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

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

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

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

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.

Merse’s Lute

It has been a very long week. I’m sure we all have those days/weeks where everything is too much effort. So, in place of a regular blog post this week, have one of the Enorian myths I wrote during my thesis project:

Merse’s Lute

Long ago lived one of Merse’s Cherished Mersians. Zoh was as beautiful as any Mersian, blessed as they were to take after their goddess. Zoh lived near the coast of Merien with their parents and siblings in a town full of other Mersians. This town hosted the largest music festival in all of Enoralori every year, and people came all the way from the northeastern corner of Lirona and the northwestern corner of Ensori, to partake and enjoy in the music and frivolity.

Zoh had been to the festival every year since their birth, watching with joy and dancing along to their parents’ playing and singing. And one by one, their siblings joined in, growing their talent and becoming better and better at singing and playing their flutes and lutes and mandolins. One of Zoh’s sisters played the harp more beautifully than anyone else they’d ever heard. And Zoh wished to partake in their family’s music playing.

But somehow, despite their family’s talent, Zoh was a terrible musician. They didn’t understand why Merse had neglected to bless them with the ability to play or sing. And Zoh loved music. They loved music so much it tore at their soul to be unable to express the beauty they knew to be inside them. And so every year they continued to practice, hoping perhaps the talent filling their family was just late in appearing. Zoh worked harder than anyone they knew. Their parents, being some of the most well-known musicians in town, sent Zoh to all the best teachers, hoping their child just needed to find the right person to teach them, the right instrument to play. Zoh tried out every instrument their parents and teachers could think of. But nothing seemed to work. Zoh continued to be just as terrible as always.

Still, every year at the festival, Zoh tried to perform anyway, hoping maybe all this effort would show Merse how serious they were, hoping maybe she would bless them. And every year, Zoh was laughed off the stage.

One year, after a particularly rough rendition of an old bard’s song where Zoh had plucked all the wrong notes on the harp they’d attempted to learn over the last couple of years, and where they had sung in their usual off-key tone, someone from the crowd shouted at them to just give up already. It was a voice Zoh recognized, one they’d heard many times before. Zoh fled the stage in tears, running to the temple of Merse, where they threw themselves onto the stone floor in front of the towering statue. There, Zoh wept and begged Merse for understanding.

“It’s all right, love,” Zoh’s mother said, having followed them. She knelt beside her child and stroked their long, shining hair. “You have many other talents.”

“I just want to show people the beauty inside me.”

“There are other ways to show your beauty, my love. We’ll find a way.”

Zoh shook their head. It had to be music. They could feel it deep within. Music was the only way to bring out the song their soul cried out to share. But how when their body seemed unable or unwilling to play or sing in such a way that would allow that song to come out?

Zoh’s mother left them to continue their prayer. Barely leaving the temple, Zoh prayed day and night for near a week, begging Merse to grant them the ability to play or sing so they could share with the world that which they so desperately needed to.

And Merse, within her realm, surrounded by beautiful Mersians playing beautiful music, where the sky was always the color of a brilliant sunrise, heard Zoh’s pleas. She had seen how hard Zoh had worked all these years. She saw the purity of their intentions, knew they wanted to play and sing not for fame or glory or riches, but simply to share something wonderful. And Merse appreciated that desire. So she sent Zoh a lute she had blessed long ago. It gave any who held it the ability to play the most glorious music no matter their level of talent. Along with the lute, Merse sent Zoh a message. She appeared to them in their dreams and warned them that playing for prolonged periods could cause madness in the listeners.

When Zoh found the lute beside their bed the next morning, they couldn’t believe their eyes. They had been sure the dream was just that, a dream, but here lay the lute as Merse had promised. And it was the most beautiful instrument Zoh had ever seen. They picked it up gingerly and plucked at the strings, wincing in preparation for the usual mess of sounds. But instead, no matter where Zoh’s fingers moved to, a gentle melody drifted from the lute.

Grinning, Zoh spent the rest of the day playing. And that night they ran to their favorite pub, which always had live music, to test out their new song. When Zoh stepped onto the stage, they were met with a round of groans. Everyone, naturally, assumed they would play and sing just as terribly as they always had. But Zoh didn’t let their bad attitudes bother them. They sat on the stool, closed their eyes to block out the crowd, and started playing.

