Spotlight #6: Meet Samuel (Iris, Part 2)

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Spotlights: excerpts, commentary, and random stuff about my current writing. Previous Spotlights can be found here.

If you remember the last Spotlight, I introduced to you a new story that I’ve been calling Iris but will probably be called something else (The Flower of Esclia?). Well, it was supposed to be a short story, but I have 17,000 words so far and it’s still not done.

So it’ll probably be more of a novelette/ novella.

Anyway, I told you about some characters last time, and today you get to meet a new one! His name is Samuel, and he’s quite fantastic. He’s the son of a travelling merchant and was Rosie’s and Iris’s childhood friend. He’s perceptive and…I don’t know how to describe him. You’ll have to read the excerpt.

Random updates on the current writing: The story keeps getting more complicated. Shippiness is at an all-time low between Garic and Iris, but don’t worry, it’ll get better. And I basically have no idea what I’m doing anymore, so I’m making it up as I go along.

All right, all right, I’ll give you the excerpt.

A few minutes later, Samuel sat down next to her and flicked the reins, starting the horses into an easy walk. “The prince is in the back…but he’s right, you know. It looks like it might snow.”

Iris tilted her head to the sky, blanketed with clouds so that neither stars nor moon could be seen. “Maybe.”

“So what’s this about Rosie?” asked Samuel.

This was not how she wanted him to find out. If anything, she didn’t want him to find out at all. Rosie would be better in his memories as free and unfettered, not crippled and locked away in her room. “Last time you and your father left…”

“Yes?”

“About a month later, there was an…an accident.”

Samuel turned to her, dark eyes filled with pain. “What happened?”

Iris took a deep breath. Better to get it over with quickly. “A carriage driver lost control and one of his horses nearly killed Rosie. She survived but…but she has no movement below her neck.”

He was breathing heavily, and she thought she could see the memories running through his mind. Their times together had always been filled with physical activities, with running wild through the streets in a race, or playing tug-of-war, or dancing in the lantern glow of the autumn festival.

That had been the last time Samuel had been there, and Rosie had practically glowed all through those two weeks. And at the end was the festival, where the musicians played and the people of Eyspar danced, and Samuel and Rosie had spent half the night together, spinning around each other and whispering and laughing.

Looking at him, Iris knew that was exactly the memory in his eyes.

“She’s pulled through, though,” she whispered. “You know Rosie…she can find happiness in every situation. I don’t know how she does it, but she does.”

Samuel didn’t answer for a long time, the silence filled by the wind in the grass and the quiet clopping of the horses’ hooves on the dirt road. Finally he spoke. “It’ll be warmer in the wagon. You should go inside.”

It was easy to tell that he wanted to be left alone, so Iris nodded, and he stopped the horses so that she could climb inside.

The wagon was cluttered with wares and barrels and a dim lantern hung in the corner, swaying, illuminating Garic in the only clear spot, leaning against the wall.

She sat down as far away from him as she could, which was only a few feet, and looked down at the ground.

“You’ve been crying,” said Garic.

Of course he’d notice the one thing that she was trying to hide. But what did it matter? It didn’t change the fact that Rosie was never going to stand or walk again. That she could never be who she was once before.

“We haven’t seen Samuel for over a year,” she whispered. “He didn’t know about—” Her voice broke. “About Rosie.”

Iris glanced up at Garic, bathed in warm lantern light, extending his arms to her.

Tonight, when the wind whistled sorrowfully and Samuel’s heart was breaking, she let herself go to him. Tonight he held her, and his solidity dampened the pain, made it bearable.

Tomorrow she would push him away again, tomorrow, but tonight…tonight she let her silent tears fall on him until she fell asleep.



lettuce talk (hahaha I’m so clever)

What do you think of the Spotlight/excerpt/Samuel/everything? Does the block quote format make the text too big? (I’m kind of thinking so.) If you could put the characters into any situation & observe their reactions, what would it be? And randomly, how are you today? What’s been the best part of your day/week?

Spotlight #5: Iris

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I couldn’t find an iris, unfortunately…but this is a pretty flower too.

This Spotlight has been the most finicky one. I’ve written three full drafts of it, one about character voices in Enhanced, one about starting sentences when I was rewriting Enhanced, and one with snippets from the rewrite of Enhanced. But this post has nothing to do with Enhanced, so I’m crossing my fingers that it will work out. (Plus, the fourth time’s the charm, right?)

P.S. If you don’t know what a Spotlight is, the definition is “weekly hahhaha no excerpts, commentary, and random stuff about my writing”. Read my previous Spotlights here.


Anyway. The story.

I know I just talked last post about how I was starting a “new” writing project, The Blade. But you know those times when inspiration actually hits you? Yeah, you’ve just got to follow it. So I did.

Before I give you an excerpt (yay!), here’s some backstory & information on the short story, currently titled Iris.

A few years ago, one of my best friends and I wrote a novel called Eyes Closed, about…well, royalty, a throne, magic, and trust. One of the two main characters is a princess named Aleria, and this short story is a prequel about her parents’ story. (Because they die before the novel begins, we never get to know much about them.)

It’s probably actually going to end up being more of a novellette/novella instead of a short story, which isn’t good for The Blade, but eh–this is more fun! (Pro tip: Always write whatever is most fun. It’ll definitely help you finish things.)


And here’s your regularly scheduled excerpt!

