“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.
Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” ~~Ella Fitzgerald

Hi all,

I've finally managed to get most of the stories I wrote in late 2020/early 2021 added to the web site properly and notated on the Encyclopedia and Timeline.  Because 2020 was so odd and because I really didn't think I'd be writing much at all during the pandemic but then ended up writing twelve stories (technically thirteen but more on that later), it's all a bit of a blur.  So I'm just going to do this Q and A with myself to kind of process all of that and, hopefully, get myself excited about what's to come for the Dyelanders and Friends!

I hope you're all doing well and maybe enjoying some pleasant weather here and there!

God bless,

Q and A with Myself About the 2020/Early 2021 Dyeland Stories

Just a heads up, this contains spoilers for stories from "Valentine's Vignettes IV" and on.

Question: What have you taken away from writing during this very odd year?

Answer: Be super careful about what Joshua foresees... and maybe don't have Joshua foresee anything except very vague things.  I mistakenly believed that because I'm the author, I can fully control the future of the Dyeland stories.  So in December 2019, it seemed completely within my rights to have Joshua foresee Joccy's medical emergency and the Friends crowding a hospital waiting room.  I mean I created Joccy.  I created most of the Friends.  I control their behavior and so...  Well, I don't control pandemics.  So that scene never came to pass because by the time Joccy wound up in the hospital, visitors to hospitals were severely limited.  It was a minor thing but I definitely learned from it.  And, I suppose, it still could have happened in a manner.  The Tunnels dwellers and some of the Dyelanders may have congregated near the Tunnels' hospital chamber, assuming Portia would get news first and pass it along to them.  But that's definitely not what I had in mind.

Question: So is that why Mary's and Lucius' stay in New York was introduced long before it actually became relevant?

Answer:  Bingo!  When I wrote "Valentine's Vignettes IV," the first stories of 2020, I was aware of COVID but obviously had no idea of its impact.  So it felt like a good idea to have Mary and Lucius move into their apartment around Christmas and have a bit of time to get acclimated.  Mary was working in an in-patient psychiatric facility for young women which is where I intended Joccy to end up.  I think Lucius was going to be a custodian or something like that which would give him the opportunity to support Joccy in the hospital, too.  The story that became "You'll Never Walk Alone" would have been set in early Spring of 2020.  But once the lockdown started, I wasn't sure what to do.  I still wanted to write the story as I envisioned it.  But as the weeks and months wore on, I realized that it simply wasn't going to work.  I'm aware, of course, that in-patient programs still happened during COVID.  But I wanted Joccy to be able to interact with others, particularly Takoda, and I knew that visitors wouldn't be allowed during COVID.  So I just tried to puzzle it all out for a while until I landed on the idea that Mary and Lucius would host Joccy at their home during her recovery which would give me greater freedom in terms of when Takoda would be allowed to see Joccy.  So, really, the only reason for Mary and Lucius being stuck in New York from Christmas 2019 to September 2020 is it took me that long to decide how to make the story work.

I think it ended up working out pretty well and, to be honest, maybe even for the better as it stopped me from doing tropey things.  Originally, because COVID wasn't an issue, I was going to have Joccy and Takoda visit Dyeland and be out for a walk when a violent Spring storm started up.  They were going to take shelter in a cabin where, as the night wore on and thunder crashed, they would declare their love for each other.  Which... fine.  But it is tropey.  And, don't get me wrong, I know I'm tropey at times.  But that just seems like too much in hindsight.  Their calm declarations while visiting a waterfall seem more natural to me.

Question: What's the deal with "A Visit With an Old Friend"?  It was kinda trippy.

Answer:  Trippy is good sometimes!  But really it was just that maybe because of the pandemic, I was feeling a little out of sorts and thinking back on happier, more innocent times.  And I found myself missing Andrew... TBAA's Andrew.  Which you may think "But how?  You write about him all the time!"  But I really don't.  Dyeland's Andrew is obviously completely inspired by TBAA's Andrew but they're not supposed to be the same character.  Consider that, occasionally, some Dyeland characters actually watch Touched by an Angel.  Dyeland exists outside of TBAA.  TBAA's Andrew would never dream of starting up a romantic relationship with a human and adopting five kids with her!  And while I certainly enjoy writing about Andrew and JenniAnn and their family, they can't really replace the Andrew that I first grew to love watching TBAA.  So... it was nice to revisit him even if it was just a dream sequence. 

