Black Halo: the Witch and the Guardian PREVIEW Part 3

REVISED version of

Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian

is coming out on 12/9/2015!

Preview Event:

PART 1 (Prologue, Chapter 1)

PART 2 (Interlude 1)


 

Blurb:

With the Light, came Magic, and the Witch. As mysterious as she was fearsome, and as powerful as she was merciless, the Witch almost succeeded in ending the world until she was vanquished by a hero and his comrades.

This is the legend of the Witch and the Guardian.

Centuries after the nigh calamity, this legend is as much as almost anyone knows of what truly happened back then and as much of an explanation anyone has of what ended an era in human civilization.

Though the people may never learn the whole story, you as the reader will follow the days that led up to how a young girl named Lily became immortalized as the Witch though her name, dreams and life became forgotten.


 

Chapter 2
THE REDHEAD

A quaint little coffee shop.

It was one of many a person could find in the city. Small enough to still seem snug with its single early-bird customer, the cafe decorated from top to bottom with ‘personality’ to save itself from becoming what they considered to be lifeless coffee shop chains. There were pictures of past visitors, vinyl hanging like paintings—some of which even the young customer recognized—and a bulletin board for the local bands to advertise their garage shows. Instead of the usual easy listening jazz, this little shop decided a little grunge was better fitting with the morning caffeine.

The lone customer waited for his order as he listened to the cafe’s unique choice of music. The flashy intro of the news program on the TV caught his attention. His head snugly tucked into the hood of his leather jacket, he turned his attention from the music to the television on the wall.

“Make no mistake,” A plump man, aged and molded by a long career of being dissatisfied and irate, spoke with authority and confidence. “We are at war. It’s a war not with our people but with this sudden but very drastic change. With change, we have to adapt. That is the law of nature—adapt to survive. The people have the right to be protected and to feel safe in their homes in this great nation of ours. We aren’t talking about imprisoning men and women out of prejudice. We are talking about simply containing these men and women—who, mind you, possess a catastrophic potential to harm us—in the name of security of our nation. Joining our discussion today is the host of a popular news commentary show, The Independent Voice, Erol Acar.”

The image on the screen split in two. One side of screen still showed the original man with his ginger comb over, and the other side showed a new, tan skinned man who was younger in comparison with a square jaw and a comparably fuller set of black hair.

“Thanks for joining us on The Point, Mr. Acar. It’s a pleasure,” said the host.

“Thanks for having me, Mr. O’Connor,” Mr. Acar answered politely.

“Please, call me Brian. So the topic today: is what we are doing with those wizards and the witches—the Gifted—morally wrong?”

“Uh… well, Brian, first of all, I have to say, I think you’re losing touch with humanity.” The host’s eyebrows slightly furrowed at Mr. Acar’s remark. “At war, Brian? We are at war? You say it’s against “change,” but those “changes” are people! Our own people! The Gifted are our citizens! Not to mention most of the Gifted we discovered so far are mostly children and teens!”

“Children who can blow up buildings, Erol! Children who can and have killed people.”

“Not all “gifts” have been inherently hostile! Like that boy a year or so ago who simply… disappeared… teleported away from his bullies! And even if a child or a person had a dangerous “gift” it doesn’t mean they’ll use it to harm others! You and the government are asking people to preemptively judge a person guilty and dangerous before they did anything wrong!”

“Sure, but we don’t let children carry guns…”

“Guns aren’t part of their being! You’re teaching the people to be scared and to fear these people who need our help and understanding!”

“Because the cost of simply waiting and letting something happen is too traumatic, Erol!” Mr. O’Connor slammed his desk in outburst. “It’s not a preemptive strike at the Gifted. It’s simply a precautionary measure. I’m not asking these Gifted to be publicly executed like in some of those other countries. I—we—are simply asking for some sort of containment! And do I need to remind…”

“There are new studies being done that acquiring ‘gift’ may not necessarily be a predisposed condition,” Mr. Acar, heated by the conversation, didn’t let the host finish. “But that anyone can acquire these abilities. Some even suggest that you can learn these abilities on your own. Should all of us then be taken in as a precautionary measure by those private military companies?”

“Alright, we’re getting a bit off the topic here, but you know what? I’m going to address this. Those private military companies work for the government and for us—the people—Erol! For you, for me, and for our friends and families! We can’t expect our military to step in on this matter! They have their own jobs and duties to fulfill. And we certainly can’t expect our police officers to be able handle potentially walking, living, breathing weapons of mass destruction! We’ve already seen the results of that. We need specialists and those with matching fire power. And YES! Anyone who decides to become part of those Gifted should be dealt with the same way!”

“That’s just ridiculous, you’re allowing…”

“We didn’t start the war, Erol! They did! Do I have to remind you what happened?” The host pointed his finger in emphasis to each of his statement, and now it lingered in the air as he waited for his guest to answer so that he may pounce again.

“No. You don’t have to do that. As I was saying…” Mr. Acar fought to finish his point.

“No, I am going to remind you. Two years ago… almost three years now, that Light appeared out of nowhere. We don’t know what it is, where it’s from, and why it’s here. Just look out your window and it’s there like an eyesore. On the day that thing appeared, so did the Gifted. The first one to introduce us to the rest of them was the Witch! The Witch everyone’s looking for one who’s now even considered an international terrorist by many governments. What did she do? Erol? What did she do that day?” Mr. O’Connor waited for Mr. Acar to answer with a smug smirk.

“Brian, let me finish what I was trying…”

“She MURDERED a well-respected doctor in his home. That’s the first act done by the Gifted in this world and a very fitting act to let us know what was to come. She’s now popping up all over the world terrorizing it with her red-haired lemming…”

“Terrorizing? Really? Name one thing that could be considered a terrorist act. I can name a few where you can say ‘reckless’ and ‘questionable’ but ‘terrorizing’?” This time Mr. Acar interrupted.

“She attacked our own military!”

“Sources from people who were actually there reported…”

“And who knows what she’s doing in those other countries. Is she a spy? Is she a gun for hire? Is she a walking bomb trained by our enemies? Ignorantly meddling in foreign affairs has a tremendous impact around the world. It’s simply irresponsible and dangerous!”

“…a few rotten apples shouldn’t…”

“Hey, your orders are ready,” the part-timer at the coffee shop tried to get the attention of her lone customer.

“A few rotten apples?” Mr. O’Connor interrupted yet again. “These few rotten apples are popping up everywhere now. They’re even organizing. They have demonstrated that they are a tremendous threat to us regular people. These so-called few rotten apples went off in schools, offices, courts, and even out in the middle of the street in downtown. And people died, Erol. They didn’t even have a chance. We already even have a suspected Gifted serial killer they call… what do they call him… ‘The Invisible Man’? And like I said before—there are even groups of them now. Banding together to do god knows what. There are rumors about these bands that are evolving even from just being gangs to selling their ‘gifts’ for use to the highest bidder. That rumored group called the Wolves or something like that is one of those. It’s birth of a living, breathing black market for new types of weapons that the world has never seen before. Except this time, the weapons themselves get paid. Who knows what they’ll do next! Who can protect us from them? You, Mr. Acar?”

“Can I talk now?”

“Go ahead,” Mr. O’Connor smugly gave permission.

“I recognize there are few of the Gifted out there, like the Witch, who should be brought to justice. And they are, without a doubt, making the world a harder place for the other Gifted and us. But we have to remember, no matter what, that the Gifted are still people like you and me. In fact, if the new studies prove to be correct, any of us can be the Gifted. The Gifted may not even be that Gifted. What you are arguing for is to allow our government to unofficially establish a police state through the private military, and to treat people like criminals regardless of whether or not they’ve committed a crime. We can’t let fear rule us like they want us to. It is during the times of greatest fear that we must remember to be brave enough to do the right thing.”

“Yes, yes. Very touchy, Mr. Acar. We’ll be back with the sentimental Mr. Acar after these commercials.” The host looked at the camera and smiled. An outro melody begins to play as the camera zoomed out.

“World’s gone mad,” A girl’s voice said, bringing the lone customer back to the real world.

Startled, he quickly turned away from the TV to the register, and found the brunette waitress resting her chin on the palm of her hand. She was looking straight at him with a grin and sparkling eyes. She blinked in quick succession as a response when the customer finally recognizing her existence. In front of her were two paper cups fixed with lids and fitted in a drink carrier to accompany a small box.

“I’ve never actually seen any Gifted yet myself. At least, not with my own eyes.” She lifted her chin off of her hand while maintaining eye contact. “I tried to get your attention before, but you seemed really into it so I thought I’d just let you be.” She had a wide, amused smile on her face. “That’ll be 8.75,” she said, reaching out with an open palm to the customer revealing her heavily tattooed arm. She watched as the boy searched his pockets for his wallet. Even though she, herself, was only a sophomore working through college, he seemed even younger than her. Probably just a high school student or maybe he was a freshman in college. He was about as tall, maybe slightly taller, than average for a guy around his age. His hood scrunched his long, obviously dyed red hair that hid most of his facial features, but she thought his revealed milky skin harmonized well with his hair like strawberries and cream. She figured he was probably another fan of the local music scene or perhaps one of many who wanted to stand out against the norms of the society.

