“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant:
if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
~~Anne Bradstreet

Hi all,

So before I forget...  Apparently, over a year ago, Promised Land came out on DVD for Region 1 (U.S. and Canada).  I completely missed this pretty great news and only got clued in last week so now I'm spreading the word.  It's a complete series set so it'll have both of the episodes that John Dye appeared in as Andrew.  Yay!

Secondly, believe it or not, I'm still working on the Christmas story which, if you've been reading it, you've realized is less a Christmas story and more of an "I didn't get to what I wanted to this year so I'm going to throw everything I missed into this frame story that just happens to be set at Christmas" story.  So I'm going to resume adding to it... maybe not every evening... with the goal being to have it finished by next weekend.  I really hoped to have it done this week but between being sick for a few days and then some flu exposure at my work place, I spent more than the usual amount of time cleaning this weekend.  So... I'm pretty zonked!  But, by the time you get this, there will be a new update on that story.

And I guess that's it for now!  Since I wanted to spend time on the story, this is really a hodge-podge of stuff.

I hope 2020 is treating you all well!

God bless,

Ask a JABB Co-Founder: The More Randomness Edition

Question: How common is the angel-human anam cara thing and why do some of the angels seem to have never heard of it?

Answer: There are likely lots of lifestyles and traditions that you've never heard of and I believe Heaven is infinitely more vast and varied than Earth.  So I don't think it's surprising that a resident of Heaven wouldn't know about everything going on among their many, many, many fellow angels. 

I also think that it's part of God's plan that such relationships often pop up in clusters.  While there are isolated cases (Eli and Sophia), I don't think it's coincidence that the other angel-human anam caras are part of wider communities that have multiple instances of it, like El-Chanan and the Friends.  There are challenges that come with that lifestyle and a support system of similar or at least informed people seems important.  But given the stories are about the Friends and, to a much lesser extent, El-Chanan, it gives the impression that it's more common than it is.

It also makes sense to me that, given it is fairly rare, God wouldn't be broadcasting about anam caras.  He wouldn't want to set the angels up to believe they have a soul mate out there when they may not... other than Him.  He is not the Hallmark Channel.  ;-)  Of course, there's probably some unavoidable risk of that with the anam cara-heavy communities like El-Chanan and the Friends.

Question: Are there aspects of writing the Dyeland stories that are difficult for you that you didn't see coming?

Answer: Yes.  And I suppose the most obvious... and saddest... one is that I never imagined that John Dye would die when JABB was still being written.  It's not like I spent a whole lot of time thinking about his future... or even JABB's really.  But I suppose I imagined being fifty or sixty or seventy something with JABB long in the past and only then learning that John had passed away.  So to think that his death would be something that would actually need to be acknowledged in a story... no way.  And, I suppose, technically it didn't *need* to be.  He wasn't a character in the stories.  But he was such a force in so many of the characters' lives that it felt wrong to just breeze on by.  So that first year or two was rough-going.  And still, every so often, I feel a little discombobulated when I use a certain word or write a certain interaction.  For example, while it doesn't happen with the frequency that it used to, I sometimes still take a sad pause any time JenniAnn rests her head or hand over Andrew's heart.  But then the same thing happens when every anyone does the same thing with Joshua so... maybe that's just me being weird.

Completely unrelated to that, it's sometimes really hard for me to deal with the villains in any given story.  It may surprise basically no one reading this that I'm pretty liberal.  I don't support the death penalty.  But in fictional worlds... I basically turn into Liam Neeson and want to use my particular set of skills to destroy the characters I don't like... not usually in a physical way.  More like emotionally icing them out and, yes, inflicting psychological trauma.  But with these stories, I have to remind myself that they're God's children, too, and He wills good for them.  He doesn't give up and He doesn't stop loving them.  So... while I may make things unpleasant for them, I have to strongly resist the urge to want to leave them as sniveling messes cowering in the corner of a self-made dungeon.  I mean that could happen for a bit of time... I'm not a saint... but I try to leave a light on for them.

Question: We haven't gotten into Andrew's head a whole terrible lot lately.  Will we again?

Answer: I sure hope so!  Once I get around to writing the The Haunting of Hill House story, that will largely be from Andrew's point of view.  While I'm sure JenniAnn has some interesting takes on that, I intend for her to verbalize her views and for most of the interior stuff (musings, dreams, etc.) to come from Andrew. 

And More Tropey Randomness...

(links to all stories are here: http://www.miscjabb.onthisside.net/storyindex.html)

Heel Realization- JenniAnn experiences this over time but especially in "Chava."  She realizes that prodding Andrew to open up was an often misguided, selfish thing to do.  Yes, she wanted to be his confidante.  But he loved her and didn't want to subject her to the darkness he experienced during some assignments.  Neither of them was completely in the right.  Andrew could have been a little more open and honest.  But JenniAnn took things too far and didn't realize it until she'd matured and experienced some troubling things for herself and came to realize that ruminating about trauma to someone else isn't always the best medicine.  More seriously, Yehuda experienced this and it prompted his suicide.  He thought he had Yeshua's mission all figured out, that Yeshua was doing it wrong, and that he could nudge him in the right direction.  Instead, Yeshua was brutally killed.  It took Yehuda 2,000 years to realize that this, too, was God's plan and he needed to accept His forgiveness.

