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The End of a Series...What Comes Next?

Finishing a novel is always something of a bittersweet experience, and that's even more true when it's the last book in a series. Survivors of PEACE is officially published and has been released out into the wild, which means the Secrets of PEACE trilogy is now complete. I'm so excited to have finished the story, but I'm also really going to miss writing Zira, Jared, Tripp, and everyone else. So, so much. I've worked on these books for almost eight years now. Eight years. That's a long time to spend on any creative endeavor, and I've grown so much as a writer in that time. These characters and their story are a piece of my heart and soul. But there are other stories and other characters in my heart who also want their stories told, and I look forward to what the future has in store.

So what exactly is in store? I'm so glad you asked! Right now, my primary focus is on finishing grad school and becoming a competent clinical social worker so I can enter a new career in the summer feeling good about what I want to do with my life. That doesn't mean I won't be writing anything, though. Writing has always been a huge part of my mental health and self-care, so I could never give it up entirely. Which means I need a new writing project (at least one), and I have just the thing in mind.

This was a short story I drafted more than a year ago, revised pretty extensively, then realized it wasn't coming together the way it needed to. It somehow managed to suffer from feeling both overdeveloped and underdeveloped because although it was too long to make a tight, appropriately-paced short story, it also felt too short because it didn't sufficiently delve into some of the ideas and plot threads that were brought up. The setting itself was also pretty confusing (which was completely my fault because I didn't ever have it nailed down myself).

I've decided to go back and flesh the story out a little more. It will probably end up being novella-length. That gives me a lot more room to explore the characters and setting, which I do actually have nailed down now. It takes place in a fictional, fantasy version of 1920s America and follows a cowboy named Jake Strickland who has inherited his estranged father's magical circus...which is all fine and dandy until the mob comes to collect on some of his father's debts.

I've been doing a lot of research on circuses, organized crime, prohibition, and the early 1900s in general in preparation to write this story. I don't even like doing story research most of the time, but this stuff is super fun and fascinating, especially the part where I get to watch YouTube videos of acrobats and trick riders and other exciting circus acts. If you're interested in circus history, this documentary mini-series on PBS was super helpful and is pretty fascinating. As of this past weekend, I have a completed outline and about 1,5o0 words on a first draft, plus the 12,000 words from the original short story that I'll be working from. So we're already making progress, and I hope to get a lot more done over the break. I have no idea when this will be done. I just want to take it at my own pace without any self-imposed deadlines or expectations, but it will be a fun, light-hearted creative project to work on while I finish up school and start transitioning into a job.

YA Fantasy Novel

Once Calico Thunder Rides Again is finished, I think I'll be diving into a YA fantasy novel that's been in my head for several years now. A few of the characters have actually been around since I was in high school, so this has been a long time coming. I don't have even a working title yet, but the story will be told from the point of view of three protagonists (Amar, Kesari, and Tyrus), each on their own journey to resolve important personal issues that are all magic-related. The little image gallery below has some character aesthetics collages I made for each of them.

I actually drafted 3/4 of this during Camp NaNoWriMo a few years ago. I got 70,000 words into it but never actually finished. Since then, I've had a bunch of new ideas for how I want to change the story, so I'll be rewriting the whole thing from scratch. I need to do a lot of world-building and outlining before then, which I'll probably work on sporadically from now until graduation in May. I don't have the vaguest idea of when it will be done, but as with the Secrets of PEACE series, I'm sure there will be lots of concept art and character illustrations along the way, so stay tuned for that. I'm really excited to get back into writing YA fantasy. That's where my writing roots are, and where I've always felt like I was most comfortable, so I look forward to getting back into the genre.

Speaking of which, it's honestly been a long time since I've read very much YA fantasy, which is something I should probably do if I'm going to be writing in the genre. So give me some recommendations! What are your favorite YA fantasy books and why do you love them? Bonus points if they feature unique magic systems and/or take place outside of your traditional medieval-European-esque setting. Drop a comment below to let me know!

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