"Poetry doesn't belong to those who write it; it belongs to those who need it."
~~from Il Postino

Hi all,

So originally this was a multi-paragraph letter about everything going on but when I read it back, it just sounded whiny.  So I'm sparing you that.  Short version: along with all the feelings that go along with being human during this trying time, recent events made me hyper-focus on representation and unintended implications along with potential wrong-headedness in my writing.  I suspect part of this is owing to the fact that I'm still largely staying at home and, thus, feeling like I can do little more than post affirming things on Facebook and make modest financial donations to the NAACP, etc.  Dyeland is the only thing, right now, that feels like it's fully in my control.  So here goes... 

I would really hope that no one would ever be hurt by anything I wrote and, to date, no one has told me they were.  But the worry just kinda hangs out there...  On top of that, I have a longstanding debate with myself about the importance of representing the wide array of humanity but also recognizing my limitations as a writer.  I'm a white, cisgender female, middle class, American Christian.  So while I feel it's important to feature characters who are outside of those categories... the fact remains that they're still being written by me.  And sometimes, admittedly, I get a little nervous about writing about characters from other cultures, ethnicities, etc. because I might do it wrong.  Reading articles, watching YouTube videos, listening to podcasts, etc. can only provide so much information and certainly can't stand in for a lived experience.  I also don't think it's the job of any member of a given community to explain themselves to me for, largely, my own benefit.  So that can be difficult.  At the same time, I absolutely don't think the Dyeland stories would work if they were populated only by white, cisgender female, middle class, American Christians.  All this to say...  If you do read the Dyeland stories and something personal to you ever feels off, please let me know.  I would love to hear your perspective and it could very well inform what happens in the stories.  As I've tried to do in recent years, I'll plan to be as inclusive as possible going forward and avoid errors as best as I can while acknowledging that I have blind spots.  I know very, very few people read the Dyeland stories but if even one person came away thinking "That kinda hurt..." then that's one too many. 

Anyway, I hope everyone's staying well and that you're doing what you can to help yourself and others through these trying times.  If you'd like to talk about recent happenings, just need to vent, want to leave reality entirely and discuss Andrew's hair, etc. please feel free to reach out.  I'm still spending time on the Discord but email is good, too.

God bless,

And now...  A collection of tropes that have basically nothing in common except they make me happy.  The tropes themselves may not be happy but how they related to the Dyeland stories were so here goes...

Tropes That Make Me Smile and (Hopefully) You, Too!
(story links can be found here)

Adopted to the House- This happens a lot.  Several of the Tunnel-dwellers actually came to live there under these circumstances.  They include Owen, Shelby, and Asher.  For a while, Max lived with Andrew and JenniAnn in this way although he was later formally adopted.  In a way, the Al-Mitras had this arrangement with Vincent who let them stay at Cora's house.  That became permanent, however, and they pay him some small amount of rent.  He gets to keep his grandkids close, the house doesn't sit empty and vulnerable, and the Al-Mitras get a much nicer house than they could afford on a librarian's salary.  Yay, family!

Child of Two Worlds
- Several of the characters could be described as this, come to think of it.  JenniAnn's status as this ends up bringing about the resurgence of Dyeland/Asteriana.  Because she wandered through a couple of portals when she was younger, little JenniAnn briefly ended up in Dyeland but, more importantly, formed significant bonds in the Tunnels.  I think it's because she grew up feeling somewhat torn between two worlds, life Above and life Below, that she ended up returning to Dyeland to make her own way and her own community with her friends.  Because of the close relationships shared by those in the Sibling Cities, I think the little Friends will grow up feeling comfortable in multiple worlds without feeling the strain that JenniAnn did.

In a different way, Violeta is a child of two worlds.  She's an angel, obviously, so she's a heavenly being.  But she's also the only angel described as having been created from anything human.  So she relates to the mortal realms a little bit differently.  (Note: Violeta, just in general, makes me happy.)

Born as an Adult
- This is more or less true of all the angels.  Gloria certainly looked like an adult even as a newborn as did Celeste.  In the Dyeland stories, this pretty much holds.  Violeta appeared to be around 25 when she first arrived in Dyeland despite the fact that she was really only 14.  Once she settled in more and started dressing more her age, she easily passed as the teenager she was.  I still think this trope applies, though.  Probably the same is true of Takoda.  He's technically around 30 years old but doesn't appear to raise any alarms when hanging out in public with Joccy who is 20.  So it can probably be assumed that Takoda looks to be in his early twenties. 

