Mindee Arnett
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Be M.I.G.H.T.Y

Hello Friends,

Welcome to 2019! If you follow me on social media, then you’ve got a bit of an idea about what’s coming. But if not, let me catch you up. 2018 was a tough, tough year for me. It started off with a diagnosis of a chronic illness in February, followed by eight months of recovering, changing my nutrition, and basically transforming my life.

After going through all of that, I’ve been compelled to start sharing the things I’ve learned with everyone I can. Now, don’t fret. If you’re just here for book news, I promise to share that first and foremost. My posts and newsletter will now be divided into a Book News section and a Mighty Friends section. Sound good?

Book News

Obviously, the biggest book news of 2019 is that Shadow & Flame is out this year, on June 4th! That’s only 154 days away! That might sound like a lot, but it’ll be here so soon. Sadly, there won’t be any arcs for it, but I do have some fun and easy activities planned as we get closer to release. If you want exclusive, early content, be sure to sign up to be a Relay Rider.

In other book news, I have to give a shoutout to some of my favorite reads of 2018. My absolute fav was Spinning Silver by Naomi Novick. I also loved The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor, Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon, and Pacifica by Kristen Simmons.

MIGHTY Friends

As mentioned above, 2018 was a heckuva year. There’s so much I want to tell you about, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. Instead, I’ve decided to start by explaining what the acronym Be M.I.G.H.T.Y. means. This is my personal mission statement, the principles that I aspire toward everyday. As part of my journey of change this year, I’ve learned the importance of living a value (or principle) based life. My core values include my family, my health (physical, mental, and spiritual), my communities (church, Crossfit, horses), my career, and my creative life. If you want to know more about value-centered living, then I highly recommend reading The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen R. Covey. I’m sure I’ll do a segment on this on a later date as well.

But for now, you’ll find a quick summation of the acronym for my personal mission statement below, followed by detailed explanations.

  • Be Meek
  • Be Informed
  • Be Grateful
  • Be Humble
  • Be Tenacious
  • Be Yourself

Be Meek

Now, I don’t mean weak or even gentle here, but meekness in the biblical sense. This has to do with how we handle a conflict or situation in which we have no ability to control or influence. According to biblestudytools.com, meekness is “an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are wisely seen by the individual as only part of a larger picture.” It is “the patient and hopeful endurance of undesirable circumstances.” As any writer will tell you, writers have little to no ability to influence what happens to our books what we’ve written/sold them, and for me, this reality was a huge source of strife in my life these past few years, leading to depression, anxiety, and ultimately playing a huge part in my diagnosis with Meniere’s Disease. Of course, the need for me to be meek goes way beyond the books and into all avenues of my life.

Be Informed

After being diagnosed with an incurable disease, I was at first devastated. It felt like the end. For days and months and weeks everything seemed hopeless. Especially after all the doctor did for me was to “diagnose and dose.” They put me on some medication and told me to wish for the best. Instead, I said screw to that and dove headfirst into educating myself about the disease, which is considered an autoimmune issue. This led me to learn about the crucial role of nutrition in inflammation. I realized I had taken for granted that the foods available for purchase in the US were, if not healthy, at least not harmful. WRONG. I was so so wrong. So uniformed and naive. Never again will I embrace such things without question. I’ve come to realize that if I want to protect my health and wellbeing, and that of my family, that I have to actively seek out information in an attempt to learn the truth. I have to question all the paradigms I’ve long held, such as the ability of modern medicine to cure disease, the accuracy of the food pyramid, the safety of mutual funds, and so on. It’s overwhelming at times, but empowering. G.I. Joe was right–knowing is half the battle.

Be Grateful

Every day, every waking moment, I want to express my gratitude for the life I’ve been given. Even when it’s hard, when it’s bad–and sometimes with this disease it gets real bad, like I-would-rather-die-than-go-through–but even still, I am blessed and loved. And I want to pay that love and blessing forward.

Be Humble

One of my friends and I regularly joke about how the publishing business is a daily practice in eating humble pie. And while that is true in a cynical sense, it’s not what I mean by humility. Instead, I’ve come to realize that humility is a choice, an acknowledgment and acceptance in my heart that I’m no better than anyone else, and that I am in fact, probably worse than most, if only for all the times I believed otherwise. Even more than that, humility is realizing how much I don’t know and how much I still have to learn. Every day, every encounter with every human being, is a chance to grow and serve and become more.

