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So ... What Happened to Yaron?

Excellent question! Unfortunately, I can’t answer it.

“Then what’s the point of this post?” you ask.

“I’m going to attempt to give you some subtle hints,” I reply.

But anyway, I know Yaron was well-liked by many of my readers, and they have repeatedly expressed concern over his fate. Apparently the most popular theory is that he’s dead. Which, given the information in YF, is a very likely probability. But if he isn’t dead, then what could have happened to him? Let’s recall the scene:

I stared into the leaping sparks without seeing them, tired and unwilling to devote much thought to our futures right now. My eyes suddenly closed on their own accord, and I opened them again immediately, startled.

            Yaron chuckled. Youre still tired; go to sleep, Elysia. Well worry about all this tomorrow. He put an arm around my shoulders and hugged me for a long moment before standing and saying, Were going to need food; Im going to hunt. And with his hand on his dagger, he melted into the shadowy darkness of the forest.

When I awoke the next morning, the ashes in the fire were cold, and Yaron was not there. I knew something was wrong, and it frightened me.

            I scrambled to my feet and felt my heart start to pound. I kicked dirt over the ashes, buckled my sword to my waist, and then began walking away from the glade, determined to find Yaron. What couldve happened to him? I thought with a touch of fear. Hes such a good fighter, and I doubt he would have gotten lost.

            I walked for a long time, looking everywhere, pausing at every sound. But there was no sign of him anywhere.

“Hmm,” you say. “That doesn’t tell me much.”

“Well, yes,” I reply, “it’s not supposed to!” In reality, this scene is supposed to make you go Wait, what? What happened to him? He just disappeared! and from what I’ve heard, I succeeded! Unfortunately, the question of Yaron’s disappearance is not revisited in Fallen Rose, but we do hear Lliam’s side of the story, involving the training he was giving Yaron before Elysia, Yaron, and Veryan escaped the Tower: he was commissioned by Zoser to train Yaron as another possible assassin because he displayed extraordinary martial skill and strength similar to that of Lliam’s and Roman’s—perhaps even better.

“Better than Lliam and Roman?” you ask in disbelief.

“Yes!” I answer. “As I say in FR, Yaron has physical prowess and a lust for battle like Roman, but the organizational skill and self-control of Lliam, and that is a powerful combination.”

The best subtle hint I can give you regarding Yaron’s disappearance is to remember why Zoser wanted him. Ponder this, my dear readers, and see what you can come up with! 

Character Profile: Lliam

Discovered by Zoser as a fourteen-year-old in the Eshonian city of Chéng Fèng, Lliam was enlisted as Zoser’s personal assassin, along with his identical twin brother Roman. He has questioned Zoser from the start, though he was forced to comply out of fear of Roman’s abuse by Zoser’s hand. For a time, he buried his misgivings and killed without reservation, and his reputation as a fearsome murderer was well known by all. But now, as a seventeen-year-old, his doubts return after he meets Elysia in the Tower of Orlena and accidentally forms a mental bond with her that forces him to re-examine his beliefs. Conflicted, Lliam attempts to hide his wavering loyalties from his brother and Zoser, fearing what could happen if he is exposed.

            Lliam is one of my all-time favorite S&D characters—Roman is the other. Is the evil twin thing a bit overdone in fiction? Probably. But my aim from the start was to create two brothers who genuinely love each other but simply can’t reconcile their very different morals. As the older brother, Lliam feels responsible for Roman—especially since their adoptive parents never loved them and they basically had no friends growing up. When Roman makes mistakes, Lliam feels as though that’s a poor reflection on his “parenting,” if you will, of his younger brother. He struggles to protect Roman from Zoser and wonders what went wrong when Roman starts botching assignment after assignment. In reality, Roman views Lliam as the perfect older brother whose excellence he can never match—so he rebels in a desperate attempt to cause Lliam as much trouble as possible, not realizing how precarious this makes both their positions. Needless to say, these boys have some tension, and it doesn’t get any better when Lliam starts favoring Elysia.

            At his core, Lliam wants to do what’s right—he just has no idea what that is. As children, he and Roman were outcasts. As Zoser’s assassins, they are feared and abused. Lliam wants what’s best for Roman but Roman doesn’t want anything to do with Lliam. And on top of that, Elysia’s very different—and elven—view of the world is forcing him to rethink everything Zoser ever convinced him is true. What’s a guy to do? Fallen Roseanswers this question, and Lliam’s decision comes only after months of indecision and inner turmoil. The biggest question he has is whether he can even survive rebelling against Zoser—after all, if Zoser can punish them so effectively, how easy would it be to kill them? He also struggles with the thought of Roman’s fate: if he turns his back on Zoser, what happens to his brother?

Cerwin, Zoser’s headstrong daughter, urges him to choose the elves’ side—only for her own selfish reasons, however. Roman warns him fiercely against turning away from Zoser, still believing in their leader’s mission. And Elysia is being pursued by both Zoser and Roman, tearing Lliam between his loyalty to her and to his brother and leader.

