I'm not good at these sorts of things," Ross murmured, watching raindrops cascade down the window before him. "I think it would be best if you go, instead."
Annahlise frowned. "You're his friend," she said. With a single flap of her golden wings, the young woman pushed herself up from the ground and settled onto a bedpost. She perched there, maintaining perfect balance.
"Being his friend doesn't mean I can handle a situation like this," Ross replied, turning to face the siren, "I'll botch it. If I go in there right now, I'll just tell him to toughen up and get over it. That isn't what he needs to hear right now, is it?"
"No," sighed Annahlise, "it isn't. Maybe after a few heartbreaks, but this is his first one."
Ross raised an eyebrow, "That can't be right. There have been others. He doesn't remember them very well, but there have been others."
"Exactly," said Annahlise, gliding down from the bedpost and landing softly beside Ross. She pulled her wings against her back. "He doesn't remember the others, so they're irrelevant. This pain he's feeling now is... new. I suppose I'll speak with him."
"Good luck," Ross whispered, turning back toward the window.
Annahlise left the servali man and approached the door on the other side of the bedroom. She stepped through it, into the disheveled hallway, and crossed to another door on the opposite side of the hall. She knocked as she pushed that door open, announcing her presence to the room's inhabitant.
Aaron Rhake was sitting on a bed, facing away from her. Like Ross, he was staring through a window. The moon was shining on this side of the castle, so a few bright beams illuminated the room, making up for the absence of candlelight. The beams passed through droplets of water on the window, casting mesmerizing shadows across the floors, furniture, and walls.
"Aaron?" said Annahlise, closing the door behind her as she approached. "It's Annahlise."
Aaron didn't move.
Annahlise stepped toward the man and cautiously sat beside him. She noticed something in his hands--a rose carved from purple skon crystal. Moonlight proved to be a remarkable way to display the object's expert craftsmanship; the rose caught the moonlight differently each time Aaron turned it over in his hands.
"That's... beautiful. Did you make that?" Annahlise whispered.
Aaron nodded, offering the rose to Annahlise, who took it gingerly in her hands and held it up to her face. "I did. I made it a few days ago. Was... going to give it to..." he choked. "It was meant to be a gift for Adalynn."
"I'm sorry," Annahlise sighed, handing the rose back to Aaron.
Aaron shrugged. "I've been a fool. I'm still being a fool. I mean... I've no reason to love her, have I? What logical reason do I have for loving someone like her?"
"Love is not logical," Annahlise stated, "or it rarely is, anyway. The human heart works... poorly, sometimes. Who can say why you truly love her?"
Gaze still on the rose he'd made, Aaron gave a quiet, solemn reply: "It should be logical."
"The world is not as it should be, Aaron," said Annahlise, "Adalynn Rose is not as she should be, nor am I; nor are you, for that matter. Everything about this world is somehow wrong and we have to learn to live in it despite that."
They were silent for a while. During the silence, Annahlise extended one of her wings around Aaron. She used the wing to gently pull Aaron toward her. He didn't fight the affection, but instead collapsed on her lap, rose in hand. Annahlise felt wet tears on her thighs and she began to brush Aaron's hair back with her fingers. "Oh, little human," she said softly.
"I'd never have done this to her," Aaron said, turning the rose over in his hands. "I would never have put her through this."
"I know," Annahlise replied.
The silence returned. Then...
Then the rose began to change in Aaron's hand. The young man was starting to shake. He and Annahlise watched, transfixed, as the rose morphed and shifted, its crystal petals rotating and cutting themselves into different shapes. When its transformation was complete, the crystalline rose had become a dead, sagging tree. Its branches scraped Aaron's palm, next to the base of its twisted trunk.
Aaron wrapped his fingers around the tree and squeezed. The crystal sculpture disintegrated in his hand. Bits of shining dust trickled between fingers and settled on the wooden floorboards at Aaron's feet. He didn't say anything else. Neither did Annahlise. They just sat there in silence until they'd both fallen asleep.
About the Story
The Imperfect's Journal is a Wattpad exclusive (for the time being) prequel to Chainbreaker. It is told in diary-like installments, written by a young man who suffers from severe memory loss. The author of the journals, Darren Stratt, is trying to get to Australia in order to reunite with his beloved Sara McKenzie. His journey takes him all over the world and unites him with hundreds of different people.
While every novel in the Coldheart world is a social commentary at its core, The Imperfect's Journal is primarily a story of love and survival. No matter the cost and no matter the hurdles, Darren continues to push forward, keeping his beloved Sara in his heart at all times.
