Read what a few of my editors say about The Kopaz Series…I believe you will find it of value.
Jeannie’s Golden Key
Jeannie’s Golden Key is a lively adventure novel, half urban fantasy, half love story. Set in Wyoming in the late 1950s, the story follows three poor, coal-town teenagers as they look for treasure in the desert—at first, half in fun, and later, as events unfold, in deadly earnest. In a sense, all teenagers are on a quest, solving the riddles of who they are and what their purpose is in life. In that sense, Jeannie’s Golden Key is a perfect young-adult story in that it melds a concrete search for answers with a teenager’s more metaphorical search.
The richness of the setting sets Jeannie’s Golden Key apart from other books in this genre. It is an unusual one—a coal camp in the Wyoming desert—and your familiarity with that setting translates into a depth of detail that brings the specific place and time to life, inviting readers to experience a world they might not otherwise have any insight into.
Jeannie’s Golden Key is clearly the first part of a longer series in that it doesn’t tie up any loose ends, although the novel does have a satisfying circularity, moving from death to death. It is part of what is clearly a complex and richly imagined mythology that will no doubt evolve further in later volumes. Inventing such an intricate backstory is deeply challenging, particularly since the best imagined worlds are rigorously internally consistent, even if they are very different from our world.
Tone and Style
Jeannie’s Golden Key is written in a clear, unique voice. Your evocative descriptions of the desert and insights into the borderline despair of these coal-town teens trapped by poverty are very effective. You must be careful not to veer into overwriting since there is plenty of drama inherent in the story. This is part of your natural voice, and that is important to respect, but it is also important to have very quiet moments, moments when all the writing is doing is reporting what’s happening, without commentary. You already have some of these, and they’re lovely. Here’s one from page 142:
Jeannie stood up. She walked to the bookshelf at the north wall of the living room and retrieved the Reina-Valera, their Spanish-language Bible. Soft Wind was curious but said nothing. She followed Jeanne’s movements from the bookshelf to the small end table with her schoolbooks on it—next to the stuffed chair. Jeannie took her seat again.
It’s a simple scene, simply described, but the writing is effective, and by not giving away what Jeannie is up to, you create tension without even trying.
Secrets of the Sun
What you have crafted here is an engaging and thrilling novel that details the adventures of three friends as they unlock the secrets of the gods. Your characters are very well realized, and each of them feels fully motivated in the actions he or she takes. Even some of the more villainous characters—like the creepy Eddie or the malevolent Mochcom—feel like real characters. Readers will understand where Eddie’s decisions come from, and Mochcom’s lust for blood after the death of Black Vulture and after being burgled by Danny, Jeannie, and Tony makes perfect sense. This is even more the case with the protagonists, who are each unique and wonderful. When they are in danger, the emotion is palpable, and when Tony reaches his tragic end, readers are sure to feel a pang of loss. There’s also the wonderful Zanzee, whom readers are bound to adore.
This book will excite both fans of your previous book and readers who come to this one new. As you know, I was not the second-round editor of the previous book, as Christian was no longer available, and despite not having read that volume, I had absolutely no problem understanding the mechanisms of the plot or the items being sought. You do a masterful job of catching readers up on salient plot and character points and on providing context for why certain actions of the characters are rational and correct.
The pacing of the book is sure to leave readers breathless, especially as tension mounts during the thrilling conclusion. The action ramps up steadily over time, making the manuscript a true page-turner. This is paired with excellent character development and good descriptive elements. Your use of pictures in the book is sure to be appreciated by readers as well. It’s often hard to visualize a complex piece of equipment in a text-only book, and your nicely rendered art will give readers a chance to see exactly what the characters are seeing. This will enable them to be even more fully engaged as they go on this amazing trip with the characters.
First of all, I wanted to thank you for your thoughtful responses to my edit of your first book, Jeannie’s Golden Key. Editing and revising a manuscript can be even more arduous than writing it in the first place, and not every writer is as open as you seem to be to that process. You are in good company, however, in that many famous writers are great believers in the editing process. Vladimir Nabokov, for example, had this to say about the editing process: “I have rewritten—often several times—every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.” I very much hope that my work on this and subsequent manuscripts continues to inspire you, that it helps you make your epic fantasy series the best it can be.
Secrets of the Sun follows hard on the heels of Jeannie’s Golden Key. Danny is still getting over (as if anyone ever really recovers from such a shock) his mother’s murder. He has moved in with Tony and his mother, Rose, and he seems closer to and more comfortable with Jeannie. The three adventurers, the “Pirates in the Desert,” as Danny dubbed them, continue their exploration of the ancient secrets hidden in the Scarlet Desert, led there by the artifacts they discovered in the previous book, Jeannie’s knowledge of Kashome legends, Tony’s logical mind, and Danny’s adventurous spirit.
