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Welcome to Journey of a Writer

The story of a writer is a tale sung by many, but the journey to become a better writer? That is something else entirely. The first step is to admit, “You’re not that great – everyone has room to learn and you’re no different”. Good ideas, and good voice, count for very little if you can’t write well. To learn, you have to admit your weakness. Mine? Editing? If you haven’t noticed … it doesn’t mean I don’t try, I am just not good. How to get better? Return to the basics, and so, that’s where I begin.

If you browse around you will find useful information on the subject of writing. This blog is a collection of notes from my studies and comes complete with useful links and book recommendations.

Feel free to comment. Offer suggestions for a writing topic or ask a question!

The Alundra File 01: Sinead Ahern is for sale!

You can contact me via email at ninakaytel@gmail.com.

The Emotions of a Published Author

My feelings towards writing at the moment are a combination of things rolled into one hanging grey cloud over me. All production has stalled in other words.

I thought at first maybe it was disappointment. Belonging to the forums and befriending writers (some not all) creates a sort of disillusion. Do this, don’t do this, no one wants that, and then you go and read what is popular and they did this, and this, and yes, I the reader love that. Anyway, I began to write without all that, without taking risks and you sound less and less like yourself. I became so worried about the rules and forgot about the passion. Still, if I want to make it, I felt that I had to conform and that isn’t the case. A handful of the best-sellers that I have violated everything right down to opening in a dream. Hell, Divergent starts looking in a mirror.

(I don’t want anyone to read that and think that I am knocking the forums. That isn’t the case. That is my weakness. Writer forums are an invaluable resource.)

In comes a flood of disappointment. At myself. I conformed. I tried to do it all right and forgot myself.

After disappointment comes discouragement. I thought finally gathering the courage and self-publishing would lead somewhere. That the people in my life would finally take interest. If anything people care about it less than they did before. I got nothing from it. No one (aside from people on the internet, though I love you guys) cared nor has spoken about it. I wanted validation and got silence.

It’s highly discouraging; well more so, than knowing that my punctuation still bites.

Are my parents even proud? Will it be like this when I hook and agent? If they don’t care then what is the point? I swear it has been easier to talk about my sexuality, but again both are unspoken. Said once and never mentioned again. Somehow though that truth is easier when dealing with my sexuality. With the writing it is painful.

Loneliness. Being a writer means isolation, trapped in your head with your ideas and surrounded by people who rather talk about lawnmowers.

Anxiety. Not sure if this is an emotion. However, every day I struggle with the urge to take the Alundra File down. My brain tries to convince me every day and every day I fight it back.

Indecisive. The edits of The Black Sunrise, are a great improvement, but something is wrong with it. I have run through it twice and don’t know what, but today I figured that out. It doesn’t sound like me anymore; it is though cleaner, passionless and drab. Everything I learned it there, but to get it there I drained the life from the story. I was so worried about conforming to the rules that I forgot what to tell a story.

I guess indecisive should be past tense. I am going to rewrite TBS. I am going to work on the second Alundra File.

The emotions of a writer may make it sound like I am depressed, which isn’t the case. I have a car now, and in four or so months will be able to drive it. On a low income, I have to take this a step at a time, pay it off, tags and title then insurance. It’s finally gotten warm outside so I’ve been soaking it up and spending as much time as possible not in this room and I have been babysitting, and if the guy that my brother is working for pays him, I will stay working. My time is full, which brings me to my last emotion.

Burnt. I was. I pushed from October into March working on writing every day, learning, applying, writing, obsessing, sleeping to wake up and do it again. In the last couple of days my brain as opened up, my creative sands are falling again and my motivation has (sorta) returned.