“Here’s a ten.” The customer dropped a couple of bills onto her hand. “Keep the change.” He gave a small smile to return hers, and packed the box carefully into his backpack. Once the package was secured, he grabbed his hot drinks and headed for the door.

“Come back soon!” she shouted after the customer as the bell over the door jingled with his departure.

Although it was still only the eve of winter, even the gentlest of winds were frigid and piercing. The skies were gray and without mercy from the sun. People passed through the busy street huddled into their winter coats and paced briskly to their destinations. The cups weren’t marked. The redhead sniffed at the drinks to find the one that didn’t have the sweet oozing scent of chocolate; if he found the one with the dry but rich and nutty aroma of freshly brewed black coffee, then he would have found his beverage. He was lucky. The first cup passed his sniff test, though it smelled a little burnt.

He took a moment to let the warm drink heat him up. A small award for the long journey he had made. It’s was a long walk to the city and it wouldn’t be any shorter going back. The winter season easily excavated memories buried deep beneath as if the soil never hardened. Maybe the memories just weren’t buried deep enough.

It’d been almost two years since he went off on his journey. Two years since his new life began, and his old life started to fade away. As time passed, the distance between the two moments of his lives grew further and further apart. The old times seemed more imagined now than a one he lived through. Only the artifacts of past memories reminded him that they were all very real.

A police car.

The sirens and lights of the law enforcement drove away the nostalgia and brought the boy back to the present. How ironic that something so key to his old life now snapped him back to reality. It reminded him that his old life was over, and he was in the present. He turned away as much as he could from the flashing vehicle. Once the car turned a corner, the redhead put his coffee back into its holder and hastily went on his way. It didn’t feel right that he enjoyed the drink by himself as someone was waiting for him. Kalin felt a slight guilt brewing inside.

 

 

Chapter 3
SERENDIPITY

Landris stared blankly out the window. It’d been a long time since he had been downtown full of people. A while since he sat in a restaurant about to eat a mediocre breakfast that’d taste surprisingly as bad in any of its sister restaurants across the country. The theme of the chain was ‘retro,’ and its idea of ‘retro’ was a jukebox, neon lights, and checkered floors. He looked at his two companions who had been giddy since their plane ride. They chatted about doing things they probably knew they didn’t have time to do on this trip, and of the things they missed that they would long for again when the trip ended. He didn’t feel as excited as these two. Frankly, he was bored. When was the highlight of this trip going to happen?

“So what will it be guys?”

He ignored the middle-aged waitress who he guessed probably had had too much fun in high school and now couldn’t afford to do better than work in a second-rate chain restaurant. Her dark brown hair that was obsessively curled and her bright red lipstick made her look like she was either dressed to the restaurants theme, or she woke up that morning and decided that she’d dress like a relic.

“I’ll have the pancakes with scrambled eggs and hash browns!” The female companion cheerfully answered. Landris always thought Sarah was too much of a looker to be hanging around with her friend Julian. She had brunette hair curled in lusciously soft waves, an egg-shaped face, and a smile that’d even turn drunkards to gentlemen. Julian, on the other hand, was scrawny with dirty blond hair, and no signs of a single muscle in his body. To make matters worse, he followed her around like a puppy and like so, he was probably going to order—

“I’ll have the same please,” said Julian with a smile.

Yep. Just as he had guessed.

Sarah, Julian’s ‘best friend’, was a sweetheart. She was hot, if Landris may be frank, and she probably could have gone through her entire life with just her looks. To her credit, she managed to also develop a personality and respectable intelligence. Meanwhile, Julian was just that kid always in the background who was too timid for his own good. They claimed they were childhood friends, and Landris figured Julian probably knew he was lucky to even have that. Julian got plenty of attention from other boys and men when he walked around with his brunette princess. Though, Landris also figured Julian will probably never have the guts to actually spark something between them.

“Can’t decide on your own food, Julian?” Landris asked with a smirk.  It was a need for Landris to push Julian around. He wanted to get the toxin of weakness out of Julian.

“Don’t be a jerk, Landris. Julian can order whatever he wants!” The princess came to rescue her wimpy prince. Her voice was stern, but never had a hint of venom—always like a mother scolding a child.

Landris simply smiled in response to Sarah and glanced at Julian drowning in its implications. Sarah was a nice girl, no complaints there; she was both a pleasure to be with and to look at. She just needed better taste in men. Whether he seemed interested or not, Sarah also seemingly went out of her way to include him in various activities. Small things like that both Landris and Julian noticed.

“Oh, and where’s the older gentleman who came with you guys?” the waitress asked, seeing that the only trace left of the man was a bag beside Landris.

“He’s in the restroom. What did Mr. Jung want again?” Sarah looked to Julian and Landris for answers.

“Breakfast,” Landris replied.

Ignoring the smart-ass, Sarah furtively placed the tip of her ring and pinky finger on Julian’s hand.

“Right,” Sarah recalled. “He’ll have the steak omelet with hash browns on the side please. He also said he’d like to get his coffee topped off”—The waitress jotted down the order on her notepad with a pen—“…and an orange juice for the table please,” Sarah finished her order.

“Hun? How about you?” the waitress asked Landris with a friendly smile. She caught herself staring at the boy. Ash blond hair with emerald green eyes. His body permeated athleticism even beneath the layers of cloth, and his face had sharp and chiseled facial features as if the boy was a movie star of the golden age. These qualities of Landris were one of the few reasons why he was favored to be the poster boy for Director Jones’ new project. The only detractions were his mouth and attitude that went against his Prince Charming looks.

“I’m good,” Landris answered curtly. “I’m probably better off not eating here anyways.”

“Landris…” Sarah paused for a moment before deciding it wasn’t worth pursuing the rudeness of the latter part of Landris’s statement. “You have to eat something. You haven’t eaten anything since we left.” The mother Sarah scolded and gave Landris exactly what he wanted from her. Right on cue, Julian flashed him a look filled with jealousy. It didn’t go missed by Landris.

“Well,” Landris began, leaning closer towards Sarah. “What would you suggest then?”

“Well,” Sarah replied, leaning closer towards Landris. “I suggest breakfast.”

Landris and Sarah exchanged sarcastic smiles.

“I’ll have whatever they’re having,” Landris told the waitress. The waitress scribbled down the last order and told the group it’d be fifteen to twenty minutes before going about her way. As she walked towards the kitchen to submit the order, she passed by the older gentleman that came with the group. He was a bulky middle-aged man whose prominent cheekbones made him seem younger than he probably was. Short hair combed with enough gel to shine, thick eyebrows that were always furrowed, and he walked with the pride of a soldier’s march.

“Did you guys order me the omelet?” The man asked as he sat beside Landris and rejoined the group.

“Yes, sir!” Sarah cheerfully answered. Mr. Jung appreciated Sarah over the other two kids he had to babysit just for her brightness. The waitress returned with a glass pitcher full of OJ and poured four glasses for each person in the party.

“Can I see it again?” Landris reached out his hand to Mr. Jung as he sipped on his juice.

“How about a ‘please’?” Mr. Jung suggested. The two stared at each other for a short while, both refusing to stand down.

“Please,” Landris gave in. It was Mr. Jung’s tablet after all. Mr. Jung dug into his bag and handed the boy what he wanted. Without showing much gratitude, Landris turned on the device and found the image right away.

It was a rare image, albeit a very blurry one, of the Witch and her red-headed friend. They were spotted in the war-torn desert country seemingly helping a few civilians from certain death. The picture showed a group of men, women, and children facing a ragtag group of gunmen masked with clothes and scarves with the barrels of their weapons aimed at the people. Standing between them was the Witch and her crimson-haired friend. The quality of the image was blurry at best, but it was the image that became the controversial evidence for those who advocated the falsehood of the Witch’s notoriety and advanced the movement to stop scrutinizing those who are “Gifted’. Meanwhile, it also became one of many evidence against the Witch for her apparent lawlessness and disregard for sovereignty. There were rumors that all of the gunmen were killed.

Unsurprisingly, the image of a dainty girl standing up to men armed with some of man’s most trusted lethal weapons added fuel to the fire for those who already feared the incalculable potential of the Gifted.

“Is it true that she stopped a tank before, Mr. Jung?” Julian asked as he organized the sugar packets at the end of their table by their colors.

“The official word from the military and the intelligence agencies are, ‘no comment.’” Mr. Jung peeked over at his tablet Landris was holding. “…but our inside sources say—yes, a few of them apparently.”

“I don’t get it. What’s her ‘gift’?” Julian looked at Sarah who simply shook her head and then turned to Landris. “I don’t think even you could stop a tank, Landris.” His words went completely ignored by Landris who was still glued to the tablet.

“Let me see that again too, Landris.” Sarah reached out for the tablet, and Landris handed it over to her without a fuss.

“She looks even younger than us. How can a tiny girl like that be so frightening?” Sarah marveled as she zoomed in on the blurry picture in a futile attempt to get a closer look at the Witch’s facial features. She dragged around the zoomed picture until she stumbled onto the Witch’s right hand that was raised straight from her chest. A solid black band dangled from the Witch’s wrist that seemed like a common and cheap accessory anyone could find at department stores. Sarah owned a pink one herself. The insignificant item made the Witch seem even more like a regular girl to Sarah.

