Another Revision in the Books

This week I finished revising A Compass in the Shadows again. I’ve honestly lost track of the number of revisions this book as has by now (the joys of having pantsed my way through it the first time – I am once again reminded that I will never do that again). It took me much longer and was way more work than I expected it to be; one point of view character (Draea) got a whole arc overhaul and another one (Aurea) had her whole beginning rewritten. I also added in a whole lot of new worldbuilding stuff that made certain situations make a heck of a lot more sense.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Despite everything taking so much longer and being much more work than originally anticipated, I’m incredibly grateful that I have the willpower to do so many revisions and not get super sick of this book, because I think it’s in much better shape after this last rewrite. I know people who would rather just move onto the next shiny fun thing, which I completely understand. While revising this I had ideas for my Dutch-inspired Spirts of the Sea running around my head, but that will just have to wait until next year.

Books are so much work. If only they were perfect after the first draft, but alas… that is never the case. It’s a good thing I really love my characters, because I’ve now read A Compass in the Shadows three times between pre-revision reading, revising, and my post-revision reread. Finishing this means this year I’ve revised two very long books (just over 200,000 words each) and wrote one, too. Imagine the things I could get done if I didn’t have to work full time!

Now that this revision is done, I’ll take the weekend off (to clean and decorate for Christmas… And maybe relax a little) before jumping into my next project: a dark Christmas tale I’m co-writing with the best writing buddy ever. I’m very excited to dive into the world of carnivorous reindeer, overworked elves, and children being kidnapped by Santa. Don’t worry, there’s some hope and queer side-plot romance to level out the darker aspects.

I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a lovely holiday with friends and family eating entirely too much tasty food!

What I read this week

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling

The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia

Listening to The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

What I wrote this week

Reread Chapters Forty-Six through Seventy-Two of A Compass in the Shadows

Halloween

It’s been years since I did anything for Halloween besides putting minimal effort into dressing up for work. But this year, my childhood bff moved only half an hour away, and she has three young children. We carved pumpkins a couple of weekends ago, which was a lot of fun. Particularly gutting the pumpkins, which not everyone was up for. There was much squealing and giggling at how gross the insides of the pumpkins feel. It’s funny, the last time I remember carving pumpkins was with this very same friend, back in high school. Also, for the first time since possibly middle school, I’m going trick-or-treating with them.

Photo by Konstantin Mishchenko on Pexels.com

I don’t remember much about trick-or-treating or Halloween from when I was a child besides the school-specific celebrations in the gym during elementary school. There were costume contests, where we would parade around the gym to music. But by far the most memorable and fun part was when mountains of popcorn would be dumped into the center of the gym and bags of candy were poured into the piles. Then one grade at a time, we’d dive into the popcorn and dig out as much candy as we could.

It’ll be fun to celebrate Halloween again and see the fun the kids have, and then after eat entirely too much candy.

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

I hope everyone celebrating this year has a wonderful, fun time and enjoys a ridiculous amount of candy, too.


What I read this week

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

And listening to The Sandman Act II

What I wrote this week

Revised A Compass in the Shadows chapters Sixty-Three through Sixty-Eight

Revising Again

Hello, lovely people! It’s been a while since I did one of these. I’ve been working on revising A Compass in the Shadows the last few weeks, and it’s going a lot more slowly than I anticipated. Between deciding to completely change Draea’s arc and adjusting Aurea’s arc and cutting the first two chapters, which meant doing some pretty large rewrites of the few chapters after those, it’s been a ton more work than I expected. This really just feels like more fixing from the mess this book was at the beginning of last year. I know, though, it will absolutely be worth it when I’m done, and the book will be that much better.

The piles of chapters I still have to get through

I read somewhere that a book is never finished, only abandoned, and that sounds pretty accurate right now. I feel as if I could keep editing this book for the rest of my life and never be satisfied. Even as I finish a chapter, I think of things I want to add or take out or rewrite. At some point, I’ll just have to call it good enough or I’ll be here forever, and I have other things I want to write, too. That said, this draft and these changes I’m making now do feel entirely necessary to make the book as good as it can be. The problem with pantsing my way through the first draft is that it was such a disaster that revising it once wasn’t enough. So that’s really how I’m viewing this, as just another round of me fixing the mess I started with. I feel significantly better about the two books I actually planned out, and I don’t believe either of them will require nearly as much rewriting as this book has.

So while I’m somewhat frustrated by the need to rewrite a third of the book again, I am grateful for the lesson I learned along the way, and the lesson I keep being reminded of: Pantsing is not the answer. Plotting only, please, future me. It will save you many revising headaches.

What I wrote this week

Chapters Six through Ten of A Compass in the Shadows

What I read this week

Mistborn: The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness

Sometimes Schedules Go Awry and it’s Okay

This year continues to be a lesson in being flexible with the writing plans I make. Well, that and maybe being more reasonable in my expectations of myself.

When I first planned out my writing schedule for the year, I gave myself a month to finish writing The Children of Oher, three months to revise A Thistle in the Ruins, and two months to revise A Compass in the Shadows again. Well, none of that has gone the way I expected. The first took me an extra month. The second took me two extra months and grew much larger than I intended. And the third? Well, as I’m rereading it now, it’s becoming clear to me that this revision is going to be more work than I thought it would be.

I was supposed to be done with all of that by now, and then I was going to use the second half of this year to plan out a bunch of books and revise The Children of Oher and maybe even start something else. Obviously, most of that isn’t going to happen. Instead, the rest of this year will largely be taken up by revising A Compass in the Shadows. Which, as frustrated as I was initially, is fine. Whatever it takes for that book to be ready for querying, because right now it’s certainly not at its best yet.

I’m also trying to take things a bit easier the rest of the year, because I tend to not only expect too much of myself but also not to give myself breaks. Since January I’ve been just going nonstop, spending basically every free moment writing or revising, and so I was barreling dangerously toward burning myself out. Part of that is giving myself too much to do, but another part is simply impatience in wanting to get A Compass in the Shadows out into the universe. So if I got those other two projects done quickly, then I’d get to this book quickly, but things don’t work that way. So as much as I want to work on the other numerous books I have plans for, my sole focus will be this first book until I feel it’s ready to be sent out. Well, except for the break in December, during which my bestest writing buddy and I will be writing a possibly ridiculous, horror Christmas tale.

 Anyway, it’s okay for things to go terribly wrong and for all your writing (or any other) plans to go out the window. Try not to get too caught up in schedules and self-imposed deadlines. Be gentle with yourself. It’s okay if things take a little longer than you expected.


What I wrote this week

I read chapters eighteen through forty of A Compass in the Shadows.

What I read this week

Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

Why Do We Write?

Hello lovely people!

The other day, someone on Instagram asked, “If I knew I would never be published, would I still be writing?” and I really had to sit with that question for a moment. Of course, my goal is to be published, and these days it’s not hard to self-publish, so even if traditional publishing doesn’t work out for whatever reason, it’s not as if I couldn’t just do it myself. I know plenty of people write just to write, but what about me?

If I’d asked myself the question four years ago, the answer would’ve almost certainly been no. My relationship with writing has changed dramatically since then. I was using every excuse I could not to write. I got into crocheting for a while; I spent my time drawing and painting; I played hours of videogames. Anything except writing. Which is part of the reason why this Enorians series has taken me so long. And when I first started taking writing seriously, it was like pulling teeth. I haaaated sitting down and writing, and I think part of that stemmed from just not knowing where I was going with it. Sometimes I would sit down and have no idea what should happen (pantsing is very obviously not for me) and I would just put words down to get my word count goal out of the way, and a lot of that ended up being nonsensical fluff. Which is how I ended up with a 300,000 word draft of A Compass in the Shadows that was a hot mess.

Thankfully, things have changed now, including the size of that book. I write (or revise or do some kind of book-related work) regularly – I won’t quite say daily, though I do try – and I actually look forward to it, most days. There are still days, of course, where I don’t feel like writing, and sometimes I give in to that and take the day off. For the most part, though, I love it.

And yes, of course I do still want to publish, and I fully intend to. However, if I knew that I never would, yes, I’d continue writing. Not only because I have at least one person who would all but demand it of me, but also because I want to know what’s going to happen. I want to see what’s going to happen in the third Enorians book. I want to see how everything with the gods plays out in books four through six. I want to see what happens next with Kora, in the sequel to The Children of Oher. I want to write that book that’s based around a Dutch tradition of taking horses down to the sea. Sure, I would probably spend fewer hours writing, but I would continue writing anyway, for me, because I’m writing books I want to read.

It’s such an interesting question to consider. So, if any fellow writers are reading this, if you knew you would never be published, would you still be writing?


What I wrote this week

I’m making my way through rereading A Compass in the Shadows for another revision, so I didn’t write anything besides notes for myself, but I did read the prologue through chapter thirteen.

What I read this week

Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland

Blackbird Crowned by Keri Arthur

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Waiting For the Right Time to Write a Story

I’m doing a final (well, final for now) read through of Enorians book two, tentatively titled A Thistle in the Ruins, this month before I send it off to a few beta readers. It’s quite a surreal feeling to have actually completed Vivian’s story, because she’s where all this Enorians business began.

Back in high school, a few friends and I used to role play in notebooks that we would pass back and forth during and between classes. What’s the fun in focusing on class when you can write stories with your friends, right? That’s where Vivian was born. The enorians weren’t called enorians then. Enrik had another name and was dramatically different than he is now, and the relationship between him and Vivian looked absolutely nothing it does in this version. Basically, everything except Vivian’s name has changed.

Over the years since then I’d tried writing versions of her story, including during an undergrad fiction workshop, but nothing ever seemed to work. I have so many copies of partially completed drafts, none of which ever went anywhere. Some of them go all the way back to 2010. Eventually, I just left Vivian alone for a few years while I focused on the first enorians book, A Compass in the Shadows, which takes place twenty years prior to Vivian’s story.

I think part of the inability to finish stems from just not knowing where I was going with it and trying to pants my way through the story (which I’ve since learned is not the best method for me), but maybe part of it was just me not being ready to write it yet. Another possibility is that I didn’t have the help and support I do now, which comes from the most wonderful boyfriend, who has helped make all the Enorians stories and the world infinitely better; and also from the best writing buddy ever, who has also helped immensly with her feedback and questions and unsolicited advice.

I don’t know the true reason behind my previous failures, but I’m actually grateful I never managed to finish before last year. It helped that I put it aside for so long, because I was able to just start from scratch rather than try to salvage something I might have been attached to that just didn’t fit anymore. I think sometimes you just have to wait for the right time to tell a certain story, and I’m so glad I waited with this one, because I couldn’t be more pleased with the way Vivian’s story turned out, incredibly dramatic changes and all.


What I wrote this week

Well, nothing, but I did read chapters fifty-three through seventy.

What I read this week

A Thistle in the Ruins 😉

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa

The Plate and the Blade

In honor of nearly finishing the second draft of the second Enorians book, now tentatively titled A Thistle in the Ruins, which includes quotes from enorian myths, I thought I’d share Vivian’s favorite story: “The Plate and the Blade.”


Long ago, there were two lovers: Kres, an Enosian War Bringer and Solina, a Lorosian Lightbringer. They were both soldiers in the army of Ensori, the dry, hot, desert kingdom. Side by side, they fought in long, grueling battles for their king, and at night they slept in each other’s arms, promising to never leave one another.

For many years, the war waged against the neighboring kingdom of Vrexa. The Veroxian queen of Vrexa, their Enosian king told them, had done him a grave injustice and proclaimed war upon their kingdom. The soldiers weren’t told what the injustice was, and they did not question it, for all believed their king had good reason to partake in the conflict.

What the soldiers, Kres and Solina included, did not know, was that their king lied to them. The queen had done nothing to him. In truth, though he would never tell, he wanted Vrexa for himself. For while his kingdom was nearly a barren wasteland, Vrexa had rich rainforests and fertile farmlands. While food did grow in the desert, it was nowhere near enough to feed all his people, and there was so little water beyond the salty sea that he had to pay for both to be imported from Vrexa and the other neighboring kingdom of Venor. He had long grown tired of having to pay other kingdoms for such vital nourishment, despite having plenty of coin for it. Ensori, after all, made the finest glass in all the world, which he sold to all the other kingdoms at a high price.

And so Kres and Solina continued to fight their king’s battles, not knowing the true reason for the war. They lost many friends along the way and slaughtered many foes. Every night both women prayed they would survive the war, that Enos would watch over them, and before each battle, they uttered the traditional war prayer while slicing their palms and then they grasped hands, blending their blood. For the longest time, it seemed Enos did watch over them.

But then during one battle, a fight that went on for weeks, things went terribly wrong. The Vrexan soldiers were winning, killing many more Ensori soldiers than anyone had expected. Kres and Solina, who tried to stay close during all combat in case the other needed aid, lost sight of one another. As the bodies dropped around her, Solina’s heart grew heavy with despair, afraid Kres was gone. All seemed lost as the Vrexan army overwhelmed her.

But Enos, in his realm, watched the battle unfold, watched his people being destroyed. And while Solina was not one of his War Bringers, he had often heard her prayers and felt her worship. He felt her strength, her will to survive, her desire to win against her enemies, and so he bestowed upon her the Martyr’s Plate, his blessed breast plate that made the wearer invulnerable.

Just as Solina was sure she would perish under the assault of the Vrexans, she felt the black plate appear, replacing her old red one, and though she didn’t understand, she knew it was special in some way. With the indestructability the plate gave her, Solina redoubled her efforts to push back her foe, fighting one soldier at a time, never dying no matter what they did to her, until they finally called for retreat.

The Vrexans didn’t understand what had happened or why this lone woman had managed to slaughter so many of their comrades, but they knew they needed to pull back, and so they left her standing alone in the middle of the battlefield surrounded by the bodies of her fellow soldiers clad in red armor and the blue-covered Vrexans. She searched the dead for the entire next day, desperately praying to find her lover, weeping at the loss of her friends, her fellows, her beloved Kres. She had never felt such guilt before. What had she done, she wondered, to have Enos bestow this blessing, this curse of being the only survivor, upon her?

When the plate vanished again, after she had failed to find Kres, after the Vrexan soldiers had crawled back behind their lines to attend to their wounded and reassess, Solina finally felt her fatigue. She had not slept nor eaten in days, not since before the battle. With the plate she hadn’t needed them. She staggered to the river, throat parched, clothes beneath her armor sticking to her skin from sweat. She walked right into the water, and there, she passed out from sheer exhaustion. The river carried her into Vrexa, depositing her along the banks near a small farm, where she was found and nursed back to health as she mourned.

Meanwhile, Kres wasn’t dead like Solina thought. She had been terribly wounded and knocked unconscious. She’d tumbled down one of the dunes upon which they had been fighting and had vanished from sight. When she woke, she found herself covered in sand, and after dragging herself free and back up to the battlefield, she only saw death.

Thankfully, a scout had flown to the king and fresh soldiers had been instructed to check the bodies and bring the dead back to the castle to be the sent to the Aether. Kres was picked up as the only survivor and returned to the king. He praised her for her unwavering loyalty and her ability to survive. 

Before the bodies were sent to the next world, Kres searched the faces for Solina. She felt an odd mixed sense of relief and heartbreak at not finding her beloved. She was grateful Solina hadn’t died but saddened and angered that her lover had abandoned her. For why else had she vanished? They had promised they would never leave one another, and now Solina had broken that promise.

Years passed, and during that time Solina stayed in Vrexa, learning the truth of the king’s reason for war. It angered her that he had lied to them all not only about the reason for their fighting but also for their lack of necessities. She had believed all her life her family’s hardships were due to the other kingdoms not sharing their crops and water, but in truth it had been the king’s unwillingness to pay for the things his people so desperately needed. She saw no reason to return to her former kingdom with Kres being gone, and so after she healed, she joined the army of Vrexa to fight against the man who had lied to her, starved her family, and all but taken her lover from her. 

As time went by, Kres heard stories of a new Vrexan soldier matching Solina’s appearance, and so she believed that not only had her beloved abandoned her but also betrayed her by defecting to the enemy’s side.

The war did not end. Both women continued to fight, though they never saw one another, and so Solina continued to believe Kres to be dead, and Kres continued to be angry.

After one particularly bloody battle, while on patrol as her fellow soldiers patched each other up, Kres stumbled upon the other most sacred item of Enos. The Burning Blade sat wedged beneath two rocks, no bigger than a dagger, its blade black as obsidian. She grabbed the hilt with her gloved hand and wrenched it free. It didn’t look like much to her, though she understood it was not a normal dagger, for no other weapon she had ever seen had a blade like this. She strapped it to her belt and thought nothing else of it for the rest of the night.

It wasn’t until she grasped the hilt with her bare hand the next day that she realized what it had to be. She had heard tale of such a blessed item. The moment her flesh touched the cold metal, it grew warm, and the blade erupted into flames. Flames that leapt onto her hand and crawled up her arm. She nearly dropped the weapon, which was now the length of a sword, but the flames weren’t hot. They engulfed her entire body, which also grew, and soon she towered, nearly double her original height, her body alight with fire.

During the next battle, Kres tore through the soldiers with ease, using the Burning Blade to morph herself into the flaming beast. She used it each time she fought after that, wreaking havoc on the armies of Vrexa.

Upon hearing about this fire monster destroying her new people, Solina offered herself up to fight it one-on-one as a thank you to the Vrexans for saving her and showing her the truth. They tried to stop her, but she insisted, for if the beast was allowed to live, she knew it would destroy not only the armies but possibly even Vrexa itself.

The night before she was set to meet the flaming titan, Solina prayed to Enos to protect her, and Enos heard. He saw her bravery and willingness to put her life on the line for her new people, and knowing the fight would not be fair otherwise, he bestowed upon her the Martyr’s Plate once again.

Solina met the fire beast, who she did not know was Kres, on the battlefield, and the two began their fight, Solina flitting around the ten-foot-tall titan. Neither woman could die, for the Burning Blade, too, protected the wielder from perishing. And so they battled for months, for years, while around them the war continued. They never stopped to sleep or rest, Solina determined to save her new people, Kres determined to slaughter the woman who betrayed her.

One day, Solina managed to knock off the fire titan’s helm and realized, even through the change and the flames, who it was she had been fighting this entire time. She would’ve recognized her beloved anywhere. She froze, letting Kres’s flaming sword smash into her breast plate. Heat licked her face, but the plate neither crumpled, nor was she harmed.

“Kres, my love,” she called. “It’s me.”

Kres glowered at her, still angry for Solina’s betrayal even after all these years.

“Stop this foolishness!”

“I will never stop,” Kres bellowed, striking at Solina, but Solina only brought her sword up to block her.

Every time Solina tried to speak, Kres would swing or stab or strike at her, and Solina would do nothing more than step or fly aside or block the blade and try again. This went on for days, and finally Solina shouted at her, “Kres, please stop. I love you.”

Kres faltered, though her eyes blazed with fire and anger. “If you loved me, you never would have abandoned me.”

“I didn’t abandon you, my love.”

“You did.” Kres lunged at her, flaming blade singing through the air. “You left me and betrayed me to join the Vrexans.”

Solina blocked her and flew aside. “I thought you were dead, gone. If I’d known I would have searched for you until I found you.”

This made Kres stop, and she listened as Solina explained what had befallen her and the truth she had learned from the people of Vrexa. Kres felt so very foolish for having assumed the worst. They talked for many hours, trying to understand each other’s feelings and decisions.

“I am so sorry, my darling,” Kres said, dropping the sword into the sand, where it flickered out and shrank down to the dagger she’d originally found. “I should have known better. I should never have mistrusted you or questioned your love.” When she embraced Solina, she had shrunk back to her normal state.

“I promised you I would never leave you, and so I never will,” Solina said and kissed her beloved for the first time in so many years.

The plate and the blade vanished when their lips touched, Enos whisking them back to his realm, for the two women, having talked out their problems, no longer needed the items. And there he held them until the next enorian needed them. Together the women vanished, leaving their armor and weapons and the war behind, slipping into Venor to live out their days in peace.


What I wrote this week

Enorians Book 2 – Draft 2 Chapters Sixty-Five through Seventy-One

What I read this week

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Blogs Are Hard

I don’t know how people manage to write blogs multiple times a week, let alone daily. Clearly I’ve been struggling to do it weekly, considering I’ve just skipped the last two weeks entirely. I don’t know why it’s so much easier for me to write 200,000-word novels than it is to write a short blog post.

I guess part of it is that I feel like I’m running out of things to say or I don’t have anything interesting to talk about. All my interesting ideas show up in fiction, as far as I’m concerned. Writing fiction has always been easier for me, anyway, than writing anything non-fiction. I think another part of it is that it feels like I’m shouting into the void, because, really, who reads these? Besides my most amazing writing buddy who proofreads them for me.

And then, of course, there’s the fact that I’ve just been drained lately. It’s hard to find the motivation to write blog posts or even post on Instagram while working full-time and writing 2-3 hours a day and also having to exist as a human adult. I know a lot of that is self-inflicted. I could not be trying to finish revising the second Enorians book (which keeps getting longer… help me) by the end of June. I could be taking it easier, but I want to revise A Compass in the Shadows by the end of summer and start sending it out into the universe, and I won’t be doing that if I don’t get book 2 done.

So for now I think I’ll stop writing weekly blog posts and just write when something comes to me. At least until I finish revising the first two Enorians books. Once those are done maybe I’ll be better about taking breaks and not pushing myself so much, and maybe I’ll find the time and motivation and ideas to write weekly again. Or maybe not. We’ll see. For now I just need to put what energy I do have into my books.


What I wrote this week

Enorians Book 2 – Draft 2 Chapters Fifty-Four through Sixty

What I read this week

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

The Mirror of Aethos

Long ago, there lived two Veroxian brothers, Ziraeel and Vronrei. They were rare because they had been born on the same day, which all people know is highly uncommon. Those who knew them said they were one soul split into two bodies, and so it seemed, for from the day they were born, they never left one another’s side for long. They sat next to one another in their classes, slept in beds set side by side, and where one went, the other followed.

They lived in a town that was well known for its temple to Aethos. People from all around came to ask the Aethan priests to send their loved ones to the next world. Ziraeel and Vronrei’s mother was one of the workers who kept the temple clean, and so the boys spent much of their time in the temple after their classes had ended and on days their father was busy at the green houses. Ziraeel in particular was fascinated with the ways of the funeral rites, the runes, and the goddess of death, and he and Vronrei learned more about Aethos than most enorians ever would.

So when they had grown and finished their studies and Ziraeel, the older by mere minutes, joined the Aethan priests, Vronrei wasn’t far behind. No one was surprised. The two brothers worked hard and were happy in their service to Aethos. They spent many hours perfecting their co-run funerals, taking extra care to learn all the ways in which they would best please Aethos.

With the help of his brother, Ziraeel even learned how to save lost souls from the realm of Kezerien and send them to their rightful afterlife in the Aether, which had thus far never been done as far as anyone knew. Even at the temple, the brothers were never far from one another. They even slept in the same room in the temple housing, though it wasn’t necessary. And everyone was certain they would pass together in their sleep long in the future, when their wings drooped and their dark hair was streaked with grey and their eyes had turned the color of the moon.

But then tragedy struck, and Vronrei was killed.

Ziraeel felt like he’d been torn in half, his heart ripped to pieces. He didn’t know how he could possibly survive this. He wept for days, begging the gods to take him, too, for he could not live without the other half of his soul. But the gods did not take him. It wasn’t his time.

In a moment of respite from his weeping, Ziraeel remembered a tale his mother had told the two of them during their many hours in the temple. She’d told them of the mirror of Aethos, an item so special it allowed the griever a chance to see their loved one again. But only the most special and loyal were given the gift of the mirror. He sat up from where he’d been lying on his bed, thinking for sure he would be given that chance. After all, he was an Aethan priest, was he not? He had been loyal and faithful in his task, in his worshipping of their goddess. He had loved her all his life. He thought surely he, of all people, would receive her blessing.

He told no one of his plans, for he knew what the other priests would think. The dead were meant to stay that way. They should be left at peace, his mother would tell him even in her grief, but Ziraeel needed to see his brother. Just once more.

And so the day after Vronrei had been sent to the Aether, in the most intimate and beautiful ceremony Ziraeel had ever performed, Ziraeel went into the temple after everyone had gone to sleep and threw himself at the feet of the statue, the beautifully carved likeness of Aethos. There, with the moonlight streaming in through the windows above, he begged her to let him see his beloved brother again.

Aethos, in her realm, surrounded by her flowers and the dead she watched over, heard his pleas. She felt his pain, had seen the pain Vronrei felt even still, despite the peace he should feel in the Aether. And both brothers had been nothing but the best of her worshippers. She had been impressed when Ziraeel had managed to save a number of souls from Kezerien’s realm, for she knew her nephew did not give up his fire spirits easily.

And so she bestowed upon him the blessing. She sent him her mirror to find when he returned to his room in the house where all Aethan priests lived.

Ziraeel stared in shock at the sight of the ornate mirror when he walked into his room. It stood taller than him and seemed to glow with an inner light. He’d been so certain Aethos had ignored his pleas, but here stood this mirror. And who else could have sent it to him?

His eyes welled with grateful tears as he stepped toward it. He told himself he just needed to say goodbye, because he’d been unable to. And saying goodbye would somehow make the loss bearable, though he knew he would never be whole again. He spoke his brother’s name, calling to him.

When Vronrei appeared in the mirror he looked the same as he’d always been with his shining green eyes and his milky skin, with his looping horns and moth-like wings. He smiled his familiar smile, and Ziraeel wept with joy at seeing his brother again. He reached out to touch Vronrei, but his fingers met only the cold surface of the mirror. If only he could hug his brother one last time, but this would have to do.

They talked as if nothing had changed. For hours and hours, well into the night, and Ziraeel barely felt his hunger or thirst, too wrapped up in seeing the other half of his soul again. Ziraeel asked Vronrei how the Aether was, and Vronrei asked about their parents and the woman he’d fallen in love with, though only Ziraeel knew about her, for Aethan priests were meant to only hold Aethos in their heart.

This went on for days. Ziraeel shirked his duties. He barely slept, barely ate. On the rare occasion he had to leave the mirror, Vronrei swore he’d still be there when Ziraeel came back. And upon Ziraeel’s return, his brother was always there, smiling at him. For even in the Aether, Vronrei’s soul cried out for Ziraeel.

Their mother questioned him, and Ziraeel claimed to be sick with grief, which wasn’t entirely untrue. And so she let him be, though she spoke to the priests and her husband about her concerns.

Only when Ziraeel’s vision started doing strange things, when the edges began to dim and lights danced before his eyes, did he remember the warning. His mother had warned the boys that those who stared too long within the depths of the mirror would lose not only their sight, forever, but also be no longer able to even hear their lost loved one.

But he hadn’t had enough time. He wasn’t ready to give up his brother yet. There had to be a way for him to prolong this, to spend just a little more time with Vronrei. Surely Aethos would understand. She was the goddess of death. She understood the grief associated with it, he assured himself. He didn’t tell Vronrei what was happening, not wanting to worry his brother. Nor did he tell him what he planned, for he feared Vronrei would try to deny him.

Once he had hatched a plan, Ziraeel went in search of all the mirrors he could find, and he set them up around his room to allow the image of Vronrei to bounce around to the other mirrors. He hoped it would minimize the effect and slow the blinding, and he was right. When he gazed into the other mirrors, his vision stopped dimming and dancing.

And Ziraeel was thrilled he’d outwitted Aethos and her mirror tricks. Once he may have worried it would anger her. Once he would never have done a thing to upset the goddess he had loved all his life, but all he cared about anymore was extending the time with his brother, and now he had it.

But this made Aethos angry, angrier than he could have imagined. Those who were dead were meant to stay that way. It was the way of things, and she, on rare occasions, gave her blessing for certain special people to say goodbye. She had given a man she thought to be a loyal, faithful servant one such rare blessing, and now Ziraeel was taking advantage of her kindness by deceiving her and thinking himself smarter than a god.