Everyone’s grumbling and groaning ceased nearly the moment the music started flowing from the lute. It was the most magnificent music anyone there had ever heard before. They listened with rapt attention, gazing in awe at the equally beautiful Mersian sitting on the stool on stage. Zoh swayed with the sound, smiling, lost in the wonder of it.

When the song ended, the pub erupted into cheers and applause and demands for Zoh to play more. Beaming with pride and elation, Zoh agreed. Just one more. And after they finished that song, the people begged for another, but Zoh remembered Merse’s warning, and so they smiled and bowed their head to the crowd and promised to come back in a week’s time to play again. Over the next week, Zoh made sure to be careful with the amount they played, waiting until there was no one in the house to practice more songs.

The next time Zoh came to the pub with the lute, the crowd was much bigger than it had been before. Equally thrilled and nervous, Zoh stepped onto the stage. The people in the pub clapped and cheered, ready for another round of splendid music. And Zoh gave it to them, the whoops and shouts and applause filling them with the greatest joy they’d ever known. For once, people loved them as much, if not more than, the rest of their family.

Week after week, Zoh came to the pub to play for the people of the town. And week after week, the crowd grew until the pub was so full of people that everyone was forced to go outside. People started coming up to Zoh in the streets, begging them to play, but they always left the lute at home. And so people started showing up at their house, outside their window, pleading, wanting to hear more of the beautiful music. Men and women threw themselves at Zoh, wanting to go to bed with them and have them play after. And Zoh loved all the attention.

It became easier and easier to forget Merse’s warning. The weekly performances became every few days, then every other, and then every night. And each time Zoh played longer and longer, reveling in the devotion of the people who so desperately loved their music.

And then one day, as Merse had warned, it all became too much. The crowd, now taking up the entire town square, was driven to madness with the love they felt for Zoh and their music. They wanted to crawl inside Zoh, to understand where such beauty came from, to get a little piece of that themselves. And in their frenzy, their desire to show their love and devotion, they tore Zoh apart, grabbing and shredding their clothes, snatching and tearing out their hair. Zoh screamed for help, for them to stop, but the rabid crowd were deaf to Zoh’s cries, even as the screams pitched, followed by the sickening sound of flesh tearing. By the time the chaos ended, the lute had vanished, sent back to Merse, who hoped the next player would hear of this tragedy and better heed her warning.

Meet Enorian Book Two Characters

Over the last month I’ve been revising Enorians book two. It’s been so great to dive back into the world and fill in the gaps, to make it just that much better than it already is. Thankfully this rewrite is significantly less intense than the two I did on the first book, so I should have it finished in a couple of months.

I thought it might be fun to introduce the main characters like I did with the first book a few months ago. For an explanation of the gods and races, see here. And away we go!

The Narrators

Vivian Darrow is the 20-year-old Veroxian x Aesan descendent of the Aesan king, Aldar of Aynsi. Vivian was brought up by her adoptive father, Enrik, on a small, secluded farm in the highlands of Scotland. Through her first twenty years, Vivian has never ventured farther than the woods surrounding their little farm, though she longs for something more adventurous than her simple, boring life of caring for crops and animals. But when her fate comes calling, Vivian will realize adventure and excitement comes at a cost.

Vivian held out her arm, and Aphra, the osprey, landed gently, flapping her wings to steady herself. She stuck out the leg that clutched her prey.

“Hello, my love. Is that for me?” Vivian grinned, stroking Aphra’s sleek head before taking the hare. “You’re too kind.”

The bird’s talons dug into Vivian’s arm as she balanced herself, her yellow eyes peering at Vivian is if waiting for something.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Vivian slung the hare over her shoulder and dug in her pocket for a piece of dried venison, Aphra’s favorite treat. She held it out for the bird, who gently plucked it from her palm. “You deserve all the treats, my beautiful, vicious predator.”

The absolutely amazing drawing done by the incredibly talented Fran Matos. More drawings of the point of view characters to come!

Enrik Darrow is the 217-year-old Lorosian x Gorien former member of the council that once protected the mother of the prophesied savior. Enrik didn’t expect to love the daughter he adopted as much as he does. After determining the only way to keep Vivian safe was to keep her with him, Enrik took her in and spent the next twenty years doing everything in his power to keep her happy and protected. But when she learns the truth he’s been hiding from her, he’s finally forced to allow her to leave the safety of the farm to fulfill her destiny.

