The Shifting Isles series begins with a fork in the road. A simple choice. Right or left? Then again, for our hero, Benash, that simple choice is not so simple. It’s a struggle between the desire for choice and something new versus the security of obedience. His life is so heavily regulated that even the very path he walks to work is chosen for him. Still, that choice taunts him until he finally gives in, and it changes everything.
That one simple choice sets off a chain of births and events that would never have otherwise occurred. I thought about simply leaving it at that, but as the series progressed, and I found Benash’s direct descendants constantly having roles in the stories without any conscious decision on my part, I wondered just how far I could take it. Could I tweak the upcoming stories, already outlined, just enough that they could continue to include those of Benash’s bloodline? And, if so, how?
The Prisoner stars Benash. S.P.I.R.I.T. Division focuses on his daughter, Saira. Return to Tanas stars Saira’s son, Benash’s grandson, Graeden. Then Broken features Graeden’s daughter, Sasha. In books 5 and 6, The Five-Hour Wife and Betrayal, Graeden returns in a supporting role, as well as mention of Sasha’s firstborn, Beni, who appears in book 7, Addiction. There’s even a family member at least mentioned, if not present, in each book of the Matchmakers trilogy. With book 5, though, the series was starting to veer away from Benash’s line, and I couldn’t figure out how to continue feeding his descendants into the stories.
Then I thought back through the family tree, and finally had to sit down and start making one to keep everyone straight.
There’s a whole other branch that has been hinted at on occasion but never fully utilized, the branch referred to as the nautical side of the family. Graeden’s older brother, Aurothi, is described in Return to Tanas as having run away from home to join a naval fleet, and there are brief mentions and appearances of Aurothi’s children and grandchildren thereafter (each generation including a firstborn son named Aurothi). Thus, with book 8, Blindsighted, the main characters get to connect with Benash’s line in a whole new way, taking them to other places in the world, perfect for the upcoming stories. But I wanted to get Benash’s line more deeply involved, not just continuing simple cameos.
Then I realized I have an upcoming story involving a character with an unknown origin…
(Image is taken from a screenshot of a family tree I put together at familyecho.com)