 

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Divergent

I read the Divergent series by Veronica Roth in its entirety over the past three days. Though I had numerous problems with it, especially in the last book, I am not going to talk about them now. I can’t even decide if I liked the series, but I give it this: the author did her job, and her book ranks as one of the few that has ever made me cry. Why? Roth constructed a character that I felt I believed, I yelled at, and I cried for, and that is the lesson I take away. Well, one of them.
Everything is pointless if you don’t craft a good character. Your adverbs, your showing, world building, action, sex, the gleam of the kitchen sink, it is all worthless if the reader doesn’t care about the character.
They don’t have to be the strongest, the brightest, the wisest … they have to be dynamic, believable, and most of all, the reader has to care about them.
G.R.R. Martian, Roth is coming for you.

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Reinvention of The Black Sunrise Opening Scene

This new scene has been the hardest thing I have ever writer. It’s been a balancing act to know what information to give out, and having the events match up to later flashback, but with this one scene (I only posted a small part) I realized I have a whole new way to go about the first part of the novel. With plenty of wiggle room, I’m going for it. I’m not sure if I am going to keep any of it, because frankly I am scared shitless of changing the story, but I have a nagging suspicion that it needs it.

Has this ever happened to you guys?

I’m still working on it, mind you, but what do you think of the new opening?

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

Seth paced a step out of reach from a blanket of cold filtering through the dead trees that loomed above him. The ancient Oaks rose hundreds of feet into the sky, their bark the color of ash, a mixture of grey, black, and a flare of red. Grey leaves crackled, waving against the phantom breeze.

He unbuttoned his ode green jacket and slid it off. The sun peaked above him bearing down hot rays. He wiped the sweat from his forehead, and then threw the jacket over his shoulder. Sweat soaked through his undershirt. His stomach rumbled and legs ached, but he didn’t have the gift that some men did. He couldn’t stand still.

How long have I been waiting here? In silence? Seth hated silence, and the forest drowned in it. He had orders to wait outside, not to enter – Nia didn’t say how long. A jolt ran through his hand. The cold air stirred. He drew his gun and aimed it at the girl fleeing from the trees.

Naked and caked in black dirt, her unwashed black hair hung in heavy strings around her heart-shaped face. Every bone in her small frame exposed. She rounded on him. Round purple eyes dominated her face, and stared, unblinking, at him. He lowered his aim, opening his mouth to speak.

She pounced knocking him to the ground clawing at his face. Dirt encrusted nails tore into his skin.

Several thoughts ran through his head at once. He was an apprentice for a blacksmith – swung a hammer for years, spent his evenings cutting wood, endured the drunken blows of his father – he knew how to fight and how to win, but he couldn’t summon the desire to fight. Not a girl who couldn’t weight ninety pounds, and looked like the earth just gave birth to her.

He grabbed her by the wrists, pushed his energy into her, and jerked from his body. The world whirled around him in a blur.

He fell into a small clearing where the girl stood. A dead fawn lay in a dried creek bed. Darkness folded around him. One by one, his bones crushed under the weight. The deer ran towards him, then the girl – blood floated in the air behind her, the ground became rivers of it – then his father appeared over him, stinking of wine, raising his fist. Fear exploded through him, he turned heel to run, but fell. His father bore down on him.

He hit the hard earth gasping. His temples throbbed, his muscles twitched. He rolled over; grey clouds had filled the sky. Silence, again. With a grunt, he sat up. The girl lay a few feet away, curled in a ball shivering.

“I warned you before we came, not to make contact with her.” Nia shook her head , slipped off her jacket, and laid it on the girl. The commander stood a good six feet, with stony grey eyes, her thin frame hidden under a green uniform, her dirty blond hair tied back into a loose ponytail.

“You didn’t tell me that …” her eyes narrowed and he fell silent. He couldn’t say the word monster, because he knew it was a lie. She doesn’t have control. Even as she withered on the ground, red sparks filled the air. He climbed to his feet and turned away, “you said we were going to recruit a soldier, Commander.”

“And we have.” She approached him and pressed the gun into his hand, “We should reach the Phantom City before nightfall, and I’d suggest that you refrain from eye contact and physical contact of any kind towards Cristia.”