There’s so many to choose from! *has small crisis* Okay, here’s one that should work (a.k.a. it’s not very spoilery, it includes both Garic & Iris, and I also just really like it).

She led him up a flight of stairs and knocked on a door. “Rosie? Are you awake?”

A few moments later, the answer came. “Come in.”

“I brought you a visitor,” said Iris, and he found he loved the smile of anticipation on her face as she opened the door.

He stepped inside to find a girl lying in bed. Though she was pale and obviously sick, she looked much like Iris, and he couldn’t help but smile at her wide, blue eyes.

Iris was smiling so widely that she could have rivaled the brightness of the sun. “Rose, this is Prince Garic. Prince Garic, this is Rose.”

“You can call me Rosie,” said the girl in the bed, a little shyly.

“Rosie. You have a name fit for a princess.”

If saying kind things to Rosie would make Iris smile at him like that again, he thought he’d never tire of it.

“Have you seen my garden?” whispered Rosie, nodding her head toward the window.

He was about to reply that he hadn’t, when he saw the handkerchiefs hanging down. He crossed the room to them. Beautiful flowers were embroidered on each one of them, each a different kind. Pansies, carnations, lilies, and a rose… He fingered it, knowing it was the one that Iris had been working on when he was last here.

Warmth flooded him as he looked at the flowers, then back at the two sisters. “It’s the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen,” he said quietly, his voice wavering just slightly. “It rivals the castle’s.”

Rosie’s smile was beautiful and innocent, but he found Iris’s even more entrancing. She motioned subtly to the chair by Rosie’s bedside, and he sat down in it, unsure of what to say.

Rosie spoke first. “What is your favorite flower?”

Garic was tempted to say an iris, but he was sure that would leave Iris’s eyes shooting daggers at him, so he refrained. “Peonies. The yellow ones.”

“Iris,” Rosie breathed, “will you embroider me a peony next?”

He couldn’t help but wish that her smile was bestowed on him rather than Rosie as she spoke. “Of course.”


what think ye?

Do you like the excerpt? What do you think of Garic and Iris (and Rosie, of course)? Do you want to know more? Did I finally do this Spotlight justice? How often should I do Spotlights? And what are you currently writing? I want excerpts & commentary & random stuff about it!

Spotlight #4: A Novel for Sundays

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In Monthly Dares: January 2017, I mentioned that on Sundays I was writing a different novel than Enhanced in order to try to honor the Sabbath more, and today I shall be talking about that novel!

The decision not to write my normal novel on Sundays came…I don’t know, a year or two ago, when I was doing NaNoWriMo. I decided that I wanted to not have to think about it or worry about it on Sundays, and just go to church and spend time with my family. Sometimes, it’s hard not to write when the characters are crowding my head, but I haven’t done it since then.

However, doing the 365k challenge this year posed a problem…if I was to write 1000 words every day, that meant I’d have to write a thousand words on Sunday as well. And so I found this novel that I’d written a prologue and part of a first chapter of beforehand and decided to continue it this year. (See, that way, it doesn’t count as starting a new novel, so I’m not breaking any resolutions.)

It’s a contemporary romance about this independent, stubborn girl (well, adult) named Scarlett, and some of the challenges she has to go through with her faith and life. I’ve read a lot of romances by LDS authors, and while some of them touched on the subject of their faith, I’d never really found one that really showed the progression of faith and how that changed the character–they were all just about the romance.

So this novel was born from me wanting to write something where the main character has to really go through some big spiritual development, with some romance on the side.

Basically the idea is that Scarlett has been running from her life for the past year or two because of a lot of really hard things that all occurred around the same time, and she just felt like she had to get away.

One day, she finds herself back in her home state of Utah, in a little town called Heatherfield, where her old car (lovingly called Miss Must) breaks down in front of a box of zucchini and a house for rent.

A series of “coincidences” occur, and Scarlett finds that everything has fallen in place for her to settle down for a few months in Heatherfield. Throughout her time in the little LDS town, she has to show her resilience and be humbled, to give up her pride and fears and trust in the Lord–and those around her.

It’s about her spiritual journey and how she herself improves, and has to give up things, and try new things, and fix her mistakes, and…I’m really happy about it. I don’t know yet what specific things are going to happen to her, but I love the concept of the novel and that I can include my faith and testimony in it, which is so precious to me.

Since this is a Spotlight, I’m going to include a little excerpt here of one of my favorite parts that I’ve written. It’s by no means polished, but I love its message.



All the way out of Heatherfield, my mind was drawn back to Lane and that old house. It wasn’t that either had been particularly special, but…it was just nice to talk to someone normally again.

Missy started stuttering as I drove past the church. “Don’t you dare break down again, Miss Must.”

Even with me threatening her full name, Missy still shuddered to a halt, just in front of the church where I’d prayed earlier.

I leaned my head against the steering wheel and closed my eyes. “This is it. Next time I can get to a car dealership, I’m going to buy something better than you,” I muttered to Missy.

After I let the threat sink in, I tried the car again. Nothing. I then tried to appease Missy, telling her how much I appreciated her, but nothing worked. What was it Lane had said he’d done? Something about the engine…or maybe the battery? I couldn’t even remember.

I’d learned in primary to pray in situations that seemed hopeless, so I figured it was worth a shot. Heavenly Father, please help Missy to start again so that I can leave. Thank you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Nothing. Of course it hadn’t worked. It wasn’t like any of my other prayers had ever been answered; why should this one, the smallest of them all, be the one He listened to?

