Leaving Ayberia Behind
Readers become attached to characters. We gasp in horror when our favorites are killed. We smile and cheer when they're happy. We commiserate when things aren't going right. For authors, however, it's more extreme. The writer becomes attached to his or her characters more intensely than a reader ever will. The world in which the book takes place - whether it's a realistic facimile of a modern-day vista, a futuristic vision of a space-faring age, or a quasi-midieval magical society - lives within the mind of an author. Maybe we're all a little mad because we tend to view our creations as vital, evolving individuals, not merely constructs. We think about them. We develop background details that never make it to print. And, in terms of passing time in a real-world sense, it takes us about 20 times as long to write a page as it does to read it. So if a reader spends a few good nights getting to know a character and his world, the writer probably spent anywhere from a half-year to a full year in the same environment.
The Last Whisper of the Gods is a trilogy. There's no getting around it. It has a beginning (The Last Whisper of the Gods), a middle (The Curse in the Gift) and an end (The Shadow of the Otherverse). It was always planned that way. So what to make of the fourth volume, Stories from Ayberia? Is it a cynical "money-grab", an attempt to milk a few sales from an established series? Ah, were that it was so easy or that I had put so little time into its writing. In fact, I spent about four months compiling the book - cleaning up the "deleted scenes", rewriting the prequel stories, and (most importantly) writing the all-new sequel novella, "The Prelate's Legacy." I don't expect this book to sell many copies (100 would make me happy). This was done not for love of lucre but for love of the characters and their world. You can call it self-indulgent but I believe some of my best writing can be found in this volume.
When I finished Shadow of the Otherverse, I wasn't quite ready to let Ayberia go. It had been a part of my life since 2007, when I first started tinkering with an outline that became The Last Whisper of the Gods. That's eight years of my life - a journey that began before I had any children and ended with a five-year old reading words on the screen as I typed them. (Makes you very careful what you write when there's a youngster in the room.) I knew then that I wanted to write something else in this world. Once I made that decision, the time period wasn't difficult to identify - I wanted to re-introduce the survivors of Shadow of the Otherverse at a slightly older point in their lives. Thus was born "The Prelate's Legacy."
This novella, with a paperback length of about 80 pages, is designed to be read in one or two sittings. There are a few noticeable differences from the trilogy that spawned it: it's driven more by characters than plot and (proving that I listen to my critics) it features no sex scenes and little or no profanity. If The Last Whisper of the Gods was rated "R", this one's "PG-13." This was an intentional artistic decision; "The Prelate's Legacy" forms a bridge of sorts between The Last Whisper of the Gods Saga and my new series, The Elusive Strain, which is epic fantasy with a YA flavor. If the "safe age" for The Last Whisper of the Gods is 15 or 16, it lowers to about 11 or 12 for The Elusive Strain.
I don't foresee a time when I'll return to Ayberia although, as they say, "Never say never." Once I finished writing "The Prelate's Legacy," I felt like I could move on. I got a chance to say a proper goodbye to Myselene, Rexall, Sorial, and Alicia, while saying hello to an important representative of the next generation. I had an opportunity to delve into the truth underlying the "official history" as presented in the epilogue of Shadow of the Otherverse. The experience was cathartic and allowed me to shift properly to my next project. I'm now as immersed in this new world as I once was in Abyeria. Characters like Janelle and Esme and Samell have as much meaning to me as Sorial, Alicia, and Azarak did when I started writing their adventures. New worlds, new stories, new energy.
It's nice to think that, if I wanted, I could go back to Ayberia. The epilogue is replete with opportunities to tell tales of a society whose "magic" transitions from elemental to technological. As for Sorial... I have an idea. But I'll let that percolate for a while as I tell another story. Hopefully, those who have read and enjoyed The Last Whisper of the Gods Saga will give The Elusive Strain a try when it debuts in November (the first book will be called Lingering Haze). Until then, thanks for sticking with me for my four volume trilogy (and enduring the 15-second popups).