And so she punished them. She split Vronrei’s soul between all the mirrors, fragmenting it, tearing it apart, and causing Vronrei to howl and scream at the torment. Vronrei became angry and violent, banging on the insides of the mirrors, causing them to crumble and crack, which only caused him more pain.

Ziraeel dropped to his knees, covering his ears and weeping. He begged Aethos to stop, telling her he was sorry for the deception. He begged her to release Vronrei from his torture, swearing he would never try to do anything to upset her again.

But it was too late. Aethos would not stand for such insolence, and so she left Vronrei split between the mirrors and took Ziraeel’s sight, and though he could no longer see his brother, Ziraeel was forced to listen to his tormented screams for the rest of time.

Mario & Captain Thunderpants

We weren’t intending to get a cat as soon as we did. In fact, Josh and I were still working on painting the spare room at his dad’s house, where we lived at the time, and getting it ready for all the bookshelves that would soon end up in there and turning it into an actual spare bedroom. We’d decided once that was done, we’d get a cat. But then one day I went to Petco, and there was this shy little tuxedo kitten named Mario. And he was just so adorable.

The next day, I went back again. And the next day and the next for six days straight. On the seventh day, I dragged Josh along and made a comment about how I’d be so sad when Mario was gone. With a knowing “Oookayyy,” Josh went to get an adoption form. Though we had to wait a few days to pick him up once we were approved, because he was a bit sick, we ended up with the sweetest seven-month-old angel kitten (light of my life, my reason for being – as Josh says) in all the land.

He was pretty terrified for a while after we got him, hiding under the bed and such. He was even afraid of the TV for the first couple days. And even after he got used to us, anytime a new person came around, he was nowhere to be seen. In the six years since we got him, he’s become much braver, going so far as to walk up to new people and let them pet him.

I felt bad leaving the sweetest angel kitten alone while we were at work and thought he needed a friend. We’d been letting Josh’s brother’s cat, Simba, come upstairs on occasion and Mario always tried to play with him, but Simba wasn’t really about it. So a few months later, after going to the local animal shelter, Josh picked out a scraggly-looking former stray that the shelter had dubbed Scootsy-Toots after telling him, “You’re kind of funny looking.” Which, he was. He was skinny with a massive head. Also, can we just talk about that name? Scootsy-Toots? What? Nope. He was immediately dubbed Captain Thunderpants.

For the first few days, he was a bit sickly and sniffly and wanted nothing to do with Mario, but eventually he accepted Mario’s attempts to play. He’s grown from not really being super affectionate and spending a lot of time meowing loudly in the hallway to ensure Simba knew he was the boss to coming to lay on my pillow before bed and demanding attention by coming to sit in front of my computer. Though he’s still not a lap cat, and most definitely not when there’s blankets involved. Captain weirdly hates blankets.

While they did at first, they’re no longer the kind of cats that cuddle or groom each other (much to my dismay), but they coexist happily. Multiple times a day they chase each other around – you can always hear them scrabbling along the wood floor – and have Wrestle-Mania sessions where they body slam each other into the ground, but otherwise they generally ignore one another.

Mario is the sweetest, cuddliest, most demanding cat who will make it known he needs attention with aggressive headbutts, and when he wants treats, he’ll make sure to let me know. And Captain is the biggest whiner I’ve possibly ever seen, but he’s so loving and adorable I’m not really mad about it (most of the time). They have both made it clear to me that any future cats I own will be boys, because they’ve been nothing but the sweetest, least aggressive cats I’ve ever had. And I love them so much that I actually can’t even.


What I wrote over the last week

Enorians Book 2 – Draft 2 Chapters twenty-seven through thirty-four

What I read this week

A Phoneix First Must Burn by Patricia Caldwell

Traces by Sophie Johannis

The Artful Edit by Susan P. Bell

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Belinda McCauley

Writer. Reader. Creator.

Daan Katz, Author

Where Magic Meets Reality

Writing about...Writing

Some coffee, a keyboard and my soul! My first true friends!