“Well…” Landris cringed as Julian took on his ‘professor’ tone that he unknowingly adapted whenever he shared his vast knowledge. “There are a lot of countries out there that still use child soldiers, and children are so malleable that they sometimes make even better killers than adults do. They can do things adults wouldn’t and couldn’t imagine, doing them without giving it a single thought. So, seeing that, it’s all possible that the Witch could be a terrorist.”

“I guess,” said Sarah as she now zoomed in on the witch’s friend. “Her redheaded friend looks more like our age. He looks cute. Wonder why he follows her around so much.” Sarah smiled and gave a playful look to Julian. “Do you think they’re a couple?”

“Maybe they’re related?” Julian offered his own theory while suddenly feeling a bit sheepish at Sarah’s smile.

“Maybe he’s just stupid or nuts,” Landris answered. “How can you tell if he’s ‘cute’ anyways from that picture?”

Sarah shrugged.

“You have weird taste in men, Sarah,” Julian joined in.

As the kids chattered, Mr. Jung thought over how he ended up here with these kids. To him, all this was still just madness—the Witch, these kids, and Nancy Jones with her programs. How could these kids and others like them hold the world hostage to their whim.

 

“So, basically… you want me to babysit.” He recalled his meeting from day before.

Mr. Jung had a slight accent whenever he spoke, but it was so minute that only the most petty would point it out. A middle-aged man, his body had seen better years. The only things remaining of his bravado days in the military were his poor excuse for a civilian haircut that was always gelled to a shine and combed to make it seem even shorter, and the trainings ingrained in his mind and body that even showed with how he walked.

He sat across from the mahogany desk of the director, Nancy Jones. Her desk, with a cup of fresh tea on it like any other time he saw Director Jones in her office, was placed in front of a wide panel window that oversaw this entire facility of the Silver Aegis Private Security Firm. The grand office room was elegantly decorated and furnished from top to bottom with exuding tastefulness. Mr. Jung never was very artistic, but even he felt a bit of awe for the extravagance of the room—it was rich yet lacked overtness, and all while still being grand.

“Ma’am?” Mr. Jung tried to get Nancy’s attention away from her tablet and focused back on him.

“You were former special forces in your country with high commendations,” Nancy recited off of her tablet. It was exactly what Mr. Jung wrote in his application to the company. “That’s quite impressive. Not to mention you also spent a little time as an intelligence agent after your military career.” This time, Nancy didn’t recite from her tablet. She looked right at Mr. Jung and studied him. Unlike before, the details of his time in the intelligence community weren’t reported in his application. To be precise, no one should know. Mr. Jung kept his poker face.

“Father of two children with a son of age fifteen and a daughter of age twelve. Tough time for parents, I imagine. Going through the trouble of moving to a new country for this job, I’m assuming was for their benefit?” said Nancy with a gentle smile.

“Yes, but what does any of this have to do with anything?” He and his family had been researched. It wasn’t the cleanest feeling in the world, but she was his boss and his meal ticket. Before the timing was too late, he added, “Ma’am?”

“I’d guess you are a better father than a patriot,” Nancy continued. “…the money and the opportunities here were too good to shy away from. But there are some blanks here that I’m curious about.

 

Caving in to his hunger, Landris walked to the front counter of the restaurant where he saw they had a basket of complimentary hard candies for their customers. He popped one into his mouth and pocketed another for dessert.

 

Mr. Jung maintained his deadpan expression as he listened to the director. On the surface, Director Jones was a woman that he’d wish his daughter to be like when she grew up. Nancy took the time to present herself properly. She was dressed well in clothing that was obviously luxurious but subtle with opulence much like her furniture, and she carried herself even better than she was dressed. Her golden hair was always perfectly kempt and glowed with radiance, her clothing were always perfectly washed, ironed, and fitted, and she walked in confident strides with perfect posture. Neither newly rich nor petulantly rich, she was groomed into her class and naturally exuded her status. Young and powerful, and as elegant as she was intelligent, Nancy’s presence demanded respect. For the lesser few, simply being around her made them feel inadequate and uncomfortable.

“What did you do initially before you came here? There’s a couple of years here you had off after you quit the intelligence work.”

“Money wasn’t good in the government job. I wanted a better life for my two kids, so I took on a business opportunity my friend offered. It failed. So, I came here. Are we going somewhere with this?” The usual calm manner of speech by Mr. Jung was slightly littered with snappiness. Nancy left the tablet on her desk and walked towards the giant panel window that made her office into a watchtower. The sun was shining down on Facility Zero, a small part of the Silver Aegis that also happened to be one of its most important division. From her watchtower, she oversaw the training courses, the armory filled with vehicles and weapons, the rows of trucks bringing in new supplies, and the school and dormitories that were the very purpose of the entire facility. Even as they spoke, there were students being groomed by the Silver Aegis to become leaders of the coming new age. She responded to Mr. Jung as she observed her empire ticking like gears in a clock.

Nancy spoke gently, “When my father started this company, it was just him and a few friends he met from the service. He knew that the world would always need guns, and guns free from a leash would be more beneficial and appreciated in this world than the ones that were simply used as the government’s exclamation mark,” Nancy spoke with her eyes on her father’s legacy. “His work, Silver Aegis, is now the world leader in private security and became one of the most profitable businesses in the world. We have more than twenty facilities placed around the world equipped with gear and technology that can match the military and even some that the military is too cheap to use for their own personnel. On our best days we are the only ones able to provide protection to those the military can’t seem to find the motivation to help.”

Mr. Jung raised an eyebrow.

“We have more than a hundred thousand successful operations and currently employed in twenty-four different nations for fifty-three different operations. A few of those operations technically don’t exist. Right here, Facility Zero, is one such place. Do you have any idea how much it costs to keep an operation of this size off the record?” Nancy seemed proud and amused as her eyes smoldered with ambition.

Ms. Jones finally turned away from the windows and made eye contact with Mr. Jung. The light shining from the windows outlined her body with light. If one didn’t know better, some might say she seemed angelic.

 

Landris sat back down in the booth. He handed a candy to each person, and all but Mr. Jung who was deep in thought thanked him. Julian and Sarah continued their conversation as Landris looked out the window.

 

But the costs are worth it because all else that we have doesn’t compare to what we have here—the students in that academy. Those kids in there will not only be the world’s future, but our future. The Gifted marks the end of an old era and the beginning of a new one. The world will never be the same.”

Mr. Jung knew about the vague purposes of the facility. Other than the top people and instructors, most of the staff rarely got to see the kids studying, training and exercising their ‘gifts.’ Even so close, the Gifted were a bit of tall tale.

“So yes, it’s a babysitting job. But you’re babysitting the company’s most valuable assets; especially, the boy who will be the company’s face for our new project. If things work out, we will also be getting our hands on the world’s most notorious Gifted.”

“The Witch.” Mr. Jung crossed his arms. It was his way of relaxing a little. “How credible is the info that she’ll be in that city on that day?”

“Certain enough to dispatch the students with a chaperone. Though sadly even with such a tip, going myself is a risk we cannot take yet.”

“Is the ‘face of the project’ you’re speaking about that delinquent, Landris?”

Nancy was well aware of Mr. Jung’s distaste for Landris.

“He has rough edges but he’s been making progress. Landris is still a teen and still has much to grow. But he has more than proven himself with his capabilities and his abilities are the type to draw admiration from people. His stubbornness combined with his ambitions will get him to places. He will do what other will not—he’ll be a leader.”

“He’s a delinquent. A punk. There are also pretty troubling rumors of his past.” Jung expected a response from Nancy with that last statement, but his boss remained collected—always wearing a mask with a gentle smile. “I think you see too much in him and I can’t say I understand why.”

“Think of him what you will, Mr. Jung. But there are many other agencies and governments looking to acquire these Gifted children, and your job is to watch over three that we have.”

“Why not just send some of us out instead of using the Gifted?”

“If she were any other Gifted, yes, we’d handle it between us. However, this is the Witch we are dealing with…”

“…and you don’t really think we can handle her,” Mr. Jung finished Nancy’s sentence for her. He figured she probably wasn’t wrong.

“In so many words, yes.” Nancy took a sip of her tea. “Besides, I think it’d be great for the students to get some experience outside the facility, and they’ll help even out the odds. I’m also going on a hunch that she’ll be more cooperative with other Gifted than with just us.”

“If you say so, ma’am. Alright, so what can these kids do exactly?”

“The exact details are confidential for now. But the students we’ve selected to accompany Landris are the ones we thought would be the perfect complement to him and to this assignment. They know their roles, your job is to simply make sure they stay out of trouble and have supervision.”

“When are we leaving?” Mr. Jung asked. He decided not to press further for an answer.

“Tonight. The students are already getting packed and expecting you.”

 

“Here’s your order!”

The smell of eggs and buttermilk pancakes stole Mr. Jung from his flashback. He saw Sarah and Julian’s eyes glimmered with glee when the plates landed in front of them. Curiously, Landris eyes were glued to the window.

“Landris? Your food is here,” Sarah said with matching excitement in her eyes as Julian.

