Mindee Arnett
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The Relay of Onyx & Ivory

Dear Friends,

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?

In honor of this reveal, I want to tell you more about the inspiration behind the Relay, which is one of the core ideas that launched the whole story. The Relay is the royal courier service responsible for delivering the mail between the 12 city states of Rime. The job of relay riders is both dangerous and important. The moment darkness falls in Rime, the nightdrakes come out to hunt. These flightless dragons are vicious and will kill–and eat–any human they find, or any animal that’s been touched by a human. So cows, chickens, horses, every domesticated animal, must be brought within the city gates at night, which are warded by magic against drakes. People too, need to be behind the walls, of course.

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.

The first inspiration for the Relay comes from my romanticized affection for the American Pony Express, which ran for only two years between 1860-1861. My first introduction into the Pony Express came from the short lived TV show The Young Riders, which first aired back in 1989. I loved this show, thanks in no small part because of the character Lou, short for Louise. Lou had to pretend to be a man in order to join the Pony Express. There’s a little bit of her Kate, for sure. Of course, my other love for the show was that it involved horses. Oh, and it features a young Josh Brolin, playing the real-life Wild Bill Hickok. Seriously, this show is a gem.


(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.

Musingly Yours,

Mindee

Filed under: Onyx&Ivory