I turned forty last February. It just so happens that my birthday is just six weeks after Winter’s birthday. Her birthday is on December 22…the first day of winter, or so it was the year she was born. It snowed the day she was born, and on her birthday just a few months ago the last chapter of her story was released—Mantle, the fourth book in the Winter series, which was preceded by Winter, Prophetess, and Acolyte.
You may not have noticed, and that’s okay. No hard feelings. Things have changed in the publishing landscape so much that it’s difficult to keep a series relevant. Winter came out with shouts and praises, Prophetess came out with a half-hearted hurrah, Acolyte came out with a shrug and a meh, and Mantle came out with barely a glance.
It’s my fault, for a large part. I loathe marketing…not that I’ve had a lot of time to do much. Also my output rate was horrendous. A respectable year and a half separate Winter and Prophetess, but it took another three and a half years before Acolyte. Mantle slowly followed a year and a half later.
Six and a half years all told from the release of the first to the release of the last. But the journey of me writing Winter’s story didn’t start in June of 2011. It really began eighteen years ago, when I was still a twenty-two-year-old college senior.
That’s when I first began to formulate the ideas that would become the Winter books. I was already working on some other ideas…one which became my “practice novel,” an unpublished fantasy that still sits on my shelf. (Anyone want to tackle editing it?) I thought I would write this epic fantasy series before getting to this “prophetess” girl. That’s all I really knew about her at first.
After writing the practice book I began on the follow-up in that series. But the prophetess girl was still nagging me to be written. And she was Goth now. So I gave in, pushed the other stuff aside, and started to explore Winter’s life.
In August of 2006, I began writing. In December 2006, I finished the first draft. So you can say this journey writing Winter’s story has taken over a decade of my life to tell.
During those years a lot of life happened. My daughter was born. In fact, at one point I wasn’t sure which would arrive first, her or the first draft of Winter. She’s turning 11 now, by the way. I also finished a master’s degree that took four years. I’ve served three different churches and moved my family from Mississippi to South Carolina. My son’s a teenager now. He was three when Winter was first written. I also managed to crank out a nonfiction book on church health.
It took nearly five years and many drafts before Winter was finally good enough to get someone’s attention. It was always “too Christian” for secular publishers and “too edgy” for Christian publishers. Still is, I suppose. I must confess if I dwell on that fact I get a little bitter sometimes. I believe in this story and I believe it could have a huge audience if it had the right kind of influence behind it.
Anyway, I entered Winter in the Marcher Lord Select Premise Contest. Remember that one? Boy, legends were made back in those days. Winter was a top three finalist and garnered the interest of Grace Bridges of Splashdown Books. She saw something worthwhile in the story and believed in it too. For that I will always be grateful.
Her words to me were, “If no one else will publish it, I will.”
My response was, “Are you kidding? Nobody else wants it!”
Things certainly have changed. Splashdown has changed its publishing model. I’ve become much more of an industry professional and have been doing some editing. And though I put all four books on my own label, Press Epic, when Mantle released, I know there will always be a close working relationship with Grace.
Eleven years. That’s how much time Winter demanded of my writing career. I recapped that journey for you because I want you to understand the depth of emotional attachment I’ve had to this story.
That’s why it may not surprise you, but it surprised me a little, the range of mixed emotions I had when I finally released the last book into the world. It was a quiet release, despite my efforts to make some noise. And once I finished doing all the behind the scenes administrative stuff to get all the technical things working right, I sat back and wondered if those last eleven years were worth it.
I almost quit. In fact, I wanted to quit.
Then I received a couple of messages. (Names withheld because I didn’t ask permission.)
“By reading the fourth book right now, it was the message I needed to hear to deal with things going in my life. I realize the series was a work of fiction, but it makes one realize that we are very much engaged in spiritual warfare everyday. Thank you for writing this series.”
“Hi, just wanted to say I just finished reading Mantle a few minutes ago, and it was just such an amazing story I’m still crying my eyes out. I have never read a series that touched my life the way this story has. May God bless you greatly and may you continue to write such awesome and inspiring stories!”
There haven’t been a lot of reviews yet for Mantle, but every once in a while messages like these come in that remind me why I put so much of my time and energy into telling these stories.
I know Winter has fans out there. Thank you so much. Maybe you are one of those that read the first book, maybe the second, but haven’t finished the series. I want to tell you that Winter’s story was planned from beginning to end a long time ago. It took four books to tell, and if you’ve only read part of the series then you’ve only read part of her story. If you love Winter, you should finish her story.
I also know there are some solid fans of mine out there that will read anything I write. You humble me greatly. For these people, I want to share what will happen next in my career.
I’m almost certainly going to use a pen name from here on out. I ran into all kinds of ministry problems and marketing difficulties while writing under my real name. Don’t worry. I won’t keep the name a secret.
I have two stories I really want to tell before (or if) I actually hang up my writing career. There are lots that I’d like to write, but only two that I must write. We’ll see how I feel once these are done. After taking a few months off to rejuvenate some writing energy and to properly close the book on Winter, I’ll begin the first of these.
What is it, you may ask? Well, I don’t want to give too many details away and some of you may have heard me speak of it already. I’ll just say this book is my sci-fi, steampunk, fantasy, interdimensional, love-story, epic that will break all kinds of rules and be all kinds of awesome. (Incidentally, this is also the story I accidentally pitched to a publisher while sitting on the floor at Realm Makers two years ago and was promptly asked for the manuscript.)
The other thing I hope to do in the near future is restart the music career my wife and I walked away from in college. Many people don’t know we were actively pursuing a career in the recording industry. We were making some headway and, when things began to get serious, we decided we didn’t want to raise a family on the road. So we backed away. God has placed me in a ministry position now leading an awesome worship team. Our kids are old enough to handle the touring/concert scene, so I think the timing may be right to try again. We may never be on the radio, but it’s something we enjoy.
So a new chapter is happening in my creative life. Winter represents that first chapter, all by herself. But now new things must happen. New books. New music. New opportunities. And a little bit of reinventing my creative presence for the sake of my sanity. In a lot of ways I not only need to close the book on Winter, but also close the book on the writer and creative I was while writing Winter.
I call Winter my ink and paper daughter. In many ways she feels like one and she always will. But now it’s time for me to let her go and move on. You, of course, don’t have to. Continue to read. Continue to be inspired. And continue to share her story with everyone who needs the hope that God can do amazing things through even the most broken lives.