“Look,” Landris said, pointing out the window. “The redhead.”

Landris’s words drew everyone around the table to look out the window at the city street. Across the street on the sidewalk was a young man carrying a bag and a drink carrier with what seemed to be two coffees. His long crimson hair peeked out from the black hood of his leather jacket.

Landris leapt out from his seat before Mr. Jung could give any instructions. Guided only by his gut feelings, Landris rushed out the door to chase after the red-haired boy.


Revised Edition of Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian will be released on 12/9/2015!

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a Date with Emily Wolf

Did you ever hear the cries of a blue jay?

It sounds like a drunken Tinkerbell screaming for her life.

I’m starting out with that because that’s apparently how I’ll be starting out this morning. On a goddamn Saturday morning no less.

You see in my mind, if I wasn’t so lazy, I already went to the garage, broke down my car, somehow fashioned myself a military grade flame thrower, and burned the whole tree down while laughing maniacally as I watched the blue jay make its last few drunken screams.

In pain.

Suffering.

Suffering as I did.

But I remind myself, goosefraba. Goooooooooooooooooosefraba. Find my center.

It is a lazy Saturday, after all. A blissful, restful, and maybe even a delightfully sinful day was waiting for me just outside those bedroom doors. Limitless possibilities.

Of course, I’m going to park myself on the couch and play video games.

Of course.

Maybe even order Pizza later because screw cookin’.

I’m going to enjoy this day all for myself, anyway I want it, however I want it, for however long I want it until the clock strikes midnight.

No one will bother me this day I think to myself as I grab a water bottle out of the fridge.

Ding-dong

I don’t care, Mormons! I say as I ignore the doorbell and turn on my game system.

Ding-dong

I don’t care! Girl Scouts! I’m going to punch some scrubs online! I say as I ignore the doorbell once again and pick up my joystick.

Bang-bang. They’re knocking–smacking–on the door.

Did… Did I pay my bills?

BANG-BANG. I’m pretty sure those are kicks.

When was the last time I did something to piss off the Yakuzas?

“Goddamn it! Open up! I know you’re in there!” She yells.

Emily. Emily Wolf.

I begrudgingly drag my body over and open the door. Soon as she heard the lock click, she barges in with that wide grin of hers.

“What up, nerd! It’s a beautiful day and you’re going to spend it cooped up in your room again?!”

I peek outside and it’s cloudy. It’ll probably rain soon.

“I didn’t know you were coming over today,” I say.

“Yeah, hope you don’t mind but Noah was taking care of some stuff and I was bored,” Emily says as she holds up a big bag she’s carrying. “I brought chicken though!”

Any complaint I have disappears with the smell of the chicken. I’m probably smiling already without realizing.

By the time I come to my senses, I’m by my kitchen counter opening up the bag and checking out my loots.

“Were you getting your butt kicked?” She asks as she fiddles around with my joy stick. “You always get your butt kicked. You were getting your butt kicked.”

She makes a whipping noise.

“I didn’t even get to play yet.” She got the extra crispy kind. Emily doesn’t like the extra crispy kind. I like the extra crispy kind.

I grab a couple of plates and dump some chicken, cob of corn and macaroni and cheese that came as the package for the two of us.

From afar it sounded like she was just smashing the buttons and the stick but by the time I set the plates on the table in front of the couch I’m surprised to find that she’s winning.

“Hell, yeah!” She screams as she secures the win. “I like this game. I should buy this game.”

“You don’t even have the console,” I take a big bite into the chicken.

Without looking down she grabs hers and does the same.

I always saw Emily with a sense of envy. She was that type of person that seemed to be so carefree but be so damn talented at everything.

It’s petty but I see her playing this game I’ve played since college. I know if she had wanted to, she could be better than I ever could be in a few months.

But, even then, I always enjoyed her compa…

“Why you just sitting there in silence, ya freak?” Emily asks as she sees me trailing off in my thoughts.

…ny. But today… or any other day soon I didn’t really want to see her.

“Kay, you’re starting to freak me out now,” Emily starts another match and hurriedly gobbles down glops of macaroni and cheese before it begins.

Because decisions were made and I had news I didn’t want to share with her. Something I wasn’t sure if it was either appropriate or inappropriate for me to share.

“Watch me make this kid cry,” she said with devilish grin. “Children’s tears are the fuel to my life source.”

I believe it.

“Emi…” I clear my throat to make it unnecessarily dramatic. “Emily.”

“I already have a boyfriend I love from the bottom of my heart, Mr. Writer,” Emily cuts me off.

“God damn, it.” I shut up and just watch her finish the match.

“What is it?” She sets the joystick down and looks at me.

“I think…” I pause again and make the mistake of making it unnecessarily dramatic once more. “I think need to tell you something.”

“Am I pregnant?”

“No.”

“Are you pregnant?”

“No.”

“Is Noah pregnant?”

“Just…” I let out a deep sigh.

“…What is it?” She’s serious now.

“Someone’s going to die,” I tell her. Great date.

Emily grin’s gone and she looks at me like she’s about to punch me. She scratches her fake blonde hair and lets out a sigh.

“What are you talking about?” She’s agitated.

I try to grab the chicken and she looks at me as if I’m committing a murder dodging her question.

“Hey!” She raises her voice. “I’m talking to you! Who’s going to die?!”

I’m a coward. I’m an asshole. Why did I say anything?

“Choke on it,” Emily tells me as she gets up and fixes her bomber jacket. She rushes over to the front door and I instinctively go after her against my better senses.

She grabs the door handle and pauses for a moment.

“Do what you got to do,” Emily says. “Just do what you got to do.”

I can’t give her a reply but she knows what it’d be.

It’s raining.

She walked out into the rain as I wonder if she regretted taking the time out of her life to visit someone like me.

But I know such a thought would offend her.

Emily Wolf regrets nothing.


Hello everyone!

This is a personal writing exercise that I’ve been asked by my editor and few others to share on this blog.

To get to know my characters better I go on a “date” with them to explore their thoughts, reactions, and just overall dimensions of what makes them a person.

Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it goes terribly. I’ll try to post a few more that I’ve done in the future.

The new edits are done for Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian and it should be live by 1 PM  PST 5/11/205!

Thank you everyone for your support!

Aramiru UP UP & AWAY!

But I’ll be back soon with the 9th Entry because otherwise I’d be a horrible person.

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Twitter: @ASAramiru
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ASAramiru

7 Things I’ve Learned About Writing While Writing My First Novel

These are the 7 things I’ve learned about writing ever since I decided to pursue a writing career with my first novel!

Bet you already knew that because you read the title.


1. Less is Almost Always More

Be the guide to your audience’s imagination and not the commandant.

This is the shortest one of the list because I didn’t want to be too ironic.

2. the Audience Can’t Read Your Mind

As we write we can see our stories in our heads. The cities and its glimmering windows at night, the faces of our characters and all of their complexions, and even the crumpled up page of a gossip paper tumbling down the filthy street.

We can see it all to the most minute details. Even if there’s some sort of a fantastic action happening, our minds don’t fail to keep track of all the participants and whatever they may be doing.

But the audience can’t peer into our minds.

So what Aramiru? That’s why we write isn’t it? To put down our imagination on paper? And do you know how cheesy and tacky it is to ask yourself questions in third person?

Yes.

It’s easy to forget the difference between the perspectives of our audience reading our books versus the perspectives of us, writers, writing our own books.

Accounting for this could simply mean making certain that only the necessary details are present when describing a scene or simply realizing what the the necessary details are.

Making sure the action sequences flow in a way where it’s easy for the readers to follow.

And not to lose ourselves having too much fun writing that we forget those who are reading.

This becomes even more important with the logic and the plot of the book. We are gods to our own books and we know all that will happen. But are we writing in a way so that the audience can understand our intentions and our infinite wisdom?

By understanding how the audience is perceiving the story is how we can plan the twists, the developments and the future.

Plot holes are bound to happen. Sometimes accidentally and sometimes purposefully. There are even times when something might not even be a plot hole but be perceived as such. Having a grasp of our audience’s views of our story can prevent foreseeable plot holes, reduce the damage of planned plot holes, and hopefully never allow unforgivable plot holes to happen.

This is one of few on the list that’s hey-I-already-know-this-this-is-basic-you-shamefully-basic-person material. Yes, this should be pretty commonsense. However, it is also one of those tidbits where your perspective and skills with it will grow exponentially as you keep writing and have an audience that you can interact with.

At least, I did. And this an article of the things that I’ve learned. Me. And as the great Michael Jackson once said, “HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”

3. a Lot of Writers Think They Suck

Yep. We’re an insecure bunch. I used to look in the mirror and think to myself, “you’re an ugly spawn-of-semen-and-egg but that’s fine because you can live with that.”

Now, I look in the mirror and think, “your writing makes puppies cry and children lose faith in humanity. Can you live with that?”

No. No, I can’t.

And as I draw a smile on my face with a crimson lipstick so that I can at least pretend I’m smiling, I realize quickly that it doesn’t matter–at least it shouldn’t matter enough to stop me.

Me sucking. Not my pretty, pretty smile.

Look, there are some phenomenal writers out there. Those who had the gift and put in the hard work to become legends of this craft. And as writers, we also have to compete against timeless masters of writing from even centuries ago.

