Just a little more than a year ago, on July 19, 2014, a fellow indie author, Amanda Allen, brought up the idea (inspired by this post by Hugh Howey) that a group of us should get together to create a science fiction world in which we could all write, with the goal of publishing the first round of works all at once. We could then open up the world to any author who wanted to write in that world. A sort of open-source indie version of Kindle Worlds.
I loved the idea. While I write historical mysteries, one of my favorite forms of recreational reading has always been science fiction, particularly the kind that focus on world-building. So, after a lively online discussion, I recklessly wrote, “sign me up!”
Three days later, we had a group of over ten interested authors, and we started the collaborative process of deciding the parameters of that world (would it be Earth in the future or another world or multiple worlds? Would there be aliens, or not? People with paranormal powers? Did we want a “Men in Black” scenario? Fantasy elements? Would the stories happen in a single time period or range over time?)
We voted on the various options, and the most popular was the creation of worlds (not Earth) in a single planetary system outside our galaxy, with our stories ranging over time. However, there was strong support for a MIB scenario and a strong interest in some sort of paranormal or psychic element.
Amanda, Cheri Lasota, and I took what the other authors said they wanted and brainstormed online feverishly over a few days, and then I was asked to write up the basic backstory for what we started to call the Paradisi Chronicles about New Eden and Tenebra, the worlds we were creating, planets in the fictional Paradisi System.
Now, I had no business starting a whole new series in July of 2014, because that was the month I started writing Deadly Proof, the fourth book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series. I am not one of those prolific writers who are able to write across multiple genres, producing multiple books, in multiple series, multiple times a year.
In fact, Maids of Misfortune, my first historical mystery, took 20 years between first draft and publication, the next two books each took just short of two years from beginning of research to publication, and I had already spent over a year doing the research for this fourth book that I was starting to write. I am, as you can see, the opposite of prolific.
But I told myself that I would just write a short story in this new world I had helped create, something I could do while Deadly Proof was being beta read. Since I had already written several short stories between novels, this seemed like a reasonable plan.
What really happened:
What happened is that while I spent my days recreating a world that existed 135 years in the past (1880 San Francisco) I was spending my evenings doing the research needed to create the new world, New Eden, set nearly 300 years in the future.
I read scientific articles on things like wormholes, space stations, EmDrives, and whether or not species can cross breed, poured over the maps Cheri Lasota was creating for this new world, and created backstories for the Yu Family, one of the ten Earth Families that would settle New Eden found the nation of Caelestis.
I also participated in the lively online discussions with other authors like Andy Bunch, Roslyn McFarland, Auburn Seal, and Sarah Woodbury to settle such questions as what language should the colonists from Earth speak once they were on New Eden? From what language should the speech of the New Eden natives be derived? What kind of transportation system would they build and should they have money or just online credits? How would the psychic powers work? And could the new settlers from Earth and the Ddaerans (the natives) be able to have sex and reproduce? Heady stuff!
And in the end, I fell in love with New Eden and its inhabitants. And when I began to write, the short story became a full-length novel––the first in a planned series about this world called the Caelestis Series.
So, on September 1, 2015, I became one of seven authors who launched our first works in the Paradisi Chronicles.
Between Mountain and Sea, is the novel I wrote feverishly between February of this year, when my fourth historical mystery came out, and now. It has two main protagonists. The first is Mabel Yu, a young girl who came from Earth with her family to settle New Eden. In diary entries we follow her life from young adulthood to her death over a century later. The second and primary protagonist is Mei Lin Yu, one of Mabel’s descendants, a young girl of sixteen who spends the summer at Mynyddamore, the ancestral home that Mabel built, and discovers secrets about her family, the Ddaerans (the native inhabitants) and herself that will change her life forever.
Working as part of the Paradisi Chronicles group resulted in an unexpected bonus. I got the chance to collaborate on the writing of a short story with my daughter, Ashley Angelly, who had joined our group of authors, and whose work will appear in 2016.