Sometime before it grew dark, an enormous wind pounded into our valley, sending our pets scampering under tables and the kids wide-eyed at the windows. We live in the Rocky Mountains, so we don’t get big tornadoes or hurricanes, but this was about as big as it gets. Next thing I knew, Joshua was yelling, “Dad! The trampoline!” and he donned shoes and ran outside. 

A quick glimpse showed the issue. The basketball hoop pole was completely bent, in danger of snapping at any minute. Wearing only flip flops and a light sweater, I dashed outside to help. Ten minutes later, after fingers were nearly freezing, we’d detached the pole, only to hear Joshua shouting, “The fence!” a moment later.

The aged wooden fence was the next to go. I dashed to the garage for a screw gun to try to reinforce it, but in the end, after seeing multiple screws go flying off into the unknown, I just propped it up, hoping it wouldn’t blow into the neighbor’s house. Thankfully, it didn’t, just into their bushes. And I didn’t think they’d mind all that much since they lost a tree, and some random canoe appeared in their yard (“Is this your canoe?” they asked the next day. “Nope.”). It was the least of their worries.

But the hardest thing that night wasn’t thawing fingers but getting the kids to sleep. Well after bedtime, I read two chapters of the latest fantasy novel, but it put me to sleep more than them! They were just too wired up, nervous, and afraid of what might happen, and it made for a rough morning the next day.

In the middle of it all, I had a moment of reflection about a chapter in book 3, where the adventurers encounter an enormous storm, much bigger than the one we were going through. It struck me immediately how easy it is to write about such things, and even things like dragons and battles, but reality is always much more felt. 

When we’re writing, my goal is always to make each chapter engaging, maybe not as much as the real world can, but as much as possible. And I’m excited about where we’re at—the third draft is complete and sent to the editor, and our early readers are already brimming with praise for the improvements from the first draft. But after that storm, I’m now wondering how to make it even more so.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote his trilogy in the midst of WWII, and it influenced his writing profoundly, culminating with mighty battles between the forces of good and evil. I’ve thought about that a lot—how our life experiences shape us. Today’s storms and wars have shaped these books in our desire to see heroes tackle challenges for the greater good—no matter how large the adventure. 

Now that it’s spring, we’re gearing up for the next round of selling books at the Montana MADE fair, and excited to publish book 3, Secret of the Kraken, by June. Not as exciting an adventure as battling dragons or pushy storms, but honestly, it’s plenty enough for me!