Tattoos and The Blessed Epoch

September 11, 2013

How’s everybody doing? Gus here again with another post for my Iron and Ether pre-release party. Iron and Ether, Book Three of the Blessed Epoch, is available for pre-order here.

I’m a big fan of tattoos, and I have tons of them myself. Still, they ended up taking on a much larger role in the Blessed Epoch series than I originally. I think there’s meaning in this and that my subconscious mind knew exactly what is was doing.

When I set out to construct a world where an epic fantasy could take place, I knew I wanted to populate it with races other than human. I wanted different societies for color and the cultural contrasts they would provide. I also knew I didn’t want to go with the traditional elves and dwarves. I wanted to create a race of my own, and so the Emiri, the Sea People, were born. They take their name from Emir, their word for the ocean, and their customs and values couldn’t be more different from the human people of Selindria and Gaeltheon. One such custom involves the swirling, organic tattoos the Emiri call “paint.” You may have noticed Yarrow also has this Emiri paint on his face, and in fact it extends all the way down his body. To clarify, for a Selindrian like Yarrow, especially an aristocrat, to do this to his body is not even remotely acceptable. Most of the humans in Selindria and Gaeltheon want nothing to do with the Emiri, who they see as morally corrupt, dissolute, and lazy. No one in their right mind would do what Yarrow did. So why did Yarrow do it?

After being exiled at such a young age and enduring terrible ordeals while alone on the road, Yarrow could find no one who would help him or show him mercy. He was constantly forced to defend himself and always in danger. Finally he made his way to the southern coast where the Emiri lived, and they took him in and finally showed him kindness. Yarrow enjoyed the free society with values so different from those he hated among the nobility, and he took an Emiri lover, got his tattoos, and planned to stay. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for him with the Emiri.

Sai, an Emiri ship’s captain. Artwork is a collaboration between me and Beau Schemery.

Sai Emiri ship captain

Sasha also has a tattoo–one that very few people ever get to see. It’s a tiny red crescent moon dripping blood on his inner thigh right next to his groin: the mark of his order of assassins. Duncan, of course, has no paint, and I realized this is significant. Before I start a book or a series, I usually sit around and doodle, trying to iron out the aesthetics of the characters. And like I said, tattoos are cool, so I added them to Yarrow and Sasha, and not long after, the back-stories behind them became clear to me. It wasn’t until I actually started drafting Ash and echoes that the TRUE significance of my characters’ body art (or lack of it) revealed itself to me.

Tattoos are absolutely not accepted in the fantasy world of the Blessed Epoch. A person would be able to discern, as soon as they saw Yarrow, that he really has no place in polite society. He is an outsider, and it’s clear just by looking at him. Of course, Yarrow has no use for polite society so he doesn’t care. If his Emiri paint gets people to shy away from him and leave him alone, to him that’s a bonus.

With his small, hidden tattoo, Sasha can blend in with society; in fact he can do so expertly and has on many occasions. But Sasha is subtle and manipulative where Yarrow is not. Being able to move in privileged circles is often crucial to Sasha’s work, and with his beauty and training, he is accepted as part of the civilized world. But underneath, he’s still hiding that little tattoo. He’s every bit as much of an outsider as Yarrow, it just benefits him to hide it sometimes.

And of course Duncan, with no tattoos, IS a part of society. He’s not an outsider. In this way, my characters’ degrees of body art told me a lot about them.

Who here has tattoos?

Who likes them, and how many? Big, all-over designs or just a few splashes of color here and there? Or do you prefer no tattoos? Or does it depend?

Personally, I’m with Yarrow. I have enough tattoos in obvious places that they’ll probably prevent me from working in certain jobs. But like Yarrow, anything my tattoos keep me out of, I probably don’t want to be part of anyway.

The Blessed Epoch

11 Responses to “Tattoos and The Blessed Epoch”

  1. Andrea M says:

    I don’t have any but I like all of them.

  2. Gus says:

    Andrea–Don’t want any, for professional reasons, or because they hurt? If you don’t mind. I’m just curious. You can tell me it’s none of my business, of course!

  3. Issa says:

    I don’t have any and wouldn’t get any because they don’t fit my personal style. But I love black and white ones on men and colored ones on women. Not sure why I have that preference….though I have see a few colored ones on men that grabbed my attention. The full body, or sleeve type tattoos don’t appeal (too busy), but I find most others very fascinating. Face tattoos are okay if they aren’t full face. The swirls Yarrow have work pretty well.

  4. Caroline says:

    Oohh tattoos I think I maybe a bit of an addict! So far I have just three but am planning at least three more. I like words more than images in mine and also that they are almost hidden so I can chose who gets to see them. I’m also lucky that my employer changed their policy so I no longer have to cover them up at work.
    I do love big bold ink on a person though.

  5. Gus says:

    I also like the single color ones that are pure design, and I like them when they follow the curves of the body, so that’s what I used as inspiration for the ones the characters have in the Blessed Epoch. Well, Sasha’s is more symbolic. I have a lot of fun with them during the sex scenes :)

    My tattoos are black and white, and most of them are either sort of jokes or just to look cool. I do really like Japanese style tattoos, and I’d like to get some of that art one day, but that’s probably the only color I would get.

    Though my cover art here at Dreamspinner is so pretty I have seriously considered getting it tattooed on me. I have toyed with the idea of some Emiri-style swirly stuff like Yarrow and Sai. The left side of my neck and waist are available.

  6. Gus says:

    Caroline– I also like words! I have the Grey Warden motto on the side of my neck (here is a link if you want to see it: )

    I also have “Money Over Bitches” on the bottom of my stomach, right above, you know :) I hope that doesn’t offend anyone. It is meant as a joke.

  7. Caroline says:

    Gus – that looks amazing : )

  8. Gus says:

    Thank you Caroline! My artist did a great job. I love the medieval looking lettering.

  9. Issa says:

    Wow that that is amazing. I have to ask though, how bad did the neck hurt when the words were done?

  10. Gus says:

    It hurt, but it wasn’t intolerable.

  11. Andrea M says:

    When I was younger tattoos weren’t as common and now I’m a senior citizen so I’ll pass. They are pretty, though and my son has several.

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