Be Tenacious

Never give up. It’s that simple. I could’ve given up many times, especially after that diagnosis, but I decided to holdfast instead. To fight. To move forward despite the odds. To be honest, This is a core value I’ve always had. It’s probably the number one quality you need if you want to publish a book. But I’ve never had my tenacity challenged more greatly than in this last year. I have to be tenacious in everything I believe am and chasing. For me, this value is about pursuing excellence in all things.

Be Yourself

I know this one sounds cheesy, but I’m being sincere. I spent a lot of years not knowing myself. Not examining my choices, my dreams, my desires. Instead, I lived my life by walking the path set before me. Go to school, get a degree, get a job, get married, have kids. I never once stopped to question those decisions. I just did what was expected without ever stopping to get to know myself first. Have you ever known someone whose personality and interests would change based on who they started dating or hanging around with? Well…that was me. I’m ashamed to admit it. Truly ashamed, but it’s true. It was never intentional. I didn’t consciously try and change myself to match someone’s ideal version, but I did. It’s one of my biggest regrets. But again, never again. I want to be myself, and that starts with spending time getting to knowing myself, through deep and intentional introspection.

And there you have it. Sorry for the length of this one, but I had to share. I promise, shorter, more focused segments in the future. The most important thing I’ve learned so far is that change is possible. True change. The kind that impacts the lives of others and the world at large. But that change starts from within, not without. If you want change in your life, you have to go first. You have to lead the way. Do that, and the rest will follow. I promise.

Stay Mighty,

Mindee

Onyx & Ivory Release Day

Dear Friends,

Today’s the day. After months, well actually years, Onyx & Ivoryis out in the world today. Looking back, this book is a little bit of a miracle. It came out of one of the darkest periods of my life, and to be honest, there for a long while I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to publish again. Thankfully, I was wrong.


Although O&I Is my sixth published novel, it’s easily the most “me” book I’ve written so far. It’s about a young woman who loves horses. They make her happy, give her purpose. Kate can even communicate with them with her mind. She’s also an outsider, a girl without a home, who never feels like she belongs. I’ve felt that way often in my life as well. But her journey is about overcoming and finding her way, something we also have in common. Maybe you will, too.

Thanks so much to my amazing publisher Balzer + Bray and my stellar editor Jordan Brown. He makes my writer a hundred times better. Also thanks to my agent, Suzie Townsend and the team at New Leaf Literary, and an extra big hug to all the members of my street team who helped get the word out.

Speaking of getting the word out–If you happen to pick up the book, please consider posting a review on any retailer website. Those reviews are crucial to a book’s success, and for a writer like me those reviews can either make or break our future.

Also, if you’re local, please come see me at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati tonight at 7:00, or I’ll be at Books & Co in Dayton on Thursday at 7:00

Link Round-Up

Musingly yours,

Mindee

Mindee’s Favorite Onyx & Ivory Quotes

Dear Friends,

Today I’m sharing some of my favorite quotes from Onyx & Ivory. To be honest, these are my favorite, non-spoilery, non-context quotes. By that I mean, these are ones you can mostly understand and, hopefully, appreciate, without having read the rest of the book. There are plenty of other quotes I liked even more, but I felt like you needed to have read up to that point to fully appreciate them. Maybe I’ll share some of those after the book is out. Or better yet, maybe some of you will share those with me.

I hope you enjoy, and I would love to know your favorite of these! Don’t forget the book is out May 15, but there’s still time to enter the preorder giveaway.

Musingly yours,

Mindee

Onyx & Ivory Map Reveal

It is my great pleasure to finally reveal the official map of Onyx & Ivory done by the amazing Maxime Plasse. Ever since I first imagined being a writer, I wanted a book with a map on it. And now it’s here, and it’s absolutely gorgeous! The annotations below provide a lot of hints and details about the book and even some teasers about the sequel. There are also some fun easter eggs in the map itself. Can you spot them? I hope you love it as much as I do. To view the map and annotations in a larger view, click here (or on the map).

