Muddling Through

file0002136730600That’s what I’ve felt like the last few weeks. A muddler — as if I’m slogging through mud. I’m not sure where I’m going, and even if I did, it would be a slow, messy business getting there.

This might be partly because I’m still dealing with the effects of a respiratory infection, but also partly because… I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just lazy and don’t want to do all the things a writer needs to do these days.

All four books in the Gateway to Gannah series are now available for sale both in print and ebook. For some reason I don’t feel like this is any great accomplishment. I’m glad it’s done and am ready to move on, but I’m not sure where to go from here.

It’s autumn. Ordinarily I love this time of year, and it’s a lovely season here in Western Maryland. But autumn_scenethe brisk air, autumnal smells, and beautiful colors don’t energize me like they usually do.

Next week will be the first anniversary of our moving here. This fills me with a sense of satisfaction, because we like it here and are fully settled in. But rather than itching to tackle a new project, I feel more like taking a nap.

I have a couple of writer friends in Iowa whom no one can call muddlers. One of them, Susan Lawrence, visited me here on Y’s Words a month or two ago. (If you haven’t read her book yet, Atonement for Emily Adams, hurry up and do it. It’s a good one!) A list of her regular activities makes me feel breathless.

Another of my Iowa friends, Glenda Mathes, recently released her first work of fiction. She’s not a newcomer to the writing world by any means. For more than a decade, she’s been writing for Christian Renewal magazine. Since 2001, she’s served as either the managing editor or contributing editor The Messenger, the newsletter of Mid-America Reformed Seminary. She’s the author of several nonfiction books: an introductory text to the Heidelberg catechism; a thoughtful, tender look at infant loss, and a lovely devotional about resting in God. She has at least one other devotional book under contract, and she’s actively working on another nonfiction book.

PrintSuffice it to say, Glenda’s no muddler. But her first published fiction work is about a muddling boy. And it’s a delight.

It’s the first in a three-book series called Matthew in the Middle, and I can’t decide what I like most about it. Rather than list its great qualities in any particular order, I’ll share them as they come to me:

  • Glenda wrote the books for her grandsons. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about writing something for my grandkids. But have I ever done it? No. Because I’m a muddler. Glenda, on the other hand, not only wrote this wonderful series, but is publishing it — and doing a first-rate job with it.
  • It’s written from a believable kid’s viewpoint. The main character’s actions, thoughts, attitudes, and responses are spot-on for someone his age. His relationships with the people in his world (family, teachers, friends, etc.) are realistic and three-dimensional.
  • Matthew faces the sort of challenges every kid faces. No over-the-top stuff, no responsibility to save the world, nothing supernatural, nor dark, horrible, or creepy. He’s just a kid who has to deal with normal pressures, but it’s all portrayed in such a way that the reader relates to him, cheers for him, and worries for him.
  • Though a natural spiritual thread keeps things moving with a purpose, gentle humor prevents it from ever getting heavy.

All this to say: though Matthew may be barely muddling, the author soars.

There are several things I’m uncertain about right now. A partial list of these mysteries includes what my next writing project should be (if there should be one at all); how I should best market the Gannah series; whether I should blog more diligently.

But here’s one thing I’m sure of: Glenda’s latest book, Matthew Muddles Through, is a great gift for young boys and an enjoyable read for any age.

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Fly Through the Gateway to Gannah for Some Serious Sci-Fi Adventure

After seeing the reviews of Ransom in the Rock earlier this year, I realized something: Ransom in the RockThough I tried to make each title in the Gateway to Gannah series stand alone, it was apparent that reader enjoyment was far greater for those who had previously read the first two titles in the series.

For that reason, I thought it might be a good idea to include something at the beginning of Book #4 to fill readers in on what led up to the adventure they’re about to embark upon. As I contemplated the possibility, Adam (the protagonist of Book #4) stepped up and took it upon himself to write it for me.

Just for fun, I thought I’d share it with you. If you’re wondering about the possibility of flying through the Gateway to Gannah for some serious sci-fi adventure, this might help you decide.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 2.31.19 PMDear Earthish traveler:

If you’re a first-time visitor to Gannah, welcome! To help you get the most out of your trip, we who are blessed to live here would like to provide you with this brief history so you might orient yourself to the surroundings.