But it doesn’t have to be about competing with their work and talents.

What’s my work? What’s my talent? Why should I worry so much about what they are without even fully realizing what I am. Did I push myself to the limit to know that I’m not at their level? Does that even matter?

As a writer who wants to tell stories and writing being simply his medium to do that, I realized I just have to write well enough so that I can deliver my stories to the best of my abilities that’s most faithful to my vision.

What else can I do? Just stop writing and never pursue anything with it?

It’s not about being the best there is but being the best at telling your own story.

That doesn’t mean I gave up on becoming a great writer of the legends or something like that. But I think instead of looking at our flaws and telling ourselves we suck, it’s better to ask ourselves ‘why?’ Why do we suck? Where are we lacking? What can we work on?

You do you and be the best you that you can be, because you’re not them and you are you and you have your own talents that only you can do the things that you do. You are awesome. Oh, you. You.

And you still shouldn’t be discouraged if you’re one of those writers who are more focused about the craft than the storytelling.

Here’s an overused quote from high school girls around the world that’s all over their Myspace, Xanga, or whatever the blazes the kids are using these days. Imagine these words with glitters and with a night sky backdrop.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Just don’t forget to find your own voice somewhere along your journey. Be your own star.

A pretty, pretty star.

TL;DR: It doesn’t matter if we suck, it only matters where we are going to go with our suckage.

4. But a Lot of Us Might Actually Suck

What? You think I’m just being quirky by making the entire list of back and forth paradoxical statements?

And I know what I said up there but the point I’m trying to make now is that we lack self-awareness in different ways. I think especially among us still becoming acquainted with our writing.

It’s really hard to measure where we stand with our writing unless we had the time to establish ourselves with a large group honest peers. For writers, this usually means reviewers and readers for the most part.

Look, within the creative community there’s this unwritten rule about not criticizing one another in public. In private? Shoot. Let the poops fly.

But don’t think of that as necessarily a bad thing. It’s simply manners. And it’s also a bit selfish for someone to expect a stranger or even a friend to give them a harsh reality check and say painfully honest things. It’s uncomfortable and hard for people to do that and in most cases we don’t have the right to force people to put themselves in a position to possibly open a can of worms/whupass.

That’s why I think you need to really appreciate someone who’s brave and honest enough to tell you that you suck and tells you why–always remember to thank those people.

(Obviously, there’s a difference between someone who’s a hater and he’s gonna hate, hate, hate and someone who’s calling you out on your flaws. )

At this stage of my writing ‘career’ (I put my big toe in the pool!) I want more people to tell me how I can improve rather than give me compliments and encouragements. Look, I’m no Dalai Lama. If someone criticizes me, depending on what it is, it’ll hurt. I may even question their criticisms little bit to see if they have merit or to understand it better.

But we have to know when we suck so that we can improve. Embrace and love the criticisms. If we can’t take criticisms, we can’t expect to get better.

It hurts but no pain, no gain. Find someone who will tell you that you’re bad and why you’re bad.

5. Editors Are Gods

A samurai once said, you must choose a worthy lord because you may slice your tummy for him someday.

I don’t know who said that.

I am not a samurai.

And I’m not really that well-versed in Japanese historical figures. I just wanted to add that so you can keep that in your mind as you read this section.

An editor will become your partner for your novel. You’re the mommy and the editor is the daddy. Yes, put your 60s gender stereotype hats on because otherwise that analogy doesn’t work.

Stephen King famously said “to write is human, to edit is divine.”

You should almost always listen to your editor because they are almost always right and they will always be the ones who’ll turn your manuscript into a novel. I knew an editor can make a difference but I just didn’t realize how much.

A good editor will help you-do-you, you-do-you better. You’re a piece ribeye and they’re the salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil straight from Italy. They’re the trained outside eye and mind that the clutters of a single mind writing a book needs to clean up.

I am so thankful for my editor because she had to work through my first pile of mess. My style of writing is that I have to just puke my thoughts onto the page and then sort through it later. Because of the process I went through with her, I am exponentially better than where I was before.

Get a good editor. A good editor cares, understands, but is fearless in calling you out.

6. It’s Our Story

There are a lot of questions on writing forums about, “are my chapters too long?”, “is a goody-goody character boring”, “should I not make my character all-powerful”, “is a half-dragon, a half-elf character weird?”

The answer to all those, by the way, is: It entirely depends on your own story. Even the half-dragon, half-elf character. 

But this point isn’t about that obvious answer. It’s about the next step, the level up, of that point.

I wondered for a while how I can write my story. What were the rules? What was the general mold for doing something that I wanted to do?

And I honestly couldn’t really find anything that satisfied me and I quickly asked myself what was I doing? What am I exactly looking for?

I had an opportunity–especially as an indie writer–to write my book in a way that should be perfect for the story I wanted to tell. Why follow the conventions and the rules of others simply because it worked for them? It worked for them because it was their rules and conventions for their own stories.

We have to understand our own stories; what they are and what they aren’t.

No one should be able to tell your story better than you can. So don’t follow any archetypes simply to follow an archetype. That archetype might not work for your story even if they seem to be in the genre, have similar characters, and present familiar themes and motifs.

Take advice from editors like they’re sprinkled with diamonds but take advice from writers with a grain of salt. Other than technical and perhaps even general content advice, other writers will see your story with their Ray-Bans.

Really chew on what I said up there before simply swallowing it in by the way. I’m not saying other writers can’t offer you knowledge and criticisms to write your own story better. But, I am saying, ultimately, you should know and own up to your own story.

With that said, we also have to be aware of there are certain general rules of writing that exists for a reason. These are the rules that’s been tested and proven through long history of writing and some that were born from the shifting metagames in the market.

For example, it’s been a while since slow paced books had any place in popular novels. People want fast paced stories that hooks them right away so that they could have the initial momentum to get through a 200-400 page novel.

There’s generally a lack of slow developing novels that gently brews and ages its plot and character to develop some sort of a liquor-reference-bourbon-reference-oaky-soaky-flavored plot.

I wonder if Moby-Dick or A Tale of Two Cities was released in today’s world if it’d be popular at all.

And there’s another key there. Do you want to be popular or do you want to be critically acclaimed or both?

Do you want to make money and write vampire x gargoyles erotica? Or do you want to gamble your life by throwing your novel into the skyscraper of the fantasy genre?

In the end, it’s YOUR story. You do you and do what you want to do because I like the way you move. Just know that reality is always around the corner.

How many “you” do I have in this?

7. An Audience is Earned

Everything written should deserve some sort of an audience. A good audience will provide judgment to the writings and nurture them to grow or have them be killed and brutally murdered if necessary.

At this point, you can probably sense how important I think an audience is to a writer. That’s probably the secret #8th thing I’ve learned.

To a writer, there’s nothing more important than readers to help them understand themselves as a writer.

The greatest learning experience and growth I had with my writing so far has been through the beta-reading and editing. It does wonders for you and for your novel.

However, not everyone and everything earns an audience. You have to work for it.

Working doesn’t mean just write something but it means becoming worthy of someone’s time and effort. Because it takes both of those things things to read a book. Especially compared to what’s out there today to enjoy as entertainment like YouTube, Reddit, video games, and Vine (with that you’re literally competing against a 6 second entertainment where a person simply has to click to enjoy).

Even to the most avid readers this is true (even more so in a sense) because you’re asking them to devote to your book the time and effort they could have spent on other books they wanted to read.

So how do we earn an audience? During the writing process this means taking your own time and effort to gain beta readers and reviewers. Be cordial, accommodating, don’t grovel but still know that they’re doing you a favor at the end of the day unless you’re some sort of writing superstar.

But if you’re a writing superstar I wonder why you’re reading this entry up to this point.

Do you like me? Like what I wrote?

PM me 😉. Ooo la la.

When you’re done writing, whether you’re traditional or indie, you still have to do what you need to do to reach out to your readers.

That could mean book signings, public readings, promotional giveaways, making sure getting the reviews for your novel, and etc.

For indie writers this can be an extremely difficult process. An extremely difficult process. AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT PROCESS.

For traditionally published writers I understand it’s more-or-less already been setup for y’all.

It can be something simple as blogging. It’s fun, helpful, and I got to save my money on therapy bills.

I’m earning my readers through my blog by sharing my experiences and little things I learned here and there in hopes of helping, entertaining, and perhaps even proving that I am a writer worthy of their time. It’s also serving as an odd journal for this writing journey which is also nice.

Nothing in life is free. Even if someone deserves something doesn’t mean they don’t have to earn it–especially something as valuable as someone’s time.

BONUS: It’s Not Supposed to be Lucrative

Don’t write for money and fame. If you want that you’ll have much easier time with YouTube, acting, music, Twitch, and etc.

I’m not saying getting success in those avenues are easy. Far from it. It’s extremely hard. But at least they’re in the spotlight of the mainstream.

Writing really isn’t to an extent. It’s a dinosaur of an entertainment that’ll always have its place only because of its history, easy entry, and because of how quintessential it is to our civilization.

Write because you have to.

Write because if you don’t you feel like something is wrong with your life.

