Winter of 2000, I was playing outside in the snow. As I played, I made up a game in my mind. This game turned into 5 books and 20 years. The title has changed many, many times but as of October 2023 the title has finally settled at The Lost Gods, and Paragon Forgotten is the first book.
I write the 1st draft of every novel by hand. Every. Single. Novel. In the above photo I am holding Paragon Forgotten's first draft, first inked on 6 May 2003 (I did say 2000 earlier. There's a reason for that -- I wrote the series out of order. That will be a story for another time). I'm 36 years old now, but I was 16 when I first held this notebook. As you see in the picture below, it is very old now and has been tossed and moved and loved so much that some of the pages have fallen out, as well as other pages added from other notes I'd written elsewhere.
The entire Lost Gods series has been rewritten many times. I lost count after 8. I kept re-writing it because as I grew older and my thoughts and dreams and ideas and beliefs changed, so did The Lost Gods and I would re-write it to reflect those changes. Often I would ask myself, "Why do I bother? Why am I spending so much time on this series, writing, re-writing, and never publishing?" And every time I even, for a moment, considered abandoning it, a voice would thunderbolt through my brain and say:
"Because I have a story to tell."
I do have a story to tell, and it wasn't until 3 years ago that I realized what story it was I wanted to tell.
The Lost Gods series has a heartbeat. Perhaps all fantasy authors claim so, but I would wait to see the proof because when I say “heartbeat” I don’t mean snazzy characters, larger-than-life plot twists, or the heavily researched world-building fantasy authors sell their souls for.
“Heartbeat” is the theme.
Fantasy is my favorite genre to read, and I’ve read enough to know that fantasy authors want your focus directed on this magic system, that unique creature, or the move-by-move sword-fighting scene they’ve acted out during LARP. What appears to be largely missing in the fantasy genre is the “reason” for writing down even the first word. The reason, the pulse sliding undercurrent to the characters, plot, and world-building. Without this reason, this pulse, this heartbeat, all fantasy is a copy-paste from each other because magic systems are not unique, fantastical creatures come out of the same mold, and I skim move-by-move sword fighting scenes because I know the hero will win and I will DNF a book for predictability.
The Lost Gods isn’t about Cohthel discovering if his father is alive, or his subsequent choices and the impact his choice will make on the rest of the series. The Lost Gods is about the villain who isn’t even mentioned in the blurb of the first book. It’s the villain’s story because through his internal conflict -- and the reason I use varying races (dragons, elves, dwarves, ecthore, seadwellers, falkons, gryphons, pegasi) -- he begins to understand that the race of humans are superior to the other eight races not because of their divine birthright, but because the humans have been mandated by their divine birthright to serve the other races, much like a servant would serve a king, or exactly like Jesus -- a king -- served his fellow mankind.
I have a story to tell
I have that opportunity to say one thing to our world, and I've spent 5 books and 20 years weaving it through The Lost Gods to say: love and serve your fellow mankind.
For a long time, I queried agents and publishers to take on The Lost Gods. Oh, I read all the articles, listened to podcasts, subscribed to services, and joined groups with fellow writers, but I could never get anyone to take interest in my query. Then I read a note by an author inside one of his books that said his story was not the one he had intended to write, but that he had to change what he had written because the world was not ready for it. He said that and I realized that if I had any hopes of telling my story to the world, I would have to forgo publishers and agents because I did not want them forcing me to change my story to fit their political direction.
As of today, 24 Nov 2023, my dream of saying my one thing to the world has been fulfilled.
Thank you, readers, for reading the story I wanted to tell.