“Is she a prisoner or a recruit?” he wondered when the girl stirred. Nia knelt beside her and fixed the jacket, then helped her up.

“This is Seth. He’s a soldier in the Human Mage Alliance. I’d advise you two to get along – be friends.” He didn’t understand her emphasis on friends. He hadn’t decided if he even liked her, she was unique … but friends. “Come, we should get moving.”

Cristia cocked her head and studied him. He kept his gaze between the two dead trees behind her. Friends. He wondered what it meant. How could he be friends with some girl, wild, untamed, and caked in dirt? He walked alongside of Nia, putting a few feet between him and the girl.

 

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Day Two: Writing with Skill

Day two of Writing with Skill is the same as the day before, but the passage given is longer and sprinkled with more detail than the day before so it is harder.

To review: being able to filter out all the details in dialogue, action, word building and description to find the core of the story is a rudimentary skill that all writers and readers should have. Whether you are reviewing a news article or reading the latest YA smash hit, you should be able to identify the plot even if it is buried under five-hundred pages of words.

The passage today is from The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken.

The first step is to note five or six phrases or short sentences as an overview of the events in the passage.

Sylvia struggles with hunger and cold.

She doesn’t take the stranger’s offer of sweets or chocolate.

She threatens to call for assistance if the stranger keeps bothering her.

Despite being cold, she won’t do anything unladylike.

The cold and hunger cause her to have bad dreams.

The train stops for wolves on the tracks.

A wolf breaks in and the stranger kills it.

 

The next step is to combine these details into a summary.

Cold and hungry, Sylvia keeps her distance from the polite stranger offering her food. Refusing his offer for sweets, she drifts off into a troubled sleep, only to be awoken by the howling of wolves. A pack of wolves has filled the tracks and caused the train to stop. The stranger assures Sylvia that she is safe, but no sooner has the words left his mouth does on break in. The stranger then stabs the wolf with a broken bit of glass.

 

The point again is to discard the details. Though it might be tempting to include the violet icing of the jam cakes, the fur lining of the stranger’s cloak, the details of the dream these are no important events in the story.

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Writing with Skill: Day One

Today I started Writing with Skill by Susan Bauer. It is a homeschooling program. I thought it would be useful to me to identify where I am going wrong with my punctuation. As I did with the previous textbook, I am starting at the very beginning and not skipping ahead.

The first skill that needs to be in place is the ability to summarize a narrative in four to five sentences, identify the main idea of both the narrative and a paragraph.

The first day’s exercise is to read a passage from The Pepins and Their Problems by Polly Horvath and jot down four or five short sentences or phrases to help remember events in the story.

The Pepin family is plagued with problems.

They woke one morning to find toads in their shoes.

Neither the two adults nor kids would wear the shoes.

Mr. Bradshaw the neighbor also had toads in his shoes.

No one could figure out why.

The second part of day one is to combine the notes into a brief summary.

The Pepin family, plagued with problems, wakes one-morning to find toads in their shoes. The family refused to wear toad-filled shoes, and sought out their neighbor for a solution to the problem. Mr. Bradshaw, the neighbor, was just as puzzled as the rest over the appearance of toads in their shoes.

Why I think this is important:

When writing a blurb, synopsis, or a query letter we writers have to be able to figure out what the over-all plot is. The details of appearance, setting, the fluff in dialogue, action are all just there to flush out the core plot. Discarding the details and focusing on the plot is how we sell the story.

Think about it with your work, the book you’re reading or even the last television show that you watched: can you summarize it in a few sentences? Identify the core of the story? Leave it in a comment; I’d love to hear from you.

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Reinvention

I have mentioned, and gone into detail, about the progression of my novel The Black Sunrise, I have posted about finishing each edit since beginning my own reinvention in October, but only since shaving 22,000 words out did I realize the major flaw in the story. It is not a flaw in plot, or characters, or anything like that it is the absence of knowledge and consequently the absence in tension. I have been trying to figure out to fix it without starting a total re-write, and the answer is simple. Start in the Mage World.