It also felt kinda nice because, initially, Dyeland-Andrew thinks TBAA-Andrew is John Dye.  And he's kinda appalled that Mr. Dye would be appearing on Earth when someone might very well recognize him.  It's not the case, of course.  But just the idea that Andrew thinks that could happen was comforting to me. 

Question: Will we be seeing Loreena again?  Also, did you just write that story because you wanted froyo?

Answer: Yes, Loreena will be appearing in a future story involving St. Genesius' Community Theatre.  It wasn't a coincidence that I made her a singer.  That being said, I have no idea when that story will happen because it's completely contingent on doing a show at St. G's being safe.  I could possibly alter the story so they could be recording the show and airing it with a virtual-only audience.  But, at this point, I don't think it's safe for even the cast and crew to be crammed together on a stage.  I think by the end of May, I'll have a better idea of the timing on that.

And it wasn't just because I wanted froyo...  But, yes, I did decide to do a flashback story in part because I miss visiting shops and cafes and ice cream/froyo parlors.  So at least Joshua, JenniAnn, Belle, and Loreena got to enjoy those things.

Question: What happened to Sy's dog?

Umm...  So I messed up.  And probably no one noticed but it still bothers me.  In "Requiem for a King," Ivy gets Sy a black cat who he names T'Challa.  Ivy's dog, Leo, is fast friends with the new little one.  But turns out that Sy has a dog named Esau who I completely forgot about.  So Esau appears no where in "Requiem."  But Esau is alive and well.  I'm just pretending that he was feeling anti-social the day T'Challa entered the household and, thus, wasn't mentioned.  But he's come out of hiding and has a great time with his siblings, Leo and T'Challa.  Because of this, I'm now working on a chart of the Dyelanders' and Friends' pets so this doesn't happen again.

Question: You very seldom feature modern real people in your stories.  Why did you make an exception for "Requiem for a King"?

Answer: I feel like the early Dyeland stories that have "John" as a character are very cringy.  I, personally, can't re-read them.  I'm just no longer comfortable with putting words in the mouths of people with living relatives around who might find them and be offended.  It was one thing to do it when I was basically a kid.  It feels unseemly for an adult.  The Biblical-era characters are different because 1. they lived so long ago, 2. I'm hardly the first person doing fictionalized versions of them, and 3. As a Christian, I feel like I have as much of a claim to them as family as anyone so while I would still not want to offend anyone, if someone was offended I don't see how their claim to Joshua or Maryam or Yosef, etc. would be any stronger than my claim.

But sometimes things happen that are just so sad that I think we all need a little grace in processing them in whatever ways we need so long as no one is harmed.  I can't entirely explain why I was so affected by Chadwick Boseman's death.  Other than Black Panther, I hadn't seen him in anything.  But I did love that movie and his performance in it.  And after all the upheaval and the senseless murders of Black men and women, losing the embodiment of King T'Challa felt so cruel and sad.  Maybe, in some ways, since so much of the trauma of 2020 played out visually via wrenching videos we saw again and again on the news, I needed visual closure... even if it was only in my head.  So Mr. Boseman appears at that start of the story but has no lines because, again, I don't like putting words in the mouths of people.  Since he was Christian, I felt it was safe to assume he'd be happy about Joshua wanting a fan-boy moment.

Question: Umm... That flash forward in "God in the Gloom"???  Was that weird to write?

Answer: Yes and no.  Yes, because it's weird to imagine one's doppelganger in a coffin.  No in that I've always known that was the direction the Dyeland stories were going.  Jenni
Ann wasn't going to suddenly become an immortal in this plane of existence.  Her death has been baked into things since I first grew up and realized that, hey, Andrew and JenniAnn could have something of a romance without sex being involved.  It's been stated in various stories that one reason God meant for them to be together is because it would, ultimately, make Andrew a better angel of death.  And while he's already utterly compassionate, imagine what he's going to be like helping someone mourn their life partner after he's done the same thing. 
Question: "At Last" and "Flowers Never Bend" both had political themes.  Do you think that will continue?

