Bullying. Bias. Judgment. Almost daily we see news reports and articles about someone being treated negatively because he or she is different. Yet, it’s those differences that make the world an interesting place. I couldn’t imagine living in a world of cookie cutter people like me. So when I started to write my story, I focused on creating something that was entertaining, but carried a strong message.
This is the fundamental message behind my novel, The Journey of the Marked, and the related series. Regardless of ability or appearance, everyone can contribute, everyone can make a difference.
The Miyran Heir
While I wanted to highlight the advantages of differences, I also wanted to write something entertaining that I loved, which led me down the path of gritty sci-fi mixed with high fantasy. My story takes place on a different world and, while there are Humans, I created a number of species, each with unique abilities, which allowed me to highlight ways their various strengths were important.
There’s the Plinte that are land-based, but have breathing slits that allow them to breathe underwater. They’re raised to fight, which is a carryover from their culture prior to landing on the planet. Then there’s the Liput — While they don’t train to fight, the Liput are extremely skilled mechanics and can be quite clever. As well, there’s the Krystic female, a beauty that can tame even the scariest of beasts on the planet. The Krystics tend to avoid fighting, as well, but if properly trained, have some unique skills that are useful.
The dire circumstances on the planet throws a group of teenagers together, attempting to reach a training camp while being hunted. While tempers flare, they must learn to work together and accept each others’ strengths and weaknesses in order to survive.
The fundamental concept of the book will continue throughout the series. And, of course, where there are differences, there’s also often persecution. So don’t be surprised if that surfaces in various forms in the series.
Let’s talk about Eros, another character from The Journey of the Marked and one of the marked youth. The book description includes a brief introduction to his journey and he appears in chapter one, along with a marked female (I’ll talk about her later). I recently discovered two readers who are taken with him. So, a bit more about him.
First, he’s Human, so that part is simple. Outside of describing his blond, disorderly hair, most of what you learn about him is driven by his thoughts and actions. However, he’s the boy depicted on the cover of the novel (picture to the left — by my artist, EJ Wright). I’ll attach a second picture below (fan art), created by Heather L. McCray.
When Eros first arrives in the city, he encounters trouble with the Graeliths. He happens into an alley where a marked girl, Kenrya, is hiding and she saves his life. This begins their journey together…and the start of their troubles. Kenrya is cynical and stubborn, while Eros has a broader view of life.
Eros provides a calm perspective to most situations. His mother believed he would be marked, so she prepared him for this future. While he doesn’t consider himself a leader, he posses a confidence and reason that draws others to him. Well, all except for Kenrya.
While adult males guided him throughout his childhood, Eros was raised by a single mother. His mother never told him about his father, which surfaces early in the story. Part of the journey becomes his own self-discovery about his heritage and abilities.
Eros wants to protect his family and friends and their way of life. He finds honor in the mark. But, will he be able to leverage all his mother taught him and survive? Even more important to him, will he be able to protect his newly found friends?
When I ask readers which character from The Journey of the Marked is their favorite, more often than not, the response is Tip. I recently had two readers panic that something happens to Tip when I mentioned a death. This caused me to question why Tip warrants such a consistent reaction. First, a little background on Tip:
My cover artist, Em Wright, based the picture on the left on my description of Tip. He’s Liput, so the tips of his hair change color each day randomly. Consistent with the average Liput, he’s skilled with machinery. While he’s strong from farming, he lacks the skill to fight effectively.
Liputs avoided the earlier conflicts on the planet; yet Tip’s two brothers were marked at 16 followed by him. While most of the marked find honor in the call to Anyamae’s side, Tip fears what he must face when he abandons his home. Tip is an underdog.
Throughout book one, Tip slowly evolves, gaining courage and forging a bond with the other marked ones. But how will he contribute to the journey if fighting isn’t his strength? And will the others afford him the same respect they do those that can fight? It’s this fascination that makes Tip popular. You find yourself cheering for him and hoping he succeeds.
Yes, I think we’ll all have to keep cheering for Tip. After all, he needs a confidence boost!
Let’s talk a little more about the Graeliths, the species in The Journey of the Marked that hunts the marked youth. To set the stage, here’s a brief recap on their physical attributes: They stand on two legs, but are closer to animals than other species on their world. The males and females have similar appearances, though larger size and quantity of body hair generally indicates male, as does the tenacity to hunt. They lack the agility and speed to hunt alone, usually working in groups to trap their prey. They have translucent eyes that glow in darkness and are barely noticeable in light. Large, pointed ears sit near the top of the head.
