Dawn in the Gravery

Mike Grist Dawn Rising, Featured Story, Jabbler's Mons, Story Art, Writing Leave a Comment

Dawn is the central character of DAWN RISING, my epic fantasy novel. He is an orphan boy living in the last Abbey to the Heart, insulated from the caste-driven chaos in the city outside, his life regulated by the Sisters who have been his only family since his mother died.

It’s a lonely life, and Dawn spends his days lost in imagination, dreaming of adventure and ancient heroes from the Book of Saint Jabbler, wondering when his turn will come.

Here Dawn clutches the Book to his chest while looking up at his heroes in the stars:

This is the second artwork I’ve commissioned from the world of DAWN RISING. You can see the first here. I wanted a strong image of my lead character, Dawn, standing in the Gravery of the Abbey where he lives. The first image didn’t provide that, so I researched and contacted another artist- Bryan Fowler.

We started with a number of study images- aspects I hoped he could incorporate into the finished painting. First was Dawn’s clothes- I wanted him in a kind of jinbe (traditional Japanese dress for men) as the clothes in his abbey.

Then Dawn’s skin itself is covered in scars, remnants of an ancient sigil, written in organized patterns across his skin, somewhat like Celtic tattoos:

The scars were a fairly recent addition to the character, actually. As I write, mould, and reshape the first book, I find a lot is changing, generally a lot more detail gets added, a lot more ideas get layered one atop the other. It’s interesting to see the world develop this way, once the story is firmly fixed.

Since Dawn has scars everywhere, that includes his face. To try and get an idea of what that might look like I sampled a Maori face tattoo:

In the end Bryan didn’t go with this style, sticking more to the celtic spikes, which do look a lot cooler.

I asked for this character to be standing in a graveyard, holding on to a big old book somewhat like the Bible, which will be the Book of Saint Jabbler- the book Dawn gets all his favorite stories of ancient heroes from. Here’s the first pencil sketch Bryan produced:

There was a lot right with this image. Maybe his chin is a bit big, and I didn’t like the monk-like cord around his waist, nor his beads and the way he’s holding the book, but it’s a very solid beginning. The graves are great, and the skies are full of potential. I asked Bryan to switch the skies to starry night skies though- in which Dawn can read the constellations of his heroes.

The second draft:

This was an amazing leap forward. I loved it. The jinbe works, I love how he’s clutching the book, I love the graves, love the rich starry sky behind him. I think I only suggested one change at this stage, which was that the grave at the fore-front read SOPHIA, after his dead mother. Next was the full color completed version.

I love it. I love how his scars look, I love that his hair is black (though I originally asked for blonde, black just works better), the stars, the graves, everything.

In the meantime, I’ve finished the rewrite of the first book in the series- DAWN RISING. Now I’m looking at a final polish to bring the pace, arc, and sense of urgency in the novel right to the forefront. I owe a lot to all my trial readers who have given huge amounts of helpful feedback. I’ll save their names for the Acknowledgements section of the book, if/when it gets published, but a quick thanks here for all their help. They’ve been invaluable in drawing out all the story themes and conflict that were latent in my head, but deficient on the page. The book is really getting to be the best I can possibly make it.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Dawn tilted his head up and watched the stars. They hung overhead like glowing Shellaby bugs pasted to the black arc of sky. He tried to see in them the constellations of his heroes; Saint Jabbler clambering up over the lightening horizon, Lord Quill stampeding the Drazi plague, but none of them seemed to fit. All he saw instead were the fierce grey eyes of the woman from his dreams.

I’ll send to agents soon. Fingers crossed.

Bryan will be rendering more of the characters from DAWN RISING over the coming weeks and months- starting with MARE, the deadhead thief. I’m looking forward to it.

Read more about DAWN RISING, and see more art from the world of JABBLER’S MONS, here.

Read back over all my published short stories in the bibliography.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *