This book has been a labor of love. Two-and-a-half years in, it’s transformed far beyond the simple children’s book we started writing. Granted, Celia was nine when we began, and hesitant about the hero being older than eleven — Amber is now twelve and has opinions of her own!

It all started when Celia started reading voraciously and said to me one evening, “Dad, we should write a book together!” It was out of the blue, and I was intrigued. I’ve written a lot over the years, but never published. It turned out she had lots of ideas, some taken from other books she’d read, granted, but we quickly worked past that hurdle. No, this was going to be our book, unique in its own way.

Our evening routine was I’d sit down with her at bedtime and she’d say, “Dad! Did you write the next chapter yet?” To which I would be thrilled if I’d made the time the night before or in between things to eke it out. She would listen to me read and correct words as we went. “Not like that, Dad, like this!” She made it funnier and the characters more colorful.

I recently looked back at our original notes and laughed. The story has some of the core ideas from that time, but took a completely different arc in the end. A delightful arc, with many layers, intrigue, and the potential for at least five books in the series.

We shared the first draft with my brother, who read it aloud to his kids. Back then, it was only about a hundred pages (the current version is over three hundred). It quickly became clear that however much we wanted to keep it simple for a younger audience, both Celia and I had lots more ideas to make it a richer story.

We oftentimes would discuss the book over our daily commute or over dinner. By the time I shared it with a writer’s group, it was longer, but missing some key elements. Finally, the summer of 2019 I figured it was 90% there and I found our editor, Ann Castro. Little did I know, Ann would guide us in transforming our book from its rough shape into a work of art!

The editing process was tough for Celia, since she was less involved, so we focused on book two. Editing book one while simultaneously writing book two turned out to be a lot of work — late nights, early mornings, writing on an iPad on business trips 20,000 feet above the continent.

In hindsight, I’d say book one was about 70% there when we found Ann last summer. We’re in the final editing stages now, and plan to publish this spring, after launching a Kickstarter campaign. Ann is now reading book two, and we can’t wait to hear what she thinks!

In the meantime, a writer’s gotta write — we’ve figured out the plot twists to make book three exciting, and have written the first couple chapters. We need a few long road trips to be stuck in one place together without distractions so we can talk through the adventures and flesh them out.

This has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life, and we haven’t even published it yet! I’m excited to share these books with all of you. I see them not just as good stories, but a glimpse into what’s possible. As the characters came to life, I started to relate to each one of them, and they became almost like friends.

I admit that there was a time or two when I used the characters’ bravery as examples when parenting Celia. “Do you really think that’s a good choice? What do you think Amber would do in this situation?” LOL. I feel guilty now writing this down. Using a fictional character as an example. But that’s the power of a good story, isn’t it? It should change our lives. It’s certainly changed mine. 😉