I looked out the window again at the church. On the other side of the street, just an hour ago, I’d sat there and prayed for an answer. I hadn’t seen a vision; I hadn’t heard a voice. I wasn’t even sure if the Spirit had said anything.

But five minutes later, Missy had broken down just in front of Lane’s house, where he’d shown me a house that should have been on sale but the owners were considering renting. And now, just when I was about to leave Heatherfield, Missy had broken down again.

Heavenly Father…? Maybe I shouldn’t even have to ask you this, but…is this the answer to my prayers? Am I supposed to stay in Heatherfield? Is this where I’m supposed to be?

I hadn’t even said “amen” when I felt something a little indescribable. I hadn’t felt it in a long time, the sense of warmth and complete peace that filled my heart, emptying my mind of all its doubts. The Spirit.

Thank you, I whispered to my Father.

Spotlight #3: Yay, Battle Song Excerpts!

Today you shall behold wonders.

You shall behold first-draft, unedited, totally fabulous excerpts from my NaNoWriMo novel.

You shall behold that there was great sarcasm in that last sentence. Although, I will only be including my favorite excerpts, so maybe there will be some fabulous bits in there…we’ll see.

So, quick review if you weren’t around, since I still haven’t made a page for Battle Song yet: Little Mermaid retelling where she trades her beauty instead of her voice, is trying to get an immortal soul, is fabulous at fighting, and there are two adorable princes. Got it?

Great. Let’s get to the excerpts, then! Just be forewarned that they may be random and confusing…



“Have you seen the beauty of the ocean? Have you seen the rippling of the sand and the swaying of the seaweed? Have you seen the fish swimming past you in schools, close enough to touch? Have you seen the light streaming through the water and the bubbling of the currents? Have you seen the deep blue that grows so dark light cannot penetrate? These are sights that no human has ever seen. We come here to experience the beauty for a short time, even if it ends sooner than not.”


She [Alavar] bit her lip. I knew it even though I couldn’t see, because that’s what she did whenever she was worried about something. “There was a battle, and you were gone.”

“I…why did we attack them?”

“We didn’t. They attacked us.”

My heart froze as I thought of the implications. “But there wasn’t a storm.”

“That doesn’t matter anymore. Now all that matters is keeping us safe, which means staying together. We needed you there—Tarisah got hurt, badly.”

“Where is she?” I was suddenly frantic. Tarisah, my sister, hurt. I had to find her, had to apologize for not being there, for not protecting her. She was the third youngest, but she’d always been smaller than either I or Kariven. Always the weakest, always the one who needed to be protected, and I hadn’t been there to fight the other mers off.

“That’s not fair,” I said, as I followed Alavar out of the hut and into the blackened ocean. “They’re not supposed to do that. They’re not allowed to.”

She laughed softly, derisively. “You think that matters to them? Now, it doesn’t matter. We’ll have to be on the watch all the time, night and day, on all sides, waiting for attacks from anyone. You think our clan will survive? No. Not us. We lost all power and authority the day Mother died.”


“No, Alavar, you don’t get it. You don’t understand. You think I’m like you–you think I’m like everyone else! I try to be, but it just doesn’t work. I fooled you, but I can never fool myself. I hate fighting. I want to explore. I want to try new things. But you all expect me to be the same and I’m just not!”

She swam back from me slightly, as if my words had physically pushed her away. “What are you talking about?”

“I hate fighting. I never liked it. But I did it because everyone expected me to. I did it because it felt like my only option. And now, my only option is to stay here and be sentry because maybe then someone will trust me again and think I’m a normal mer instead of who I actually am.”

She didn’t say anything, so I kept talking. “You want to know why I spent so much time practicing how to fight? I did it because that’s what Mother and I always fought about. Maybe I thought that learning how to be a warrior would bring her back, but it never worked because she’s just seafoam and I’ll never get to see her again and tell her—” My voice broke suddenly, clogged up so much that I couldn’t speak. “Tell her how sorry I am.”


“She will share her magic with you, but for an exorbitant price, far more than one wants to pay. But she teases it out of you, hiding everything she can with half-truths. She’ll tell you she’s mended her ways, she’ll say that she only wants the best for you, but what she really wants is the best from you. It’s said she’ll steal your tail from you if you’re not paying attention.

“Down in the darkness of the deepness of the ocean she dwells, waiting for any unwary sea creature to come her way, into her grasp. Some are lured in by visionary sights; others choose to bargain. Only those who come knowing what they want manage to leave again at all, but you can never really escape.”


Her [the sea witch’s] voice became soft now, rippling through the water like how the wind caused ridges in the water and the sand. “I know what you want, Amrya, more than you do. I can see into you, to your deepest desire, the reason why you came here. Do you want to know why you are here?”

My heart was already broken; I had no idea why I would have come, so I uttered an emotionless “Yes.”

“You are here because you want to be human. You are here because you have to cling to something and that something is a soul. You want to last longer. Haven’t you thought to yourself that you wanted to be human? When Alavar laughed at that, you wanted to show her that she was wrong. She is, Amrya. There is more beauty up there that you will never see if you stay here your entire life, and all of it will last so much longer. There is no sea up there to decay the houses, nothing to wash away all the life you have known. The human world is so much more permanent than ours, and that is why you want to go.”