The story is split into four parts. Part one is wrapping up at the end of this month, meaning the second part will pick up on July 1st. A new entry is consistently added every day, usually in the early hours of the morning. Each of these entries takes less than a minute to read.
Today, The Imperfect's Journal hit 1,000 reads on Wattpad. This was so encouraging to see! I am extremely grateful for every single one of my readers on Wattpad. Your continued support is greatly appreciated.
How to Support the Story
Honestly, the best way to support the story is to keep reading or tell friends you think would enjoy The Imperfect's Journal. However, if you want to go the extra mile, you can create a Wattpad account and use it to vote and comment on every entry. This will help pull the story out of Wattpad's depths so that more people see it!
Read the novel here.
While trying to edit Chainbreaker and keep up with The Imperfect's Journal, I have decided that I need another creative outlet: short stories set in the Coldheart universe, mainly following side characters who have little to do with the main story. So, without further ado, here is the first one: Adalynn Rose.
The hefty gauntlet slid easily from Adalynn's delicate hand, exposing its paleness which contrasted with the dark tone present on the rest of her skin. Her uncovered fingers reached out and gently touched the forearm of a stranger who was seated beside her at the bar. Where her fingers met his skin, a small purple marking appeared.
The man turned to Adalynn, a lustful smile across his lips. His eyes were distant. They always were; no matter the victim, that vacant facial expression always followed Adalynn's touch.
"Buy me a drink?" suggested Adalynn.
The man grinned widely and nodded. While he sought the attention of the barkeep, Adalynn turned her eyes toward the tavern itself. It was loud, like most Servali taverns, but it was also... calm. There were no fights, no dancing, and no arguments; the noise came solely from friends and lovers shouting in a vain attempt to be heard.
A drink was placed in front of Adalynn. She looked up at the man and smiled, nodding her thanks. The empty, soulless smile she received in return was unsettling, but she tried not to reveal her unease. It was the least she could do, given what was about to happen to the stranger.
"Do you have a name?" Adalynn asked.
"Garrett," the man answered eagerly.
"Any family waiting for you, Garrett?" Adalynn pressed, hoping the answet would be no. Most men would have simply lied to a strange woman in a tavern, claiming to be alone even if they were married. Most men, however, weren't under Adalynn's influence. The chemicals she had pressed into Garrett's skin had turned him into a compulsively honest man. They had also amplified his lust, but Adalynn had found that this was typically an unnecessary side effect.
"A wife and two kids," Garrett replied, his bland smile never wavering.
Ugh, Adalynn thought. It was too late, though. She had already started the process. Quietly, she returned her gauntlet to its place on her hand, then slid down from her seat. As she left the tavern through a backdoor, Garrett followed her like a lost pup. They always did.
In the alley behind the bar, Adalynn pressed her back against a brick wall and Garrett pursued her, kissing her neck once it was within reach. Adalynn gave no indication that she was enjoying it. She wasn't, first of all, but she also didn't have to. Any second now, Joseph would--
Garrett slumped to the ground, neck twisted awkwardly. Adalynn brushed off her dress and wiped her neck, then glared at the shrouded man who had appeared behind Garrett.
"You took your time," Adalynn snapped.
Jospeh pulled back his hood to reveal a round, hairless face. His mouth was wide, with its corners stopping a mere inch from his ears. He opened that horrible mouth, exposing numerous pointed teeth and a forked tongue. "Sssorry," he hissed.
"It's done," sighed Adalynn, "dinner is served."
Joseph knelt down and lifted one of Garrett's arms, then took a large bite of the dead man's bicep. "Thanksss," he said, his mouth full of meat.
Adalynn slid down against the wall and propped her arms upon her knees. "I'm so bored here in Serval," she groaned, "Nothing interesting happens. It's all the same."
"Be careful what you wish for," Joseph warned, swallowing a bite before taking another.
"What's that mean?" Adalynn asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Jussst..." Joseph paused and slurped a bit of dangling flesh into his mouth, "rumorsss. Sssomeone isss looking for you."
"Me?" Adalynn whispered, surprised. No one knew her but Joseph--at least, no one alive. Anyone affected by her ability wound up like Garrett. Except...
"Aaron Rhake," said Joseph, his pupilless eyes narrowing, "He believesss you did sssomething to him."
She had. Oh, gods, she had. Aaron had somehow resisted, at least to a degree. Something in him had fought against her influence. She had never experienced anything like it, and he... he had broken. Shattered. He had even become convinced that he genuinely loved her, but it was just a bad reaction to her touch.
Looking back, she should have killed him; she should have put the poor soul out of his misery instead of simply running away from him. It was too late, now. Her past had come back for her.
