The situation seemed hopeless. But Tyrran couldn’t pretend to be ignorant of the danger and just wait for his home to disintegrate around him.
As a Favored male, Tyrran belongs to a select group of men born with one of the Four Gifts, a blessing usually reserved for women. Quiet, introverted, and filled with self-doubt, Tyrran has always struggled with living up to the responsibilities that come with being Gifted. Still, he had managed to achieve the near impossible — admission to the prestigious Lyceum Institute in Corvit, the Coarian Sovereignty’s bustling capital city. With this success, Tyrran’s future seems clear: the best education, a position in a Temple, and, one day, marriage to a young man of good fortune.
That is, until sinister forces intervene to shove him down a much bleaker path. Tyrran’s plans are thrown into upheaval when a deadly attack reveals the existence of an insidious evil festering within the ranks of the Sovereignty’s elite.
Now, he must use the privileges afforded him as a Lyceum student to uncover the secrets of a corrupt government. Targeted by relentless assassins and trying to ignore his growing attachment to the handsome exchange student Adwin, Tyrran must gather trustworthy allies to face the dangers that threaten to tear apart his nation and his home.
Bridgerton meets The Magicians in this fantasy novel about the importance of confidence and the strength of friendship.
A.K. is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:
Tyrran had always suspected that the Silacian reputation for beauty was exaggerated, stemming from the inferiority complex Coarians held towards Silacians, whose empire was much larger, wealthier, and more advanced than the Sovereignty. But if Nyri and this man were any indication, then their reputed good looks were understated if anything.
“Good morning, soldier,” the man said, addressing Lena as he wiped water from his face with his hands. He spoke the Common Tongue with a sophisticated accent that sounded very similar to Nyri’s.
“Good morning, Adwin,” Lena replied, looking puzzled. “Did you, uh, fall in the pond?”
“Not at all. I was just going for a morning swim.” He smiled as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
“In public? In the middle of campus?”
“But of course. This appears to be the closest body of water to our college. However, by your expressions, I assume Coarian notions of decorum discourage public bathing. I did swim wearing my tights, since I know public nudity is frowned upon.”
He may as well have removed them, for what little use they were in covering his nudity. The material clung to his skin, revealing bulging leg muscles as well as other bulges that Tyrran was making a concerted effort not to stare at.
“We do tend to prefer bathing in secluded areas,” Lena said. “Spaces set aside for bathing. Like the bathhouse next to the Barracks House, for instance.”
“I did try the bathhouse, but the water is heated. Quite uncomfortable on a warm day like today. Do you suppose I shall be sent packing back to Silacia for this breach of conduct?” An impudent grin spread across his face.
“It’s early enough that I’m sure no one but us has seen you. Though I do suggest you put the rest of your clothes back on soon. Where are they, by the by?”
“My clothes? I left them further down the trail. In truth, I was swimming about the pond for exercise rather than for bathing, then I saw the two of you and thought to come greet you. And now I think I have finished with swimming. Would you mind accompanying me to fetch my clothes?”
Tyrran could see that Lena was annoyed by the request and had every intention of replying in the negative. But Tyrran didn’t want Adwin to be offended, so he quickly spoke up.
“We would be happy to.”
That earned him an evil look from Lena.
Adwin offered his arm to Tyrran. “Adwin Mekalbe, at your service.”
Tyrran grasped his forearm, “Tyrran Kens, at yours,” he replied, trying to keep his voice from squeaking.
“I assume you do not attend the Military College,” Adwin continued, as the three of them resumed walking along the trail.
“No, I’m at Roothe College. Lena and I are friends from Temple Academy.”
“Ah, yes. In Hifield City. I am truly sorry about the attacks. I do hope you were not directly affected.”
Thanks for the opportunity to talk a little about my new book. In this post, I’d like to discuss how I began writing my novel.
I started writing The Empath and the Soldier on my phone. My husband and I had just moved from Washington, DC to Baltimore, Maryland for his job. But I continued to work in DC, which meant my commute was now an hour trek each way. Fortunately, that journey was made mostly on a train, rather than sitting in my car on congested highways.
When I first began this commute, like many of my fellow train passengers I would put on headphones to block out the world around me, listening to music while scrolling through social media or catching up on the news. But at the time, both social media and the news were very bleak places. I would often arrive at work or at home completely despondent after an hour-long train ride subjecting myself to a litany of the world’s evils.
I finally decided I needed a break from the constant doom scrolling. Usually, I would escape from social media by diving into a good novel. But at that moment I was suffering from reader ennui—I just couldn’t find a novel that really captured my interest. So I figured it might be time to write down a story idea that had been bouncing around in my head for years.
Actually, “story idea” is a massive exaggeration. What I really had was an idea for the opening scene of a story. Two friends climbing a hill together in the early morning, before some sort of special school function (exciting, right?). I honestly had no idea where the story would go from there. I only knew that it would be fantasy and take place in a different world, rather than some alternative version of Earth. I really wanted to get completely away from our planet.
One morning I began to pen my opening scene on a notetaking app I had downloaded to my phone, using my thumb to “swype” the words of my first novel onto the screen. I couldn’t use my work computer for personal writing, and my home computer wasn’t all that portable. My phone was really the only option for writing on my way to work.
It didn’t take long to finish the one scene that I had been imagining. After that, I actually had to consider what the plot would be, the characters’ personalities, what the world they lived in was like, etc. Besides wanting the story to be an otherworldly fantasy tale, I also wanted the novel to focus on LGBTQ+ characters, reflecting my own life experience as a gay man. In addition, I decided that the book should take place in a college-like setting. I thought it would be interesting to revisit and explore that time in life when adolescence has just ended and for the first time you really start to discover what it means to be an adult.
I didn’t map out the entire plot and character arcs like some authors do. Instead, I wrote the novel scene by scene, figuring out the characters and story as I went along. And while this might sound like an imaginative and spontaneous process, it’s also super inefficient. I would constantly have to rewrite earlier portions of the novel when they conflicted with later events or when something I wanted to happen halfway through the book required an introductory scene at the beginning.
Eventually, though, a cohesive and consistent story began to take shape. A few years, and many, many rewrites later, The Empath and the Soldier was complete.
In those first few days of writing the book, as my thumb slid across the glass screen of my phone in a frenzied effort to keep up with my thoughts for what happened next in the story, I had the “brilliant” idea to write the entire novel via smartphone.
“Yes,” I imagined myself saying on The Kelly Clarkson Show, “I wrote everything on my Samsung Galaxy.” Kelly, and the world, would be astonished at how I took writing to the next level, technologically speaking.
Obviously, this was a ridiculous notion. Writing more than a few sentences at a time on a phone is extremely tedious. I gave up after a week and purchased a cheap laptop I could use on the train.
In short, The Empath and the Soldier began as a sort of doodling with words on my phone to pass the time on a long commute to work. I’m still not quite sure how I found the patience and persistence to turn these word doodles into a published novel, but it’s one of my proudest life accomplishments thus far.
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