Almost a millennium before this story takes place, the population of Gannah was comprised of one race ruled by one king, a descendant of a man named Atarah. Since his day, every king took his name. Unlike Earthish humans, the ancient Gannahans were of an obedient nature, and Atarah’s authority was seldom disputed, if ever.

The planet had never known war except for battles with weather, natural disaster, and animal attacks—which were frequent and often organized. Animals here are intelligent, able to communicate with people through a gland all natives of Gannah have, man and beast alike, called a meah. Located at the base of the brain, it enables Gannahans to perceive mental and emotional signals from others who possess the gland.

The early Gannahans had no interest in technology. They understood a great deal about natural science, and they learned to maintain optimal health, strength, and longevity through what we might consider scientific advancements. But their lifestyles were quite simple, and they had little curiosity about mechanics or gadgetry.

Until, that is, visitors from the neighboring planet of Feuraq invaded. Gannah had never seen flying machines, let alone spacecraft. They had no concept of astronomy and were unaware there were other beings in the universe. Moreover, the only weapons they knew were of the manual variety, such as the personal blade called a lahab that each person carries for defense against animals. This alien invasion took them by complete surprise.

Their civilization may have been backward, but the Gannahans were fast learners. Once they’d caught their collective breath, they figured out how to turn the invaders’ technology against them. They also learned to kill fellow humans (for all these extraterrestrials are, in fact, different branches of the human race). They became possessed by a global bloodlust. The more Feuraqis they killed, the stronger the grip of their madness. Not content to repel the invasion and rid Gannah of every trace of the Outsiders, they built spaceships, traveled to Feuraq, and reduced the planet to a cinder.

But that only fueled their blooddrunk, and they searched the galaxy for more worlds to conquer. In two generations, their once-peaceful agrarian society had become centered around bloodshed and war.

In their galactic rampage, Gannah attacked the planet Karkar. Its people were multiracial and argumentative, its history amounting to one layer of war upon another. As a result, it seemed they had already accomplished much of the work of their own destruction before the Gannahan warships arrived. Gannah’s king, Atarah Hoseh, launched an attack and remained at Karkar until total victory was imminent, then took off in a small ship with a scouting team to look for the next world to conquer.

Hoseh had an insatiable appetite not only for blood, but also for knowledge of the people file0001317022358and cultures he devoured. One thing in particular caught his attention: the earliest history of every planet he encountered, including his own, had similar legends concerning the stars. The ancient peoples saw shapes formed by the stars in the night skies, images only the wildest leaps of imagination could reveal. Different stars formed the constellations above each planet, but the formations had similar names and were found in roughly the same locations in the skies. Individually, the legends made no sense to Hoseh. Put together, the mystery drove him mad. His desire to find new worlds to conquer was fueled by a hunger to understand this puzzle as much as it was by bloodlust.

The next planet Hoseh reconnoitered was Earth. It was there that he learned about the Creator God who had put the stars in the skies in deliberate arrangements to illustrate a story. Moreover, it was on Earth that Atarah Hoseh discovered what that universal story was: the gospel of redemption through Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile, back on Karkar, the natives of the planet engineered a microscopic organism that attacked Gannahan muscle tissue. They introduced this musculophage into the ventilation systems of the orbiting starships. The plan worked better than they’d hoped: the Gannahans all sickened, but the disease had no affect on the Karkar people. In a short space of time, the invaders had gathered their sick and dying soldiers and pointed their ships toward home. By the time the warships found their way back to Gannah, every occupant was dead of the plague. When Atarah Hoseh later arrived from Earth, carrying the gospel of salvation, he ordered the ships brought down from orbit and submerged in the sea forever, lest the plague be loosed into Gannah’s own atmosphere.

Sadly, certain factions on Karkar took advantage of the chaos the Gannahans left behind and continued the civil war the invaders had interrupted. By the time the dust settled, only one race remained, and the planet was uninhabitable outside the domes they’d built to protect themselves from the toxicity.