“Atta girl.” Her father, Enrik, stood in the doorway, grinning. A doorway that stretched far above Vivian’s six-foot height, a doorway that could’ve easily fit three of Vivian side by side to accommodate her father’s massive frame. In human years, Enrik looked to be in his early thirties, though no one could’ve ever mistaken him for human. In his true form he towered above her at just over eight feet.

Droken Ensori is the ancient Enosian leader of the Loyalists, those loyal to Enos, the god of war. Droken is one of the rare few alive who came through the portal from Enoralori. He has spent his life working toward creating a special marking that will allow him to return his long-lost children to him, a marking similar to the one that has kept him alive well beyond the point of his would-be death, though lately he’s been working on something special for his god, something that will finally allow Enos to take London and bring down their human foes, the Londoners.

He pulled a small journal out of the inner pocket of his long, fitted coat, taking a few minutes to write down the results of his work. Then, after slipping it, his pen, and his spectacles back inside, he put all his books, the ones he’d carefully collected and written over the years, the ones about markings, and how to create new ones, back into their trunk along with the papers he intended to keep. The ones on the floor he tossed into the empty fireplace. They could be dealt with later. Still holding the lantern with the metal fingers that had been grafted onto the bone joints of his right wing after he’d removed the useless bits, he locked the door behind him.

Important side characters:

Aphra – The osprey Vivian saved and raised is her only friend until she meets Mira.

Mira Fogore – The Mersian helper of Ulvan Zahr is Vivian’s first non-animal friend.

Ulvan Zahr – The Lorosian x Enosian holder of the god-blessed Martyr’s Plate, bestowed upon him by Enos before the enorians came to Earth.

Draea Sandoval & Akrin Ensori – Siblings and children of Droken Ensori.

Enos – God of War who has been trapped in the mortal body of the Aesan king, Aldar of Aynsi, for over 1500 years.

What I wrote over the last week

Enorians Book 2 – Draft 2 Chapters nineteen and twenty (it’s been a rough week)

What I read over the last week

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

A Phoneix First Must Burn by Patricia Caldwell

Yes, Horses Do Show Up In Most Things I Write

There’s a video of me at the age of six where I proudly announce, in Dutch, that I want to take horseback riding lessons (or, I guess more accurately, “horse lessons”). Lucky for me, there was a small horse farm fifteen minutes from where we lived. When I was seven, I started taking lessons there. And my intense love of horses has never faded. All through school, including Undergrad, I rode at least once a week, usually more. I even started showing in sixth grade through 4-H, though I was never the biggest fan of it. The first show I went to wasn’t one I was in, but one I went to watch. I don’t recall most of it, but I strongly remember getting stepped on three times by various horses while wearing flipflops. Which insane parent let me wear flipflops to a horse show?

No photo description available.

From riding them to reading about them to playing with horse toys to collecting Breyer statues that I still own to this day, I fully immersed myself in being a crazy horse girl. I even wrote about them.

The first story I remember writing was started in an unlined journal while sitting in the airport, probably on the way to or from Holland, and to no one’s surprise, it was about a girl who had horses. Now, I can’t remember what it was about beyond that, but I’m almost certain it was inspired by The Unicorns of Balinor, because I’m pretty sure the characters were named Ari and Finn, both of whom are characters in that series. Either that or I just liked the names.

Horses have never stopped appearing in my stories since that first one, nor have I stopped reading about them. Once again, shocking to not a single person, one of my favorite books is The Scorpio Races, which is all about horses, both real and mythical. All throughout school I read horse books, many of which I still own (including the entire Unicorns of Balinor series), and even as an adult I still seek them out, though they’re surprisingly harder to find unless you want to read non-fiction, which is generally not something I’m searching for. This is even more true if you’re looking for fantasy. Don’t worry fellow horse lovers, I’m coming to your rescue 😉.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20210128_164833-1.jpg

Maybe that’s partially why horses play such a big role in most of my stories. That’s not to say I can’t write something without horses in it – The Children of Oher features exactly zero – but if there’s a place for them, I’ll make sure to fill it. There’s a quote by Toni Morrison that goes, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” and I certainly seem to be doing that when it comes to including horses. So yes, I do fully intend to write Spirits of the Sea solely as an excuse to write about them, because I know some other crazy horse person out there will appreciate it as much as I do.

What’s something you love that you just can’t help putting into the things you create?

