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EButterflyBeads: A Sneak Peek Behind the Scenes!

Awesome post by my best friend. Check out her page for fantastic handmade jewelry!

EButterflyBeads

Hello everyone! Today, rather than teaching you new jewelry making techniques or giving you little tid-bits of business advice, I’m going to give you a behind the scenes, sneak-peek at the projects that I’m working on right now!

I currently have three major projects going:

PROJECT #1: Jewelry for my bridesmaids! 💍👰🏻

Yes! I’m totally getting married this September! Part of my gift to my bridesmaids is jewelry, handcrafted by me, to match their dresses! As you can see in the picture below, the colors for their dresses and jewelry are various shades of pinks and corals. I’ll post more “in progress” and “finished” pictures on my Facebook page after my wedding in September. (I’d post pictures sooner, but my bridesmaids follow my page and I want the finished necklaces to be a surprise!!!)

Jewelry Supplies for BridesmaidsI was super excited to find all of these unique pendants and beads at a small…

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Improving My Writing

Either/Or…For Writers

What kind of writer are you? What styles do you favor? What habits do you most often repeat?
Here are my 15 Either/Or questions for writers. Feel free to answer these questions as well and tag your writing buddies!
1. Twitter or Facebook? Personally, I’m more of a Facebook person as my most common form of social media communication. I’m just starting to get the hang of using Twitter and I definitely see how helpful it can be in networking with writers and readers, especially considering the use of hashtags such as #amwriting. Twitter certainly can not be ignored, not with the number of writers and readers using it! But I have always liked Facebook – I communicate with my friends and family there and the writer side of me sometimes appreciates not being hindered by a 140 character restriction (you know us writers – we’re long-winded).

2. Type or handwrite? For a while – I’d say for my first two novels – I really preferred typing. But for my current work in progress, I greatly prefer handwriting first. It helps me stay focused on scenes and helps me keep track of what needs to happen next. In general, no matter what I’m doing, I think better with a pen in my hand – one of the signs of being a writer for an extended period of time. I’ve joked to friends that it isn’t really a pen, rather it’s my brain 🙂

3. Daytime or night writer? For one thing, I feel more alone and secure at night, partly because I am by nature a night owl. But especially for my WIP, I write at night. My novel has a lot of dark themes and it just seems fitting to write at night. I’ve tried writing a few scenes during the day, but it just doesn’t work for me. I do often type what I’ve handwritten during the day, so I can send it to my writing buddy.

4. Coffee or tea? Um, for the most part, neither. I haven’t tried coffee and so far I have not found a hot tea that I like. Although, thanks to visiting my best friend while she’s at work at a tea shop, I have found a mango iced tea that I like. But for the most part, I’m more of a V8 Splash person.

5. Desk or bed? Bed. For sure. My room is my isolated place; it’s the ideal place to work on my novel. Other things, such as this blog post, are written in the living room recliner. I do like doing some of my freelance business work at the kitchen table.

6. Music or silence? Music, for sure. I rely heavily on music to help me write scenes; it helps me set the tone needed to evoke particular emotions. For business work or blog posts I’ll sometimes have a TV show playing in another tab. Right now, I have an episode of Simon and Simon playing, one of my favorite classic mystery shows!
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7. Cat or dog person? BOTH. I lean more towards dogs but at the moment, my only pets are one housecat and one rabbit.

8. Pepsi or Coke? Pepsi. The cat loves it too 🙂

9. YouTube or other? YouTube usually. I have my writing playlists on my computer files as a backup, but since I usually have writing boards open when I write, I just open YouTube for my music as well.

10. Pen or pencil? Pen. And like a lot of writers, I have a certain brand and type of pen I like to use. the finer the ball point, the better; it just seems to move easier for me. Mine is a black Uni-ball Signo 207.
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11. Books or eBooks? Well, I plan to publish in both formats. But as for my own personal reading, I prefer printed books. It’s easier for me to focus.

12. Type at the end, or as I go? I type as I go. As mentioned before, my best friend is my writing buddy and I send my story to her as I go, so she can spot plot errors. Also, her enthusiastic feedback is sometimes what keeps me going.