Speaking of toxic, their hatred of Gannah was as deadly as the atmosphere. They blamed all their world’s ills on the invaders, and hatred of the Gannahans became deeply entrenched in the Karkar psyche.

Book #1, The Story in the Stars, opens with a woman, Dassa, completing the last requirement for entry into the Gannahan knighthood. While she’s off on her quest, a global disaster strikes: Her father, the ruler of Gannah, ordered the raising of the ancient warships that returned from Karkar centuries before. The first was brought up without incident. The second, however, exploded as it reached the surface, flinging tainted air into Gannah’s atmosphere. Before Dassa’s quest is completed, a significant portion of the world’s population has died, and the rest are infected.

Gannah sends a distress call into space. The call is picked up by the LSS Barton, a medical research vessel. The captain orders Dr. Pik, chief of the infectious disease unit, to come up with an antidote to the Karkar plague while the ship races to Gannah’s rescue.

All fine and good, except that Dr. Pik is a Karkar. Though it goes against every fiber of his being, he finds records of how the virus worked and figures out how to thwart it. As the Barton nears Gannah, he and the people in his lab have prepared several thousand doses. It’s nowhere near enough, considering the distress call said the entire planet is infected. But he has his team working around the clock to manufacture more.

When the Barton arrives, however, they find only one living Gannahan: Dassa. And she’s barely alive. They take her onto the ship and try to bring her back to health, despite the fact that no one on board knows much about Gannahan physiology.

Because of their deep-seated racial animosity, Pik and Dassa are revolted by the very sight of one another. Throughout the course of her treatment, however, they come to see each other in a somewhat different light. They go through various adventures together, including an attack by space pirates and, later, a voyage back to Gannah.

Dassa shares with Pik the “story in the stars” that her forefather, Atarah Hoseh, discovered centuries ago on Earth. Pik is disgusted with the tale and is particularly angered by the suggestion that it was the gospel that changed the Gannahans’ warlike habits rather than their humiliation at the hands of his Karkar forebears.

Nevertheless, by the end of the first book, Dassa and Pik have come to understand each other. Somewhat.

In book #2, Words in the Wind, Pik and Dassa have married. Together, they recruited a group of Earthers to travel to Gannah to establish a new settlement with the intention of repopulating the planet. Though relations between the two planets are still strained, a ship has come to Gannah requesting Dassa’s help in translating ancient documents Karkar archaeologists found dating from Gannah’s invasion centuries before. At Pik’s insistence, she goes to the ship to complete the task, but on her return to the planet, her shuttle crashes and strands her 10,000 kilometers from home.

Weather and technical difficulties thwart rescue attempts. In her absence, Pik is left in charge of the settlement—and also of their two children, ten-year-old Adam and five-year-old Lileela. He must deal with Lileela acting out, a rebellious faction among the settlers, and a threatened uprising by the wildlife.

Lileela’s behavior steadily degrades, as she believes her mother abandoned her. One snowy day, she disobeys Pik and goes sledding alone. She has an accident and breaks her neck, causing paralysis. Because the settlement’s medical resources are not sophisticated enough to treat a spinal cord injury, Pik has no choice but to send Lileela to Karkar, where help is available.

The rebellious faction steals valuable resources from the settlement and goes out to start their own colony. The settlers are left with food shortages and no means of transportation to pursue the thieves.

grand canyonOn the other side of the world, Dassa is beset by a blizzard. She seeks refuge in a canyon, where she finds some ruins that figure prominently in ancient legends that she had always thought were mere fairy tales. What she discovers forces her to acknowledge that much of what she thought she knew about Gannah’s history was a lie. Her isolation from the rest of the settlement and the eroding of everything she’d once thought true combine to drive her nearly mad. The only thing that keeps her together is her faith in the God of her father Hoseh and the constant reliability of His word.

Pik and Dassa eventually reunite, but both Dassa and the settlement are irrevocably changed.

In Book #3, Ransom in the Rock, Lileela returns to Gannah after ten years on Karkar. She’s able to walk again, but she bears bitter resentment toward her parents. First they rejected her, and now, after she’s finally gotten comfortable on Karkar, they force her to return. She vows to leave Gannah once and for all the first chance she gets.

