Enhanced: The Complete Field Guide, Part One (Places)

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I’m beginning a field guide to help you identify characters, places, and plots in my current novel, Enhanced (and in the entire series), including fun facts and more info than you ever wanted to know! It’ll be great, just trust me.

Plus, once I’m done posting all three parts (Places, Characters, and Plots (and maybe Other?)), I’m going to compile them into one huge field guide that can be found under the “Epic Sci-Fi” menu. That way, if you ever have no idea what I’m referencing in one of my posts, you can check out the field guide! Am I too excited about this? …Probably.



Here’s some of the designs I was considering for the layout of the city…I chose the big one in the middle, but I can’t show you the finished, larger one because I’ve lost my big sketchbook at the moment… *sighs*

The city that as of yet is still nameless is the central location of the novel. In the city, it’s like our life–but cooler, with interesting technology like 3-D computers and airtrains and awesomeness like that. It’s full of rich people who are busy and wrapped up in their own lives. It also rains all the time, but that happens in the Outer Regions (see Places–The Outer Regions) as well.

Fun fact: the city was inspired by my trip to NYC, so if you’ve ever been there, that’s kind of what it’s like. But cooler.


This is a government-owned facility where genetic modifications (“Enhancements”) are done on people in the name of science and healing. If you were clever, you probably noticed the correlation between “Enhancement Facility” and the title of “Enhanced.” If you didn’t notice, that’s okay too. That’s because the main characters believe it’s a horrible place and want to break in and rescue some people (see Plots–Rescue Seth). Namely, a guy named Seth (see Characters–Seth).

Fun Fact: Throughout the book, six of the major characters spend some time in the Facility. By the end of Cryonic, all of the major characters except for two will have gone there. (And, trust me, there’s a lot of major characters.)


The Delorem Program is another government-owned…thing. *headdesk* There, people are paid to experience pain. It’s basically a last resort for those who are poor in the Outer Regions (see Places–The Outer Regions) to support their families. Because of the desensitization to pain, it’s rumored that the people in the program (the “Delorems”) can’t feel any emotions.

Fun Fact: “Delorem,” in Latin, means pain. So, “The Delorem Program” literally means “The Pain Program.” Sounds happy, right?


The safehouse is where the Reapers (see Characters–The Reapers) hang out and basically do their criminal stuff without being caught by the authorities. Because there’s so little ground space in the city, the house itself is small, but the basement is large and stocked full of all sorts of stuff.

THE OUTER REGIONS (also referred to as THE REGIONS)

The Outer Regions is the area that surrounds the city (see Places–The City) and is full of lots of poor people (extremely third world conditions) under governmental control. However, because they don’t know any better, most of them love the government (see Characters–The Pinnacles). And, of course, the people in the city think that the people in the Outer Regions are savages. There are eight regions and each has a specific purpose in supplying and supporting the city.

Fun Fact: The Outer Regions actually have their own religion, called Cajinism. It comes to play in Cryonic, the second book in the series, with Kai and Brie. (see Characters–Kai and Characters–Brie).


Region One and Region Six are both variable regions, which basically means they are well-rounded and end up doing whatever the pinnacles tell them to (see Characters–The Pinnacles). *nods*


Regions Two through Five are all related to farming stuff. Because, hey, somebody’s got to feed everyone, right? Region Two specializes in herbs and plants grown in greenhouses, Region Three does livestock, Region Four grows orchards, and Region Five is centered around farming (as in growing plants and harvesting them).

Brie and Seth are from Region Four, and Kai is from Region Five (see Characters–Brie, Characters–Seth, and Characters–Kai).


Region Seven and Region Eight both use metal-work. Because of this, they have to use more complicated machines are are less of a third-world place and a little more suspicious of the city and the pinnacles. Region Seven does the large metal work and Region Eight does the fine metal work.

Taira and Will are from Region Eight (see Characters–Taira and Characters–Will).

And…yeah, I think that’s it for this section. Yup, Places is definitely the shortest (and possibly the most boring) of all of them. However, the places in the city are rather essential in order understand the other ones.

How did you like the post? Are you excited or not for the other sections? Are all of the “see this” parentheses annoying? They were meant as a joke, and then I think they just got tedious by the end, so should I take them out of the other two sections? Any tips for how to make the next section better or improve this one? Are you excited about this novel?

And ju105_0189-editedst because you are awesome for reading this all, have a sneak peek at one of the characters’ hairstyles. For bonus points, be the first to guess which character it is!

And So it Begins…

CNW_Participant.jpgYes, Camp NaNoWriMo has started! The excitement will wear off in a week or two, I know, but right now I’m excited about Camp and life and everything. Plus, I get Spring Break off of school next week, and it is fantastic how it coincides with the first week of Camp. That way I’ll have time to write while I actually want to.

Yesterday, for my first day, I wrote 1563 words, and I’m fairly pleased with that. It would’ve been nice to write a bit more, but I’m satisfied with how much I wrote.