13. Edit as I go or no? For the most part, no. I’m more concerned with just getting the first draft done. And I’m usually and under-writer, which means I often have to go back and add information. What I do frequently do is take a highlighter and pen to my notebook and make notes for myself. Things like, “explain this later,” “will need more background.” Or I point out how the character has to change and soon it will need to happen. Just to make sure I cover all my bases before I declare the story done.

14. Writing buddies or no? YES! Always have at least one good writing buddy! What is a writing buddy, you ask? A writing buddy is a fellow writer who can encourage you as you write, point out missing information and plot holes, give constructive feedback, and sometimes threaten you into writing. (Because writers procrastinate) Jenna Moreci has an excellent video on writer buddies; if you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to check it out! Be one and get one! https://youtu.be/TyF2U3A_sVo

15. Visuals for characters and scenes or imagined? I do have imagined pictures of what my characters really look like, but it also helps me to find pictures that look similar to what I’ve imagined. That’s where my Storyboards on Pinterest come in super helpful! I create a private board for each project and collect pictures that look like my characters, scenes, pets, or even objects that have meaning to my characters. In addition, I collect scenes and pictures that could be in a book some day, I just don’t have a project for them right now. Like “Such a Character,” (people) “Such a character’s words” (things a character would say) and “Such a scene,” (places).

So there are my 15 “Either/Or” questions for writers! Make your own or use these and share it with a writing buddy! Have fun!

Improving My Writing

Writing Prompts!

Hi everyone! Today I put together another list of fun writing prompts. Feel free to change them if you want and the time limits are flexible. I like the time limits for helping me learn to “just write” and get my creativity moving. Hope you have some fun with these!

1. Use the first line of a nursery rhyme as the first line of a dark narrative. Time limit: 8 minutes.

2. Everyone is assigned a guardian angel to help them through life. Due to a clerical error, you were assigned a demon instead. Time limit: 10 minutes.

3. Describe a world where everything is black and white for each character until they meet their soul mate. Then describe the day your character’s world went back to black and white.

4. You wake to find your fictional crush in bed beside you. Who is it? How did they get there? What happens next?

5. Write a funny headline and a 1-2 paragraph article to go with it. Time limit: 5 minutes.

6. Pick the last villain you watched or read about. Explain why this person would be a good significant other for you best friend. Time limit: 10 minutes.

7. Waking up, you notice three things: (1) Your bathroom mirror is broken, (2) There is a pink liquid on your floor, (3) a cactus is on your dresser. What happened the night before?

8. What are your top three most important qualities in a lover? Assign those qualities to your antagonist and describe a day in their life.

9. Create a warning label for yourself. Time limit: 4 minutes.

10. The last prompt is from one of my favorite Pinterest boards, TFR’s Writing Prompts!! https://www.pinterest.com/pin/230035493450149838/

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Who To Follow

Who I Follow Pt.2

Part two of who I follow! A few writing pages, as well as one just for fun interest.

 

1. ThrillWriting on Facebook.
ThrillWriting has tips for writing mystery and thrillers as well as more common posts like character development.
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Some recent posts include: “Dynamic Handguns & Shooting in a Structure”, “Scuba Diving Adventurer Information”, and “Hostage Negotiations.”

 

2. Just Publishing on Facebook. This one is exactly what it sounds like: publishing information for authors. Posts give authors importaint information they need to know about various publishing platforms and give the pros and cons for certain publishers.
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3. One Stop for Writers on Facebook.
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One Stop for Writers has posts on polishing your manuscript, editing, characters, plot, and lots more, all with the goal of “Elevating your writing.” Also check out their website: https://onestopforwriters.com/

4. https://dwtsmith.wordpress.com/ Douglas William Thurstan Smith on WordPress is a fantasy/fiction writer. This was one of the first blog I started following on WordPress. I really enjoy his posts and always look forward to seeing what’s new on his blog! 🙂

5. Bryce O’Connor on Twitter (@OConnorBooks). Bryce is the bestselling author of the fantasy series, “The Wings of War,” (which unfortunately I’ve yet to read, but it’s on my list of books to try!). I enjoy his posts, both the serious author-ish stuff and the fun day-to-day thoughts.