Once again, your descriptions of the natural beauty of the desert are compelling, as are the lovely details about what life was like in a small town in the late fifties. It’s such fun to read about the different cars, teens dancing in the parking lot at TerryZ’s, the trick of dropping salty peanuts into a bottle of Pepsi, and so on. These images create (or perhaps recreate) a time and place that readers will enjoy visiting. You don’t shy away from tragedy—these are young people who are all too familiar with loss and violence, and yet it doesn’t define them. That is both grounding and reassuring.
In this second book in the series, Jeannie and Danny talk less about their dreams of escape, which is interesting as they draw ever closer to making that dream a reality. That seems right, however. As we grow up, we move from passively dreaming to actively making our dreams come true. In this sense, your characters are growing up, and that is important since I sense they are about to face new and perhaps more terrible dangers.
Young Gods of Kopaz
This, the third book of the Gods of Kopaz series, places familiar characters in a new and exciting setting: Kopaz. Young Gods of Kopaz allows readers to explore in far greater depth the characters and places that were only briefly described or alluded to in previous books. In this sense, it fulfills many of the promises of the first two books while still leaving exciting untied ends to pull readers into the fourth book.
Whether because of some magical time shift or as a result of their difficult childhoods and recent traumatic adventures, Danny and Jeannie seem to have matured. They both come across as older, more confident, more adult. Danny in particular has had to learn to accept his godly nature. When he finally does so, he blossoms, growing into of all his potential. Although not many of your young readers are likely to be gods, Danny’s reluctance to accept the responsibilities of adulthood will nevertheless resonate with them. Teenagers everywhere both long to be grown up and shy away from it, torn, like Danny, between their desire for strength and independence and their need for comfort and safety.
In this edit, as with the first two manuscripts, I worked hard to improve the grammar and spelling. In addition, I thought a great deal about consistency, both within this single book and with the two previous stories. That is what this letter will focus on, since many of the more technical edits are things I’ve discussed in previous letters.
This story picks up almost exactly where Secrets of the Sun left off. Danny and Jeannie have arrived in a place they believe is Kopaz. Soon after they arrive, they’re captured by the royal guard. Danny is peremptorily tossed into the river, and Jeannie is captured and taken to the goroms. The story then follows their separate journeys—Jeannie at the palace, and Danny in the wilderness being trained by Quill—until they reunite during the goroms’ attempted coup. They have one more task to complete, but nevertheless, they are recognized as the chosen ones of the gods, and they help usher in a new era of peace for Kopaz.
What you have created here is a fully realized successor to the story you told in Secrets of the Sun. The characters are wonderfully expanded here, and you ramp up the tension even more by separating the two leads for so much of the book. There will be no readers who are not fearful for Jeannie’s safety as she is captured and assaulted by the diabolical goroms. As well, Danny’s training under Quill and eventual mastery of his powers as a young god will be thrilling for readers to encounter. Will Danny be able to master his powers and save his beloved Jeannie in time to thwart the goroms’ usurpation of the kingdom of Kopaz? It is this question that will keep readers turning the pages with rapt attention.
In addition to the two leads from the previous book, Young Gods of Kopaz expands the cast to great effect. The tragic characters of Merapondes and Peizar will evoke sympathy from readers, and that sense of loss will turn to hope as the thrilling secret is revealed that Danny and Jeannie will have mastery over death and be able to bring these characters back to life. Will Danny be able to bring his friend Tony back? I’m sure readers will be thrilled to find the answer.
Among the surviving characters, Jerzom and Neferapondes are perhaps the strongest. They exhibit real human emotions and actions when they are faced with great loss, and their struggles will keep readers grounded as to the consequences of the well-constructed action scenes. Jerzom particularly has some really lush material, with the death of his good friend weighing on him and with his reticence at revealing that he has the golden watch.
The highlight of the book for many readers will be the villainous goroms and their scheming. It seems that these monsters cannot even trust one another. Katchcom is a true villain, and his willingness to dispose of his religious brethren in order to advance his journey to ultimate power shows what a truly heinous person he is. Readers will be very glad to see what fate has in store for the evil goroms.
As it stands, the manuscript is in strong shape. Most of my efforts as editor were spent on catching errors in grammar and consistency that might bring readers out of the story. I have made some comments in the margins of the manuscript that you may find useful. I have noted some specific sentences that I think should be rephrased so that they will be more easily understood by your readers.