So, as you can see, this is a lot of weight on a seventeen-year-old’s shoulders!

What I love about Lliam is his resilience. Despite everything he’s been through, he never gives up, and he never gives in. He continues to hope there is redemption to be found for Roman. He continues to help Elysia even when his own life is on the line. And he faces his doubts bravely amidst great pressure and attempts to deal with them the best he can. It would be easy to stay silent in his position to keep Roman safe, or to avoid Zoser’s anger. But when Lliam comes to believe that Zoser is wrong, he simply can’t go along with his agenda any longer, no matter the consequences. He puts right above might, and while this will definitely have some huge consequences for both Lliam and Roman in Book Three, I felt that it was important to convey this idea of choosing truth over safety. Lliam is basically forfeiting his life by turning his back on Zoser—but he does it anyway because he knows it’s right.

          I am so excited to delve further into Lliam’s psyche as S&D progresses—I wish I could tell you what I have in store for him! The road only gets rockier from here, for everyone, but never fear: there is always hope! 

Ships!

A Spanish nao, the Victoria

I've been researching 1700s and 1800s ships all morning—I have to figure out which types are best for the elves. The humans, of course, have the most advanced navy in the world and use iron warships, whilst the elves are lagging a bit in the ship department and still employ European ships, such as galleons, argosies, and bilanders. I love researching (it's a secret passion of mine), but I must say, researching ships is not my favorite, although I have learned quite a bit about these early ships. Hopefully I'll get all my facts straight in B3, haha! A small update on B3 for you—I currently have about 180 pages and am adding more every day. I have no idea when B3 will hit the shelves, so don't even ask ;) I'll be sure to keep you updated!
        Have a great weekend, y'all! :) 

Latvia, Lithuania, and Luxembourg

Luxembourg!

If you glance at the title, you may wonder what this has to do with my books. Excellent question! It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with my books, but my social media aid tells me I need to post more on my blog, so I'm just following orders :) In case you haven't heard, my brother and his wife now live in Germany (I'm jealous). We're getting to go visit them over the summer so we can see their new baby! :D Excited as I am about my niece or nephew, I am also extremely excited to travel around Germany and the surrounding countries. One thing you need to know about me right away—I love travelling. So far I've been to England, Italy, and Honduras, and I'm hoping to add a few more to my repertoire after this trip! The airline I want to use (Ryanair, which is amazingly cheap!) mostly flies to Latvia, Italy, and Lithuania from Frankfurt, so I'm really hoping to get to go to Latvia and Lithuania :D (As a tie-in to S&D, I do have a few Latvian human soldiers who make an appearance in B3.) I also have a desire to go to Luxembourg; I heard a few years ago that it's the richest country in the world (based on size and income per capita or something like that), so I just want to see it. Plus, how many people to do you who have actually been to Luxembourg? :D So I've been frantically looking up interesting sites in Latvia, Luxembourg, and Lithuania, hoping to convince my parents/brother to come with me. And don't worry—I will spend plenty of time with the baby, too :) 
       I'll keep you updated and will post lots of pictures, no matter where we end up going! Have a great weekend, all! 

Fallen Rose's Debut!

Today was the debut of Fallen Rose at the Arboretum Barnes and Noble, the same place that Young Falcon was released three years ago (hard to believe it was that long ago!). It was great to be back and see the smiles as I handed my new book to excited customers! If you can make it, I'll be there again tomorrow from 1 - 4 p.m. :) 

Here's a picture from YF's debut and FR's debut! Quite a lot has changed since 2011 ...



Also, I'm still hard at work on (re)writing Book Three. I currently have 160 pages, and the plot continues to thicken with each passing page! :) It's gonna be a great one!
     Have a great weekend, everyone :) 

Zoser? Neron? Why's This Guy Got Two Names?

I’m so glad you asked! I’ll tell you. While Zoser is not the only character in S&D with two names, he is perhaps the most important (sorry, Cerwin). In case you’ve forgotten, Zoser is Spanish, and his real name is Neron Giovanni. ‘Neron’ means ‘strong’ in Spanish, so it was a natural choice for my villain—plus, I just like the way it sounds. Now, I can’t reveal much of his backstory yet, but I can explain why he changed his name: as you know, humans and elves don’t get along very well, and since humans have been supposedly extinct for centuries, their comeback was a bit of a surprise to the elves. For reasons I can’t yet tell, Neron didn’t want his name being associated with the return of the humans, so before he even began rebuilding the army, he changed his name. Okay, you say, so Neron means ‘strong.’ What does Zoser mean? Zoser, or Djoser, is the name of the first Egyptian pharaoh to have stone pyramids built (before that, they were typically made of mud bricks). By the end of his reign, the six-step pyramid at Saqqara was the largest man-made building of its time. Basically, the guy changed the Egyptian world—and since Neron is pretty well-read, I figured he’d go for a name like Zoser. It communicates strength, power, and revolutionary change. Plus, I get to give my readers a fun little history lesson!
             And in case you were wondering, Cerwin’s real name is Nicola Giovanni. Her name doesn’t have a deep psychological backstory; I named her after one of my best friends :) 

Names!