6. EButterflyBeads. My “just for fun” pick for this post happens to be that of my real-life best-est friend! Emma hand makes paper beads and uses them to make beautiful, one-of-a-kind jewelry! Her necklaces, bracelets, and earrings are designed to be as unique as the people who wear them. Check out her pages here:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EButterflyBeads/
Wordpress: https://ebutterflybeads.wordpress.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ebutterflybeads2016/
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Improving My Writing

Character Details Exercise

I LOVE creating characters! Seeing how they behave, how they interact, what they look like – it’s great! But sometimes we get hung up on the “grocery list”. You know, that list we tend towards: hair and eye color, height, skin color, clothes. Sometimes we leave out the quirks and details that make a character human. So when I found Victoria Griffin’s Twitter post this evening, I thought, “This sounds fun! I should share it on my blog!” So here we are. This exercise makes us think about what details readers would use to help visualize our appearance and behavior if we were characters.

If I were a character:

  • The big toe on my left foot clicks when I walk.
  • The long scars across my stomach are from when I was 12 and my cat Cozmo got scared during a thunder storm and jumped out of my arms.
  • Western boots are my favorite footwear.
  • I was born with brown eyes, but they’ve turned green around the edges as I’ve gotten older.
  • I bite my nails, but not because of nerves, it’s just something I do.
  • I sleep on my right side to fall asleep at night, but I sleep on my left for naps.
  • I only own 3 items of pink clothing; I don’t usually like pink.
  • My hair is red on top and blonde underneath.
  • I am 6 feet tall and considered the short member of the family.
  • If I’m in the mall too long I get a headache from the weird lighting.
  • I am right-handed.
  • My ears plug up when a storm is coming.

So there’s 12 details that make me, me! Think about how these details reveal parts of my life; that’s how we should show our characters. What would you mention if YOU were a character? Tag any writing buddies who would enjoy this exercise and see what they say!

Who To Follow

Who I Follow: Part 1

Something I love about the writing community is that most writers are more than willing to network and share their favorite info ponds with each other! It certainly doesn’t pay in this business to try to do everything on your own and I for one would rather make friends anyway. So today I’m going to share some of the people I currently follow. I’m going to do a series of these posts over the course of the summer – including people/sites I use to improve my writing, Pinterest boards I use for character and world building, and just for a little added insight into my world, someone or something I follow just for funs. Enjoy and feel free to make suggestions!

 

First, let’s acknowledge the great cyborg queen, Jenna Moreci!
I first stumbled across Jenna’s YouTube channel last fall and I’m hooked! What draws me to Jenna the most is her outlook on writing and life in general. I sometimes have a hard time focusing on YouTube videos, but Jenna keeps it lively and she hits my 3 requirements for videos: (1) not too long, but not rushed, (2) speaks clearly and talks like an actual person (be aware: adult language, so wear your grow-up disguise) and (3) upbeat but professional. She’s also an awesome person to follow on Twitter, so don’t miss out! @jennamoreci on Twitter.

Next: K.M. Weiland.
I’ve been following Katie for a couple of years. I love the advice posts she has and her willingness to communicate. Katie does a lots of posts on character creation and development, which are favorite subjects for me, but she also has a lot to say on plot and various parts of the writing process. And this lovely lady was willing to answer a few questions about publishing for my college research paper! Thanks, Katie! @KMWeiland on Twitter or find her on Facebook.

Victoria Griffin. I just discovered Victoria a few weeks ago on Twitter and I’m in love with her personality and style! She’s definitely someone I want to contact when the time comes, in regard to editing my manuscript. I appreciate that she offers classes, so a writer can learn how to edit on their own, rather than always relying on someone else; so we can become better professionals all around. @Victoria_grif7 on Twitter.

