“Uppercase Art in modern America has become a synonym for arrogance, irresponsibility, vulgarity, disrespect, and wild, suicidal self-indulgence. It seems to me that consumers of entertainment products would be much better served if writers started viewing themselves as practitioners of a craft and stopped pretending to be a kind of secular clergy that stands above the laws of man and God.” – Story Craft by John R. Erickson
Crow was her first and now he knelt before her to say goodbye.
Arthritic knuckles no longer able to hold a pen.
Her eyes have closed.
Her breathing slowed.
Her living family waits and weeps.
In her mind, the last of her stories played out, the last of her characters gathered around her. Crow’s first. He loved her best, knew her best, bore the deepest scars inflicted by her hand, but burnt with the brightest hope infused by her every mark. Behind him ranged rank after rank of heroes and villains, sinners and saints, men and women, boys and girls, and animals given voice, trees given wings. Some of them have had their stories told, some waited and waited and waited too long, the chance now gone as she slipped away.
Crow took her little hand in the strong one she gave him.
“I’m sorry,” she said in her head to her best creation. “I’m sorry for everything you had to carry, everything you had to endure.”
He smiled. “You never left me. You were always there. You always brought me home.”
“But so many of you never made it home.” Tears sprang to her eyes as she scanned the faces of so many representations of her soul.
“You gave us life, even if only for a moment,” said Sundance, with blueberry eyes and blonde hair. “You gave us love.” Ronan, wearing his sunglasses, kissed Sundance on the side of her head. He came forward, holding the old storyteller’s other hand. “You gave us purpose.”
Beautiful Olive wrapped in all the seasons rested her hand on Crow’s shoulder. “You gave us a chance to fight the darkness.”
“You saved us from the darkness.” Fortunatus said beside Jack. The one-eyed boy twisted his wolf’s head earring.
“You loved us. You cried over all of us.” Star removes her top hat and bows. Beside her, Bree wrapped her arm around her son Jonah. “You reunited us.”
“Thank you….thank you…thank you…,” the old storyteller said. She searched all their well-known faces one last time. “Thank you, for sharing your stories with me. For asking me to voice them.” She turned one last time to Crow. “Thank you for finding me.” She smiled, turned her eyes to heaven, and slipped away. The room emptied instantly, all of them forever gone, for they were her soul, fragmented and broken, healed. And when she was gone, so were they.
“Goodbye…” whispered the wind.
Pages ruffled. A child snuggled deep into a chair. His eyes swept the letters, reading the words. A world opened. Characters breathed.
Goodbye was temporary.
I’m working on Book 2 of The Artists Return Series: The Sparrow and the Star. Everything in the book is rushing towards Christmas Day and the moment of Eucatastrophe.
I love Christmas, so it seemed natural to place my YA novel at that time of the year, albeit in another world. It gives me a good excuse to listen to Christmas music (as if I need one) and bake Christmas goodies, and light candles. I’m creating mood, putting my mind in the right place…right?
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
But seriously, if my story takes place in deep winter, than Christmas must be part of the story. If I want to have a turning point of grace, where light infuses the story, what better day to have that happen on than Christmas? It is one of two great moments of Eucatastrophe in our own History. Christ became man and dwelt with us. What a moment of pure grace. The other, greater moment is the resurrection. Death overcome. Wishing to mirror, as a small child her father, the great story, I have purposely placed Christmas Day at the center of my faerie tale.
This has caused me to listen to Christmas carols with a new ear. The lyrics take on another layer of meaning. The first layer of rejoicing at the goodness of God is still there. The second layer of years and years of beloved family tradition is still there, and now a third layer of characters and events birthed from my mind and heart infuse these songs. The other day, I heard one of my favorites in light of this new layer: Wintersong by Sarah McLachian
I’ve always enjoyed Wintersong in the context of the end of Book 2. (No worries, this should be spoiler free, dear readers.)
Book 2 ends on Christmas Day with both the perfect and the worst things happening all at once. He’s befriended a girl named Star of Hope, a Scarecrow who came to help him. Jonah is about to start the upswing of his story, going from darkness to light.
This is the song:
“This is how I see you, in the snow of Christmas morning. Love and happiness surround you. As you throw your arms up to the sky, I keep this moment by and by. Oh I miss you now, my love. Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, my love.
Sense of joy fills the air and I daydream and I stare up at the tree and I see your star up there.”
I can’t believe how perfectly this song fits my feelings for Jonah as I mentally start moving into Book 3 and how his life is going to culminate. I even wrote the ending of the whole story the other day. Already I miss everyone. Already I miss my young warrior, Jonah.
I love how the song mentions a tree and a star, both significant in Jonah’s life, both women in Jonah’s life.
And this is how I see Jonah. I see him in the snow on Christmas morning. I see him with love and happiness all around him for the first time in a long time. I can see him throwing his arms up to the sky. This is a moment I’ll keep. I miss Jonah already, but this happiness I give him is my Christmas gift to him. Joy fills the air and I daydream of how Jonah is doing, and I stare up at the Tree and I see his Star. Oh how happy I am for my dear Jonah.
So as you can imagine, this is now playing on repeat one on my phone. And it’s been added to the playlist for the Series. So far I have these songs and why:
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Casting Crowns: despite being very One Kingdom, the idea of not being forgotten and God bring peace suits this story, as does the music.
Rose Tattoo by Dropkick Murphys: I love the sense of family, adventure, and a good Irish brawl mixed in this song. It suits a new group of characters you’ll meet in Book 2 and a bit of the Dragons.
Worn by Tenth Avenue North: This is a heartfelt song about being worn down by this life and sin and needing some hope. Jonah gets beat down and down and down, but looks to what he’s learned from Soul about the King for hope.
Raise Your Horns by Amon Amarth: You could not find a better battle anthem than this song. It is a great brotherhood bonding song.
How Firm a Foundation: This is to remind me that the foundation of all our hope is the Word of God.
Never Once by Matt Redman: The image in this song of never being left out of God’s care is beautiful and filled with hope. It specifically mentions battle which suits this series perfectly.
The Soldier and the Oak by Elliott Park: I should move this song to the top of the list because as soon as I heard it I had to write a story for it. It is beautiful, touching, so sad, and amazing.
Hey Brother by Avicii: There are strong, repeated ideas of brotherhood and sisterhood in this story. I think that is a far more important theme for YAs than romance. Brotherhoods and sisterhoods, friends and family, will last much longer than romance. This song captures both the joy and the sorrow of standing together.
On top of that, I have also listened to the Band of Brothers and Rambo 4 Soundtracks. They both have a haunting melody that brings to mind the sadness of war.
I love having a layered view to life. This is one of the things I love most about fantasy. When you read good fantasy stories, they become a lens through which you view your world. They help you see the magic that we take for granted or have become callused to. They help you see stories in a patch of white flowers, or in a tree, or even a Christmas carol. I hope one day to bring this same joy to others as they read my story. I hope it gives them fresh layers in their own lives.