the summer of 2006 which I called "Steamy Realities," and is the current first chapter in Reality's Dawn called, "Reality's Advent." In the critique group I was a part of, we did a group challenge, where all of us wrote a short story to submit to a magazine's contest that had the theme of "hot." Thus the idea for using a steam house. And my initial idea is it reflected a precursor to what God's presence would reveal in people on Judgement Day, where every man's work is revealed by fire. And that fire is God's presence itself, as Scripture states multiple times. Not fire as we know it, no doubt, but similar. Except those in Christ experience Him as light and love, while those who don't experience Him as the fires of Hell.

So you see that theme presented in multiple ways through these stories and is the "reality" that is being referenced: God's reality. And so these three books represent a miniature retelling of the Gospel narrative itself in concepts as we all go through it. Reality's Dawn, a person's birth and growth in Christ. Reality's Ascent, the continued growth and revealing that we fight not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, and darkness. And Reality's Fire, the culmination of what Christ accomplished in His battle with Satan, and how He overcame Him.

That first short story was picked up by "The Sword Review" online magazine, which eventually merged with "Dragons, Knights, and Angels" magazine to form what is now "Mindflights." The same magazine decided to run a contest with the theme of "hope." And in deciding what to do for it, I decided to create a sequel short story, currently titled "Anger's Spell" in Reality's Dawn. I entered it into the contest. It didn't win, and they didn't want it for publication, but the owner of the magazine, Bill Snodgrass, took a liking to what I was doing and wanted to encourage me. So he went to the trouble to do a detailed critique of that story in the hopes I would rewrite it and give it another go.

I decided to do more than that. I not only rewrote that story, but I wrote two more stories so that I would have stories based on the themes of faith, hope, and love. The faith story is "Faith's Fire" and the love story is "Love's Sacrifice." With each story I created, the world grew. And when I submitted all of them to the magazine, they accepted the faith and love stories right away, but wanted a rewrite on the hope story. In going through that story, yet again, it dawned on me why it wasn't working. I had my protagonist too passive through the whole thing. Everything was happening to him, but he did little to make things happen. So, I rewrote that chapter to make Sisko do something to affect the outcome, and it was immediately accepted. They accepted those in January of 2007 to run all four stories as a series in the last months of 2007, right before it merged with "Dragons, Knights, and Angels" to become "Mindflights."

But that was not all. Bill Snodgrass liked the stories enough, he wanted to put them into a book to sell through his company. I wrote an additional story to add to it as a "bonus" story not shown online, called "Desire's Trap" in Reality's Dawn, as well as an article on why I write fiction as a Christian, and by November of 2007 he published my first book. The novella we titled Infinite Realities hit the virtual selves of Amazon and other online retail outlets.

As the novella was coming out that November, I did my second National Novel Writing Month, where people from all over the world get together and encourage each other to write a minimum of 50K words of a novel. I started doing that in 2006, and did them every year except for last year, 2011, I ended up doing something different after a week into it. But in 2007, I had outlined a novel I wanted to write in November, but Bill put a bug in my ear about doing a sequel to Infinite Realities instead. At first I didn't think I would do it, as I had what I wanted to do planned out. But then on the first day of November, I made a quick decision to write that sequel, and spent the first hours of the month doing a quick outline of main plot points for the novel, and then jumped in to write it. I spent all of 2008 editing that book, and it ended up getting published as Transforming Realities in March of 2009.

Well, I was on a roll, and so when November arrived in 2008, I wrote the third novel in the series, which after many edits and look overs by various people and going through several names, is now the story being published this month through Splashdown Books as Reality's Fire.

What happened to Bill? Well, by the time I got Transforming Realities published, and went through edits of the third novel in hopes it could come out in 2010, Bill's life took a different turn, and it ended up that his company shut down. So I ended up with a two-book series, and a third book without a publisher. As 2010 headed toward November, I thought I had a publisher, signed a contract, but he backed out at the last minute for personal reasons. So I was back to square one.

But one of the things I had decided to do in September of 2010, was to write more stories to fill in the holes in Infinite Realities. The only big criticism I got was the book was too short. Everyone wanted more. Bill had even prodded me to do that at one point. In September of 2010, I got the itch to do just that. I planned out how many more stories I would need to make a full novel, snagged me a critique partner with the time, and started working on writing those stories at the pace of one a week. I planned to expand the original five stories to a total of fifteen. I had already written one story as a Christmas story the previous Christmas, so I only needed nine more stories. I was in the writing groove, and cranked out one good story after another. I kept thinking at any point, I'll run out of ideas of what to do next that is decently original and interesting, and builds on the character and plot arcs I had in mind. But no sooner would I finish one story, and start thinking about what to do for the next one, than an idea would pop into my head and I'd be off writing the next one. I was even able to fill in some back story for characters and events that appeared in the second book, Transforming Realities, and the third book, which I'd already written at the time, but not yet published.