After I’d exhausted my spears for the fifth or sixth round, I went to go pick them up. I bent to grab one, and when I stood up, a man was standing there, holding out two of the spears I’d thrown to me. I squinted at him, at the light blond hair, the plain clothing, and then I remembered where I’d seen him before: talking to the prince on the riverbank the day of the fireworks.

“Thank you,” I said, after staring at him for a moment, and took the spears into my arms.

“What’s your name?” he asked, a glint of surprise in his blue eyes…blue just like Alavar’s.

“Amrya,” I replied, picking another spear off the ground, and waited for him to respond with his name, but he never did. Instead he grabbed the last spear, handed it to me, and walked back the thirty-or-so paces to where I had been throwing with me.

“Where did you learn to use a spear like that?” he asked.

I wasn’t sure how to answer. The way he asked it implied that this wasn’t how he normally saw spears being used…either that, or he thought it was impressive and also rare. Either way, saying anything specific might give something odd away. “My mother taught me.”

He looked at me even more oddly than before. “Your mother? So do all the women in your family do it?”

I nodded. “I have five older sisters.”

He looked at me in surprise again, and I wondered if he would ever look at me normally. “And they all can throw spears like that?”

I shrugged. “More or less.”


“What are your plans, then, for your future?” he [the king] pressed.

Before I had time to even think about answering, Aeren put his glass down on the table, a little harder than necessary. “Amrya has just been in a shipwreck that took the lives of her loved ones. Do you expect her to have an immediate plan for her future? She’ll figure everything out, I’m sure, but she needs time, not more stress than she already has.”

“Calm down, Aeren,” said the queen. “We’ll talk about this after dinner.”

Aeren still looked angry with his parents, but his spine, which had stiffened during his outburst, relaxed slightly.


I judged the situation cautiously. I was supposed to be nice to him [Rhys], to try to get him to fall in love with me, but I couldn’t help be a little bit annoyed with him. “You enjoyed that, didn’t you?”

“What?”

“Playing with them. Lying to them.”

He raised an eyebrow and looked at me coolly. “I’m not the one who should be talking about lying.”

I looked away, at the dancing, but I didn’t really focus in on it. “What did you tell Aeren?”

“Why does it matter to you whether he believes you or not? I thought I was the one you were trying to impress. You’re just like all those other girls. You only want the crown prince in order for my money, or worse, to become queen. Or, alternately, you could be a spy from Althair who merely heard about the story of the mysterious girl who saved me from the ship.”

“I’m not a spy, and I’m not like the other girls.” I looked at him levelly and gathered the courage I had. “I told you the truth when I said I was the one who saved you. The only reason I told Aeren differently is because you didn’t believe me, so I knew he wouldn’t.”

Rhys returned the same gaze. “I don’t know whether I should trust you or not.”


We walked in silence for a long moment, both of us looking out at the ocean and the sunset as the light died and drifted into darkness. The palace glowed with faint, yellow light, and we headed toward it. “When are you planning to go back to Althair?” asked Aeren suddenly.

“I do not know yet. I’m not sure. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to go back.” No, I knew that. I was a human now, forever, and there wasn’t a way to go back. Either I would stay a human into the eternities, or I would turn into seafoam as soon as Rhys was married.

“You can stay as long as you need, of course. But my father is already impatient…he wants to know why you’re here. He thinks you’re a spy for Althair. A girl just happens to show up at the brink of war, claiming to be shipwrecked, just happening to be taken in by the royal family…he thinks it’s too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence.” He looked at me and his eyes met mine. “You’re not a spy, are you?”

“No. I’m not a spy.” I might have lied about where I came from, but I was not a spy from Althair. It would have been a simple plan, though, had it been so.

“But if war did break out…you would be an Althairian in Sannave. My father doesn’t think that safe, especially because of your training in the spear.” His voice was unsure, and I could tell in his eyes that he wanted me to confirm.

“My heart lies in the ocean,” I whispered. “I have no desire to fight anyone.”

“I believe you.”


Alavar’s voice was more bitter than I’d expected. “Is it everything you’d imagined? Did you find what you were looking for, away from your family?”

“Not yet,” I said quietly, not wanting to confront her, not when I could still preserve our relationship. I didn’t want to lose her like I had Mother.

“I told you blood was stronger than anything else. You won’t find it. You”—her voice broke—“won’t find it and you’ll die.”

I reached out a hand, as if to hold hers, but she wouldn’t come any closer to shore. “I’m sorry, Alavar,” I said. “I really am.”

“If you were sorry, you wouldn’t have ever gone. You would have stayed with us, and this wouldn’t have happened.” She motioned to the stormy ocean, the clouds above that were threatening rain. “It’s chaos down there, Amrya. I don’t know what’s happening. I escaped here because this was the only place I could think of to go. I don’t know where anyone is or even if everyone is alive. The war began and there was singing, but so much of it. As if all the clans were singing, all of them are fighting now. I don’t know if it’ll ever die down, but I can’t find anyone.”

“Alavar…” I whispered, too shocked to say anything else. My breath was caught in my throat. It was hard to think, hard to think about what it was like down there in the darkness. “No.”

“You would’ve been able to fight them off. You would have saved us, at least kept us together. You could have made everything all right, but you weren’t there.” Her tone was as biting as the rain that had just started, splattering against me in tiny drops that stung against my skin. I was already wet, so I bent down and knelt in the water, where I could reach out and just touch the tips of Alavar’s fingers when she reached out her hand.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, and tears rolled down my cheeks just as the rain did. “I don’t know what to do.”

“There’s nothing you can do. You just stay there and try to get your prince to fall in love with you so that you can stay human forever. I…I don’t even know why I came.”

“Because you miss me?” It was more a question than a statement, one that I needed confirmation to.

I thought I saw tears in her eyes. “Because I miss you.”



Can you see why I love this novel so much? Okay, maybe you can’t. I mean, I didn’t even include any of the shippy parts with Aeren and Amrya and the fruit. (Which is great.) But even though I can’t say that all of it is that well-written (these are the best I could find), I love my characters and my plot so much, and maybe in this Spotlight you got to see a tiny piece of that.

Spotlight #2: From Discarded Character to Possible Plot Bunny

HELLO I AM BACKKK.

Yes, for all of you who didn’t realize, I disappeared from my blog again for about two weeks this time. Why? Well, I was procrastinating a lot on the Internet and I also didn’t feel like I was spending enough time with my family, so I chose to basically not go on the Internet for a week, and it was actually really nice. I did spend more time with my family but most of my time was actually spent at band camp for marching band.

HOWEVER I am back now and here to share my second Spotlight with you! Earlier today I was reading the first 40K I’d written of Cryonic during April for Camp NaNo (and it is surprisingly better written than I had thought) and there was one chapter that really stuck out to me.

Some of you may know that at one point I decided to have 6 POV characters in Enhanced, so I added in a character who hadn’t been in the first draft, but then I took him out again about a month later. His name is Zen, and he’s an awesome character but he didn’t really fit with any part of the plot, so I decided that maybe he’d just be a minor character in one of the later books or something.

But reading over this chapter that I wrote, I had the idea that I could give Zen his own novel, and I think I would enjoy it. But I shall stop rambling now and actually share the chapter with you so you can see what it’s like and decide if you would want to read more. (If not, that’s totally fine, haha. It’s a) a rough draft, and b) my style is definitely not everyone else’s style. I like honest feedback.)



Disclaimers: The chapter takes place during a war, a very bloody war. So there is a lot of death and dying and killing and blood. It’s not necessarily gory since I didn’t really go into description of gory things, but it is war, and it’s meant to be kind of horrific and emotional and dark. It’s fine for most people, I think. Also, it’s almost 3000 words, so it’s…really long. I won’t be offended if you don’t read it all. 😉



“Get under cover!” Zen yelled to his team, ducking behind one of the makeshift walls as bullets whizzed past him, soundless to the silencers in his ear that simultaneously allowed him to communicate with those in his team.

The answers came back through the silencers and around him, he saw the members of his team. Adrenaline pumped through him, mixed with determination. “We’ll stay here for another minute, and then charge forward. I’ve just received word that they’ve damaged the outer wall of the city enough for some people to get in just to the north of here. We’ll charge past the other line of men and jump through the walls, take cover, and wait for more orders.”

The others nodded, and in that moment, he knew how exhausted they all were. They’d been assaulting the city for days now, and in the blazing heat they were all getting tired and dehydrated. He took the water bottle out of his suit and drank some of the warm liquid, the rest of his team following suit.

“Ready…” They stood at attention. “Go!” Moving together, they clambered up over the wall, Zen in the front, firing their guns at the enemy line, just waiting for a bullet to puncture into them. They had been given bulletproof armor, but it didn’t cover everything in order to allow mobility, and there was always the chance that one would die, especially the more battles one went through.

And Zen had been through quite a lot.

The enemy fired back and he ran as fast as he could, relying on his strengthened muscles and days of long training to increase his speed enough to run past, enemies falling, spraying red blood. Zen felt a few bullets hit with a slight pressure on his bulletproof suit, and each one made him wonder if this would be the last run he made, the last breath he took.

Some part of him just wanted to stop, to let the screaming bullets take him, but he never did. He kept fighting not because he believed it was right, but because he couldn’t let his friends around him down.

Especially not Lian. This was his first battle, and he was under Zen’s command. That was enough to make him run like the wind.

They reached the wall, a gaping gash of a hole bombed through it, like an open sore, rubble surrounding it like blood. Zen covered for the rest of his team as they climbed through the hole, jumping from pieces of rock in order to make their way through it. He counted them off as they came through, all of them there. After they were all in, Zen followed, bullets pounding against the bulletproof vest. How long would it be until the vest fell to pieces from the battering? He knew they could last for a long time…but how long?

The sight that met him inside the city walls caught him off guard, even as his body continued the motion and ducked behind the side of a house with the rest of his team. No military met them, no one fired back. Bloody, wounded bodies were left on the ground from the bombing of the wall, but as he peered out at them, he noted that they wore no uniform.

Civilian bodies.

The twisting in his gut began, the same horrific feeling that had come over him at the last battle, when he’d seen a similar sight. Surely they would have evacuated the people closer to the inside of the city? But…they hadn’t. Why?

“What next, Zen?” Barro asked, and Zen turned to face him, swallowing slightly. He had orders…but those orders were for a military base, not a civilian compound.

Was it time to disobey? No, not yet, he couldn’t let them know yet that the disapproved, but he couldn’t kill innocents either. This conversation was probably being recorded…they might be able to find out what he said next. He searched for a solution, one finally coming from his mind. “They must have bombed the wrong part of the wall…we’re supposed to be in a military base, but those are civilians. For now, we wait here for further orders. Everyone alright?”