I’m also kind of satisfied with the content I wrote. Obviously, it’s a first draft, and first draft + NaNoWriMo = blehhkghh, but not counting that, it’s actually okay, and my writing is ever so slowly improving.

One thing that was particularly fun to write about was about the airtrains, which is a public transportation system with railroad tracks that are about ten stories high. It was kind of inspired from my trip to New York City this year, where I rode the subway everywhere, but I altered it a little bit to be more sci-fi-y.

So it was fun to add a few of the setting details in that I’ve been thinking about, and I liked having a conversation between Will and Taira, and seeing the dynamic between them (they’re cousins, but their relationship is a little more like a brother and sister).

Other than that, I haven’t really written much that I can report on, or give advice-y things about, so I think I shall wrap up this post soon. I’m super excited to continue writing and see the plot take shape, and I’ll keep you updated on how my writing goes throughout the month.

For those of you who are doing Camp, how are all of your novels coming along?


The Essential Details

I’m in a three part women’s choir at school, though we do split into more parts occasionally. Out of the three parts (1st Soprano, 2nd Soprano, and Alto), I was assigned to be a 2nd Soprano, which means that I sing the note right in the middle of everyone else.

Sure, everyone says 2nd Sopranos are essential, but I was kind of annoyed that I didn’t get to be a 1st. I mean, the melody–usually sung by the 1st Sopranos–is the most important thing in a piece. Plus, singing 2nd Soprano is a lot harder than the other parts, since the outside parts are easier to hear.

But look at this. Here is an example of a basic melody with three part harmony.

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Here’s what it would look like if the 2nd Sopranos suddenly disappeared.

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Since WordPress doesn’t allow me to upload recordings, I know you can’t actually hear it, but you can at least see the empty space that it leaves. And if you listened to both, you could hear that empty space in the second example. It does sound kind of interesting, but it just doesn’t have the full, rich tone the first example does.

You know what? 1st Sopranos really are the most important. Without the melody, all you have are a bunch of random notes strung together…that, or you have a totally different melody than you wanted in the first place. The Altos are important too, covering the bottom of the chord. And the 2nds? Well, they’re pretty important too.

You all know the three most important pieces of a novel: plot, characters, and setting. So, I’ll assign plot to the 1st Soprano part, because that seems to be the most important, and characters can go to the Altos. That leaves the 2nd Sopranos with setting, but I think I’m going to change it a little bit and have it be details instead.

Details are just as essential as 2nd Sopranos are–that is to say, not essential to have a choral song, but essential to have a good one. Without any details, your story happens in a white room with faceless characters and a plot that really doesn’t make sense. Without enough details, your story happens in a vaguely beige colored room with a decent plot and some randomly-featured characters.

With the right amount of details, your setting becomes vibrant, your plot developed, and your characters realistic as well as relatable. In short, your story becomes alive.

Let’s look at some examples.

He stood there, gun in hand, pointing toward Vane, and the realization hit me like a ton of bricks.

“No.” My heart felt cold. “You…you betrayed us.”

He glanced over at me, toying with the gun, a smile creeping onto his face. “Of course I did.”

Yep, that looks pretty much like my regular writing. It’s not necessarily “bad”, but it could definitely be better.

The flickering lights played along his face, shadowing each indent darker and colder, drawing my eyes to that ragged scar on his cheek before they fell to the gun in his hand. A pistol, small and black, pointed toward Vane’s exposed back. His finger twitched toward the trigger.


My heart was numb–numb and heavy, holding me where I stood. “No.” My voice came out no more than a whisper, a weak struggling against the tiny, powerful bullet he could release from its cylindrical prison at any moment. “You…you betrayed us.”

He barely looked at me, his eyes flicking over my face before returning to Vane. As he twisted the pistol between his fingers, a deadly smile crept up his face. “Of course I did.”

It’s not perfect, of course, but obviously much better. It’s the same scene, the same melody, but it now has details added in. They give the reader a sense of what’s going on, who the characters are, and an engagement with both the characters and the plot that they wouldn’t have had before.

Even though I don’t describe exactly where they are, adding the details I did allows the reader a chance to imagine the setting that they didn’t have before. The details give the mood, and from the mood grows the reader’s imagination.

Writing with details is hard. Especially for someone like me, who doesn’t write with enough details very often. To write like I did in the second paragraph, I had to mentally focus on writing the details the whole time. It took a lot more time and a lot more effort to write that way.

But, honestly, it was a lot more fun to write that way, and I think it is a lot more fun to read too. The details are what bring something to life, instead of leaving it empty and boring.

Yes, details are essential. And so are 2nd Sopranos.

Melodies and Harmonies in Writing

I realized it’s been a while since I’ve written a music-related post, so I decided to write one, about melodies and harmonies–or rather, plots and subplots.

