Imagine having everything you love taken away in the course of a day. Would you continue on or change everything? These three stories explore Derke, a man who faced that choice.
After graduating from seminary, I wrote a fantasy novel. Gifts of Healing, though complete, needs a rewrite before it will ever see the light of day. However, the characters and their back stories captured my attention, and I began writing their stories. This collection, Rebirths, started as the story behind one of the minor characters in the second novel. I finished the first story, “New Life,” and sat on it for a while. Then I sent it to my friend and editor, Glyn Shull. He wrote back, “This story screams for a sequel.”
I had never considered that. Derke was at rock bottom, perfectly setup to appear in the second novel. How could he dig from here? After brainstorming for about a day, I had a very rough outline of “This Body of Death.” However, I would have to scrap Derke as a character in the sequel novel. So be it. This was a better story.
Glyn wanted to release my stories in a single-author collection. The two together weren’t long enough, but they didn’t fit with the other stories I could put in the collection (too different in theme and tone). There was only one option—write Derke’s third story. Thus, “Once Called” was born.
I had purposefully left a few threads dangling at the end of “This Body of Death,” thinking I would follow the characters more one day. One day came much sooner than expected. This time, I wanted to explore Derke’s conflicted feelings on multiple levels. Could Derke work for good after spending ten years practicing black magic? What about this elven woman who made the widower’s heart sing? What was that vampire in part 2 up to?
Part 3 started with Derke and Phaeus (a Dwarven Orthodox priest) tracking the vampire. Then Syantere’ joined. It then took on a life of its own. I struggled to keep the romantic B-storyline from taking over. But in the end, they worked well together.
Purpose, destiny, and life are themes that run through the collection. In many ways, the story is anti-Lovecraftian. It is, in fact, Chestertonian. Lovecraft believed there was no purpose, rhyme, or reason to life. When writing the profile for Lord Sanuto, the vampire in part 2, I gave him that thinking, and mixed in nihilistic philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Friedrich Nietzsche. On the other hand, Chesterton believed in embracing life with all of its mysteries. Every person has a purpose and a destiny. Chesterton’s philosophy of life shaped Father Phaeus’ entire profile. Even Phaeus’ first words will remind Chesterton fans of something Father Brown said in “The Sins of Prince Saradine.”
When I closed the collection, I had left the characters in a good place with the just rewards of their labors. I had no intentions of writing more Derke stories. Then came the inkling of an idea… Stay tuned! There will be a fourth chapter in the story of Derke, Syantere’, and Phaeus. There are two other stories insisting on being told first, though.