Zen took a glance over his men, and found Lian a little ways away, trembling, his whole body shaking like a leaf as he stared with wide eyes at the bodies.

Walking forward, Zen moved toward him and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. He seemed to calm slightly at the touch, but the terror was still in his eyes. “Lian,” he whispered, “I know it’s hard to look at. I know that sick feeling you get when you look at them. But there’s nothing we can do about it now.”

Lian coughed and sniffled, the sound clearly audible with the silencers stopping every other sound. “We should have been able to do something.” His voice was shaky and weak, and Zen wondered again how Lian had managed to convince the military leaders he was trained and fit for apprenticeship into the war.

He squeezed his shoulder, opened his mouth, and then closed it again. He couldn’t say much with them listening in to him, couldn’t give the kind of comfort that he wanted to. He didn’t really know what to say, then. War was all he remembered, the killing was all he knew. And civilians…they’d been nothing to him before. But after Lian had been assigned to him, he’d started to feel again. Not to remember, but to feel.

Sickening, that’s what every battle felt like after the adrenaline was gone and the stark reality was there, staring up at you with empty, dead eyes.

“Come back here, Lian,” he said quietly. “It’s better if you don’t look.”

The boy let him lead him away without any argument, and as he turned, Zen caught a glimpse of movement in the empty space left of the hole.

Reflexes took over. Zen pushed Lian away and whipped out his gun, firing at the movement.

Silence.

“Zen?” Araena’s voice was quiet, worried, tense.

“It might have been nothing,” he said, relaxing slightly. “I thought I saw something, but it was probably just my imagination.” I’m seeing things… It was hard to tell if it was real or not. There could be enemy soldiers out there trying to get a shot at them…or it could be something else. His memories? He’d thought he’d seen flickers of it, like visions appearing in his mind before, melding themselves with his surroundings. Had he seen that flash of motion once before?

Or, of course, he could just be going crazy.

“We’d better keep an eye on that opening. Teika, Vessen, Elko, stay here and watch. The rest of us are going to scout around just a little bit, in case there’s any soldiers here.”

The idea had come to his mind after the motion there, as gruesome as it was. Could the enemy really have placed civilians in the place they knew the bomb would hit in order to distract invaders afterward enough to ambush them? That was even more sickening, but it somehow fit. No civilian would stray near city walls knowing that they were being attacked.

Zen made sure to take Lian in his group when they split around buildings, wanting to keep an eye on him. He didn’t remember his first battle, and the blank spot frustrated him to no end, but he was sure it must have been as horrible as this.

What would it be like to be like Lian had been before he’d come here? Not knowing about death, not understanding that life could be so easily taken. The boy valued life so much more than Zen did, and part of him envied that, wanted to feel an ache at every life he took away, to make sure he really knew what he was doing, but the other part of him was grateful that he didn’t understand it fully, that he didn’t remember what life was like before.

He jerked back into the moment, looking through the scope of his gun. In the distance, he could see movement. Pointing toward it, they headed that way, and as they came closer, he saw it was a woman, holding onto the lifeless form of a body, head bowed over him, hair covering her face.

Quietly, they moved toward her. The others followed him around a house — he didn’t want to frighten her into running — but when they came back out again, she was gone. There wasn’t even a body there, just…nothing.

He was definitely seeing things, and it made his head hurt. Was he going crazy? Or, were they, as Lian had suggested, visions of memories that were now slipping into his mind when it related to the situation?

It was true; there was something familiar about the things he saw, unless he was just imagining that part, but whenever he tried to actually remember anything, he wasn’t able to reach past his memories of a few years ago, except for the occasional whisper of something tickling in the back of his mind.

“This way,” said Zen, leading them through the buildings and trying to focus on what was at hand. The past was a long ways away, and the present was now. He couldn’t afford to spend his time looking backward. “You seeing anything?”

His team answered with negatives, and he nodded, weaving through the buildings. Maybe he shouldn’t have taken Lian with him — there was a body in nearly any direction you looked, and many of them had been shredded by scrapnel. This wasn’t any place for a boy…and yet something in him said that’s what a war was, to turn a boy into a man.

But was a man someone who saw death and felt nothing or saw it and wanted to weep for the life that had been lost?

Focus. He was having trouble with that today, and it wasn’t a good mindset to be in when they were in the middle of a war.

A war with what? Civilians, innocents?

His spinning thoughts were focused a second later, when he heard a voice crackling through the silencers. Teika’s voice, worried and fast. “Zen, we’ve got a problem.” Silence for a few seconds, as Zen turned and started running toward them. Then, “They’re swarming through, like rats. Can’t keep them away for long.”

“Hold on as long as you can. We’re coming for you. Keep me updated.”

As he ran, all the worst scenarios that could happen ran through his head as he imagined what had happened. The flash of movement, then, had been real, and he hadn’t been seeing things that time. They’d been lying in wait, and he’d misjudged. He’d taken most of the group, and then the ambush had happened from the wrong side.

Zen cursed over and over again, making sure none if it was going through the silencers to his men. If they knew how worried he was, they would be too; it was the simple rule of battle psychology. Act confident, be confident, and your men will accept it as truth.

Teika’s voice came through the line again, this time strained. “Been shot…in the leg…hurry.”

Zen affirmed that they were coming and then cursed again. This wasn’t supposed to be going like this.

And then another thought came into his mind: if Teika had been shot and she was still the only one who had contacted them, what was happening to Vessen and Elko?