The books premise is simple. The world was split in two two-thousand years ago. Man and mage separated into two worlds, the Mage and the Human, because of the division both worlds are dying. Nia Dragon and many others put a plan in motion to bring down the barrier and unite the dying worlds.

The book starts in the Human World, which is the same as our own. Each rendition I had to update the technology add in cell-phones, flash drives, and tablets since I started this series before any became common. Humans are dependent on fossil fuels; hide behind nuclear weapons, a run by democracy and capitalism, religion, corruption, and greed – all things we should be familiar with. There are cars, computers, electricity, and coffee makers.

Starting in the Human World is safer, and easier. Starting right out at Riverside is the easiest course; however, the drawback is that there is a lot of exposition needed to explain/show the difference between man and mage, their worlds, and the consequence of having the Tree Gate.

The Mage World is primitive by comparison. Mages do not have the ability to invent technology – so their world has no electricity, cars, gasoline, computers. With the barrier in tack, the trade between the worlds is limited. The mage villages are self-governing and scattered about. The two major cities: Lohan and the Phantom City, are separated by several hundred miles. Mages have limited means of transportation: by foot, by horse, or by a special race of mage than can transverse the Elemental Stream

The logistics alone are one reason to shy away from the opening. Cristia is found in the Forest of Wind (don’t laugh at the name, please. I will change it) which is half a day’s walk from the Phantom City from there she has to be brought from the city to the barrier.

Let’s talk Tree Gate, which is the barrier between the two worlds. When I decided to write this series, I decided against using the term magic or having rituals – so how then does a mage open the Gate. By shifting the energy. How do you show this; ack! You don’t. No spell, no ritual, a simple, raise your hands, concentrate, and two doors of energy slide open to revel a different world.

Starting in the Mage World is, at best, problematic. A lot more needs to be explained than beginning in the Human World. There is a huge problem with avoiding the info-dump.  Not to mention, Cristia.

She is thirteen when she enters the Human World. Wild, frail, emaciated, and taught to fear her own power as result she has no control. She doesn’t speak much in the first book.

The new opening gives Cristia and Seth more time to develop the relationship that is imperative in this book and all the following books. I hope the new opening clarifies right off the bat that Seth is ordered to forge a friendship, but it later progresses from that.

I also know I need to explain two things, earlier, which the Mage World opening can do, the Tree Gate and its affect on the world. Let’s face the division between man and mage has more impact in the Mage World. The human is fine beside its impending doom from reliance on fuel resources. Compared to the primitive Mage World that still uses horses as a mode of transportation.

The plot of the book is centered on the idea that the worlds are dying divided, but the reality of it is buried in the Human World thus starting there doesn’t get the point across.

The second is the Elemental Stream, and the elements. I realize now that I never say (even though I show) what the five Elements are, and it isn’t like you can waltz in a coffee shop and her two men reading papers and discussing the Stream.

There is another thing that is implied, and I used to have it, then got worried about talking about religion and wrenched it out. The humans don’t know about the mages, the Gate, or their own encroaching doom. Most of the world history is made-up when the human leaders of the ancient sword decided that humans would never know.

I could help strengthen the implication by the changed beginning since Seth and Cristia go from the Mage World to the Human.

The final two things are the Phantom City and the impact of the Human Mage Alliance.

The Phantom City is the capital of the mage world, and vital to the story line, however, only one POV character is there to describe it before its destruction only a chapter later. The city is important, and the new opening starts there.

The impact of the HMA is probably one of the hardest things to convey. The military organization is responsible for building trade roads in the mage world, transporting supply to small towns, bring order to the separate villages, all in a goal to unite the Mage World and ready it for the fall of the Gate.