Intimate Hair Brushing- So JenniAnn is a big fan of this one!  In the most typical example, she and Violeta bond over JenniAnn brushing and styling the angel's hair.  Even after Violeta moves out of Willowveil, she still sometimes comes over to get her hair brushed.  In "A Stór Mo Chroi," JenniAnn lovingly brushes an adult Belle's hair after she and Andrew spent a night worrying when Belle didn't show up after a date.  In "Chrysalis," which contains numerous examples of this trope, Belle swiftly takes to Isolde who patiently lets the little girl do her hair.  In the same story, Isra brushes out Salma's hair and tucks her into bed after she's rescued from traffickers.  Maryam and several of the women wash and style Joshua's hair for him after a trying day.  JenniAnn... who can't seem to keep a brush or comb out of her hands... fusses over Owen's hair when he's preparing for a Valentine's date with Graham.  He even jokingly refers to her as "Mother."  In a flashback, Abigail brushes Mary's hair while telling her some of Lucius' history.  In "The Messiah," JenniAnn brushes Joshua's hair while he worked on piecing together a sentimental figurine for some trafficking survivors.  In "Cupid and Psyche," Andrew manages to get JenniAnn to relinquish her hairbrush so he can brush her hair for once.

More Diverse Sequel- This isn't entirely fair since TBAA had a cast of, at most, four regulars and the Dyeland stories have dozens of recurring characters.  But there is definitely more diversity although still less than I'd like.  And, with the very notable exception of Joshua, the most heavily featured characters are mostly white.  The stories are also more diverse in that TBAA's main characters were all angels but here we have angels, humans, spirits, and God.  And there were even vampires for a while!  Most important caveat: the Dyeland stories aren't, of course, an official sequel.  Anyway, this makes me happy because I do feel like the Dyeland stories are improving in this respect.  But there's still room for improvement.

Big Fancy Castle- Okay, so Willowveil Castle isn't as grand as what's described there.  But considering it's usually just a single-family dwelling... it's ridiculously large.  And then consider that there was a time when JenniAnn lived there alone.  That's waaaay too much house for one person.  But who wants to write about another dimension without having a castle?  Of course, when you read the stories, it comes out that Willowveil Castle is filled with hand-me-downs and stuff bought at second-hand stores.  So while it would appear majestic and fairy tale-esque from the outside, inside it might look a bit kitschy and thrown together.  There are likely strategically placed throws and pillows covering worn spots on ancient furniture.  Dishes often don't match and neither does bedding.  You might end up with a blue china plate and plastic Sesame Street cup or a yellow striped fitted sheet with a blue floral top sheet.  But I surmise Andrew and JenniAnn wouldn't have it any other way. 

Did Not Die That Way- Not a happy trope, necessarily!  But this particular example is.  So this was a carry-over from Beauty and the Beast.  In the show, the main villain, Paracelsus, told Vincent that his mother died because he tore his way out of her womb.  Grisly!  This was debunked by Father who stuck with the story that Vincent was found, abandoned, behind St. Vincent's Hospital.  In "Origins," Vincent finally learns the full truth.  He was born to a woman named Cora.  While the delivery was difficult, it was by no means spectacular.  Cora experienced some bleeding that could be experienced by any woman after the birth of any baby.  Vincent's condition had nothing to do with it.  Because she needed medical help and couldn't bring her extraordinary child into the hospital, Cora placed the baby behind the hospital thinking she'd be right out to retrieve him.  But she ended up passing out and, by the time she came to, Vincent was long gone.  She assumed he'd died of exposure or been killed when the trash was collected.  So the trope actually works out two ways in that story.  Vincent learns he didn't kill his mother and Cora learns that Vincent didn't die as a baby.  When Cora does eventually die, she's an old woman, comfortable in her bed.  Vincent is still living... and hopefully continues to live for a long, long time.

Secret Identity- To some extent, Joshua has multiple secret identities.  Arguably, he does even in the Bible.  Some folks think the Angel of the Lord is Jesus.  I'm not sure about that but within the confines of the Dyeland stories he's been Jack, Leon, Zmaray, an albatross, and a white butterfly.  Even when using something like his own name... Joshua Davidson being very close to Yeshua, son of David... he doesn't come right out with who he really is.  He does this for several reasons: it would be too shocking, it wouldn't allow people to interact with him normally if he lead with 'Nice to meet you.  I'm God,' he just plain likes being "normal," etc.  A big difference is that while I think some superheroes deny their true identities in some circumstances, when outright asked, Joshua would never lie about who he is. 