Zen wanted to comfort the others on his team, to tell them fake assurances, but he couldn’t think of anything to say. So there was silence as they ran, settling over them, deep and heavy, like a thick cloud of smoke.

When they came across the gaping hole in the wall, his mouth went dry. The enemy soldiers were pouring in still, covering the hole, as Teika had said, like rats. Zen fired a spray of bullets at them, and a few went down, but not enough.

He found the three of his soldiers holed up in an alleyway — at least they’d retreated to a semi-defensible system, rather than staying out in the open. That gave him some hope, but it was quickly discouraged as they charged over to them. Teika was barely standing, leaning against the wall for support, and Elko was barely able to fire his gun from where he sat near the wall, clutching at a wound on his side, maybe at one of the straps where the bulletproof suits came together. Vessen was unconscious behind them, not even moving.

Zen was filled with such a rage that he’d never felt before. If he hadn’t been able to feel sorrow before, he’d never felt this either. It rose up in him like a raging fire, unable to be stopped, like lightning being flung across a stormy sky.

And for the first time since he’d started to feel, he wanted to kill.

The shots from his gun blazed into their men, pushing them down where they fell. He felt returning bullets slamming against him, but he ignored it, focusing solely on making them bleed as much as possible.

How dare they touch his men, how dare they shoot them, how dare they attack them defenseless when they knew their leader was gone?

They were monsters, and each one he killed seemed like a mercy.

But no matter how many of them he shot, they just kept coming, swarming toward them, filling up the area before the alleyway, as if they were waiting for their chance to die. As if they were sacrificing in order to try to get at least one good shot in.

And they did. Zen watched as his men started to get shot, one by one, thankfully not in the most vital of places it seemed, but they left and the enemy kept coming.

Each one made him shoot more. When he ran out of bullets, he tossed his gun back to Teika, who refilled it as he grabbed the gun Vessen had dropped, exploding more of the others, killing them, pushing them away as best that he could.

The fight seemed to last ages as they came and came, pooling around them like blood. No, like carnivores, ready to consume their prey. It seemed that everyone was wounded except for him when others on their side finally came, enough of them to make a difference, enough of them to make a rescue.

Zen watched all of it with glazed eyes, as they took the gun from his hands and the rage kept on inside of him but his body was so tired his arms simply held limply at his sides, waiting.

He finally came to his senses when one of them started taking the pulses of his wounded men. “What are you doing?” he asked, stepping over to him, feeling weak on his feet.

“Making sure they’re alive,” the man snapped back, his words sharp and abrupt, pounding into Zen’s skull. Had he really talked like that before he’d met Lian?

Zen swallowed as he moved to each of them, his heart sinking as he moved toward Teika, Vessen, and Elko, the three that had first been here. He wanted, with all his heart, to believe that they were alive, but the stark reality was that they’d been wounded for longer than anyone else.

When the man checked Vessen’s pulse, his fingers came away with bloodstains.

“Dead.”

Zen’s stomach plummeted, and his whole body seemed to cry out in pain. Not Vessen, not the strong and noble man who would have given anything for the rest of them, hiding it behind grumbles that any person could see through.

In war, though, there could only be acceptance, not denial. It didn’t change anything. Vessen was dead no matter what he did.

Lian came to stand next to him, putting his hand on his arm. When Zen turned to look at him, there were tears in the boy’s eyes, but he was the one who did the comforting. “You did everything you could. You’re not responsible.”

Zen wanted to pretend to be strong, to say, “What makes you think I’m sorry?” but he couldn’t. He only shook his head.

Lian kept talking. “This is war. People…people die. That’s what they say. I calculated the statistics of someone dying today and the chances were high that one of us would suffer a fatality, so I tried to expect it.” His voice choked up. “Vessen isn’t just a number, though.”

“Wasn’t,” Zen whispered. He didn’t know what to say, what to think. “I haven’t lost a man since…since Fyn.”

Lian tensed beside him; Fyn had been closer in age to him than any other. Zen half expected him to start spouting some sort of statistics, since he seemed to do that when he tried to comfort, but he didn’t speak.

Neither of them did, standing there in the alleyway as it was slowly emptied of their wounded friends. Finally Zen just started walking, and Lian followed, the two of them moving out of the city.

It was hard not to step on any of the bodies.



If you managed to read through all of that, what did you think? Did you like or not like? Are you curious about Zen? I am. I haven’t figured out half his secrets yet. Did it make you feel emotion in any way? And, most important of all, are you excited to see me back in the blogosphere again? 😀

Spotlight #1: First Draft Brie

First things first: Brie is not cheese, she is a character from Enhanced.

Second things second: What is this “Spotlight” you speak of? you may be asking. Well, I’ll explain it to you. During the week or two I’ve been gone from the blogosphere did you notice? I was (as well as procrastinating from Camp NaNo) thinking a bit about how to improve my blogging. And I decided I wanted to share more writing with you more often, but I can’t exactly write a short story every week. Then I thought of writing a novel solely on this blog, which would be fun, but I have no ideas, let alone motivation to actually do it.

So I came up with the idea of the Spotlight. Basically, weekly I will “shine the spotlight” on some of the writing I worked on that week, which will probably include excerpts of some of my favorite parts, anything that I really enjoyed writing, cool descriptions, thoughts, etc. Basically anything that I feel really struck me gets to be posted here!

That means that not only will you get to read more of my writing through excerpts, you’ll also get to know my characters a lot better and get a feel for my novel. Are you in? I hope so!


