Monday, July 28, 2014

Diversity in Faerie

Humanity is a very diverse species. Our skin tones range from immaculate ivory to exquisite ebony and our eye and hair colors are equally varied. When I began to write the first book in The Alazne Series, I wanted the men and women of the land of Faerie to be similarly diverse… but with a twist.

Each of the fey ethnicities featured in The Alazne Series has an attraction to the element commanded by their respective creators (Hesta, Haizea, Irati, and Euria), but I wanted to make that variation both magical/spiritual and physical.

Alazne, the princess of the fire fey, has flaming red hair, bronzed skin, and molten gold eyes—coloring that most people would associate with fire, and common Hestians have a more subdued version of her coloring (deep red tresses and amber eyes), but all of the fire fey have varying shades of tanned skin that contribute to their unique brand of beauty. The principal Eurian characters, Luken and Nikola, both share the same oceanic coloring as Water King and heir with cerulean locks, light skin, and sapphire eyes while the common Eurians have midnight blue hair and matching eyes.

The only wind fey (Haizean) and earth fey (Iratian) characters introduced in The Kings’ Council are the kings, Kemen and Unai respectively. The Wind King’s complexion is more pallid than that of his Eurian counterparts, and with stark white hair and silver eyes, no one would mistake him for one of the water fey. One important feature that sets Kemen and his gray-haired, stormy-eyed subjects apart from the other fey is that they all have the “almond-shaped” eyes that most of us associate with people of East Asian descent. Unai, on the other hand, has features that mimic people of African descent—deep brown skin and eyes with coarse, dark hair. However, as with humans, there are variations in skin tone within the Iratian fey as well as the other fey ethnicities thanks to various factors such as lifestyle-related sun exposure.

Since the fey have such distinct appearances, it’s not difficult to spot a halfling (someone who is the result of an interracial union), and Garaile is a great example of that. The thief/inn-keeper was born with the carmine locks that non-royal Hestians possess, but his deep blue eyes tell the story of his mixed parentage before he even introduces himself to new acquaintances. The two captains who appear in The Prophets’ Guild also are the products of interracial relationships between Haizean and Eurian parents. With elemental affinities for wind and water, it’s no wonder that they chose careers in sailing! Despite the existence of those three characters, halflings are still quite rare in the land of Faerie, and Luken mentions the scarcity of mixed fey in Hesta specifically when he first notices Garaile’s blue eyes. In terms of how well halflings are received by the fey, that’s a topic I’ll discuss in a later blog.

Now it’s your turn to write a little bit! If you were a fey man or woman in the land of Faerie, what fey ethnicity would you be, and do you already have a fondness for your chosen element?

As an African American, I would fall into the Iratian category based on skin tone alone, and I wouldn't look terribly different as a fey woman, but what about you? Can you picture yourself with flaming red hair, cool cerulean locks, or stark white tresses?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Faith & Fantasy

***WARNING: This blog post contains spoilers***

When I first dreamed up the world of Faerie that’s featured in The Alazne Series, the word “faith” to me was synonymous with the gutsy gal played by Eliza Dushku on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the only divine beings I contended with were the ones who existed in my book. Then, in early 2013, everything changed.

After I wrote the first draft of The Prophets’ Guild (The Alazne Series Book 2), God gave me what my friends and I like to call a “grace slap.” He stepped into my life, changing my heart and healing damage from my past in an unmistakably divine way through Jesus Christ.

On several occasions, new friends who I’d met through attending and serving at my church regularly over the past year discovered that I had written a book. Every time I explained the plot and characters, I had to preface my explanation with the disclaimer that I’d written The Kings’ Council before I became a believer. I would jokingly discourage them from reading my book because it had three shades of gray in it (instead of fifty) and wasn't fit for Christian consumption. After using that colorful, tongue-in-cheek reference repeatedly, I decided to do something a little crazy: Release a “clean” second edition.

In the months that followed, I pored over The Kings’ Council and removed pages of passion while making other improvements to the text. Eventually, I had a finished product that I could hand over to my Christian comrades without humorous warnings and a fear of causing someone to stumble. Despite the new “cleanliness” of the book, I realized that there was still a bit of a problem. The characters had sinned time and time again during the story, and the protagonists still managed to find some semblance of happiness and decided to (gasp) live together without being married at the conclusion of the book.

Sure, Alazne and Garaile exist in a fictional land with four gods instead of one God and no Jesus, but I didn’t feel right letting them ride into the sunset without contending with the fallout of their transgressions. After all, in the real world, we have salvation through Jesus Christ because he cleanses us and justifies us through his death and resurrection, but we still have to deal with the earthly consequences for our sins, and I didn’t want my characters to be any different.

For that reason, I sat down with the untouched printed proof of The Prophets’ Guild and made some drastic changes to the plot and the characters’ relationships to show the effects of their actions in the first book. My renewed fervor for the land of Faerie and my faith-stoked passion for writing also inspired me to write the third book in the series, The Valley of Eternity. In this in-progress book, all of the characters’ transgressions as well as the insufficiency and iniquity of the gods themselves cause a calamity that forces the characters to form unlikely alliances and to take steps toward reconciliation and peace that are oftentimes uncomfortable.

Readers who stick with the series and read all three books once they are released will have the opportunity to see the characters face the consequences of their innate brokenness and find new hope in the same way that I have during my transition from a “check the box” Christian-by-default to a true Christ-follower.

If you’re interested in reading my story of transformation, check out the blog I wrote for The Porch, and if you haven’t heard the gospel before, e-mail me at It’s a (true) story with a joyful ending better than anything I could ever hope to write, and I’d love to share it with you.