So I was musing over what I should name one of the many, minor humans soldiers in Book Three, and I realized (though this is actually really obvious) that all the humans have normal-people names, and all the elves have weird names that I either made up or found in some name book. Hmm, I thought, at least that makes it easy to distinguish to which race a character belongs! See, guys? I'm looking out for you.
         Names are extremely important to me; they always have been, and it irks me like nothing else when authors give their characters extremely cliché or dumb names. For example, if your princess is some amazing, gorgeous, perfect woman with long, flowing hair and a beautiful pearly-white smile, please don't name her Belle, or Rose, or Aurora, or any other name that suggests she was named at eighteen, not as a screaming, red-faced, tiny baby. Her parents didn't know what she was gonna look like, guys. But I think that happens mostly in fairy-tales (I hope?), although I've read a few books with absolutely ridiculous character names that made me want to launch the book at the nearest wall.
             So names are important to me? Why is this? These are real people—yes, I know they're not actually real—but a point of writing is to convey a story in way that can convince the reader that somewhere in space and time, that story could have actually happened. You want your characters to be as flesh-and-blood as possible! You want your readers to be able to smell the salty air of your world's coastline, and feel the grass between their toes alongside your main character. You want the culture and cities to seem as though they could be found somewhere in the galaxy and be just as developed as ours. Is it sometimes incredibly hard to do this? Absolutely; it's taken me a good five years to develop Yaracina and Eshen, and I'm currently doing the same world-creation with another novel I'm writing (which is not related to S&D in any way). I love learning the history of my worlds, though; it's so enjoyable to create a backstory, cities and towns, rulers, landscapes, locals, etc. for a world where you can literally do anything you want! So just as you must craft a completely unique place for your characters to inhabit (if you copy someone else's world, I will come hunt you down—that's not cool), you must make the systems of names at least somewhat unique. Sure, you can name your characters Jacob or Emma or Catherine or John, but if they live on a world that's not Earth … does that really make sense? I guess that wouldn't bother some people; it only bothers me slightly. The good thing for me, however, is that Yaracina and Eshen are futuristic versions of our world, so I can use literally any names I wish to use—I can use current names for my humans, which I do, and I can make up names (or even use more exotic real names) for my elves! It's the best of both worlds.
             For example, Elysia may sound made up, but it's actually Greek, and it means “sweet” or “blissful.” Her sister's name (Malitha) is actually a fake name, though :) I lucked out with Elysia's name; I was scouring a name book (Bruce Lansky's 100,000+ Baby Names is the most helpful book on the planet for naming characters) and came across 'Elysia.' At the time, I had no idea what sort of person she would be, and I forgot what the name meant for a while. But when I was looking it up again a few years later, I saw what 'Elysia' meant and it was awesome how well her name matched her character! Lliam was the same way. I don't actually remember how/when I decided to name him Lliam, but his name means “determined guardian” (that will make more sense later on … although it does work for YF, too). Roman just means “from Rome,” though; sorry, buddy. It also amuses me when I think I make a name up and then discover it's actually a real name. That happened with Yaron—I thought I came up with his name all on my own … and then saw it in my name book. In case you're curious, it means “I will sing; I will cry out.” Does that fit Yaron's character? Maybe the crying out portion; he does not sing ;) But it's still a cool name for him!
           Anyway, characters' names are important. I wouldn't name one of the Spanish soldiers Bob or Ryan. (Who names a fantasy soldier Bob, anyway?) I wouldn't name an elf Emily or Patrick. The name needs to fit the character's origins. For example—Zoser's real name, Neron, is Spanish and means “strong.” He is Spanish, so that works. Elysia is a Greek name, but it doesn't necessarily sound Greek and isn't common enough to be thought of as a Greek name. (Well, there is Elysium in Greek mythology, so an argument could be made.) Efroy, Malitha, and Aubryn are not real names and therefore they became elven names for my characters :) Coming up in Book Three (and FR), we'll also meet several Chinese characters, so they will all have culture-appropriate names.
        I love names. It's a slight obsession. But hey, it's an important obsession for book-writing, especially in the fantasy genre! Names tell you about a character—whether he's human or elf (in my books' case), and whatever connotations accompany his name. If you use it correctly, a character's name can be just as, if not more, important than his physical appearance.

        So there you have it—my thoughts on literary names. And remember … naming your princess Belle is not okay (unless you're rewriting Beauty and the Beast). Especially if she's not from Earth. Now go forth and name wisely, my friends!

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