The Karkar ship that brought her home is also commissioned to pick up quantities of valuable ores Gannah is giving Karkar as payment for Lileela’s medical treatment. However, the ship’s crew has another motive for being there. Karkar’s resources are strained to the breaking point, and, since they believe the problem was caused by Gannah to begin with, it would be poetic justice if they could take over the resource-rich planet once owned by the ancient marauders.

Meanwhile, on Earth, a Special Starforces team led by Commander Faris is ordered to pick up an insurrectionist, Philip Dengel, and his family and take them to a penal colony for interrogation. One problem: Dengel’s crime is preaching Christianity, and Faris is a secret convert. Faris leads his team to capture the family, but then, through subterfuge of which he is not proud, he steals a starship and whisks the Dengels toward Gannah and what he hopes will be safety.

On that distant world, the settlers learn of the Karkar’s intentions, but they have no weapons to repel an attack. All they can do is pray.

A short time later, sunspots and massive magnetic storms on Gannah’s sun cause severe Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 2.58.31 PMdisturbances in space, disabling the Karkar ship and creating catastrophic weather and seismological conditions on the planet. None of the settlers die, however, and they see the situation as God having prevented their annihilation by the Karkar. Dassa chooses to respond with mercy rather than vengeance. In order to save the remaining Karkar lives, she brings the survivors down to the planet until the settlers can figure out how to send them home.

Right about then, Faris and his crew of renegades arrive at Gannah. They are amazed to see the empty Karkar ship orbiting helplessly, and the planet that formerly had only one landmass now divided into a number of continents.

When Dassa questions the visitors as to their purpose, she discovers that Faris and his men were created through genetic engineering—using DNA that Pik took from her and sold to the League of Planets when she was his patient decades before. The League used it to try to create a race of super-soldiers using DNA from the fabled Gannahan warriors.

Through all the upheavals, both emotional and meteorological, that Lileela endured since her return to Gannah, she comes to grips with who she is—and Who God is. When Faris offers his ship to the Karkar refugees so they can return home, instead of asking to go with them as she’d previously planned, Lileela decides to stay on Gannah, where she now feels she belongs. The fact that she’s keenly attracted to Faris might have something to do with it.

And that’s where we pick up with this, the final book in the series. We hope you have a wonderful time exploring our lovely planet.

Sincerely,
Atarah Adam Pik
Last Toqeph of Gannah

 

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The Deed is Done

Lost and FoundWell, folks, I was shooting for a release date of October 15 for book #4 in the Gannah series. And, to my surprise, despite some set-backs and time drains, I made it!

I just now (as in, less than half an hour ago) clicked “Publish” for both the print and the Kindle versions, so you probably won’t find them in either format on Amazon quite yet. But maybe if you check back later tonight (it’s 3:08 pm EST) or tomorrow, you’ll be able to snag YOUR copy!

It’s the longest of the four titles, so by necessity the print version has to be over $10. However, I’ve kept the prices in both formats as low as I reasonably could. I know how difficult it can be to part with your hard-earned money. I don’t like spending it on books, and I hate to ask other people to spend it on mine.

If you’d like to read it for free, here are some options: 1) Ask your local library to buy it. Better yet, ask them to buy the whole series. 2) Watch my blog for a give-away. Sooner or later, I’ll probably do one. 3) Same for Goodreads. I plan to do another giveaway there too. 4) Ask your mom, husband, best friend, boss, or neighbor across the street to get it for you for Christmas.

Between getting this ready for publication, helping my in-laws with the Big Move, (which has required two trips to Ohio in two weeks, with a third one to come this weekend), and entertaining an active upper-respiratory infection that’s decided to take up residence in my body without an invitation, I’m feeling a bit burned out. Which means I won’t be setting up those promised giveaways until at least tomorrow. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get excited about this new release, right? Tell everyone you know about it! Twist a few arms, resort to bribery if necessary, just do whatever you can to get people to buy this book!

Meanwhile, I’m going to go take a nap. After I take the sheets out of the dryer and make the bed. And then get supper started. And then…  well, a nap was a nice idea even if I never quite get there.

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