The trickiest part of it in either opening is the HMA already accomplished most of the above. Seth, a recruit, and Nia the leader of the HMA know everything so them talking about it is a moot point and becomes an ‘As you know Joe’ info-dump. The HMA does have impact in the human world; however, most of it is done secretly.

Starting with the Mages would show more of their impact, and hopefully, the readers will sympathize and side with the HMA that way they root for the Resistance later in the story.

I have decided to go forward with the new opening, and at least, see where it goes. One I have the room and two I hope the new beginning will bring a much needed color and depth to the story. I also hope that this opening will make the story feel more like a fantasy and less like a science-fiction.

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The 22,000 word difference.

I finished the second intense round of edits to The Black Sunrise, and this is what I discovered:

Untitled - Copy

The picture above is before I started this adventure in October. The last edit to the book was in 2012.

The picture below is what is now.

Untitled2 - Copy

I used to be one of those writers who coveted the word count. I thought that the higher the count meant more, but I have since seen the fallacy in this logic. Writing 90,000 words was easy, but tightening the story – I mean really editing, was harder. I am proud of the smaller word count, proud of the clean story that emerged.

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Plan of Action

There is a problem with punctuation, my punctuation, to be specific. Something is wrong with it, but I don’t know where the problem is. I know is there. Since I burned through the books that I have, and used the internet, I decided I needed a structured course. No, I can’t afford to go back to college, nor have a car to take me to classes; I did the next best thing. I ordered textbooks, workbooks, and teacher guides for a home schooling course. I hope that a guided course with exercises (and answers so I can see where I am wrong) will click the little light bulb on in my head. I want to improve. I don’t want to sound like an idiot. The books should be here soon.

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Writing Advice: Let the Novel Rest

When you write a novel most people will tell you, upon finishing, to let it sit for a while. Come back to it with a better and more objective eye. Some people flat out refuse this advice; others take it to the extreme of never going back. The advice is solid, valid, and imperative.

I learned this the hard way. I couldn’t count the number of times I ran through The Black Sunrise, one go after another, without letting it sit. The problem there is that you can’t see what is up close – a novel is similar to Tetris – the pieces can all fit together, but you have to figure out how, and there isn’t just one way to do it either.

I realized the undisputable proof of letting a novel sit last night. I ran through the Black Sunrise almost a month ago and left it, all lonely, split into chapters, and gutted – went back to it a week ago. Now, there were some handfuls of tweaks, rearranging sentences into a better order, finding repetitive verbs, nixing adverbs that I left – most of it minor. The biggest additions are descriptions of the characters, which I didn’t have before. Mostly, cutting. Lots of cutting. Not drastic chunks either, shaving sentences down racks up an eliminated word count quickly.

 

Stuff like this:

Original:

The town looked different than he remembered. Thick green moss had grown over the charred ruins. There were dense patches of flowers. The only oddity was that none of it smelled. He reached one house that was completely untouched by the greenery. The floorboards of the porch creaked under his weight. He pushed the door open.

New:

The town looked different than he remembered. Thick green moss had grown over the charred ruins of the homes; dense patches of flowers grew through the broken stoops. He stopped at the only house untouched by the greenery. The door hung on one hinge, the wind swept the ash away. The floorboards of the porch creaked under his weight. He pushed the door open.

This sentence alone:

Original: He reached one house that was completely untouched by the greenery.

New: He stopped in front of a house untouched by the greenery.

 

The originally passage stood after the first major edit then got slaughtered in the second.

Yes, there is reason when a person tells you to let a novel rest.

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Continuation of The Black Sunrise first chapter

In case you didn’t read the opening scene: Here it is

I’ve decided to post the first chapter of The Black Sunrise, but since it is long I am going to break it into parts. I hope you enjoy.

—————–

            Nia went to a private waiting room. She locked the door behind her, and cleared her throat. A tall, muscular boy stood under the corner mounted television, flipping through the channels. He landed on a news station. His eyes followed the ticker at the bottom.

