It’s March 15. Do you realize what this means? Onyx & Ivory is only 2 months away! That’s a short 8 weeks. I can hardly believe it. Considering I started work on this book way back in 2015, it feels like I’ve been waiting for it to come out forever. Of course, by the same turn, it also feels it went so fast. Strange how that works.
Today though, I’m excited to share with you a brand new swag item just revealed this week by my street team. This is the badge worn by riders of the Relay, including Kate Brighton, one of the main character of Onyx & Ivory. The badge was designed by the magnificent Jenny of Seedlings Design Studio. These will be going out into the world in sticker form one day soon. Isn’t is gorgeous?
At the beginning of the book, Kate is working as a Relay rider. In fact, in the opening chapter, she’s hurrying to get inside the closest city before the sun sets, a task made so much harder as her horse has suffered an injury. It’s not uncommon for Relay riders and their mounts to die on a journey between the city states. As anyone familiar with horses will tell you, they can be nearly as fragile as they are strong.
(Image from IMDB. Lou is second from right)
The second inspiration for the Relay comes from the years I spent as a competitive trail rider. Although I now compete as an Eventer, as a kid I spent most of my time doing what’s called Competitive Trail Riding (CTR), a division of Endurance Riding. Although Endurance is a race over long distances, in CTR horses are judged on fitness. The rider+horse pair are required to complete a long distance trail ride within a set timeframe, and whoever has the fittest horse at the end wins. Along the way, horse are carefully monitored and evaluated for how well they’re holding up. Any horse that shows signs of fatigue or injury during a vet check isn’t allowed to go on. The distances typically range between 25 to 40 miles per day, with many competitions lasting two days, and some even longer. A 25 mile day might take between 5-6 hours to complete (riders are prevented from going any faster by the rules–come in too early and you’re penalized).
(My sister and I checking our watches during a competition)
I loved it. I still too. There’s nothing like spending that much time riding your horse. It’s a bonding experience. You get to know one another in a special way. It’s also both grueling and fun, and I’ve always appreciated the focus on keeping the horses sound and healthy. In a world plagued by nightdrakes, The Relay and its riders would need to be just as concerned on keeping their mounts fit, which comes through in the book. Also, the pace of these CTRs helped me determine the range between cities and the Relay towers.
(Notice all the stuff hanging from the saddle? Kate has to carry even more)
Of course, the Relay is only where things start in the book. For the moment Corwin reenters Kate’s life, any hopes of maintaining her normal life and normal job go out the window. Still, I had a blast writing these parts.
Thanks for tuning in, and be sure to come back often. I’ll be revealing a lot more swag items and fun tidbits and insights into Onyx & Ivory, including ways for you to get some of these swag items for yourself.