The depiction on the left was created by my artist, Em Wright, as part of the market scene from the story. This picture is currently visible in full on my Facebook Page. We kept him in the shadows to keep some mystery. However, you’ll be excited to see that we (and I mean Em) have created an image in more detail for book two, The List.
The image on the right should give you a clearer idea of how they might appear. They are wolf-like, but more humanoid than animal.
The Graeliths lived on Zolei (the planet on which the story takes place) before the Miyran and their supporters arrived. The two groups negotiated an agreement. The Graeliths would allow the Miyran to settle on portions of Zolei they didn’t inhabit and, in return, the Miyran would protect the planet from those that would plunder it for resources.
As more species arrived, seeking refuge on Zolei, discontent increased among certain of the population. But the real catalyst for the current conflict was the arrival of the Tyrnotts. As you learn in book one, the objective of their leader, Nord, is to disrupt the protections of Zolei and allow another species access to its wealth, even enslaving the current population.
While the Graeliths originally welcomed the Miyran, something changed their view and drove them to hunt any supporting that side of the conflict. The Miyran place a mark to draw sixteen-year-old youth into the conflict, but the Graeliths have an uncanny ability to sense the mark, which makes them the perfect hunters.
As The Journey of the Marked progresses, you see certain of the marked youth began to question hostility toward the Graeliths. Not outwardly, but in the form of curiosity as to why the Graeliths now hate the Miyran and their supporters. The question then is what drives the Graeliths current position in the struggle and can anything be done to once again reason with them?
Gornith: Leader among the Graeliths
I love sci-fi and fantasy stories. As I began developing the background for my series, The Miyran Heir, I knew I wanted to create my own world and my own species. Starting with something fresh and new provided me with the freedom to “grant” species special abilities that I could use throughout the story. But, it also afforded me the opportunity to show how it takes all types and skills to accomplish something. Differences are what help us survive.
As I developed my world, though, it raised the question — what should I change and what should I keep consistent with Earth? I read a novel recently where the story also took place on a different planet. The author had taken time to re-name time periods such as day, week, and month. I’m sure she invested a lot of thought and it was impressive, but not a chapter later, I couldn’t remember what each new term represented. If time was important to her novel, as I believe it was, then she effectively setup a scenario where the reader would constantly struggle to follow the story.
The question I then had to answer was did I want my book to appeal to a broad audience or a more narrow reader group that loves only worlds that are completely different? Given my own personal preference and experience, I chose the former. As a result, I’ve given terms, time periods, and other references in my story serious consideration.
In the case of time, I think of days, weeks, and months as being more generic terms. After all, every culture on Earth has similar concepts, even though we may each call a specific month something different. However, I don’t refer to any particular month by the names we use here. Instead, my characters refer to periods during the year based on the season and the cycle of the two moons. This allows the reader to understand timeframes that are important (i.e. a week has passed), without the oddity of a name specific to our world (i.e. January).
For each animal, flower, even types of stone, I’ve balanced what I think is generic versus specific to Earth. For those that are specific, I’ve created new ones, unless it happens to be something the Human refugees brought with them (i.e. dogs). Again though, I didn’t want the new concepts to cause readers to struggle, so I’ve tried to minimize the quantity introduced. I do love some of my creatures like the klen — six legged animals that are raised for meat. Tiny scales cover their bodies and serve a number of useful purposes. Why six legs? Well, the legs are always the best part, right?
In the end, I’ve tried to ensure my story “fits” a different planet, while including familiar concepts that make it easier for a reader to enjoy.
The Arlians are a species introduced in book one of The Miyran Heir series, though less is shared about them than certain others. I thought you might be interested in a little more background.
When Eros (Human male) meets Kenrya (Arlian female), he tries to explain her difficult nature by what he knows of the species: They were persecuted by the Graeliths and had become a difficult and reclusive race. When they did visit the city, they were well known for violent outbursts, prolific body markings, and obnoxious children.
While they’re generally considered difficult, that wasn’t always the case. But first, just a refresher on unique physical traits — their ears. They curl upward and back at the top, with dozens of feathery-like pieces along the back from the midpoint of the ear to the top. A depiction of Kenrya (provided by my talented sister-in-law, Heather McCray) is to the left.
