As a young boy, I fell in love with Harry the Dirty Dog. After all, I hated baths, and the idea of burying the scrubber and running away had occurred to me countless times. In later years, I found comfort and familiarity in Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Frecklejuice. In Middle School came The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Scarlett Letter and every word ever written by the inimitable master of fright Edgar Allen Poe. It was at this time I wrote my first story. I’m not sure the title, but it involved a young boy, a baseball game, and overcoming a horrible ankle injury to win the championship. I’m not sure what happened to it, but regardless of how awful it likely was, I’ve never forgotten it. As a starting point, it was comfortable, familiar and hopeful. I don’t recall writing another story until I reached High School, a few years later, where a simple read of A Tale of Two Cities changed everything. It was fabulous. Breathtaking. Inspiring. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to craft stories that thrilled, captivated, and most certainly entertained. I wanted to be remembered, as I had remembered those that inspired me. So I began writing.
It went horribly for a long time. Not to say I was a horrible writer. Just that my dreams were not surpassing my reality. Fear and doubt intervened. The weight of adulthood crushed me. Bills mounted. My skill plateaued as I fought to survive, as I managed to write as time allowed, as I read intermittently, as I refused to let go despite the screeching gnaw within my brain. If I had the courage to brave reading my material from that day, I might wonder how it is the desire survived. The potential was there, however dormant, suffering from a lack of experience, and proper guidance. But I persisted. I kept writing. I met successful writers, whose wisdom and sage advice strengthened my voice, and my resolve. I set aside my love for Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams in order to concentrate fully upon what I wanted to write, rather than my desire to fit in their mold. Anointed: The Passion of Timmy Christ, CEO was, and still is, a fine book. One I can be proud of. Flutter followed it nicely, though I still believe my mind set at that time left me a bit vulnerable within, too raw to maintain the tempo and cadence I wanted it to have.
Since then, I’ve been quiet. Not so much quiet in my every day existence, though I’ve had some moments, but rather quiet on the publishing front. Partly, this is due to circumstance. Partly because I insist on being the best writer I can be, reluctant to offer substandard material. I want to be read well, to sell in high volume, to be revered. But I never want to be Dan Brown, James Patterson, or God forbid, Stephanie Meyer. I want to be Judy Blume, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, and so on. I still want the same thing fourteen-year old me wanted: to be remembered as one of the greats.
And though that has as of yet materialized, the blessing of the writing life is there are no restrictions of time. In fact, much as the apprentice must rise to the level of Master before being recognized for their skill, life has taken me on a tour, an education I may not have asked for but have greatly appreciated. It has granted me the chance to learn, to improve, to better myself as an artist as well as a person.
Most importantly, it brought me Oliver Miles.
It gave me a glimpse of the boy I was, of the countless stories that inspired me, of the many hours I dreamed of what it would be like to walk the worlds within the pages that so fascinated me. Of what it would be like to be the hero. And when The Storyteller spoke, he did so easily, with great intent, with a yearning need to heard, with the voice of a child who longed to matter.
He gave me something to believe in. Something special.
And the journey of fourteen-year old Oliver Miles began, precisely where my love for writing was born: In the pages of his favorite books. His passion, however, rest squarely within the five-book series, The Damon Grell Chronicles, a collection he read countless times, arriving at the final chapter of the final book with the same unshakable sense of frustration and disappointment.
“‘Infusco!”’ The light shrouding the figure became heavy and fell, dull waves of warmth tattered to thin wisps by cold shadow. Silence embraced the chamber, expanded into the growing darkness, and broke in a grinding shift of granite upon granite. The coffin fell open, its lid split in two upon the sandy floor, the shadows alive, swirling, absorbing all light, taking form, and Damon Grell rose once more.”
After all, Damon Grell didn’t simply fail in his final showdown with the dark Lord Ahriman. He died. And, as if the pain of that loss alone didn’t suffice, Damon was then resurrected by a shadowy figure at the story’s end, leaving the world of Elysium without a true hero, and Oliver without a sense of resolution. Though Damon has been raised, there’s no way to ensure his state of mind, or abilities. Without Damon, Lord Ahriman would rule over all. Without a proper hero, Elysium would fall. Little could Oliver have known that Elysium had indeed found its hero, and that he, Oliver Miles, was the one it had chosen. Drawn into Elysium by the mysterious Storyteller, Oliver finds a world more real, more deadly than he could have dreamed. A world where the magic of words and the future hope of Elysium lead him into a race to find the resurrected Damon Grell before the Shadowheart—the most powerful form of magic known in Elysium—can fall into the hands of a rising darkness that threatens to destroy the world.
I am possessed by this story, and the subsequent four that round it out. So much so that I find the need for it to be perfect. To honor the story fully. I’ve worked on it for years, completely rewriting it several times, most recently last Fall. I have so much back story, I could effectively write The Damon Grell Chronicles as well as the origin story of the individual who would ultimately be known as the Storyteller. I could spend the rest of my life delving into the many side stories and companion pieces had I the opportunity. Perhaps I will. It would be a tremendous thrill to be afforded the opportunity to do so.
As an artist, I am compelled to believe in my work. To believe in its value, its credibility. To raise it above my head and proclaim it special in ways no other work could proclaim. And so I shall. However, I do so with a sense of awe and wonderment over the feeling this tale leaves me. I do so curious over what plan the Storyteller put in effect upon handing me the details of Oliver’s journey. I do so more confident than I’ve ever been that I’ve honored the wish of a fourteen-year old boy who longed to have a voice in the literary world that truly mattered. And soon–hopefully quite soon–you will understand why.