Quirky Household- I think Willowveil counts as this.  Not only do Andrew and JenniAnn have a pretty eclectic family but they're currently hosting Takoda, the protege of an old friend of Andrew's, and Marty, the angelic scribe, hangs out there, too, sometimes.  Ivy and Violeta regularly pop in.  They keep a room for Joshua and, whenever he visits, Friends descend upon Willowveil en masse.  And that's not mentioning any of the many, many pets. 

Mistaken Age- It happens sometimes with the characters, not surprising since a bunch of angels, spirits, and vampires are involved.  In one particularly problematic case, a married Isolde and Marco have to be careful because she looks to be around 15 and he appears to be well into his twenties.  In actuality, they're both several hundred years old and Isolde is slightly older than her husband.  I think it's also safe to assume that the would-be do-gooders who try to "rescue" Isra from Behnam in "Hope and Healing" believed that he was considerably older than his wife.  This isn't actually true.  Both were born in 1993.  But because Behnam was steeped in stress and trauma from an early age, he started to go gray as a very young man.  Early on, Andrew was also mindful of working cases with Violeta since she appeared to be in her twenties and with him in his thirties, they could be mistaken for a couple.  This wouldn't be a huge deal but Violeta was a teenager and would have been icked out by the assumption.  Since she's come into her own a bit more and dresses more her age and Andrew's started to age, it's more likely people would take them for father and daughter... still not the truth but definitely less problematic.  A strange example happens in "Ivy" when JenniAnn's friend, Carrie, is horrified to think a thirtysomething Andrew took advantage of a teenaged JenniAnn in high school.  Carrie eventually learns that Andrew is, at minimum, 6,000 years old.  But given she also learns he's an angel, she actually feels better about the situation even though the age gap is much, much larger than she assumed.  It's also pretty safe to assume that this happens with all of the biblical characters.  If someone not in the know were asked to guess Joshua's birth year, they'd be much more apt to choose 1984 than 1 AD. 

Darker and Edgier- I think the Dyeland stories are definitely darker and sometimes edgier than TBAA.  And the later Dyeland stories are without question darker and edgier than the early, goofy ones.  I don't, of course, think this makes them better than TBAA.  The show was created for family viewing.  When I write Dyeland stories, I assume readers are high school age or older.  I also think the change is just a reflection of the world.  I actually don't think 2019 is inherently darker and edgier than, say, 1999.  What I do think is that, thanks to social media and the like, a greater number of people are aware of things like the global sex trade, clerical abuse, and other issues that the Dyeland stories have explored but that TBAA didn't.  Stories also aren't bound to a 45 minute format.  For example, if Emma had been a character in a TBAA episode, the show likely would have ended with Peter escorting her into a therapist's office with her smiling beatifically after words from an angel helped her move past the sexual abuse she suffered.  Cue the dove.  With an ongoing story, Emma heals but her past still informs her life, sometimes in troubling ways.  There's never a time when we can just totally set aside concerns that Emma might be triggered.  In-universe, I sometimes think of Monica and Arthur as the darker and edgier version of Andrew and JenniAnn.  Granted, the latter have had their problems.  But they never had to deal with a love-child (Liam) or divergent sexualities.  While Arthur and Monica are happily settled into life with Liam now and wouldn't change a thing, I would imagine the latter is still sometimes an issue... which maybe, one day, I'll have the courage to deal with.  I also think, in a very positive way, Joshua is much darker and edgier than Zack on TBAA... likely due to the Dyeland stories not having to adhere to the Jesus Taboo and simply having much more time to focus on the character. 

Adaptation Personality Change- You'd be forgiven for not seeing a whole lot of the Bible's John the Baptist in Dyeland's John/Yohannan.  The former is a fiery preacher... the latter is often comic relief.  Still, there are definitely moments when you can see the firebrand... like when John wanted to appear headless to the villainous bishop in "Broken Hallelujahs."  But for most of the stories, John is a fun-loving guy who enjoys teasing his cousin, hanging out with the Friends, and being more than a little sentimental.  I think this makes sense, though.  John of the Bible had a mission to complete which he did.  Now he can relax and watch his cousin's mission play out.  That doesn't mean he doesn't still get angry sometimes.  But now he knows the vipers have already been defeated... sometimes they just don't know it yet.

No Sense of Personal Space- For as much as Andrew and JenniAnn were alarmingly reserved in terms of physical affection for many, many years, JenniAnn completely forgets the meaning of the word "reserved" when it comes to Joshua.  Thankfully, Joshua is okay with this.  Because she's not the only one...  Especially among the female friends, Joshua is routinely kissed, caressed, snuggled up to, glommed onto, and more.  If he were any other guy, the behavior could, quite reasonably, rile the women's significant others.  But, given who Joshua is, even the men tend to be more affectionate towards him than they are with other men.  And it's quite possible they'd act exactly like the female characters if not for societal "rules" that more closely police physical interactions between men.  Joshua himself realizes he occupies a very special zone, of course.  When he and JenniAnn go to D.C., he books them a single room with two beds.  It would be really strange (or the stuff of sitcoms) for a non-married, non-related male/female pair to share a hotel room in most circumstances.  For the man to deliberately set it up that way would actually come off as pretty creepy, I think.  But in this case, Joshua no doubt knows JenniAnn is going to have a nightmare and need to be comforted.  So, by sharing a room, they bypass the potential awkwardness of slipping into the other's room during the night.  The whole thing most closely resembles a parent sleeping on the floor by their fussy kid's crib... waiting to be needed.

This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for looking so darn good in hats.  Seriously... that first photo, especially...

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(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from Promised Land and Touched by an Angel and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions.  They are not being used to seek profit.)