For example, take this song, All the Pretty Little Horses. It’s a slightly creepy lullaby that I love because my mom used to sing it to me when I was little. I love the melody and the minor tune that makes it interesting.

Or on the other hand, there’s songs like Entreat Me Not to Leave You composed by Dan Forrest. (I shared a song by him in this post.) Based on the story of Ruth and Naomi from the Bible, it’s absolutely beautiful, a cappella, and goes to 8-part harmony at times.

The first song only has one melody, while the second has a melody plus a whole bunch of harmonies. But just because All the Pretty Little Horses doesn’t have the harmonies that Entreat Me Not to Leave You has doesn’t mean it’s bad. They’re both beautiful pieces of music.

But what would be bad is if you had a choir full of beautiful singers who had the capability to sing 8-part a cappella harmonies, and you had them all singing unison throughout the whole song.

If we compare All the Pretty Little Horses to a short story, then having just the melody–the main plot–is just fine. The story is short enough that it would be hard to incorporate more than one plot, just as it’s impossible for one voice to split into multiple parts. (Although, that would be awesome. I wish I could do that.)

And thus, Entreat Me Not to Leave You would be comparative to a novel, with a main plot, as well as a whole bunch of subplots and characters and worldbuilding and all sorts of awesome stuff like that.

But despite that each harmony is different from all the others, they also fit with one another. I could put eight random notes together, but it’s likely that putting those eight together at once would sound…eghhgh.

Yet in Entreat Me Not to Leave You, even though it does often split into eight notes, they go together. They harmonize with each other.

So, how does harmonization of melodies and harmonies go along with writing novels? When writing plots and subplots, they have to, well, fit together somehow. Usually they don’t weave together until the end, but then, suddenly, you realize how everything fits together.

Finding out how everything fits is one of my very, very favorite things about writing.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that when you write a novel, you want all the pieces to sort of fit into the main plot. Not only just the subplots, but also even down to the scenes. Every scene should contribute something to the plot, right? So writing something random about gemstones turning all the characters insane is probably not a good idea. (Yes, I did do that in my first novel.)

Similarly, characters that last for more than one scene/affect the characters/are not “extras” should also play roles in the plot, and at least affect it a little bit. Everything, or nearly everything, that goes into the plot should come out of it at sometime in another place, at a way that can either help or hinder your characters.

Like every scene should contribute to the story, so should each character, each setting, each piece of the plot. If they don’t come together like that, the tune will become discordant and confusing.

But when they do flow together and change the story, each piece pushing the main plot along, all the notes will harmonize, and you will get a beautiful song.


(My apologies if this post is really disjointed or confusing. I was not only distracted while writing it, but also wasn’t sure how to write out my thoughts very well.)

A Timeline of Cartography

Since I’m too lazy to write an “actual” blog post, I thought it’d be fun to show you all the maps I’ve ever drawn for my stories and such. (I dunno where the idea came from, but it involves lots of pictures, and pictures make any blog post better.)

I’ll begin with the very first maps that I could find, drawn in the margins of one of my notebooks at about one square inch area each.

tarluun maps
From my very first novel, Raven. Pretty much, this just splits Tarluun (the country) into the four parts of the Barren, the Grasslands, the Jungle, and the Swamps. Creative names, right?
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This is actually one of my very favorite maps, drawn for my Nov. 2013 novel, Crystal of Shadow. In it, the characters had to travel all the way across Eridale from Creost down to Aelmoor, and I liked the challenge of having to put the map to scale, and I also liked the idea of all the regions and giving them names. I’m not really sure where the lines to split them are now, but I still like this map.
esclia map
A fairly simple map for my novel Eyes Closed and it’s sequel, and the sort of sequel series ish thing I’m going to be writing at some point.
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I made this while I was brainstorming my Zel novel, and it was really interesting as I tried to figure out Zel’s backstory while symbolically connecting it to the setting and her backstory. Only some of it is still relevant, but this was a fun map.
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This is the official map for the Zel novel. In Davacas, you can see the rivers and the canal system the people have created off of it, and in Araguie…you can see my attempt at creating one of those maps where they show elevation. It didn’t really work, but it adds some cool texture to the map. I especially like the compass rose on this one, as it relates to the story.
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And lastly, the map for the RP I’ve been planning, Bloodstone. This one might just look better than all the rest because it actually has colors, and the names were added online and are readable, but I like it for other reasons too. I mean, for one thing, I actually have roads on this map, which I didn’t have before, and all the cities have names. It even shows some of the dynamics between the three human kingdoms with the Scarlet navy attacking the Cobalt, and the Silver coming to the Cobalt’s aid. This is probably my favorite map out of all that I’ve done.

So there you have it–all of my cartography skills and the maps for quite a few of my novels. Do any of you guys make maps for your stories, or do you just wing it? (I’ve usually done the latter, and it really doesn’t end up very well for me….)