FIRST DRAFT BRIE

I was reading through my first draft of Enhanced the other day, and found myself thinking about Brie. She is…an interesting character.

Fun Fact: Taira, Will, and Brie all came from a short piece I wrote for an informal writing contest:

Taira took a step. That one step, into the new world, the world they had saved. Will and Brie walked after her, looking about themselves in awe. “We did it,” whispered Will. “We did it.” Brie nodded along, eyes full of wonder.

Taira couldn’t understand them. The world was too empty. There were buildings just down the road from them, with flashing lights and glowing signs, but it was still so empty. She finally realized why — the world had been silenced. There were no people driving cars along the roads. There was no music to be heard. There was no sound of jets flying over them. Everything was totally silent. The only thing that made a noise was the wind blowing the dirt around them, dirt devoid of any sort of life.

She felt like she was in a dream as she walked along with the others, into that maze of buildings. Empty buildings. A soft sound filled the air, a sound Taira wanted to run away from, to never have to listen to again. The sound of sobbing, the sound of pure sorrow, the sound of the worst pain in the world. They didn’t go down that road.

As they walked, they saw no movement until they came upon a little girl, kneeling in front of someone, shaking him. “Daddy, Daddy, wake up!” she said, as if not knowing that he was gone and would never come back.

The little girl looked up as they walked past, and Taira saw her wide eyes staring up at them, clouded with confusion. Taira wanted to go to her, to comfort her, to do something, but Will and Brie held her back. “You can’t do anything about it,” said Brie.

Taira pushed herself away from them, away from everyone, her eyes welling with tears as she ran down the empty streets, finally collapsing under a large tree. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It had never been meant to be like this.

The plague had spread over the whole world, infecting almost everyone, with almost unnoticeable symptoms that led quickly to a sickness that was more painful than death. It spread easily, and only few people in the world had been able to resist it.

The only cure was death.

The only way to restore the world was to cleanse it from the disease, to purge it of all of the remaining plague. To kill everyone who’d contracted it.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It wasn’t supposed to include pain and anguish. It was supposed to take that away, not leave children parentless and parents widowed and people with no one left in the world to care for them.

The tears streamed down Taira’s cheeks and her throat choked as she whispered a prayer, as if someone, somewhere could give her comfort. Those lives shouldn’t have been lost. Life was too precious to be cut short like that, in an instant.

They had saved the world, but had they destroyed it in the process?

Of course, Enhanced is much, much different than this excerpt. Nothing in this happens that does in Enhanced, but it was still the inspiration for those three characters (though you may notice that this Taira is much different than the one in her character interview, who is more of the actual Taira).

I don’t know where Brie really came from besides that, but for some reason, I decided that she was going to be really, really emotional. And kind of childish. And in a way, just relaly weird… I don’t know why, though.

There was a banging sound on the other side of his door, and Kai cautiously stood up and

opened it. Will stood on the other side of the door, looking relieved and also disheveled. “Taira’s missing,” he said.

“What?” he asked, the worry on Will’s face putting him on high alert. “What are you talking about, she’s missing?”

“She’s not here, and there’s this crazy girl in my room, and I have no idea—”

Kai held up a hand. “Hold up, just wait a minute and start from the beginning. What exactly happened?”

“Well, I was going back to my room, and when I came in, there was this girl sitting there on my bed, looking through all my gadgets and stuff. And then she said that she was Seth’s sister and she talked to Taira about something about getting a job here, but that Taira was supposed to come back before I did, and she’s still not here.”

“Seth’s sister?” asked Kai. “Brie?”

Will’s face registered surprise. “How did you know that?”

“I met her once a while ago.”

“And you remember her?” Then he shook his head. “I guess when it’s someone with a crazy personality like that, they’re hard to forget.”

*facepalms at self repeatedly*

Perhaps because of this…this awkwardness, though she did play a part in the beginning of the book, Brie kind of disappeared near the middle. But what I had forgotten was that I brought her back at the end of the book, and…she’s really more amazing than I had thought before.

There’s this part where I really, really love what she says:

Then Brie straightened and thrust herself out of his grasp. He reached out to grab her, but she was too far away already. But instead of heading toward where Jethro was, like he expected, she ran to Seth’s bedside, talking furiously and quietly to the figure there.

Kai began to walk toward her, as his inspiration said, and soon he could hear her softly-spoken words. “What do I do, Seth? Tell me what to do?”

Seth’s words were weary. “Stop fighting. No one can save us now.”

“No, I won’t leave you.” She leaned even closer next to her brother’s head where it lay on his pillow. “I won’t stop fighting. I’ll never stop. Have hope, Seth, please, have hope.”

“Brie…” he said faintly, “all of my hope died a long time ago.”

That second-to-last paragraph…I just love it. I won’t stop fighting. I’ll never stopIt just made me fall in love with her a little, and I had a lot of fun today developing her for the rewrite of Enhanced. Even though she’s still not a POV character, I am hoping to make her a little more major in the rewrite, and also more of the person she is in this last excerpt.

Also, I decided that Brie loves to sing! She’s really awesome…and I think that concludes our Spotlight for this week. Any thoughts on this Spotlight or Spotlights as a whole? Oh and one more thing for all you Miraculous fans out there: I was looking up what type of cheese brie was and apparently it’s similar to Camembert (but more mild). I suppose Plagg would like her.