Answer: Sure hope not!  While I definitely have my own political beliefs, I try to keep them out of Dyeland and focus on issues from a more moral/theological perspective.  But sometimes things happen that just... eesh...  Late 2020 going into early 2021 was A LOT politically-speaking in the U.S.  So when I needed to work through that, obviously, I turned to stories as per my usual.  I also thought it was interesting to consider how Andrew who may have previously had a very hands-off approach to politics might have, at least personally, formed some opinions based on the impact on his family.  I think being an angel should be apolitical but in his personal life... maybe not so much.  But, no, future stories aren't gonna have JenniAnn making phone calls on behalf of the DCCC or anything like that. 

Question: In the latest Christmas story, Joshua referred to his "couslings."  Why did you decide to deal with the brothers and sisters of Jesus in that particular way?

Answer: I think I've explained this elsewhere but maybe not fully.

Firstly, this isn't a real issue for me.  I was raised Catholic and taught that they were either cousins or Joseph's children from a prior marriage that ended with the death of his first wife.  But I also have a lot of Protestant influence and there they were the children of Mary and Joseph.  Frankly, I don't think Mary's and Joseph's marital relations or lack there of are my business.  But I recognize that this is a sensitive issue for some people.  I didn't want to say they were Maryam's and Yosef's biological children if that was going to freak people out.  But given I had Yosef at or around 19 when he marries Maryam, it obviously wasn't possible for him to have fathered several children beforehand.

Secondly, adoption is a pretty big theme running through the Dyeland stories so, for me, it made a lot of sense for the "couslings" to have been adopted.  I think the Friends who have adopted would find a lot of comfort in knowing that Maryam and Yosef also took in kids who were adopted.

Finally, it was just plain convenient.  If I'd had them be Yeshua's half-siblings then they would have been a fixture in the home through out his childhood.  That would have made some flashbacks more complicated in that I'd have to address what these half dozen other characters were doing at any given time.

Question: How does Crowley get from Point A to Point B?  He's a demon and then, suddenly, he's a Friend in the flash forward.  How?

You'll find out!  The introduction of Aziraphale and Crowley didn't exactly go as planned.  I probably would not have included them in the Christmas story and instead let their story play out chronologically except... I really wasn't sure what to do with "COVID Christmas" and the only ideas I was coming up with were what you saw in "God With Us."  And I felt like I needed Aziraphale and Crowley to anchor that.  But, rest assured, you will find out how Joshua and Crowley make peace, etc.  But, for the first time in a long while, I'm not the one writing it!  Sierra is.  Exciting!  Keep checking here for that story when it's released: http://www.miscjabb.onthisside.net/azicrowley.html

Crowley and Aziraphale are also featured in the thirteenth story I wrote which I'm holding onto for now.  That one I think I will wait to publish until after the story of their introduction to Dyeland comes out.

Question: So what comes next?

Answer: Barring some sort of cultural event prompting a response via story, I'm taking a bit of a hiatus... depending on my local weather and COVID.  There's some post-mouse clean up that I've been putting off because it would be easier to do outside but all the snow and ice and frigid cold prevented that.  Well, today we're getting a high in the mid-70s which is absolutely lovely.  So I'm gonna get going with those tasks.

I do have some story ideas but most of them require characters to be able to move freely in New York.  For example, there's the story hinted at in the end of "God With Us" which features the St. G's cast and crew putting on Jesus Christ Superstar again.  I have another story in mind which would feature Andrew and JenniAnn dealing with a significant health setback leading up to their anam cara ceremony in El-Chanan... featuring a return of those pesky demons but also an as yet unseen Big Name Angel.  I'd also like to do a story with the two of them working an assignment together as a couple.  I haven't written a purely "assignment story" in a long time and definitely not since Andrew and JenniAnn moved in together.  So I'd like to explore how they work together when they're not embedded in their larger, supportive group.

This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for inspiring me to print a bunch of photos of him that I then plastered onto my high school locker, some of which then ended up on the closet door of my old bedroom at my parents' house and then got transferred to my crafting cabinets in my own home... cabinets I now realize the plumber I recently hired opened whilst looking for the water shut off so... lol...

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