Empathetic Healer/Energy Donation- Joshua's healings sometimes have elements of these.  I've sometimes wondered if I've over-played this trope.  Jesus' healing of the hemorrhaging woman is where I got it from.  Jesus states that He felt the power go out of him.  However, the Bible doesn't state that this leaves Him feeling winded or exhausted.  So why exactly I chose to do that with Joshua... I really don't know.  But, for whatever reason, when Joshua heals someone with a condition that would have proved fatal, he is often left temporarily weakened.  He usually just needs to rest for a few moments and then is fine.  I think maybe I like this trope so much because it hints at Joshua's sacrifice.  He gave his life for everyone and giving some of his energy to restore a person's life is a reminder of that.

Celebrity Paradox- So not exactly happiness inducing... but I find this one kinda endlessly amusing.  With the introduction of Wahkan, a paradox began... at least for me.  In my head, he's played by a Penny Dreadful-era Wes Studi.  He's obviously older looking than The Last of Mohicans era Mr. Studi.  But you can definitely tell when you look at the two roles that they're played by the same person.  And yet... no one comments on the resemblance when Wahkan shows up.  Admittedly, Mr. Studi is not a household name a la Brad Pitt.  But in "Forever and Always," several of the Friends watch Mohicans and it leads to a pretty pivotal moment for Emma and Peter.  I highly doubt they all have collective amnesia about the film.  So... either no one is commenting on the resemblance or... Magua was played by someone else in the Dyeland-verse.  Which then begs the question... does Wes Studi even exist in the Dyeland-verse?  Because I don't wish to wipe anyone out of existence even in a fictional world... especially someone who served his country and does a lot of good... I'm going to say that Wes Studi does exist, he did play Magua, and no one's brought it up because it would be awkward to say "Ya know... you look a lot like that guy who played a would-be rapist in Mohicans..." to Wahkan.  Probably at some point I need to have a character watch something else he's been in and comment so we can all rest assured that the Friends are not living lives deprived of Wes Studi.

Romantic Asexual- Andrew, JenniAnn, and Monica could all be categorized as this.  I think Andrew and Monica are a bit different from JenniAnn, though.  JenniAnn is capable of romantic feelings and crushes on other men besides Andrew... though not as much as with Andrew.  She did genuinely have feelings for Eliot at one point.  So she's more generally heteroromantic while Andrew and Monica are only romantically connected to JenniAnn and Arthur respectively.

All Periods Are PMS- Hey, if I have to live with 'em, I might as well have some fun!  Ivy makes it very clear that it's not *all* the time but in "Chrysalis," she points out that Violeta gets especially emotional and clingy during a certain time of the month... the time when Ivy and JenniAnn get their periods.  This is somewhat bizarre given Violeta herself, as an angel, doesn't get a period.  Nonetheless, it's become enough of a pattern that even Andrew has noticed.  Ivy is probably right in hypothesizing that Violeta is "an emotional sponge" so she's probably picking up on Ivy's and JenniAnn's more subtle mood changes which are amplified by her own emotional, sometimes overly sensitive nature.  I suspect this only occurs with JenniAnn and Ivy given Violeta is so close to them both.  I highly doubt Violeta starts reacting to an assignment who happens to be on their period.  Quite likely, she wouldn't even know.  But it was just a fun, little detail for me to write because Violeta is so adorable and I can totally imagine her being so attuned with the two women she's closest to that she ends up with a purely emotional cycle.

Eternal Love- Isolde and Marco have been together since the 1500s.  Maryam and Yosef and Mary and Lucius may qualify as this although their relationships have mostly occurred in Heaven whereas Isolde and Marco have been in the mortal realms the whole time.  The entire concept of anam caras hinges on eternal love.  One reason it's different from marriage is "til death do us part" doesn't apply. 

Living Distant Ancestor- While Josef is Daisy's adoptive dad, he's also her biological great-great-great-etc. grandfather.  Josef fathered a child out of wedlock before being turned into a vampire and Daisy is the ultimate result.  While it's very sad that Josef was isolated from his family for generations, it makes me really happy that he was able to connect with the last of his line (for now) just when she needed a daddy the most. 

Young Love Versus Old Hate
- I think Isra and Behnam have shades of this.  Behnam's uncle was just plain hate-filled and stole Isra from her family and forced her to marry Behnam.  Despite this horrible start, Isra and Behnam actually fell in love and consummated their marriage on their own schedule.  Once they escaped to rejoin Isra's family, her father came at Behnam with the intent to harm him... not unreasonably given his daughter was stolen and forced to marry the guy.  But Isra intervened to make it clear she loved Behnam and he treated her very well.  Isra and Behnam are also characters that just plain make me happy when I'm able to write about them. 

This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for the many times, via Andrew, he reminded us that God loves ALL of us.

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