War of the Gods
This, the fourth and final book in the Gods of Kopaz series, War of the Gods, brings the series to a full and satisfying conclusion. Young Gods of Kopaz ended happily but with work yet to be done. That work is at the center of this, the last story in the series. Danny and Jerzom must find and capture Mochcom in order to fulfill their quest, but they also seek to destroy the dark god once and for all. The council of the gods is deadlocked. After centuries and millennia of struggle, they have no more answers and have resorted to squabbling. They desperately need the new blood and energy of Danny and Jeannie, the youngest gods in the pantheon. In the end, Danny and Jeannie’s efforts and sacrifices are finally rewarded, as are those who have struggled alongside them—their friends, parents, and the royal family of Kopaz.
The plot of War of the Gods flows quite well, and the major action ends about two-thirds of the way through the book. That’s not unusual for the last book in a series because the story needs time to settle, for the loose ends to get woven in, and for the characters to celebrate their triumph. This is what happens here, and the pleasant, imaginative descriptions of the scenery and inhabitants of Volob are lovely and soothing after the horrific end of Gorom Mochcom. The technique of alternating chapters (switching between Danny and Jerzom’s adventures on Earth and the rising tensions among the gods on Volob) is strong. It’s also a pattern that happily emphasizes the unity and peace of the ending when those two disparate plots are woven together at the end.
It is interesting that the two accidental landings Danny and Jerzom make are the days of JFK’s assassination and 9/11. It’s a huge coincidence, and one that I think demands some explanation—although I also think that explanation would be easy enough to insert. For example, you could simply say that the Sun Energy Transformer naturally gravitates to turning points, that it is drawn to those moments in time where great and devastating events took place, events that changed the course of history. That would easily explain why the only two wrong time-and-space jumps they make take them to such momentous days.
In this book, we finally get to meet several characters who have been mentioned or who have shown up briefly, but whom we have not yet had a chance to get to know: Viracocha, Neferdor, and Kashom in particular. I very much enjoyed the reunion of Kashom and Jerzom—they are such brothers! It was a charming moment. It was also interesting to get a peek at the dynamics of the council. These gods are not removed and otherworldly, not simply voices in the sky or a flash of vengeful lightening. They are larger than life, to be sure, but they are also recognizable in their fears and joys, their petty squabbles and their attempts to manipulate one another. I think that gods always make interesting characters because they allow us to examine what it is like to be human, but to the nth degree.
What you have created here is a fantastic final volume of your epic story. You succeed in bringing all of the various plot threads to satisfying conclusions, and you do so with a deftness of touch that will leave readers of this series hungry for whatever inventive world you come to write in next. You greatly expand the scope of the story, bringing in the gods themselves as real characters, and the twists and turns in time as the story unfolds are sure to be interesting to your readers. Jerzom and Danny’s misplacement in time due to Prince Zeb’s innocent fumbling at the dials of the Sun Energy Transformer made for a really good series of misadventures, and that it allowed for characters like Danny’s parents to come back into the story after their fateful deaths earlier in the series was a stroke of genius.
You continue to have great villains in the saga you’re telling. Dark God Zuron is a looming evil presence over the course of the story, and the mystery of which of Viracocha’s trusted inner circle Zuron managed to corrupt and turn to his evil ways was an excellent way of keeping the tension high. Bringing back Gorom Mochcom, the vile murderer of Danny’s mother and of his best friend, Tony, as a primary antagonist and introducing a new villain in the unlikely betrayer Ra, son of the supreme god Viracocha, were both excellent choices. Ra, whose betrayal was so utter and so abject, makes for a particularly interesting villain, since his motives are not known until later in the story.
In addition to the heroes and villains of the saga, you have many great secondary characters. The tension when it is revealed the Danny may have inadvertently killed his parents for all time due to bringing them on the Highway of Time was excellent, and they are both incredibly sympathetic as they make their peace with knowing they may never see their son again as he goes off to the final battle. Allowing Tony and KateLynn to be resurrected was also excellent. I know readers of the series will rejoice at Tony’s resurrection particularly, since he was such a key part of solving the mysteries in the beginning of the saga.
You also do a great job of expanding the world here. The planet of Volob is a real phantasmagoria of delights. That there are mythic creatures, like centaurs and unicorns, that live there is amazing, and the period of play that Danny and Jeannie have after Dark God Zuron is defeated really reflects the joyousness of their victory and the amazing things that were saved by Danny and Jeannie. It was also great having Danny’s father insist on bringing his truck with him on his trip to Kopaz, and having that misplaced item awe and intrigue the youth of the planet was a really interesting interplay.