There are some brief references regarding the Arlians in book one, but much is left unexplained. While I’ve built out the history of the planet, Zolei, I don’t plan to filter all of the information into the books unless it flows naturally. Hence, some things might never be explained. So here’s a little background:
Prior to settling on Zolei, the Miyrans were space-faring. This allowed them to visit many worlds and many new species and also facilitated their need for new genetic mates for their members (explained in book one). Over the years, some of the species joined them, creating a larger band of travelers. The Arlians were one of these. They were with the Miyrans when the decision was made to settle on Zolei.
In book one, Nord (Tyrnott leader) reflects on an experience where he caused the brutal death of an Arlian woman and her two sons when his father chose to decimate an Arlian community for harboring the marked. This was the turning point for the Arlians. They moved their communities farther away from Caldot and stopped interacting with the other species unless absolutely necessary. As they were strong supporters of the Miyran, this strengthened the Tyrnotts’ position and was one of the turning points in the earlier battles for Caldot.
Kenrya: Marked at 16
The Liputs are one of the key species in book one of The Miyran Heir series. They live in a community called Kentish, south of the primary city (Caldot) in my novel. If you have trouble picturing Kentish, imagine the colorful homes of Burano (Venice, Italy), but without the canal and with flower boxes at the windows.
Deciding on names for people and places is always a challenge for me because they have to “fit” — so I often lean on what’s familiar. So where did I come up with Kentish? From my home state of Kentucky. I’m afraid I don’t remember a specific driver behind the species name Liput, except that it just seemed to work.
After reading book one, one of my friends likened the Liputs to Hobbits. While they are clearly different physically, he was right that the Liputs are the species most connected to the land. They’re farmers. They live simply and prefer the outdoors and open space. Another similarity to Hobbits is that they aren’t fighters or natural adventurers.
The Liputs are similar in appearance to Humans, except for one interesting trait — the tips of an individual’s hair change color each day randomly. In rare circumstances, someone might have tips in two colors. A depiction of one of the Liputs is to the left. So what possessed me to build in this trait? Quite honestly, I just thought it was fun. How amazing would it be to have your hair change color like that!
At least one reviewer commented on the fact that if the Liputs are strong, they should be able to fight. I think that’s true to a point. However, I believe that strength and skill are two different things. An individual can be strong and still not be able to punch a moving target or block an advance, if not trained to do so. This is where the Liputs fall short. While they’re strong due to farming the land, they don’t learn fighting techniques and lack the confidence, or even the interest, in settling conflicts with physical force.
But don’t count them out just yet. Yes, this series is about a physical conflict, but one doesn’t have to be a fighter to make a difference. The big question is will the Liputs hide behind the electric barrier around Kentish or will they lend a hand?
- Tip: Marked at 16
- Tren: Tip’s father
- Mirna: Tip’s mother
- Trul and Sri: Tip’s brothers
- Lictia: Mirna’s friend
I’m often asked what my book, The Journey of the Marked, is about. As this is the first book in The Miyran Heir series, I find it difficult to talk about one without the other. So, I thought I’d share some background on the underlying premise of the series.
As a starting part, let me share a little bit about my interests. I love fantasy/sci-fi, mysteries, and culturally-focused biographies. Fantasy/sci-fi stimulates my imagination. I like thinking about what could be and creating unique backdrops and possibilities. Mysteries provide a problem that needs to be solved, which intrigues me. Finally, I’m fascinated by cultural differences and the why behind cultural traditions. Influences from each of these can be found in my series.
At the very core of my story is persecution. However, I wanted to create a world where individuals are generally accepted regardless of appearance or belief. Each individual has different strengths and weaknesses, but each can contribute to the resolution of conflict or issues. Instead, I like the idea of playing with persecution based on age. It’s certainly not dissimilar to persecution based on race or religion; yet, I think it’s interesting to contemplate. While not immediately obvious in book one, readers will find a loose (and I emphasize loose) correlation to WWII as the series continues.
In addition to exploring persecution, I also wanted the story to be fun to read. Most of my characters are different species, but you’ll find their day-to-day issues are consistent with those we face here on Earth. You can easily find yourself lost in the journey and the various trials the marked ones face. You can laugh at their antics and cringe when the bad guys are close. Of course, all with a focus on solving the key question presented: Who is the next Miyran Heir?