"He still loves me, then?" Adalynn said.
"Oh, no," the wide-mouthed boy snickered, "he wantsss you dead."
Well, the first page is here.
As everyone who checks this site likely knows by now, I've been editing my novel, Chainbreaker, for nearly a year. The first draft has been finished for quite some time. After going through numerous iterations of the story (often writing more than 200,000 words only to discard each and every one of them), I think Chainbreaker is the perfect beginning to the Coldheart Cycle (previously referred to as the Imperfect Saga).
Right now, I need people who are willing and able to read and critique the first 50 pages within the next two months (critiques will be needed by August 1st, 2018). If you are interested, please contact my Facebook page or Instagram account. Alternatively, you can easily fill out the form at the bottom of this page.
Upon a small land mass known as the Twin Continents, the entirety of the human race struggles beneath the rule of the Seronian Empire. This entity has dictated that individuals with physical or mental disabilities are subhuman, resulting in their suffering, enslavement, and murder. A recent attempt to rebel against the regime has failed, leaving only one single hope for freedom: an infant girl whose race is believed to have been extinguished.
Chainbreaker Extended Summary
An oppressive regime established decades ago continues to inflict suffering upon mentally and physically disabled individuals. The rebellion that attempted to stop this regime has failed, leaving the inhabitants of the Twin Continents to believe that the Seronian Empire will survive until the arrival of the world's end (an arrival that is fast approaching).
Yet, amidst conflict between the empire and the rebellion, a child was born. A child belonging to a race that was believed to be long dead. This little girl could determine the true fate of the world, but who she becomes will be determined by those whose roof is over her head. Will she be rescued by the rebellion? Captured by the empire? Or will she remain in the clutches of the vile man who kidnapped her--a man who intends to use the girl's unique abilities to put himself in power?
In the end, does it truly matter? A world-rotting, life-consuming plague is spreading rapidly across the Twin Continents, threatening the last known place on earth that can still support life, and no one knows how to stop it.
The First Page
Black smoke from the capital city spilled into the rebel encampment, pushed there by a strong gust of wind from the nearby ocean. Helmet-less, poorly-armored soldiers of the Falcon Rebellion coughed heavily as Edward pushed past them, his own helmet protecting him from breathing in too much of the smoke. He glanced up, trying to see the distant capital city. Smog distorted his view, but he could still make out walls, towering buildings, and pillars of fire if he squinted to focus his vision. Edward wiped his visor and kept moving, mercenaries in tow.
Tents shuddered as increasingly strong winds threatened to pull their stakes from the earth and send them tumbling from the campground. Overhead, a flag was pulling away from its post, which was vibrating so fiercely that the rebel emblem its flag was meant to display—a golden falcon stretching its talons toward unseen prey—was distorted and unrecognizable. Soldiers who were standing guard outside of the tents were repeatedly bombarded with clouds of dust that the wind threw into their eyes. The guards who were walking with Edward—mercenaries Edward personally had hired, not rebel soldiers or guards employed by his house—shielded their eyes before they could be hit by a particularly large cloud, then continued to press onward after their client.
No one bothered to ask where Edward was leading the men with such determination. Soldiers would just nod or salute as he passed by, in the rare cases when they could actually see him through the dust and smoke. The only time Edward’s movement was halted was when he reached his destination: a medical tent. Outside of the tent stood two soldiers and a general. The latter individual was distinguished from the other two by the armor he wore: bright-blue metal from head to toe and a helmet featuring a gold-tinted visor. It was similar to the armor that Edward was wearing, though the colors were reversed. Armor of that quality was reserved exclusively for the highest-ranking individuals in the Falcon Rebellion: generals and members of the Talon, like Edward. On the breastplate of each man was the same falcon emblem displayed on the flags throughout the camp. The general’s emblem was gold instead of blue, keeping with the reversed color schemes of their attire.
Apart from the color reversal, there was one other key difference in their attire: Edward wore a blue cloak that was pinned at his left shoulder. The pin resembled a falcon’s eye and had been brushed with the same golden paint as the rest of Edward’s armor. Most everyone in the Falcon Rebellion was aware of what that pin represented.
The general, being one of those who knew what the pin represented, hastily pulled off his own helmet and saluted before addressing Edward. The soldiers who stood on either side of the general saluted as well, but they were more quick to do so since they had no helmets to remove. “Lord Eye,” the general greeted, “how may I assist you?”
“Let me through," answered Edward impatiently, glaring at the man he recognized as Sean Bolte.
