Where Creativity Flourishes

Where Creativity Flourishes

There’s a place to which I escape…where creativity flourishes and I renew…my garden. To dig in the earth is to renew my roots to the planet. To share my little outdoor space with the birds, bugs, squirrels, and various other outdoor creatures in the neighborhood is to confirm my humble place in the world. I am just another creature in their midst, doing my best to make the most of my existence, just like them.

I love the solitude of my garden space. For the most part, it is my quiet retreat. But it can also be a grand orchestra of natural sounds, as the squirrels rustling through the leaves make me turn; as the swooping sound of the hawks’ gliding wings make me pause; as the birds, chattering in a wild chorus while they perch on the great assortment of garden gifts, catch my attention.

Winter Bulbs

When I’m the only human there, I can allow my thoughts to take me to creative places. At the same time, I can watch a worm wander through the soil, aerating it for the sake of my plantings. I marvel at our collaboration.

Snap Peas

There alone, my mind has permission to run freely. For a few moments, I let schedules and responsibilities take a nap while I allow my mind to tap into my creative tendencies, where writing ideas, music inspiration, family appreciation, new culinary concoctions, and thoughts on the greater world have room to breathe. Thanks, dear garden, for being there for me.

Peony white

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Video Shorts – The Teen Vowellans

Video Shorts – The Teen Vowellans

This week, we introduced Heaven’s Wait’s 5 main teen Vowellan characters to social media for the first time. Mok, Kip, Lek, San, and Dun took center stage in their own video shorts. The shorts gave viewers a chance to see who these characters are while their clan theme songs played in the background.  We thought the shorts deserved a place on the HW website as well. So here they are, all in one place.

 

 

 

 

 

You may also find these video shorts, as well as other videos from our growing collection, on Heaven’s Wait’s You Tube Channel: https://youtube.com/@heavenswait.

A special shoutout to my music arranger, Aki Ross, and my illustrator, Julia Semionova for their invaluable contributions to these fun little shorts.

These teen Vowellan characters make their first appearance in Book 2 of the Heaven’s Wait! Tales from Vowella Series, Innocents and Curiosities. Find this book on Amazon.com by following the Innocents and Curiosities book link in the footer.

The Evolution of the Vowellans

The Evolution of the Vowellans

It’s hard to believe, but the quirky, unpredictable Vowellans of Heaven’s Wait originated within the pages of a remedial reading workbook that I self-published way back in 1981. I used the workbook to tutor struggling primary students, and I sold it to local bookstores.

While developing the project, I named the five main characters of the simple stories within the workbook San Ham Bat, Lek Net Pet (surname later became Net Ken), Kip Fig Wig, Mok Fog Bob, and Dun Rug Bum. I assigned their names as mere examples of the five short vowel sounds: a, e, i, o, and u. I also heavily embedded these sounds within the simple stories to reinforce the usage of the short vowels. For example, San Ham Bat wore hats, carried bags, ate ants, slept in pans, and kept pet cats. His dad’s name was Mat, and his mom’s name was Lan. These other characters had similar traits based on their short vowel sounds.

Below are some examples of the original illustrations for the workbook, drawn by a high school student by the name of Jon Gudmundsson. He attended Kennedy High School in Richmond, CA, where my husband, Mike, was a student counselor.

Original Kip, Sil, and Mok

Original Kip, Sil, and Mok

Original Dun and San

Original Dun and San

Original Dr. Jon and Mok

Original Dr. Jon and Mok

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I abandoned the workbook after the passing of my dad in 1984 and pursued other interests. In 2006, I came up with the idea of writing some little life-lesson stories, not only for fun, but to leave to my family as a sort of legacy. I realized I could resurrect the characters from my remedial reading workbook, leave the phonics lessons behind, and embellish the simple stories to make them whatever I wanted.

The simple stories grew, as did the characters’ personalities. Before long, the five original characters took on lives of their own. Suddenly, they had families and stories to tell within their own “clans,” as they came to be known. There were so many places to take these characters, as many as my imagination would allow. I found a multitude of interactions that were waiting to become stories, and I dove into the project head first. Since I had already established the vowel-based pattern, I named the collective inhabitants of their world The Vowellans and their little hidden community Vowella Valley.

I thought you might also like to see the visual progression of the illustrations for the central character amongst the Vowellans, 15-year-old Mok Fog Bob. He’s had a fascinating and transformative journey in Vowella.

Original Mok by Jon Gudmundsson

Original Mok by Jon Gudmundsson

Barb's illustration in a home design program

Barbara’s digital illustration of Mok in a home design program

Mok by Michael Trujillo for 1st Edition of Innocents

Mok by Michael Trujillo for 1st Edition of Innocents

Current Mok Fog Bob by Julia Semionova

Current Mok Fog Bob by Julia Semionova

Today’s Vowellans are a colorful, animated bunch, full of fun, mischief, troubles, and real relationships. They are characters on a mission to find their true calling. I think you will find them endearing, interesting folks. Their adventures are chronicled in my new 4-part Book Series, Heaven’s Wait! Tales from Vowella. Find links to the books in the footer of this page to fully enjoy the Vowellans’ stories.

If you would like to receive alerts for future posts like this, I invite you to complete the email form in the footer. That way, you’ll know when I’ve posted something new, which is usually on Saturday mornings. B

Disaster and Triumph

Disaster and Triumph

Disaster and Triumph is Book 4 of the Heaven’s Wait! Tales from Vowella series. As the title implies, a disaster like nothing the Vowellans have ever encountered hits the tiny community of Vowella. All that the Vowellans have learned from RJ PLOM and from their limited experiences is put to the ultimate test as they fight a battle for their very survival.