POLITICAL REGIONS

Endra

With its craggy hills and rough terrain, the lands of Endra are roughly divided into areas known as Territories, each held by individual clans. However, with the continuing threat of invasion from Seva, the Endra Territories have united beneath a central Sept comprised of elected leaders from each Territory.

Cities of (pictured)

  • Shieldtown:This a sovereign city within Endra ruled by the joint mercenary companies of the Shieldhawks and Shieldcrows. The Shieldhawks are a male-only unit, while Shieldcrows are female-only. Both companies are regularly funded by the Endra Sept to fight against Seva. 

Esh Islands

All of the volcanic islands that form the archipelago known as Esh are independently ruled by various families, each with an elected queen. Although the islands maintain independency, they are loosely united through the Sisterhood of the Furen Mag. A vaguely religious sect, the Furen Mag are a group of craftswomen, whom many believe are the true rulers of the islands

Sovereign States

  • Drekka
  • Keljor
  • Magradal
  • Nysa
  • Skaar
  • Valsdral
  • Wrensfell

Rhoswen

Similar to their nearest neighbors, Rhoswen is a land divided into Territories held by individual clans. Before the rise of Seva, Rhoswen and Endra were in constant feuds. However, they are now united against their common threat, with several of the Rhoswen clan leaders elected to the Sept.

Rime

Up until fifty years ago, Rime was comprised of self-ruled city-states, most held by a sovereign king, although with a few governed by elected officials. The 12 city-states united beneath a high king in response to the Sevan invasion fifty years before. The land of Rime is vast and comprised of a variety of landscapes from the mountains in the north and west, vast forests, rolling hills, and fertile plains.

Cities of

  • Aldervale:The primary export of this northern city is its lumber harvested from the surrounding forest. Their patron goddess is Aldeah, ruler of the hunt and animals.
  • Andreas:This southern city is known for its vast mineral wealth, including coal and various gemstones. Once considered a kingdom, the current ruler is Lord Nevan. Their patron god is Andre, lord of fire.
  • Carden:Ruled by Lord Brogan, Carden is a city known for its wineries, thanks to its vast vineyards. Their patron god is Caro, ruler of the sun and sky.
  • Eetmark:Known as the City of Joy, Eetmark boasts more visitors than other in Rime, offering a variety of unique entertainments. Their primary export is pottery and other earthenware goods. Their patron goddess is Eetolyn, ruler of the earth and romantic love.
  • Farhold:Ruled by an elected governor, Farhold is rumored to be the only city still capable of being self-sustaining, not needing any imported goods from other cities. Their patron goddess is Farrah, ruler of the night and shadows.
  • Kilbarrow:Ruled by Lord Jedrek, Kilbarrow is one of the most isolated cities in Rime as well as the wealthiest. Deep in the Cobalt Mountains, their primary export is precious gemstones. Their patron god is Kilas, ruler of the mountains and of mining.
  • Marared: Surrounded by fertile lands, Marared’s primary exports are crops and livestock. Their patron goddess is Redama, ruler of harvest and fortune (luck).
  • Norgard:Home to the high king and the House of Tormane, Norgard is the capital city of Rime. Similar to Farhold, Norgard is mostly self-sustaining thanks to the surrounding fertile lands. However, they are known for their military strength, especially their highly-trained and well breed war horses. Their patron goddess is Noralah, ruler of horses and of war.
  • Penlocke:This port city is the center of trade for all of Rime. Their patron goddess is Penlin, ruler of sea and rivers.
  • Rin:Known as a city of industry, Rin’s primary exports are various goods, including cutlery, candles, and shoes. Their patron god is Rindar, ruler of the wind.
  • Thace: Built atop a marsh, many of the streets in this city are waterways instead of roads. Thace’s primary export is textile goods, and it is known as the City of Fashion. Their patron god is Thao ruler of rain and storms.
  • Tyvald: Although the primary export of this city is fish, it has more recently become a hub of learning. Tyvald is home to the first university, a school dedicated to the study of the arts and sciences, both. Their patron god is Ty, ruler of arts and learning.

