Cassia is not the only character who’s had me drastically revising my earlier fiction.
Jaya, the central figure in what now stands as Nearly Canaan, has more recently had me doing the same to six other published books.
First, before Cassia became part of my life in What’s Left and the earlier stories now told in my Freakin’ Free Spirits cycle, Jaya emerged in a set of revisions in what became the three novels Promise, Peel (as in apple), and St. Helens in the Mix.
Initially, her part wasn’t even female – and while transforming her wasn’t exactly literary gender reallocation surgery, it certainly changed the dynamic of the story, which became older woman/younger man, with the woman being the tall dark sophisticated stranger being pursued by a hot young guy.
In the early drafts, she wasn’t yet a yogi, either, but rather a Sufi.
The stories themselves were about encountering specific landscapes as much as the individuals themselves.
A few years after their publication, I decided to restore them to my original intent of one volume but realized drastic revision was necessary. First, they needed to be cut significantly to fit into what would still be a “fat” and hopefully juicy book. Second, I needed a clearer understanding of Jaya’s actual career as well as her companion’s character. And, third, a fuller comprehension of her lasting influence was required. That led to the new version, Nearly Canaan.
It still felt incomplete, though. Her earlier spiritual training needed to be told. While she had talked briefly about her ashram experiences, they didn’t align completely with my yoga novel. But they could.
I reopened the manuscript, changed one of the eight students to be Jaya, and then changed the gender of the guru throughout. That led to a slew of drastic alterations and additions, moving the novel from Ashram to Yoga Bootcamp.
That gave me two novels in a series, but a series needs a third or more, I felt.
But wait, there’s more.
Lingering were two experimental novellas I had published, each set in one of the places Jaya lived, even though she wasn’t included in the stories. I looked at With a Passing Freight Train of 119 Cars and Twin Cabooses and Kokopelli’s Hornpipe and realized she could be added to the narratives, giving them a clearer focus. That, though, would require a third novella, reflecting her time in the Ozarks. So that part’s new.
My use of paranormal and fantasy, first applied in What’s Left, now returned in reviving works that already had strong elements of steampunk, mythology, and surrealism. Curiously, Jaya’s role seems to keep all of them in rein.
The result is a full novel, The Secret Side of Jaya, which embraces the three novellas and two bookends.
As for the series? I see it as Tender Connections. And, yes, I’m still blaming Cassia.
Check these out at Smashwords.