It was shortly after November's National Novel Writing Month of 2010 that I barely made it to 50K because I was already worn out doing the equivalent of a NaNo with the new stories for Infinite Realities during October, that Grace Bridges with Splashdown Books, after some discussion, agreed not only to take on publishing my third novel, but to republish my first two books, and the first with the added stories. She moved fast on the first two. She published the new and improved Infinite Realities as Reality's Dawn, and republished Transforming Realities as Reality's Ascent in March 2011 and May 2011 respectively. And now the third book is finally coming out in June of 2012: Reality's Fire. Now for the first time, readers who've enjoyed the first two books, can discover how the series ends.

Some interesting notes on this novel. It is unique in several ways. In most of my novels, my outlines are rough major plot point outlines. And what has happened in most of my novels, is by the time I get to the "end" I had planned, I've only written half a novel. For instance, in Reality's Ascent, my original outline had the wedding of Nathan to Crystal being the big block-buster ending. But by the time I reached that spot, not feeling I could extend it any longer without it looking like that's what I was doing, I had only written around 25K words. Far from a full novel. So I made plan B and winged it. And as it turns out, the actual ending I wrote was far better than what I had originally planned. Most of my novels have been like this. The outline gets greatly modified by the time I finish writing the book.

Reality's Fire went nearly exactly as planned. As a matter of fact, unlike my other books where I had a vague idea what the ending would be, and by the time I got there it looked nothing like it, my first realization of what this book would be was the ending. In a hotel room at FenCon in 2008, with Bill sleeping away, I saw in my mind the perfect ending to the series. It fit the theological and series arc, and was exactly what needed to happen. And better yet, few would see it coming, even though it would be logical once they saw what happened, with everything else that had happened to that point through the whole series, even beginning with that first short story I wrote in the summer of 2006. It was like this story simply could not end any other way.

As I wrote this book in November of 2008, it went exactly as planned. Didn't missed a beat, nothing unexpected. Well. Almost. There was one crazy wrench Gabrielle threw into the story. Without giving anything away, at one point, based on what she could do, and Josh's condition, as I was writing what I figured she'd naturally be thinking, it suddenly occurred to her she could do something unusual. And as a writer, I couldn't deny her doing that because it wouldn't be natural for her to do anything else but what she did. And boy did she make a major change to the story. I did not see that one coming. But I worked it into the story as best I could. Not perfect, but it did provide some good story moments, nonetheless. Both drama and humor. It will be obvious when you read it.

But all the while I was writing the story, my mind kept running over and over how the end would go. I was glad when I finally got to write it, because then I could get the visions out of my head and on paper, and they wouldn't keep me up at night. As a matter of fact, by the time I started writing the ending, I didn't have to think about how any of it would go, what they would say. I'd been over it so many times in my head, all I was really doing was writing it all down. I've never had a book go almost exactly as planned, and an ending happen just as I envisioned it before I'd decided anything else the book would be about.

Also, this book was a departure in other ways. On one hand, I'd addressed some issues that my YA audience not only face everyday, but often get swallowed up by in many cases. I felt they were important issues, and because of what needed to happen to get to the ending, a big sin needed to happen. So this story has ended up focusing on more mature material. I've kept it PG-13, but it does mean some of the younger readers that enjoyed my first two books, would probably not be allowed to read this one, at least until they'd grown up some. My only regret is that it will potentially exclude younger children from getting to read this anytime soon.

Readers will also notice more romance and character interaction and not as much "action" scenes. They do happen. There is sword fighting. But it isn't as intense as it was in Reality's Ascent, or even Reality's Dawn. But some really cool stuff happens, even if it isn't high action fighting.

And yes, Joel does make some appearances in this book. Not as many as I know his fans would like, but he plays his parts which are critical. As a matter of fact, Joel is the one character that has so far appeared in every book I've written in this world.

So, that's the story behind this book and the whole trilogy. It is something that started out as one short story, and grew from there into a full world. But the stories don't stop with this book. I'm writing a spin-off series in the same world, that not only expands that world, but reveals how it relates to our own world. This series builds upon the dragon in "Faith's Fire" in Reality's Dawn to reveal a whole dragon culture in that world. So much more to come. Stay tuned!

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