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The Origin of Angel of Death

With all these new things expanding the AOD brand and bringing the series to a whole new group of readers, I thought it only appropriate to give a brief history of how Angel of Death became the expansive series that it is today!

Journey with me, if you will, to 10+ years ago...probably somewhere in the 2010-2013 range. Anyway, I had the outline for a trilogy called "A Stitch in Time." It was about the Barker family who ran a fashion line in Lexington, KY. Several of the characters will be familiar, if you've already read the AOD series because I kept their names and, possibly, some of their personalities the same when I transferred stories.

The first book--no title yet--would tell the originating history of the Barker family's business. I won't put all the details here because that would be almost novella length! Basically, the Barker fashion business started in France. Jean-Paul Barker was born there and maintains his childhood cottage as a vacation home. He decided he wanted to create clothes for the runway and got his start in the European shows. He meets a model; they fall in love; conflict ensues; they move to KY, which is where JP's family is from, and they carve out a life there.

The second book--again, no title--would pick up a few generations later. James Barker would be the owner and he's got a nice little fashion empire built. The main heroine in this story would have been Harper Corbin. She was an aspiring model, hoping to gain notoriety. James tells his assistant, a precursor to Kordelia Danes, that he wants to put aspiring models through try-outs before he considers hiring them. There would have been like a week's worth of different trials that would narrow down the pool from hundreds of applicants to, maybe, three. Those models would get to move into the model suite. Harper would have a complicated relationship with a doctor and she would end up falling in love with James. You know, the whole drama of all that.

The final book in the trilogy--you guessed it: no title--would see the result of Harper and James' affair. Their kids would fight to inherit the empire while their own families suffer because of their obsession. It was going to be a whole thing. And it still may. I repurposed the characters, but the plot has remained, largely, untouched. So I could, theoretically, revisit it later and make it a separate trilogy of its own.

Since I gave you the redacted and reduced version of "A Stitch in Time," you may not realize just how many characters I repurposed, but I'll let you know it's almost the entire Jericho family before Peyton and Skyelar. Which brings me to my next source of inspiration: a novel called For I Have Sinned.

I know what you're thinking: Isn't that the sixth book in the AOD series? Yes. And this repurposed novel is the reason why. Now, don't get too excited. You're not going to learn the plot of the sixth book because it's vastly different from the original source material. Isn't that how it always goes?

Anyway, the original version (from 10+ years ago) of For I Have Sinned was about a Human man, named Wesley, who was in kind of a go-nowhere relationship with this girl. I think her name was Chloey (no "Jo"). Anyway, one day, Wesley's Guardian Angel--I don't remember her name because it didn't get repurposed in the AOD transfer--came to Earth to rescue him from a dangerous situation and he ends up seeing her in person, which was kind of like a death sentence in the Angel world, if anyone found out. Wesley starts to fall for her and never knows who she is and they fall for each other, but, you know, the whole Mortal-Angel relationship thing is complicated.

That was the story that inspired the Heaven and Hell aspects of AOD. "A Stitch in Time" inspired the Earth and Human aspect of it. The hardest part was figuring out how the hell to put it all together. I took a long time perfecting character names, relationships, and basic motivations without worrying about the actual plot. I think that really helped me get through plot mapping or whatever with far less stress and a lot more steam than I've ever had.

How did I put it all together, exactly? With music. This is, actually, one of my favorite stories to tell because I think it shows the sheer power and critical importance of the arts. It also shows the importance of creating something YOU want to see in the world and something YOU will enjoy just as much, if not more, than those who consume it.

I was attempting to figure out where I could go with this whole fashion angle and these characters, and I put my phone's music on shuffle. I always like creating and writing to music, but it takes me a while to find that special playlist or song that burrows deep into my psyche to inspire something. That day, I was just putting on any ole music so I had background noise. I've got my laptop in front of me with my legal pad of scribbles and a pen. I had no clear path and was, literally, just telling myself that I have no idea if this is even a viable concept for a book. Then, a song came on...

It was a song that whispered to me and crept into my soul, quietly. Its influence came on me slow. Like a comfortable scent from your childhood; it's familiar, and it makes you smile, unlocking a memory just out of reach, but you can almost piece it back together like a puzzle. That's what it was like for me when this song came on. It crept into my veins and hitched a ride through my bloodstream on the back of a red blood cell. Then, it jumped ship and lodged itself in my neurons, bouncing through the synapses to light up all the creative centers in my mind, pulling together strings of ideas and characters and random motives until...BAM!

The concept of the Three Realms was born.

Since I already had a solid handful of characters to transfer into this new world I was creating, the rules of the Three Realms started falling into place, nearly instantaneously.

I outlined the ending first. The whole thing. When I say "ending" I mean the very last book in this initial series. Book 22. That was the first plot I outlined, but, back then, it was only meant as book 3 in a trilogy.

From there, I researched character names for my leading lady and leading man because I knew I didn't want it to be James or Harper. I liked their characters just fine, but they weren't a good fit to carry the weight of this new trilogy. I knew I wanted the books to be loosely religious and/or biblical themed, so I tried to find names that fit that theme in some way. Not all of them do, but a few do. Skyelar does. I've always really liked that name, so I wanted it to be my heroine.

The hero was, originally, slated to be Aezra. Unfortunately, until more books are released, I can't give you the exact meaning and origin of Aezra's name. Just know, it'll make perfect sense, in hindsight, when you do learn it.

I was on my way to having my fictional world take shape in my mind. I just had to decide on a location and a last name. The location was, surprisingly, easy. I knew I wanted it in KY, but I didn't want it to be real because I didn't want it to be obvious if I screwed up a detail. So I just mumbled some random name-sounding words to myself and decided I really liked how Murlance and Falshooke Mountain sounded. Honest to goodness, I named those cities by just seeing how it sounded to say different made up names. Did I think it sounded like a place you'd find in KY? Does it already exist in KY? More fictionally historic details about the naming of Murr County came later once I had a solid plot. You can learn more about that by watching Season 1 of TCOI's YouTube channel.

Now, I just had to come up with a last name for my main family. I did some research for names that would relate to biblical tales in some way and I decided I really liked how the name "Jericho" sounded. It helps that Chris Jericho, Y2J, is one of my favorite wrestlers, so it wasn't hard to decide I liked how it sounded.

The plot started falling into place almost immediately, based on both my previous writings that were getting repurposed into AOD as well as the song that, ultimately, inspired AOD. Mortals on Earth are facing world-ending conflict and they don't even realize it, which forces Heaven and Hell to try to either work together to keep the Three Realms from falling or to try to achieve their own agendas without the other Realm knowing.

And that's how Angel of Death was born. Of course, there's more to it than that, but it would take a long time to explain. The AOD series only got published after spending 10+ years perfecting a concept that can expand and still be enjoyable. So there's a lot in that 10+ year timeframe that gets glossed over for the sake of brevity.

I will leave you with this last little tidbit about the origins of the AOD series: never underestimate the power of music. That song that spawned this entire world that I am quite obsessed with? It was "Dance with the Devil" by Breaking Benjamin. And, now, I have a Breaking Benjamin song as the inspiration for each and every book in the lengthy AOD series. That band changed the course of my life, my creativity, and this AOD world. That one song inspired this whole world to exist. So never underestimate the power of transferring magic from one creative to the other. My hope is that AOD has touched my readers in similar ways to how Breaking Benjamin's music so thoroughly inspired me.

Until next time, loves, keep doing good!

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