“Been learning how to read, Seth?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I’m not good at it yet. You didn’t come here to check on my human skills.”

She nodded.

“What do you think?” She gestured for him to sit.

He flipped the television off, and paced the length of the room, his head down.

“Cristia’s powerful, but you didn’t need me to tell you that. It’s unstable though, spikes when she is …” he fell silent, and shook his head.

She knew what he meant to say, emotional. Her energy spiked every time she felt fear.

“I asked you what you thought, not what I could already conclude. How many times?”

“Three. But the last one…” He shuddered.

“How is she now?”

“Calm. But Nia, the power that I feel isn’t right.”

Nia sank down into a free chair and chewed her bottom lip. She expected this from the moment she found Cristia, “How so?”

“It’s not elemental.” He said.

“Go on.”

“She has energy and it is powerful, but it is not from the Elemental Stream.” He shook his head and sat down, staring at the floor. “It’s like she is all around me. I don’t even have to reach out to find her….”

#

            Nia returned to the lab on Kira’s orders. Cristia sat on the metal table looking smaller by the minute; her eyes met Nia’s for only a second. Nia knew the fear of being in one of Kira’s labs, and wished with all her heart that she could take the girl away now, but it wasn’t possible. Cristia was a danger to everyone.

Kira began the examination. The humans had tests to determine health that were unneeded in Nia’s home. Blood pressure, height, and weight all figures that Nia had no mind for. Kira scribbled them down on a clipboard, her frown deepening. Cristia hardly twitched a muscle, still and silent with her gaze locked on the ceiling. If Kira followed her gaze she’d only see cold white tiles hiding a maze of wires, but Nia knew. Seth waited directly above the lab, obediently, sensing for signs of danger.

Kira set clipboard down, and went to a cabinet and began pulling out needles.

Cristia reacted instantly. The lights erupted in a shower of sparks, and she bound from the table and slammed into the sealed door. She clawed at it like a feral cat.

Kira grabbed Nia’s arm before she could move.

“I expected this,” Kira said so only Nia could hear. “It locks in the event of an emergency.” Nia let out a gasp when the sprinklers went off overhead, and soaked Cristia.

She recoiled from the door, shivering.

“This is cruel, Kira,” Nia said in horror.

Nia stripped off her jacket and laid it over Cristia’s shoulders. She led her back to the table. Kira grabbed her arm and took four vials of blood.

Kira held the vials to the light, her eyes shining with victory. A smile swept across her face. “If you want power, Cristia, stick around.”

 An offer that few refused. Nia wanted to say every warning in the world, but power sank deep in the heart of any man – driving them.

To Nia’s utter surprise, the girl lifted her eyes and said, “I don’t.”

#

Nia saw Cristia every night. On the sixth night, she sat at a small desk with a book on human religions open in her lab. Cristia huddle in the corner hugging a pillow to her chest.

“I don’t like this place,” the child confessed. “It’s like the forest. The people walk around but they act like no one exists.”

“It won’t be much longer.” Nia snapped shut the book and laid it aside. “Who taught you how to read?”

“Elena. She was the only –,” she closed her eyes.

No, keep talking. “I have a daughter, you know.” She rambled. “I haven’t seen her since she was five. Her or her brother.”

“Don’t you like them?”

“I do, but I knew they would be safer without me. We are different from normal mages, Cristia. My fate is higher than my wants and needs. I am a servant to the Spirits.”

“Is that what I am?”

“Well, no, but we all have a role to play.”

“I don’t want to play,” she jumped to her feet. “My father told me to never use my power. He hid me away from everyone and everything. He was afraid of me.”

“He shouldn’t have been. Tell me Cristia, what do you want to do?”

“I want be a healer.”

#

On the eighth day, Nia escorted Cristia to Kira’s lab, for what she hoped would be the last time in a long while.