Write because every time you see someone else’s work you feel like you need to be in the arena competing as well.

Write because you love it.

The money will come or it may never come. Only difference is if that matters to you or not at the end of the day when you’re left just with your stack of papers.

And for the love of all that’s holy and Poseidon, don’t quit your day job or school to write.

It’s not fun to write hungry and it’s not fun to write worrying-about-lights-going-off-and-oh-my-god-is-that-tow-truck-here-for-my-car-no-its-not-thank-goodness-but-I-think-my-garbage-man-didn’t-take-my-garbage-today. There’s absolutely no romance in it. Especially, if you have loved ones who cares about you or if you have loved ones you have to take care of.

Life’s a game of chance. Bet smart. Don’t  bet on the 1% by throwing away on the 99.

Are you the next J. K. Rowling? Maybe Stephanie Meyers? Maybe Stephen King?

Who knows?

But none of them quit their day job to write and neither should you.

I’ll share someday why I want to warn so critically against people who’re thinking about quitting jobs and schools for a dream of making it big with writing. But that’s it for this entry.


Keep Up With  the Updates!
Twitter: @ASAramiru

My novel is currently available on Amazon.com! Check it out [HERE]

Inside Story: I almost played Frisbee with my laptop writing this entry.  I thought the new Wordpress editor auto-saved now (which would be fantastic) after having drafts get loaded up again after I left the page before. Nope it does not. Hit that save button.

My Top 5 Fails as a First Time Self-Publisher

This was a post I made on Reddit a couple of weeks ago. It had a positive response so I thought I’d share it with everyone here as well. I’ll be doing a follow up post titled: My Top 5 Successes as a First Time Self-Publisher and perhaps another follow up titled: Breaking Down the Budget: How to Cut Costs.

These… are sort of sounding like some sort of mutant baby of late night infomercials and Buzzfeed…

Anyways! Enjoy! I hope these will be helpful!


Longtime lurker here (sometimes a contributor on my other accounts)! With my book’s release last week (and waiting for the darn Thanksgiving dinner) I wanted to share my Top 5 Fails so that others don’t make the same mistakes. This is more for the other newbies like myself and for veterans to just giggle and groan at.

Some of these were faults of my own and some of these were angry Odin throwing pickles at me.

I’ll add some background information in the comment section so check that there for context.

But before we begin, I want to assure all of you that I’m not an idiot. Really, I’m not. My mom can back me up on this.

Mom?

Mom?

Mother?

Whatever. The reason I’m trying assure you all of my intelligence is because no matter how smart you are, you can still make mistakes. And right now the writing world is sort of the wild wild west with tempting uncertainties and vicious traps. Tread carefully and smartly.

The Top 5 Fails:

1. Lost the entire manuscript.

Okay… So… maybe this isn’t the best one to start off with after claiming that I’m not an idiot (I’m not?).

So this could be considered either Osiris throwing yams at me or a fault of my own for not knowing the basics of the modern digital age.

One evening I was working on the manuscript when my screen turned blue and gave me the middle finger. Tried restarting the computer and it just gave me more middle fingers.

Luckily, few of my friends are actually professionals in this field so I called them for help and long story short the files were unsalvageable.

Lesson here? Use cloud storage and/or external hard drive. Make it a habit to save into those at the end of writing sessions. This has honestly set me back probably anywhere from 6 months to 1.5 years–not necessarily because of the rewrite but because of how life and schedule works.

Timing is everything and don’t lose the timings of life because of a preventable tragedy.

2. Not timing things properly.

What did I just say up there? I don’t remember.

If you want reviews, you should be sending your books out generally 5-6 months before you plan to publish (the average cutoff time for most reviews is about 3 months before publishing date). You have to also understand many of them will not consider your book if you’re self-published/no-name writer and many of them may take longer to review a book than you’d think.

It takes about a week or two to be able to proof your physical copy of the novel (if you do CreateSpace you can do the digital proof which is immediate). After the proof it takes about 3 business days for it to show up on the market other than the printing service’s own website.

Beta-reading, editing, and even just the writing all should be scheduled in a way that each of those processes have the proper time they need to do their function properly while not dragging it on too long. I think this is something to pick up on by as one grows as a writer and understands their own pace to know where to cut the fat off and where to add… the… fat… on?

…In Japan you can actually order just the fat to grill and eat. That was fun and delicious.

I had my reasons for forcibly pushing my book out on a certain date but if you can help it don’t do the same. There were many opportunities I missed out on simply because of lack of better scheduling for whatever reason.

3. Not having a proper budget.

You get what you paid for.

If you’re self-publishing it helps immensely to have a healthy budget. Money will allow you to get ads, reviews, edits, arts, and pay the bills so that you don’t have to eat McChicken and a McDouble every other night and wonder if you’re gonna get cancer but strangely crave them when you don’t have them and cry because you feel like a Mackey-Dee addict as you pick up crumbs off your floor.

But when you put a McChicken inside a McDouble it’s a $2.50 USD spit from the heavens.

Anyways, money runs the world and such. We all know this. Check in the comment section for my personal budget which seemed like the minimum budget without compromising quality very much–if at all.

If I had a better budget I think it’d have helped significantly to make certain things happen faster, quicker, and done more professionally.

4. Not Realizing What Tools to Use for What

Use Scrivener. Really. Use Scrivener—especially—if you’re thinking about self-publishing.

This wasn’t really a fail but I’m just squeezing this one in to save some people the time and hassle. This program is a godsend and should be the quintessential tool for modern writers. There’s definitely a learning curve but if you become even at least comfortable with it, the program will help you save time and money in the long run… and save your teeth from being pulled out when you have to make the epub format.

Use InDesign if you can for formatting for the physical copy. The amazing folks at Scrivener (the customer services pretty awesome over there) flat out told me their program wasn’t really meant for endgame formatting.

They’re very correct about that.

InDesign. You’ll feel like a god of book formatting. Possibly the lamest god there is.

Try to avoid Google Doc. It can’t handle big files. I thought it’d be fun and modern to try Google Doc for editing. My editor knocked on my door and rubbed sea salt in my eyes. It’s only good for a quick, live editing sessions.

Finally, social media kicks ass. Serious ass. I’m incredibly obtuse and awkward with them as they always felt a bit weird with me. But if you learn to harness the power of social media you can effectively tip the scale between the big publishers and yourself with just a smartphone.

(EDIT 12/1/2014: From the comment section at /r/writing[1] from the discussion with /u/JustinBrower [2] :

Yes! You’re very correct!

InDesign is Terrible at eBook

Which is why I absolutely recommend everyone to use Scrivener which is pretty great at ePub formatting.

This should be the basic order:

  1. Write in Scrivener.
  2. Export to Word Doc and ePub.
  3. Transfer the Word Doc to inDesign for physical book formatting.
  4. Be happy that you didn’t go bald from tearing your hair out.
  5. Have a pint.

P.S. Take advantage of Calibre a free epub reader and conversion program if you have to.)

5. Not inquiring agents first.

Maybe in five to ten years things will have changed to a point where self-publishing can be as legitimate as traditional publishing.

People like Michael J. Sullivan is paving the path for that direction (check out his stories and tidbits all over the reddit and other writing forums) not to mention other famous traditionally published writers dipping their hands into self-publishing.

But for now… self-publishing isn’t there yet. Give yourself and your book a chance by inquiring agents/traditional publishing first. Yes, you might be taking a hit in terms of revenue and time but having traditionally published book will more open more doors than a self-published one (for now and depending on degree of success on self-published title).

If you get accepted, it’ll also takes loads off of your shoulders in workload so that you can focus more on writing. You can also put that book proudly on your resume while with self-published titles, due to stigmas or whatever, you really can’t/shouldn’t yet (unless you were notably successful). One can be comfortable in a resume and a portfolio while the other may really only shine in a portfolio.

Obviously, this is sort of me speaking from my own experiences and research so if anyone can tell me if I’m wrong please do so and add that into the discussion.

I personally didn’t do any inquiries because I set out to self-publish so I just stayed on that path. That’s sort of the way I am. Self-publishing is the new frontier and there is something exciting and adventurous about it. But like many of those who went on the Oregon Trail, you might not be the one who strike gold and really should have stayed back in New York because now you’re dying of dysentery.

Unless you’re one of the few, self-publishing doesn’t really leave you with much other than the sense of accomplishment of having your ebook… being added on to the mountain of ebooks.

So if you’re serious about becoming a professional writer I’d recommend considering traditional publishing before going to self-publishing.


That’s all folks! There are oodles of more fails and some successes I’d love to share but this turned out to be much longer already than I anticipated! I’ll answer any questions if anyone has any!

P.S. My book is also free today for Thanksgiving! If anyone’s interested let me know!


Background Info:

Time till completion: ~3 Years

Budget: Very low. The recession effectively kicked my ass. So my idea for the budget for the book was to keep it as low as possible without compromising the quality of the novel as much as possible.

I’ve spent so far:

Editor: $200.00

Artist for the Cover Art: $100.00

Website Domain: $15.00

Proof Copies of the Novel: ~$20.00 (shipping costs are fantastic) Other Spending (ISBN, Supplies, Copy Right, Comfort food, etc.): ~$300.00

Lot of these were covered by scraping away at my wallet and through a small, somewhat successful, KickStarter.

