In the summer of 2013, I was looking for writing contests and other similar things to try as a marketing ploy for my writing. I came across JukePop Serials. They were just getting started on a concept called “agile publishing.” The idea was that writers would write an episode or chapter, get feedback from readers about where to take the story next, and then write the next chapter. Kind of like Choose Your Own Adventure done realtime. Readers could vote on their favorites and the top 30 would get actual money every month.
I quickly wrote a first chapter for a tale that had been bouncing around in my head for a while and sent it in. By the fall, I had been accepted in the initial run of JukePop Serials’s contest.
The Condemned Courier is a tale about a courier who finds evidence of a plot against her king and then races back across the continent to get the information to the Aelstrian court before the plans can go into effect.
Like the Eshuvani in Like Herding the Wind, the Aelstrians in The Condemned Courier were originally Elves in the initial planning stages of the story, and just like Like Herding the Wind, I decided I would either need to write very atypical Elves or come up with my own nonhuman race. I opted for the latter because it gave me more room to play.
Aelstrians look like large, erect-standing birds. Their wings end in hands they can use to grasp and manipulate things. Although they can’t fly on their own, they can glide if they start from a high position.
In the natural, their plumage comes in natural shades of camouflage: tans, grays, white, black, and browns. Many among the wealthy, though, choose to dye their feathers in colors never found in nature.
Aelstrians are remarkably agile and, with the right training, can do all kinds of weird acrobatics.
I would like to tell you that the name has some fascinating story behind it, but it doesn’t. I borrowed it from another short story I’d written in high school, and it’s probably a combination of syllables seen in the titles of books on my bookshelf.
The Condemned Courier actually did rather well for its run on JukePop, maintaining a position right around 15 or so out of over 100 for all 18 episodes. Six months after the last episode, the full rights to The Condemned Courier reverted to me, and PDMI Publishing now has a novel version of the book in queue for publication. The novel version retains the basic plot of the original but expands the tale to tell more about the Aelstrians.