“I’m done with my tests.” Kira set a vial of Cristia’s blood aside. “You’d be surprised by what they have and can show me; not what you are now, but the true potential of what you can become. The question, however, is not how much power you have, but if you can control it. Since I don’t have time to take you touring, Nia has agreed to do it.”

Cristia slid off the table and went to Kira’s desk picking up a magazine. She frowned at the picture of a model, “how do I be like them?”

“The humans?” Kira asked.

“Yes.”

Kira sighed, “intriguing question … learn their technology, their writings – understand their history and religions. Now go.”

#

After eight days stationed at the hospital Seth had grown bored watching the humans heal without energy. He longed to move on and do something else. Humans weren’t nearly as intriguing as he once thought. In fact, once he understood them, it wasn’t entertaining at all.

He could sum his first day in the Human World in two words: confusing, disjointed.

After a year, he still hadn’t got used to the size of human cities or the number of inhabitants. The streets filled with the sound of cars, horns, and people. Children laughed and played around their mothers. Doors slammed, cars backfired, and cell phones rang. A few friends walked down the streets eating. First, he tried to keep his eyes on everything, but it together made no sense. The humans moved in different directions at different times.

“Would you stop pacing,” Nia said wearily.

He didn’t. He paced the length of two cars, over and over again. He didn’t have Nia’s ability to stand still. She watched the emergency bay doors without moving. He didn’t need sight, already he felt Cristia leaving the hospital. He felt her energy rise, when she burst through the doors, in a sprint, her power spiked with each step.

“She’s panicked,” Seth said.

Nia made no move for Cristia, but Seth couldn’t bare it. She stopped crouched against a wall with her hands over her ears.

He approached her, and knelt down.

“It’s hard at first… to see their connection. The humans I mean, like you and me they are connected to the Elemental Stream. We all belong to the same world. Once you accept that you will see them clearly.”

Her eyes gave him chills, round and wide like that of a doe, striking like a crystal, but full of untold power. He, of all people, knew better than to meet her gaze. Small she may be, but she didn’t lack energy – she lacked control.

She was like him, on some level, a Remanlist. Their powers allowed them to access the mind. An adapt Remanlist only needed eye contact while a lesser physical touch. Knowing this, he shifted his gaze.

She flung herself on him, slammed him to the ground, and tore at his face with her fingernails.

A million thoughts ran through his mind. He trained with a blacksmith – he split logs and dealt with the drunken rages of his father. This girl didn’t weigh ninety pounds and beating her would be easy. He couldn’t. Nia tore Cristia off, and then shoved her into a wall – the shock and pain caused her power to stabilize.

“This isn’t the forest Cristia,” Nia said in a firm voice. “I won’t coddle you. One slip from you could spark a war. Your power, and his, must remain hidden.”

He hadn’t expected the violence.

“This is Seth. He’s a soldier in the Human Mage Alliance. I’d advise you two to get along – be friends.” He didn’t understand her emphasis on friends. She hadn’t told him anything about what they were doing, or what Cristia was supposed to be. He hadn’t decided if he even liked her, she was unique … but friends. “Come, we should get moving.”

Seth hated silence, and this girl hadn’t uttered a word to him. If they were meant to be friends then he had to start somewhere. He blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

“This world is the complete opposite of ours.”

She cocked her head; light glittered in her purple eyes. “What makes you think I am different?”

“Have you ever looked into a mirror?”

“I look different?”

“Here,” he pulled her close to the nearest car. “Look.” She bent down to look. “No human has eyes like that.” He reached in his pocket and held out a pair of sunglasses.

“Wear them?” She turned the glasses over in her hands.

“That’s the idea. Mages may have elemental power, but humans have guns. Most normal mages can’t dodge a bullet any faster than a human can. Their technology gives them a nearly level playing field.”

“Nearly level?”

“Well, there are exceptions to the rules,” he answered with a wink. We are the exceptions.

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