General Bolte glanced over his shoulder at the medical tent and turned back to Edward. The general began to respond, but his words were drowned out by an intense gust of wind. Once the din brought about by the powerful wind died down, he tried speaking again. “This is the tent which has been set aside for the Lord Scapular’s wife. She’s just had the child and no one is to enter.”
“I figured this was Donna’s tent, given that they’ve elected a general to guard it,” Edward stated, “that’s why I approached this one; I’m looking for her.”
“Why would you—”
“The Lord Scapular sent me!” Edward snapped, exasperated. “Tobias has requested that I check on the health of the child and report to him back in the field. Please step aside so that I may fulfill his request.”
Sean’s eyes narrowed slightly and his posture tightened. “Lord, the child is well. Donna has given birth to a healthy girl. You may report such to the Lord Scapular, but I was instructed by him not to allow anyone to enter the tent.”
“Surely you understand that he would exclude me from that instruction!” Edward snorted. “I’m a member of the Talon!”
“I have given you the status of the child as requested,” the general declared, “so you may now leave.”
The general’s soldiers seemed to notice that their leader was growing tense, as they began to do the same. They stiffened and looked expectantly toward Sean. Seeing this, the mercenaries behind Edward looked at one another and grinned, excited at the prospect of a fight.
Use It or Lose It
Unfortunately, I don't make enough money from my novels, website, and music to pay all my bills. This means I'm still under a tough, callused corporate thumb that tells me I can only have two weeks off (total, including sick days). So, of course, I saved all those days off for a day when I'd really need them.
Well, last month I realized I was nearly at the point when my vacation days would expire. This meant that I had very little time to use up my remaining 3 days+4 hours of vacation time (the rest had been spent on a brief, terrible trip to Texas and a few sick days). I decided that memorial day would be a great chance to take off that time. I could leave early on Friday and have (almost) a whole week to do things I actually care about.
Friday night was my younger brother's graduation. Instead of being awesome like me and graduating as a 16-year-old junior, he opted for the boring route, spending 4 years in high school and graduating at 18 as a senior. That's impressive in its own right, since I think I would have lost my mind had I spent another year in high school.
You may recognize him as the co-founder of my game development company: Rhetrosoft, LLC.
Time Spent Writing
Much of my vacation was spent editing and rewriting parts of my novel Chainbreaker. Yes, that's right, I'm still working on it. I want this one to be outstanding. It is my primary series, after all. One thing I've found about writing a series over a self-contained novel is that you really have to get each book right the first time. If I botch something in book one and publish it, it's going to lead to an inconsistency down the road. I want readers to be able to predict things that are going to happen and solve mysteries before the characters do. Both of these things require careful explanation of every little detail in the story, so I'm spending a lot of time making sure my work is consistent.
Spontaneous Omaha Trip
One day, I simply decided to contact my best friend, Alex, and ask if he'd be up for a sudden, unplanned trip to Omaha, Nebraska. It's about 2.5 hours from my house, so it's just far enough away to qualify as a trip without being so expensive and time consuming that it's an unreasonable destination. Alex agreed to come along, so I booked a hotel, picked a few spots to visit, and wrote down an itinerary (which, I'm sure none of you will agree, is the very best part of a vacation).
We hit the road on Wednesday and made it to Omaha in time for lunch, which we ate at Flagship Commons. I had a vegan falafel from Amsterdam Falafel and Kabob, which was outstanding.
We also went to a few parks, including the Heartland of America Park which features a massive fountain. Later, we stopped in at 13th Street Coffee to grab... well, coffee. After that it was Wilson and Washburn, then back to the Magnolia Hotel for a bit of gaming and writing before bed.
When morning came, I had a few places I wanted to go before we went home. One of those spots was Archetype Coffee. I've been to this coffee shop before, but it was absolutely worth visiting, again. I grabbed a bag of coffee beans for my mother while I was there, then we went to lunch at Blackbriar Meatball. Dessert was consumed at Coneflower Creamery (the vegan peanut butter chip ice cream was outstanding) before we sadly returned home so that I could get back to the grindstone on Friday morning.
For a spontaneous vacation, I managed to have a pretty great time. I didn't get as much done as I would have liked, but it was nice to get back into the creative swing. I've been so stressed out and bitter at work, lately, that I just haven't been in the right mindset to work on Chainbreaker. I think the last time I opened it (before this vacation) was very early this year! Hopefully I can remain consistent with the editing phase, now.
Thanks for checking out this post! Did you know that I have an Instagram account where I regularly post to my story? If you were following me during my vacation, you probably saw a lot of the things I was experiencing! When I'm not going out places, I'm usually at home cooking some vegan food, so there's always something to see in my feed.