What I wrote over the last week

Chapters twenty-one through twenty-four of The Children of Oher

What I’m currently reading

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

The Last Revision by Sandra Scofield

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Food in Fiction

I’m always impressed when authors put a lot of thought into the foods in their stories. Harry Potter is the first example that comes to mind because of the sheer creativity of its chocolate frogs and pumpkin pasties and sugar quills and butterbeer. But even simpler descriptions, like the specifics of smelling cardamom and honey and tea or the characters having pumpkin stew and garlic flatbread in The Sky Beyond the Storm are enough for me to appreciate the effort the author put into their food choices. And I think the reason behind being so impressed is because I have no idea what to include when it comes to food. I have some automatic go-tos, like stew. Always stew. Or meat and potatoes. You know, things that I eat. I struggle with it, and I know it’s something I need to work on.

So, when I started writing “Spirits of the Sea,” which is inspired by a Dutch tradition where draft horses are ridden down to the sea, I wanted to include super Dutch foods. And I wanted to try really hard to add in a wide variety of different things and get specific with the details.

Well, lucky me, I’m Dutch and have regularly gone to Holland since moving to the States back in the late 90s. Not to mention that my dad always brings back a suitcase full of food or asks us to bring a ton for him if we go without him. So finding very specific foods to write about was easy, and I had a lot of fun with it, especially with trying to figure out how to describe and translate what it all was into English.

And now, obviously, I have to show some of my hard work. Here’s a little snippet from during the ride (Now I just need to include nice specifics like this into everything else I write):

They paraded through the center street, weaving their way toward the sea waiting beyond the grassy dunes. Cheers went up as the horses passed. People shouted at those they knew. The scent of fries and deep-fried and grilled meats, herring and smoked eel, and freshly baked pastries and sweet cotton candy wafted over the riders and gathered crowd of people watching.

Veerlie’s stomach rumbled as the wind whipped the scent of her favorite deep-fried, raisin-stuffed, powdered-sugar-covered, fritters toward her. They were only ever made the week of the sea ride. Now that her nerves were under control, she realized how hungry she was and wished she’d eaten a better breakfast.

“That smells so good,” Marysa said wistfully, looking over at the mini-pancake stall standing in front of a dark-windowed store. A line of people wound its way around behind the gathered watchers.

“On our way back, we should stop to get food. I’m starving,” Veerlie said. The sweet, buttery scent hit her and sent her stomach rumbling again. Her mouth watered at the idea of the puffy palm-sized pancakes coated with powdered sugar.

What I wrote over the last week

Chapters fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen of The Children of Oher.

What I’m reading right now

The Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

Red Dust and Dancing Horses by Beth Cao

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Brown & Dave King


“The process of doing your second draft is the process of making it look like you knew what you were doing all along.”

– Neil Gaiman

I know a lot of people who moan and complain and say they hate revising, and I can absolutely see where they’re coming from. It’s tedious. It’s frustrating.  It’s a pain to have to restructure, cut entire chunks, remove entire characters or merge two because you realize you don’t need both of them. It’s particularly annoying when you get to rereading the same chapter for the seventh time, and you’re just tired of reading it again and again. It’s even worse when you end up entirely rewriting two-thirds of your book. Twice. And then realize you’ve got to remove 100,000 words, because it got wildly out of control during the last revision, and you’re cursing your past self.

Revising can be the worst, but also, I’m actively looking forward to revising the second Enorians book and later this year, giving the first another edit, too. During my final quarter of my Master’s Program, I got really bummed, because I missed writing about Rowan and Aurea and Vivian and all the other characters from the first and second books. I ended up writing a bunch of scenes just for the fun of it, and it was amazing to go back to them.

So while revising can be a pain, it means I get to spend time with those characters again, characters I’ve been missing for the last few months. Not just that, it gives me a chance to do those characters justice, to fix the bits of them and their stories that aren’t great yet, to take out things that don’t fit, to make them and the story better. It gives me a chance to fill in missing details and explore everything again. It gives me more time with my favorite characters. Characters that I know I’ll miss when all is finally finished, because I’ve been writing these people for years, and I love them. If you look at revising as a way to spend more time with the people you’ve created and care so deeply about, it’s really not so bad.

What I wrote over the last week

Chapters twelve, thirteen, and fourteen of The Children of Oher.

What I’m reading right now

The Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

Red Dust and Dancing Horses by Beth Cato

Belinda McCauley

Writer. Reader. Creator.

Daan Katz

Where Magic Meets Reality

Writing about...Writing

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