Freeholdings (pictured)

  • Gilda:Home to Count Gilderan. Few families in Rime are wealthy enough to sustain a freeholding.
  • Thornewall (Shown as Thorne Hall): Home to Baron and Baroness Thorne. In ages past, this freeholding was once held by smugglers.

Ruzgar

Little is known about this northern nation. Geographically isolated by the formidable Erralean River and the frozen tundra beyond it, few travelers come and go from the area.

Seva

Home of the Godking Magnar Fane, Seva is a vast kingdom and a longstanding enemy of Rime. Once a tiny kingdom, surrounded by dozens of others, Seva has conquered nearly all its neighbors, making it the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the known world.

Cities of (pictured)

  • Algot: This port city serves as the gateway for any foreigner wishing to enter the Kingdom of Seva. All imported goods are also carefully inspected before being allowed in the mainland.
  • Belloss:Former capital city of the Kingdom of Belloss, conquered by the Fanes more than a century before.
  • Florri: Former capital city of the Kingdom of Florri, conquered by the Fanes more than a century before. The area is known for its vineyards.
  • Gindris: Former capital city of the Kingdom of Gindris, conquered by the Fanes more than a century before.
  • Luxana:Nicknamed the City of Light, this is the capital of Seva and home to the Godking’s Sun Palace as well as the Desol, a vast amphitheater
    • Mistfold:Little is known about this mysterious prison.
  • Solara: Former capital city of the Kingdom of Solara, conquered by the Fanes more than a century before. 

GEOGRAPHICAL ELEMENTS

Ash Mountains

The eastern area of these mountains is rich in minerals, including iron ore, which is mined by the people of Farhold. However, due to the steep, treacherous terrain, the mountains are considered impassable.

Cobalt Mountains

Rich in precious gemstones, the Cobalt Mountains are highly mined by the people of Kilbarrow. Although steep and snow-covered, the mountains are generally passable in the spring, summer, and fall. Ancient texts contain references to dragon caves once located in the mountains.

Erralean River

This northern river is treacherous and nearly impassable. Although it rarely freezes over entirely, huge ice pockets often form around the various rocks formations that dot the river.

Fury Sea

This western sea has earned its dangerous name. Plagued by vicious storms, only the bravest and most experienced seafarers ever dare cross it.  However, the distant paradise land of Fenmore is rumored to wait beyond the sea.

Jade Forrest

The trees of this forest are the oldest and biggest in all of Rime. Many of the largest trees have hollowed out bases that travelers will often use for shelter during their journeys.

Lake Maralan

Considered one of the wonders of Rime, this lake boasts waters so clear that visitors can see the lake bottom. It is regarded as a shrine to the goddess Irri, ruler of the moon and stars. On a clear night, the lake looks like a piece of the night sky.

Penlaurel River

Known for its sparkling, green waters, this river is easily navigated and provides a primary passage of trade and travel.

Penlaurel Sea

Like the river that feeds it, this sea is peaceful and easily navigated.

Redrush River

For generations, transport over this river has been provided by ferryman of Andreas. However, in recent months, the high king of Rime has commissioned a bridge be built over the river, thereby making Andreas more easily accessible to all travelers.

Straight of Ciro

Passageway through this straight is controlled by Keljor. Anyone seeking passage through the strait must pay a tribute to the queen of Keljor. Sailors native to the island are some of the few who regularly navigate the Fury Sea

Zenith Pass

Similar to the Redrush in Andreas, the Zenith Pass provides geographical separation to Kilbarrow. During winter months, the narrow passageway is impassable due to the snow.

Wandering Woods

Few are brave enough to enter this area, widely considered to be cursed. It was once rumored to be home to one of the Hellgates, the place where the nightdrakes first appeared to terrorize the land of Rime.

Meet the Characters of Onyx & Ivory

Dear Readers,

We’re exactly one month away from the release of Onyx & Ivory, and today we’re taking an in-depth look at the characters, and even more specifically, the character trading cards! In case you haven’t heard, these cards, along with a free short story, are up for grabs in the preorder giveaway going on right now. Everyone gets the story and your chances of winning the cards are extremely high!

All the cards were designed by the amazing Jenny Zemanek of Seedlings Design Studio. But before we get into the details, a little about the cards themselves. The look and feel of the deck is inspired by the gaming cards played throughout the kingdom of Rime. Like our modern decks, Rime’s cards have 4 suites – Jars, Flutes, Stone, and Candles. There are also four “Shade” cards, which are outside of the four decks, and are often used as wildcards.

Kate Brighton is representing the Jars suit, hence the blue color and the water drops. Kate is the main character in Onyx & Ivory. She’s known throughout Rime as Traitor Kate. Her father tried to assassinate the high king three years ago, and she’s been living with that infamy ever since. But her infamy would be even worse if people knew the truth about her–she’s a wilder with an ability to communicate with animals. But wilder magic is outlawed in Rime (learn more here).

Next we have Corwin Tomane. He’s representing the Flutes card as indicated by the yellow and the wind symbols. Like Kate, Corwin is also the main character. His father is high king, and Kate is his ex. Which makes sense, considering her father tried to kill his. Corwin is known as the Errant Prince, because for the last few years no one has seen or heard of him. After his father nearly died, Corwin fled the kingdom to parts unknown. But now he’s back. Corwin also has an older brother, but in Rime the line of succession isn’t quite what you would expect.

Bonner is representing the Stones cards. His real name is Thomas, same as his father, but he prefers to be called Bonner. He’s a blacksmith and best friends with Kate. He’s also one of the few people who knows she’s a wilder. That’s because Bonner is one, too. He’s an earthist with a specific affinity for controlling metals. The skill comes in handy in his profession, and it’s also led him to develop a new weapon, one that will have a resounding impact across Rime once discovered.

Signe Leth is representing the Candles card as indicated by the red color and the flames. Signe works with Kate in the Relay, the royal courier service of Rime, and the two are best friends. Like Bonner, Signe knows about Kate’s magic. Signe is from the Esh Islands, a nation to the south of Rime. She loves to tell tall tales about her past, so many that her friends know very little about her background. Kate believes she was either a former circus performer or a thief. Either way, she’s always got Kate’s back.

Lastly, we have Raith, representing the Shade card. Like the card, he’s an enigmatic character. Raith is a magist, one of the sanctioned magic-users of Rime (learn more here). He is a member of the Blue Order, charged with the defense of Rime, especially from the nightdrakes that hunt anything human wandering around outside the cities after nightfall. All magists carry a mace, the head imbedded with magestones, all capable of holding a magical spell.

And there you have it. Each card will also have this lovely design on the back.

So, what do you think??? I would love to know which is your favorite, and be sure to spread the word about the preorder giveaway.

Musingly Yours,

Mindee

The Magic of Onyx & Ivory

Today, I’m so excited to reveal some of the details about the magic system in Onyx & Ivory. So excited I even created an online quiz to help you decide which type of magic you would have. You can find the quiz here and claim your magic badge–designed by Jenny Zemanek.

The Kingdom of Rime, where Onyx & Ivory takes place, is a land full of magic. In fact, the common belief among the people is that magic is unique to Rime, that it doesn’t exist in the other continents and islands of the world. There are two recognized divisions of magic, one legal and one outlawed: Magist and Wilder.

The primary difference between the two is that magist magic is passive while active is considered active. Magists are not able to just cast spells at will. Instead, they have to imbue ordinary objects with magical properties. They have to first implant the spell on the object, then once done they can use the magic as intended. Think of it like making fireworks. They have to be carefully constructed first and used later. Wilders on the hand can actively use magic at will. Their magic is tied into the elements, but they don’t have to create spells to use. More on this later, but first let’s delve deeper into magist magic.

MAGIST MAGIC

Magist magic is the magic of the kingdom. All magists are a part of the Mage League. They are trained at the League Academy and take a vow to obey League laws and serve the kingdom. The League is divided into 6 order houses with each house identified by a unique color worn by the magists. In addition, magists wear masks that identified their rank in the league. For example, a full-faced, white mask is worn by master magists. Journeyman on the other hand will wear a black mask that only covers the top part of their face while an apprentice will wear a black mask that covers one half of the face or the other. Here’s the breakdown of the order houses:

Blue Robes: Order of Defense. These magists are dedicated to protecting the cities from the threat of nightdrakes. They also guard travelers between the cities (again from nightdrakes), and if the kingdom is ever under attack, they will defend against Rime’s enemies as well.

