DOVER — Debra Reneé Byrd has been doing two things for as long as she can remember — writing and gaming.
It seems only natural then that the Dover resident would write a fantasy novel inspired by her gaming interest.
“I wanted to write a video game-type book, just something that teenagers and even college students can escape into,” Ms. Byrd said. She was especially interested in showing students in the area that there are local writers and artistic opportunities.
The result, “The Fractured Princess,” was self-published in 2019 as an e-book. Now, the author is expecting a Sept. 19 release of a paperback edition, published by Wahida Clark Presents Innovative Publishing.
The independent urban publisher, which specializes in the work of Black authors, reached out to Ms. Byrd, inviting her to publish with its latest imprint, “Science Fiction for the Culture.”
In addition to its new format, the upcoming version divides the original publication into two separate books, making “The Fractured Princess” the first in a series called “The Fractured Chronicles.”
The cover is also reworked.
“I’m very happy with it, especially the cover scheme, which surprisingly matches the first cover. I love the banded glove on (main character Jonnie’s) right hand,” Ms. Byrd wrote on her blog (Thewritemage.com).
Jonnie is the book’s heroine, and sooner or later, has to stand up for herself, just as every sci-fi heroine does.
Which brings us to the storyline: Orphaned as a baby, Jonnie is the last princess of the Crystal Bearers. She has watchmen she is trying to outgrow and needs to prove herself to them. The opportunity comes when, in one of the author’s favorite passages, the princess and her guardians are running from the enemy — the metal army. They realize the enemy’s plan is to tear them apart. Until then, Jonnie has been scared and hiding, but in this scene, she uses her own powers, as if to proclaim, “I’m in the fight, and you have no other choice but to accept it.”
Describing it on the “Leaders & Learners” podcast last month, Ms. Byrd admitted that passage resonated with her as she was writing it.
“There was a pivotal shift into Jonnie becoming herself,” she said. “What we see more often as women is we are the damsels in distress.”
But Jonnie rises up to do what she needs to do.
The character’s coming-of-age story makes it a great choice for young readers interested in gaming but perhaps not reading. Written for a fourth-grade level, the book could well prove to be the hook into reading that some children desperately need.
Or as the author explained, it could be a psychological escape. “Fantasy pulled me in as something fun — new worlds, new faces,” Ms. Byrd said.
It could also be the encouragement that young “blerds” — a new urban term for Black nerds — need to begin their own journey into science fiction fantasy writing, she added.
“I began writing the story of Jonnie when I was 19,” the author shared on her blog.
Either way, Jonnie and the author who created her are here for the long haul, as more and more people of color follow them into the genre of science fiction fantasy.
Is there a moral for the story? “Yes,” Ms. Byrd said. “You can’t go back.”
The novel’s ebook version is available on Amazon and the paperback will be available on Amazon and other retailers.
Dee Emeigh is a freelance writer living in Milford.