Twelve Kings Chapter Emblems
It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, but there’s been a lot of things happening behind the scenes. The wheels of publishing do indeed move slowly, but that’s partly because there are of lot of things to get right.
Where things stand right now is that I’ve turned in my second draft of the manuscript. I had beta readers take a look at it, and I made some major changes based on that over the winter. I got it about as good as I could get it before turning it in to my editors at DAW Books and Gollancz. Now I’m waiting for some feedback from them before diving into what will probably be the last major draft before we go into production. The book feels good at this point, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I want to wait for my editorial letters before worrying about that much.
It’s difficult to read your material with an objective eye. We all try to do it, but it’s very difficult to do when you’ve been immersed in it as long as you typically have been by the time a book is ready to read by others. One technique is to set it aside for a time so that, essentially, you can forget some of it. Not the big stuff, of course, but the details. And that’s what I’ve been doing, not just by stepping away from Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, but from the series as a whole. I did not start writing Book 2, even though I could have. Instead, I’m writing a completely new book. A middle grade novel called Winterwatch. It’s a Norse-inspired tale that will appeal (I hope) to the 10- to 13-year-old range. I’m having a lot of fun with it, and you can keep up with me on my blog or on my social feeds. I post about the progress I’m making from time to time.
But this is an update on Twelve Kings, yes? So let me update you some more.
I started the project thinking I could write an epic fantasy from a single point-of-view. That turned out to be too problematic. The tale was big, and I wasn’t going to shrink it, and neither was I going to try to perform literary contortion to try to get the main character, Çeda, into the places she would need to be to see the other threads of this tale. I also didn’t want to just dump those threads on the reader from other characters. So I decided to add more POVs. It was the right thing to do, and it’s ended up expanding the tale quite a bit. It’s wider now. I can cover more ground, and explore more characters from different angles than I could before, which felt great to do, frankly. I was starting to feel constricted.
I also decided to delve a lot more into Çeda’s past than I had in the first draft. We see a lot more of who she was when she was young and how she came to be the woman she is when the story opens. That part of the tale has become very special to me, because it’s less concerned about the ongoing plot as it is building Çeda’s character. There’s also some neat contrast games you can play, showing her like she was ten years ago (or what have you), and the reader will become intrigued because of the differences in her that they see in the “present” storyline.
One of my concerns with this sort of structure, however, was that the reader would become confused as POVs and timeframes change throughout the tale. I wanted a way to differentiate the chapters without resorting to something like GRRM does in A Song of Ice and Fire, where each chapter becomes the name of the character. So I decided to find an artist and work on some chapter icons, or emblems, that would indicate, without really coming out and saying it, whose chapter this is. They would show up at the beginning of new chapters in some fashion or another and pretty soon, readers will just know whose chapter it is at a glance.
It’s been done before. Brandon Sanderson uses the technique in his Stormlight Archive series. The Wheel of Time does this as well. And others. I just think it’s a neat concept, and it’s a way of sinking the character into the story, a way of making it unique, and of building the mystique and the milieu of the story.
I decided to work with Adam Paquette, the brilliant artist who created the fantastic windship cover for The Winds of Khalakovo. I created the initial briefs for the various character icons, and he came up with the roughs based on those. Then we had a round of revisions, and finally the final renderings.
I just got them today, and I have to say, I’m in love with them. Adam did such an amazing job with them.
Without further ado, here they are:
As the story opens, Çeda is fighting in the pits of Sharakhai, a powerful desert city that controls the flow of trade throughout the Great Shangazi Desert. This first icon represents this primary story thread. The thorns and bloom are from an adichara tree. These poisonous trees are found in a ring a certain distance away from the powerful desert city of Sharakhai. The blooms themselves are moonflowers. They open their petals only when the moons are bright, and the brighter they are, the fuller the bloom become. I think Adam captured the flowers and the night sky very well, and I love the glowing highlights at the base of the flower.
This second one is for Çeda as a young girl, her flashback chapters. I wanted a way to indicate younger, less experienced, so having the flower closed the the moons less bright worked out well.
The third is for Emre, Çeda’s best friend. Emre becomes involved with a group known as the Moonless Host, whose symbol is a scarab clutching the twin moons—both dark—in its outstretched legs. Again, this one is gorgeous. I love the work on the wing casings, and the outstretched wings. Also, note the subtle texture at the bottom of the image, beneath the scarab. Great stuff.
The fourth is for Ramahd, a lord from the southern kingdom of Qaimir. The seal of Ramahd’s house, House Amansir, is of a heron taking flight.
And the last, my favorite of the bunch, is the seal of the Sharakhai and its Twelve Kings: a shield with twelve shamshir’s fanned out around it. I really like the look of having four on top and the others on the bottom, a bit of symbolism that plays well with some of the bolder kings versus those what work in the shadows.
The astute will notice that the petals on the adichara blooms are only one off from the number of swords in the Kings’ seal. This difference holds subtle but powerful meaning in the novels.
So that’s it! I really love what Adam did with these, and I can’t wait to see them in the finished products!
More news as I have it. I don’t yet have a finalized release date, but it’s starting to firm up. I’ll let everyone know as soon as I can, both here and on my social networks.