As the potential solution to the Vowellans’ dilemma lands in the laps of the teens of Vowella, Mok Fog Bob takes the lead. He hopes the lessons he has learned will guide him through the various struggles they are sure to encounter and give him strength to carry out all that is required of him. As the Vowellans find more and more problems to solve, Mok expects support from his peers. Will he get it? As Mok and the others are about to learn, nothing makes one grow and change more than working your way through a crisis.

Disaster and Triumph was the hardest story to get to but the easiest to write when the time came. I felt the Vowellans needed a decent amount of knowledge and experience in their back pocket before the challenges I was about to hand them became real. I think Books 2 and 3 prepared them for those challenges. It was exciting to finally dive into serious problems that the Vowellans would have to learn to solve. The more problems I presented, the better they got at solving them. I was so proud of how the Vowellans handled the various situations. I didn’t have to figure out the solutions. They did the work for me. And that made for an enjoyable writing experience.

There is more to come from the Vowellans as I embark on the next series from Heaven’s Wait: Beyond Vowella. But the completion of Disaster and Triumph marks the end of a long, emotional journey for me. Tales from Vowella took me too many years to complete. Challenges of various sorts caused constant interruptions to my work. But I journeyed on. I tucked hours in here and there over the years, determined to see the project to completion. And here is the result. I hope you enjoy the series. And please enjoy the Disaster and Triumph Book Trailer below. Barbara McLaughlin

 

To read more about Disaster and Triumph, Heaven’s Wait! Tales from Vowella Book 4 and listen to its music, visit the Tales from Vowella Book Page. To receive alerts about new HW posts like this, make sure to subscribe to our email list by completing the email form in the footer of this page.

Wonders and Truths

Wonders and Truths

Wonders and Truths, Book 3 of the Heaven’s Wait! Tales from Vowella Book Series, continues the Vowellans’ journey to discover their purpose in Heaven’s Wait. Glimmers of change are starting to appear in the Vowellan community, and Mok Fog Bob and his life-long friend, Kip Fig Wig, are tracking those changes.

When the Vowellans experience a few striking, unexpected phenomena, their awareness of their behaviors intensifies. They slowly begin to let go of some of the old ways that have been in place for generations. As new challenges arise for the Vowellans, relationships begin to change, in most cases for the better. There may be hope yet for the community to see true change and growth. They will need it, since RJ learns that eventual challenges lie ahead for the Vowellans. And he must do what he can to prepare them for the unknown.

In Wonders and Truths, I knew it was time to push the naïve, innocent Vowellans toward a new level of being. Though they were still in their isolated environment, the Vowellans had much work to do to further themselves as individuals. The idea of Mok and Kip building a list of the Vowellans who have become aware of their behaviors sat well with my story consultant. It made for an interesting sub-theme, allowing the reader to anticipate who will be added to the list. The list concept fed me ideas for determining who qualified as the storyline progressed.

And it was time for the innocent, long-standing relationship between Mok and Kip to progress to a new level. Hoping to capture the natural, naïve progression of a teen relationship within such an isolated environment, I leaned on the simpler tone of my own youth. In those days, new feelings had more room to emerge without the outside influences of today’s overly-connected world. I love these characters. Barbara

 

To read more about Wonders and Truths, Heaven’s Wait! Tales from Vowella Book 3 and listen to its music, visit the Tales from Vowella Book Page. To receive alerts about new HW posts like this, make sure to subscribe to our email list by completing the email form in the footer of this page. You are visiting heavenswait.com

Innocents and Curiosities

Innocents and Curiosities

Innocents and Curiosities, Book 2 of the Heaven’s Wait! Tales from Vowella light fantasy series, begins in today’s Vowella. Though time has passed and a new generation of Vowellans has emerged, the townsfolk are still as innocent and curious as they have always been. Thanks to their mentor, Mr. RJ PLOM and his access to Heaven’s Wait’s capital, New Life City, the Vowellans’ lives are now full of many modern-day advantages. Despite that reality, a bright Vowellan teen by the name of Mok Fog Bob senses that something is missing from their lives. He decides to study the Vowellans’ behavior in hopes of helping RJ understand what is keeping the community from answering the question that has nagged at them for generations. What is the Vowellans’ purpose in Heaven’s Wait?

Moving the focus of the tales to the modern-day, new-generation Vowella gave me an opportunity to expand the depth of the everyday lives of the various clans of Vowella. There are the jolly Ham Bats, the quiet Fig Wigs, the intellectual Fog Bobs, the greedy Net Kens, and the bullying Rug Bums. Each clan has its own strengths, quirks, and troubles, as does any family.

Once the initial clan traits were established in RJ and the Vowellans, it was easy to build on those traits. The clans and the individuals within them began to write their own stories. Just as other writers do, I found myself modeling some of the fantasy characters after people I knew or had observed, but in exaggerated fashion. I built other characters by simply letting my imagination run wild. That was the fun part. Giving them credible stories to tell was much more of a challenge.

Innocents and Curiosities gives you an inside look at everyday life in Vowella. It also touches on the importance of being aware of what that life looks like. Please enjoy the book trailer below for Innocents and Curiosities. Barbara

 

To read more about Innocents and Curiosities, Heaven’s Wait! Tales from Vowella Book 2 and listen to its music, visit the Tales from Vowella Book Page. To receive alerts about new HW posts like this, make sure to subscribe to our email list by completing the email form in the footer of this page.