Brown Robes: Order of the Low Arts. These magists are concerned with creating simple spells for ordinary use like fireless candles or illusion spells such as earrings designed to hide blemishes or rings that enhance beauty, and so on.

Green Robes: Order of Healing. This one is self-explanatory.

Red Robes: Order of Emotions. These magists create spells that can be used to manipulate, enhance, and alter emotional states. They can create potions that will cause joy, infatuation, courage, and so on. They can even create spells that will make a person temporarily stronger or faster.

White Robes: Order of the High Arts. These magists rarely create spells and spend most of their time studying magical theory and experimenting with complicated and sometimes highly dangerous spells.

Gold Robes: Order of Inquisition. This is the newest order of magists, formed only a few years before the book starts. Their sole purpose is to seek out those with wilder magic and eliminate any threat they might pose.

WILDER MAGIC

Wilders have the ability to manipulate the natural elements. They usually can only control one element, but they have unique affinities within that element, certain strengths and weaknesses.

Earthist can control any aspects of the earth. Some of the infinities include the ability to manipulate metal, rocks, making plants grow, and so on.

Hydrist can control water and other liquids, including blood.

Aerists can control the wind. Some have an infinity for controlling storms, lightning, and even magnetic fields.

Pyrists control fire. Some also have an infinity for controlling ash. They can mold it into whatever shape it was before it burned and if it had once been alive, they can imbue it with temporary life once more.

If you haven’t already, check out the quiz and claim your badge!

And don’t forgot to visit the official tumblr, especially the preorder giveaway

Musingly Yours,

Mindee

Onyx & Ivory Preorder Offer

Awesome news! Now until May 15, when you preorder Onyx & Ivory, you will receive Trial by Two, an exclusive digital short story. Not only that, but you will also be entered to win 1 of 50 prize packs. Details below.

Set before the events of Onyx & Ivory, Trial by Two tells the story of how Kate Brighton first came to work for the Relay, the royal courier service of Rime. It’s also about how she met her best friend, Signe Leth. Also, I should say that this story is about 30 pages, so longer than a typical short though not quite novella length. The cover art was by Jenny Zemanek at Seedlings Design Studio with cover design by Amanda Sharritt.

50 lucky winners, drawn randomly, will also receive 5 character cards, including this one featuring Kate. All the beautiful art was again done by Jenny Zemanek. The rest of the cards will be revealed as we get closer to release, so be sure to check back. Also, depending on how many entries there are, the number of prizes might increase. The giveaway is open Internationally. To enter, go here.

Musingly Yours,

Mindee

Blogger and Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway

This week I’m celebrating all the book bloggers and reviewers out there, and if you’re reading this, I’m betting that you’re one of them! Did you know that according to Forbes, an estimated 600 thousand to a million new books are published each year? That’s like between 1,604 to 2,740 a day. I don’t know about you, but my yearly reading goals never come close to that.

With so many books vying for readers’ attention, the importance of book bloggers and reviewers is immeasurable for helping get the word out to readers about which books to spend their time on and which to pass over. And most of these people do this purely out of the sheer joy and love of books. How great is that? How are great are they? I mean you!

That’s why I’ve decided to give my very last advanced copy of Onyx & Ivory to a book reviewer or blogger. But first, I want to take a moment to say thank you to two specific bloggers, Pila @ inlovewithhandmade.blogspot.com and Erin @ booklovingnut.com. Both of these lovely women were willing to read an early copy of Onyx & Ivory and to give me lovely blurbs for it. And when I say, early, what I mean is an unedited, no-cover, no-makeup, bed-head version of the book. As a matter of fact, it didn’t even have a title yet. To have their approval, even so early, meant the world to me. Here’s what they had to say:

Aren’t they lovely? Be sure to thank them for me if you see them online. And if you see them in person, they deserve a hug, or a fist bump.

The contest to win a signed arc of Onyx & Ivory is open until midnight EST on Thursday March 29. It’s open Internationally. Any person who regularly reviews books is permitted to enter. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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