To save on costs, I did the cover design and the copyediting/formatting myself. You can be the judge of whether or not I did a good job:

Cover Design: http://imgur.com/LAeNIBK[1][1]

Sample of the Physical Copy of the Novel for formatting: www.tinyurl.com/samplecopy


See you all soon with the 7th Entry7 Things I’ve Learned About Writing is up next!

Keep Up With  the Updates!
Twitter: @ASAramiru

My novel is currently available on Amazon.com! Check it out [HERE]

Holding My Book in My Hands // Thank You Readers.

It was honestly a bit bittersweet.

This is breaking the whole “Entries are about the stuff that happened while writing the book,” but I thought it was significant enough for the blog and myself to discuss this now.

My ebook was released on the November 21st. I actually received the proof copy of the novel on the release day due to some shipping delays.  I didn’t worry too much about it since I already saw the physical copies for the KickStarter backers in the previous week and the two editions essentially shared the same cover design with only slight changes for the spine and the back.

The back was fine.

The spine looked great.

But the front cover that used to the same file for the KickStarter copies were some how dun’ goofed.

In a sense, it was fitting considering how the whole journey had been. It was also somewhat metaphorical of the things I could have done better.

I remembered back to just a week before when I was cutting the tapes on the package for the KickStarter copies. Was I excited? Not really. I was only filled with dread for the release day just a week ahead and yet somewhat looking forward to being able to put this chapter of my life to an end.

Glistening covers of the novels peeked through the crunched up brown packaging papers. My mind emptied out all the thoughts floating around. I gingerly removed one of the books in the tightly packed box.

When I held that book in my hand and I could actually smell that paper… all the thoughts of the days ahead were just… gone. Instead I was absorbed into the memories of all the days before that led up to that exact moment. In my hands was the result of what I started on the hard, dirty floor of a motel room 3 years ago. Even just a few months back, I was wondering if I would be able to see the damn thing.

I flipped through it as every chapter and page turned into a scrap book of memories. Instead of the letters and words, I saw the moments and events that made everything on these pages possible. Each chapter, sometimes even just a single page, told a tale of their own to me.

Late evenings and sacrificed weekends.

Triumphs and failures.

My friends and family.

A life-changing adventure that will meet its humble, if not insignificant, ending in just a week.

1114141357
The KickStarter Edition
1114141358
Creme colored pages because it’s easier on the eyes.

 

1114141357a
the back of the KickStarter Edition. Color scheme and the blurb is different than the copies for sale.

There were things I’ve gained that I never would have gained and there were also things I’ve lost that I would have never lost if I didn’t decide to write 3 years ago.

Was I happy with the dividends?

It was a journey that was perhaps more exciting and dramatic than I could have ever planned for or imagined (and boy was it longer than I ever anticipated). And a  journey that perhaps didn’t have the proper ending that it deserved waiting for it at the end. (Or perhaps it was the most fitting)

I showed my mother the KickStarter copy. She smiled and clapped in joy. I was told I did a good job and she took photos to share it with her friends. I was more-or-less stunned by her reaction. I didn’t expect it. I’m wondering now how my face looked to her but seeing her smile over my book is a good memory to have.

I gave a copy to my editor who also seemed much happier than I was.

My friends who’ve supported me also extended their congratulations.

One KickStarter backer that I delivered the novel in person to greeted me with a smile and excitement. We chatted for a while of what could be my future ahead and we ended the conversation with him letting me know that he was excited to read it.

If anything, I wish there was a better ending–even if it isn’t the most fitting one– for them.

Don’t get me wrong. There was a small part of me that was definitely a bit bittersweet because I thought I deserved more (like a child) for all I’ve put into this project.

But as I set the book back down, I realized I was mostly bittersweet not because of the ending itself but because of the fact that the journey was ending. There were many things that could have went better and many things I could have done better–maybe I wasn’t satisfied with it ending just yet.

Maybe,  I just really enjoyed the ride. I enjoyed working on this dream and believing (sometimes even pretending) that it was possible. That I was tearing away the fantasy from the dream until it turned into reality. During this ride my life went to places that I never thought it could go. Some great, some terrible but all of it were fruitful experiences.

I was bittersweet because even though I wasn’t satisfied yet, I knew given my circumstances I’d have put my pursuit on hold. I want to write more. I still have stories to tell.

But knowing that now for a certain even after all this was, in and of itself, another gift from this journey. It was a grand adventure and I think whatever happens from this point on nothing will change that. I’m glad I decided to write. I’m happy I was able to finish. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.

…although technically I guess the journey isn’t over yet. Maybe this entry was just more of me venting and I may have had no idea yet what I was talking about… Alrighty then.


 

Oh, and hey readers. Yes, you there with a disappointed look on your face!

I started this blog to share my experiences. Part of it was because I really wanted to have a record this experience, part of it was because I thought it’d help me understand this experience, and part of it was because this was something that I was told I should do during this experience.

The point I’m trying to get at is that I’m not going to deny that I started this blog mostly for myself. Even as much as I hope this blog is at the very least entertaining and maybe at its rare moments informative–if not helpful–I started this for me.

But… that sort of changed very quickly once I got started.

I always took this blog very seriously and truly appreciated all the readers who read any of my entries. Knowing that some of you decided to give me part of your time to read what I’ve wrote is a surreal feeling.

Seeing any views and likes on my blog have been super encouraging and delightful. Some of the repeat readers like Damyanti (http://en.gravatar.com/damyantig. Check out her sites if you’re interested in writing! She has some cool stuff) really pushed me to worker harder and harder on this blog.

So although I may have started this blog mostly for myself… I feel I’d be being dishonest to say it’s only about myself now.

I’m not very good at this social media stuff (my Twitter account is a testament to that) and I’m not even sure how to really show my appreciation other than saying,

Thank you.  

I mean that.

Sincerely,
 A. S. Aramiru

P. S. Here’s the new cover design I made that I was talking about earlier. I think I’m getting better at this and interior formatting than writing. The sample has also been [updated] and it looks very pretty:

#6x9 cover BLACK HALO png

 

Here’s the previous cover design for comparison:

15610910_cover

 

P. S. 2 During this weekend I’ll post another Interlude with more character bios! See y’all then

Finding Motivations from Nothing

Alright, this post is going to be unedited so it’ll be rough and ugly.

 

“Finding Motivations from Nothing.”

Phew, it took a long time for me to actually publish this blog entry. Too long.

When I started this blog I made it pretty clear that I wasn’t really out to teach anyone.  I wanted to simply relay my experiences and if that happened to help anyone out there—fantastic. I’m pretty sure this blog is a desperate attempt for me to find some value in the mistakes I’ve made and the experiences that I had. Yes, I should admit this blog is, in a sense, my self-therapy.

I mean, did you know that it’s cheaper to buy alcohol and drugs than to get actual therapy? I do neither of those things but I’m just saying… I mean… doesn’t that say something about our society? I suppose Dr. Whoever deserves to be paid more than Billy-down-the-block-from-Wal-Mart but… wait….where was I? What was I talking about?

Yes. Motivation. Writing. Family friendly blog!

Eh-hem!

I’m certain—at some point—that many writers who’ve attempted to make a living with their work faced this problem. Deciding to dedicate/risk a significant portion of your life to writing changes the craft from being just about the craft. The perspective and the mindset transforms—it has to when your livelihood depends on it. I’m sure it’ll become about the craft again as time passes and we find our own happy places in our careers, but in the beginning it’s about the shift from a hobbyist to a professional.

That’s much more work and commitment than it sounds.

But for this transformation to actually happen and for the writer to have actually considered taking on the transformation in the first place, there are few key motivations that they would have had to have.

1) The dream. For some that may be seeing your book at a store. For some it may be simply having completed writing a novel. And for some it’s swimming in that sweet, sweet writing money. The pool of George Washingtons sprinkled with Lincolns. How soft or how hard that pool may be entirely depends on how big you can dream.

2) The joy. It’s immensely fun to create and lose yourself in your fantasy—to build and grow your characters and your world. It’s like that scene from the Matrix where they just stare at bunch of green numbers and letters flowing down the computer screen but in their eyes they see a woman in a red dress. We writers end up falling in love chasing after that woman in the red dress.

3) The drive. It’s the self-discipline to finish what you started. The desire to accomplish something with the short amount of time we have in this world. An ambition without drive won’t go anywhere.

If you lack “1,” you probably don’t want this enough.

If you lack “2,” this probably isn’t what you’re looking for.

If you lack “3,” it’s likely that you have a bigger problem on your hands than making writing your career.

But how far can these three motivations take you?

It sort of depends on how potent your “3” is, how long it takes you to finish your work, and the immediacy and the amount of reward you’ll receive for the work.

Let’s ignore the first factor I mentioned (the “3”) because that’s sort of the “x” factor. It can be used to basically overcome any trouble I’ve mentioned and didn’t mention as long as it’s strong enough.

So let’s dig into the second and the third factor.

If you’re a fortunate enough writer who finished their work within a few months (or whatever length of time that was short enough that you didn’t deplete your motivation powers and burn out) and who was accepted by a big publisher…. Or if you’re a self-publisher who already had the funds and the connections to have reviewers and advertisers promote your book (or simply not care much about your sales because you won’t be hungry at the end of the day if the book doesn’t sell well)… then you were probably lucky enough to not hit your breaking point during the writing process.

For you, maybe, lacking motivation only mattered to the extent of meeting deadlines.

But what if you’re a broke nobody whose work is taking longer than you ever anticipated for whatever reason?  What if you are someone whose work just wasn’t flashy or (cold hard truth) good enough to catch the eyes of agents and publishers?

You write day after day as the visions of your dreams and the sense of joy in your work become muddled. Maybe you start feeling like you really should be spending your time doing better things with your life than wasting it on a childish dream. Because for the lot of us it’s “time” that’s really the most precious and the most lacking thing in our lives.

If you’re lucky it’s because you’re busy piling up successes in other areas of your life.

If you’re unlucky it’s because you’re busy mending holes and finding shelters from the hailstorms in your life.

The dream can only push you so far until it feels too much like just a dream. The joy can only entrance you for so long until the joy feels empty and unearned.

Why write when I can do something that’ll actually pay the bills?

Why write when I can catch up on some sleep?

Why write when I spend a little more time with my loved ones? Make the next page of my life with them instead of another page of me sitting in front of a computer all night.

Time passing by feels as if you are watching your life drive away and leaving you stranded at a rest stop somewhere.

Right around this time, reality sinks in.

Chance of succeeding as a writer? Slim-to-none.

As a self-published writer? Hope you know how to do things other than just writing.

Your work? It’s an untested product in an overly saturated market.

The field of your work? A senile beast that’s still desperately trying to hold onto its golden years while the whole world has already moved on.

Your competition?  Ironically, too many.

Family and friends are split between those who know and those who don’t know. Split between those who give your their support and those who give you their concerns.

Your mind starts to play tricks.

The work you were satisfied with yesterday feels like they all need to be scrapped.

Other people’s works are unenjoyable because you end up analyzing it and breaking it down to science and wondering about your own work and how you’re doing.

At your most petty and ugly moments, you wonder how certain works could be so successful when they’re so trite, mundane, and cowardly. You know it’s wrong to think this way. You know it’s detrimental to yourself to think this way. But you can’t help it.

Because at the end of the day, you’re just tired and bored of writing for nothing. The motivations you had at the start are depleted. Maybe you’re even a little scared that you’re at the end already and things won’t change.

It gets harder to keep going even with your mind dangling a carrot in front of you because you realize maybe you’ll never get that carrot. Or because you realize there’s a reason why the carrot is dangling out of reach in the first place.

What do you mean the horse is already long dead? *wipes horse blood off*

What do you mean the point was already made like a page ago and I’m just writing to read my own voice? All I’m trying to say is it can get really tough to keep going and not being able to keep going can have much more dreadful implications to some than others.

Oops. *wipes horse blood off again*

The treatment I gave myself (other than binge eating Wendy’s to the point of the manager and I getting to know each other, pumping irons as if the weights owed me money, and taking vacations in fantasy lands of movies and videogames) was making my own motivations.

I don’t know what that would mean for others but for me it was making the decision that I may pay a great price for in the future. At the same time, that very decision was also the best thing I’ve done for my first project.

Beta-Reading.

Even though I knew that this was the path I had to take to complete my project, but it took me a little while to have the muster up the courage to just do it.

I’m not really a shy person or someone who’s afraid embarrassing himself (I mean, of course, I’d rather not).  But using English was, and to an extent it still is, a bit terrifying to me and it’s something that I never really managed to have a thick skin for. To be honest, I should really make some time to improve my English especially since I want to keep writing. Even though I became better about exposing my English abilities through Beta-Reading, I’m still to this day a bit insecure about it.  I think it might be the only thing that I’m really insecure about these days other than my suspicions that I might be balding.

And I really don’t like being insecure about anything… I think it’s a weakness in character and something that I should really address anytime I feel that way. Especially since I think, to an extent (though apparently science says otherwise), English is something I can improve on. If I’m balding, I’m screwed. That may push me over the edge to try to crowdfund hair implants for myself.

My uncles on my mom’s side aren’t bald though. No one’s bald in either of the gene pools. I’d be the first and my descendants would curse me for it.

But anyways, normally beta-readings are done when the novel is polished to the point that it wouldn’t be too embarrassing to show anyone. The beta-readers would read what would be close to the finished product.

I wasn’t even done writing mine let alone had it gone through an editor or even proof-read. All there was were a few drafts of earlier chapters, notes, and general plans for the rest of the novel in my head.

But I always thought it’d be interesting to do a beta-reading in a serialized format. I’d send a batch of chapters out every week and have discussions with my beta-readers every other week. Since this was my first project and the project itself was fairly complex for someone who’s never written anything longer than a thesis paper, I thought this process would give me the compass that I needed. The feedback I’d receive would allow me see if the plot points, tools, and what not, were delivered to the readers the way I intended.

The only thing that held me back was the fear of being naked by revealing my kryptonite to the beta-readers while at the same time telling these people, “yeah, so I’m trying to make this into a thing in my life. Like, hopefully live off of it.”

No one knew I was interested in writing or that I was capable of writing anything substantial.

Technically, I didn’t even know myself if I could write since this was my first venture into serious writing. I could very well be a terrible writer or even just a meh writer. If I could, I’d rather build a machine that’d hook up to my brain and simply create a movie or a book directly with what’s in my mind.

… I mean I suppose it’s possible that my imagination could also be crap and in that case the machine would be useless….

…But I wanted to keep writing. I wanted to be able to measure myself and see if I can improve—to find out where my limits are with this craft. For me this meant finding an audience and finding critics. That was my motivation. I’d accept that I am a crap writer as long as I knew for certain that I was crap.

I handpicked about eight people to be my beta-readers. Each of them selected for various reasons based on what I knew of them: their beliefs, insights, biases, tastes, and etc. The number I actually had in my mind was four, but I decided to double that amount because I wasn’t entirely sure how reliable beta-readers would be.

Ironically, out of the eight, only four read the whole novel and took the time to do the meet ups with me.

So, each week (or sometimes every couple of weeks with few hiatuses in between) I’d let my fingers puke out whatever was on my mind into the computer and once I had enough of piles of puke to form few chapters, I’d send them out to the beta-readers in a batch. I puked because it was a way to keep me writing instead of second-guessing and fixing every darn sentence and never making progress.

There were total of 22 batches and the beta-reading, including the meetings, took about a year to finish.

Most of these batches were only cleaned up and molded into what would closely resemble the final product after they were sent out. My beta-readers were troopers.

Eventually, after the beta-reading ended, the batches went through an editing process by me and then by my editor. Then we edited it again together over and over until we were at least happy enough to have it pried out of our hands. I was told that the first one will never feel complete and never feel good enough to publish… and that was true.

But I remember feeling an incredible contentment during one of the editing sessions knowing that I at least had some sort of a completed form of my novel.

I did it.

The days when I couldn’t even see the peak of this mountain flashed through my mind—when I was beaten, defeated, and at times even hopeless. But I was there now—at the peak—only a few steps away from planting the flag.

For me doing the beta-reading gave me the motivation I needed to keep writing. Not to mention the beta-reading meetings were some of the most fun and educational experiences I had with this project. They are also the fondest memories I have with my novel so far.

So how to find motivations from nothing? You can’t. But you can give yourself some new motivations.

Refuel that spark by giving meaning to your work again. I recommend finding something that’ll help you with your work in the long run—something that’ll be at least beneficial if not memorable.

I don’t think any of us should feel ashamed to feel overwhelmed and to find our selves lacking motivation to keep going. It’s like running a marathon—sometimes you hit your limit and you have to walk. You only lose if you quit. All the work you put into leaving all that road behind you would have been for naught only if you quit. But if you keep giving yourself a reason to walk forward you’re still in the race and every step you take is a step towards the finish line…. so on and so forth, yada, yada, maybe you’ll even find your second wind, yada, yada and when you finally get to cross the finish line whether your last place or not it won’t matter blah, blah, blah. Cliche, cliche, Powerade commercial, American-cheddar-cheese-cheesy, y’all get it.

The struggle is real for every single one of us but it’s also up to us to do whatever it takes to get something out of the struggle.

Hasslehoff smile.

80s Electro-outro-music.

Roll credits.

 

Keep Up With the Updates!
Twitter: @ASAramiru
Shameless Plug: My book, Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian (Young Adult Urban Fantasy), is out on November 21st 2014!

Check it out! HERE!
SAMPLE: HERE!

P.S. So… this should have been released earlier this week but I had trouble being comfortable enough with this entry to release it until now (holy cow it’s 5 am and I need get up in 2 hours). I’m going to keep that outdated(?) date on the “Shameless Plug” on there as a badge of shame. Good night everybody.

P.S. 2 (Oh, right. How could I pay the price for the beta-reading in the future? The abomination that is Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian ALPHA version that the beta-readers had to read is floating around somewhere on the internet. My editor and I actually discussed perhaps releasing samples of this version one day to discuss the power of editing and the changes I’ve/We’ve made)