It was a crazy big windstorm, the kind you only get in places like Montana where it blazes off the mountains and takes out everything in its path. We scrambled as it came in, trying to save our old wooden fence (we didn’t) and the trampoline (partly successful). The dog was freaked out, the cat insisted on sitting on our laps, and nobody even considered leaving the house. 

In the morning, branches and stray pieces of construction littered the yard. And yes, there was a big, green canoe. We stared at it with wide grins. How long would it take for the owner to figure it out? 

Joshua rafting in the rain
Joshua rafting in the rain

Going through windstorms is how we end up with good stories in the end. Joshua and I went on a six-day whitewater rafting trip in Idaho with friends and family, and on day three we were hit with the tip of Hurricane Hilary. We were blasted with rain, drenched from head to toe from every direction. 

At one point, Joshua said to me, “Dad. This isn’t fun. I’m cold and wet. When will it be over?” 

I said something about how, when it’s over, we’ll appreciate the sun all the more, which of course didn’t help him in the slightest. But looking back at the photos and videos of our week in the wilderness, that day where we were barraged with water was the most fun. We were desperate to stay warm, so we were singing constantly, spinning our raft in circles, and when we got to shore, doing crazy Viking games where you spin with an oar on your head and leap over. 

A good story has tension, which is what makes it an adventure. When real-life adventures hit us, we don’t always welcome them, but they sure do enrich our lives. Writing books is an adventure in and of itself. As it emerges, the plot takes its own twists and turns, many times unexpected. This latest book has been through quite the adventure to get itself to the finish line. As I was thinking of what it’s been like, I think of the morning after that windstorm and seeing the canoe—a spark of joy at where it all landed.

Most of this year, I’ve been writing solo. This entire series exists because of the spark from my eldest, and I struggled for a while to keep that spark alive. And while both kids have had an interest at some time, they’re now focused on other things. It took me a while, but I’ve accepted and now am truly enjoying this new phase of writing. Sometimes, as new twists emerge in the plot of my real life, I relate them to the grand adventures of the books, and I know that I can weather anything. The book series exists because it started as a collaboration project, and that makes me happy. 

Ephie and family rafting in Hurricane Hilary
Ephie and family rafting in Hurricane Hilary

What makes me happier still is seeing the book in its nearly-complete state. The initial round of edits with my professional editor gutted the first four chapters. I wish more books and movies would go through such a tough process. Who needs a slow start, anyway? Let’s jump right into the plot arc that’s going to be most important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a movie, and ten minutes in I’ve thought they could have started it there. She helped me see that for this book.

The editing process may have gutted four chapters, but it added many more, salted throughout, till it’s now just barely the longest in the series. Early readers have said it’s the most cohesive and engaging one yet. And I still think about it constantly, which means it’s got some good hooks to it.

The last things are getting tidied up—cover art, inside illustrations, and one final round of copy editing. And then, it will be available for the world. The Twelfth Scepter kicks off a grand finale to the plot arc created in book one. It does leave an open door for a fifth book, which was a part of the original vision, but it also has a satisfying ending that makes the first three books worthwhile. It took me longer than I’d hoped, and looking back it feels a bit like a windstorm, but we’re now in the final stages and just about ready to launch. 

So, keep your eyes peeled for a Kickstarter coming soon to get your signed copies, and join the adventure as the young elementalists tackle their greatest challenge yet. My hope is you’ll be as delighted to see the final result as the morning I woke up to that big old green canoe.