Valuing Differences — The Journey of the Marked

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.

Valuing differences.

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

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.

Red WingsThe 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.

Tip — Everyone Loves an Underdog

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:

Tip from MarketMy 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.

Red WingsThroughout 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!

The Graeliths (the “bad” guys)

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.

Graelith newThe 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.

Red WingsAs 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

In an alternate world, how much should stay the same?

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.

PlanetsAs 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.

TimeIn 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).

Red WingsFor 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.