Like most of us, I spent this year feeling like I was in limbo, frustrated in my attempts to get something accomplished and then utterly unmotivated to do much of anything. I had readings cancelled because of the lockdown, and a speaking engagement in Fairbanks I was really looking forward to postponed indefinitely. Two people I'd really wanted to interview passed on, their stories uncaptured, and all-in-all...well, no need to beat that drum. We've all been there this year.
But upon looking back, I realize that I did at least achieve one major accomplishment: the second volume of novellas for the Tales from Opa series: Tales from Opa, Volume II: Three More Tales of Tir na n'Og.
A bit of a backstory needed here: I started the first Tales from Opa: Three Tales of Tir na n'Og, back in 1997. The first story, "Heart of a Cavalier" was intended as sort of a primer to the world of Tir na n'Og, and the other two came over the next several months, "Tale of the Golden Archer" inspired by a hilarious tabletop RPG adventure, and "Westmere" coming from the most deeply immersive, exciting, scary, and emotionally wrenching LARP game I've ever played.
When all was said and done, I shipped it off to my agent, who hated the format. He thought the whole concept of three linked stories told by a mysterious old storyteller called Opa in intervals that weave yet another story would never fly, and refused to send it to anyone. It ended up languishing for the next 10 or 12 years while I wrote The Triads and the rest of the Triads of Tir na n'Og series.
But in a wonderful, nose-thumbing reproach to my former agent's opinion, Tales from Opa, volume I, has ended up being tied for my second-most popular book after Alaska Over Israel, trading places on and off with Ironwolfe and The Strawberry Roan. Of course, it's taken better than a decade, but still. A belated nyah, nyah, nyah seems very much in order.
Over the intervening years, I've been asked for more Tales from Opa. I always thought I'd end up doing a whole series of them. I hoped that one day I'd end up editing a shared-world anthology or two by other writers setting forth to adventure in Tir na n'Og. I looked forward to seeing what magic others could spin from the same ethereal stuff, what visions others would have as they walked through my world.
Needless to say, this hasn't happened. But at least I can hold my head up on that score once again.
After Alaska Over Israel, I had begun to think I'd never write in the Triad series again. I was even thinking I'd turn my back on fiction altogether.
Then my husband, Dameon Willich, talked me into playing a tabletop RPG (TRIAD: The Game) with a few friends. I hadn't gamed in forever, but thought "what the heck" and pulled out my dice.
Lo and Behold, that adventure inspired what became "The Tourney for Don Miguel", the first story in Tales from Opa, Volume II. The second story, "Chosen", was born of my own mixed emotions over hanging up my sword and armor for good. The last, "A Journey of a Thousand Miles", came from a story fragment I'd started years ago, when a fan at a reading asked about how Mystics get their official start in the world of Tir na n'Og. Niloo is actually based on a friend and former co-worker of mine who loved my other Tir na n'Og stories and wanted to adventure in the world.
Admittedly, I actually intended to have Tales from Opa, Volume II: Three More Tales of Tir na n'Og done and out for Christmas of 2020, but Niloo's adventures kept growing and morphing out of control. However, the book received its official launch in the spring of 2021, starting the season on a bright note of optimism, fresh and shiny and new.
It made me realize that, yes, I still love writing fantasy, and I still have more stories to tell. And yes, I am ready to inspire more adventures.