Megan Tennant is also someone I discovered just recently. She’s an author and expert cat gif poster 🙂 She has a fantastic personality and is very easy to talk to – who doesn’t love networking with someone like that? @_Megan_Tennant on Twitter

 

Now, just for funs and inspiration: Kerri Walsh Jennings on Facebook. I’m a big fan of Kerri’s! On top of being one of the best beach volleyball players in the world and a gold medalist, Kerri is a wife, a mom, and a person who tires to put 100% into every aspect of life. Her FB posts include inspirational quotes, pictures of family time, and reminders that she’s not done being the best she can be. I love looking into this lady’s life and seeing what she has to share with us. @kerrileewalsh on Facebook.

My Book

Chapter 3!!!

Hi everyone! As promised, today I am posting the first draft of chapter 3 of my work in progress YA Fantasy novel! Please read and share! And please leave any thoughts you have, I’d LOVE to hear what you all think! Thanks!

Note from the author:

Sparr’a is Sparrow without the “ow”

Kya is pronounced Ki-ah

Chapter 3

By morning, Kya’s wrist was stiff and the edges of the A3 were puffy. She wore the same clothes she came in with – the last comfort of her old life. Her duffle bag had been returned to her at some point during the night, but as she searched frantically through it, she felt her heart drop when she realized what was missing.

“What did they take?” Nick asked as he retrieved a clean shirt from his own bag.

“The picture of my brother is gone.”

“Surprised? After what we know about this place now, they probably don’t want us to remember what we’re fighting for.”

“Bastards,” Kya growled.

Moments later, Sparr’a hauled open the rolling door and prepared to lead her clan out. “Keep your eyes open and your mouths shut out there, newbies. New kids don’t talk to other clans unless they’re addressed first. Do not use your powers, either; last thing we need is a rival clan to know what you can do before your first test. Stick close to us.”

Cota, Arda, and Sparr’a lead the way out, forming a sparse semi-circle ahead of the others. They walked up the gradual grade, the same way they’d come in the night before. This time Kya noticed that they passed other sliding doors. At the top of the incline, Sparr’a made a sharp right turn, practically doubling back. Immediately after the turn was a huge crowd of people. Groups ranging from 4 to 10 people stood clustered together. Some were louder than others. A few hung close to the walls, cradling their freshly stamped hands with a mixture of confusion and terror on their faces.

Sparr’a led them down the hall with her head high, like royalty sweeping through the masses. Just ahead, Kya spotted what she assumed was the mess hall. Several clans were already seated inside and there appeared to be an order of entrance.

As they reached the wide doorway, a lithe figure moved smoothly in front of it. “Wouldn’t be trying to go in ahead of us, would you, Sparrow?”

“We’ve been here for two years, Baine,” Sparr’a answered icily. “Do you really think my memory is that bad or are you too stupid to know when it’s your turn to go in unless we show up?”

The shadowy figure stepped into the light. He dressed similarly to Cota, but jet-black hair fell across one side of his face, giving Kya the impression of someone peering out from behind a curtain.

Baine let out a growl of annoyance. “Just wondered how the mighty Clan Bronwyn is doing after their recent…losses. Cota ready to come back to his old clan yet?”

Cota glared at Baine, “I’m doing just fine where I am. And in case you haven’t noticed, our ‘losses’ have been replaced.”

One of Baine’s clan stepped forward. He was tall and muscular with cherry red hair. Several pendants hung from a chain around his neck and various rings adorned his hands. He smiled wolfishly at Sparr’a, “You mean you were actually trusted with new blood, too?”

“Looks it, doesn’t it?” Leo muttered irritably beside Kya.

Baine’s head shot up, “What was that? Which one of you said that? Who talked back to Mitch?” His one visible eye showed rage. Other members of the clan shouted and beside Baine, his companion’s eyes flashed red, almost matching his hair.

Leo’s face flashed panic.

Cota clenched his jaw and Arda’s eyes showed regret and pain as she bowed off to the side. “Well?” Sparr’a said quietly, as she turned to her clan.

Leo started to step forward, but Kya jumped ahead of him without a thought, “I said it looks it, doesn’t it? Maybe Sparr’a is right – must not be as smart as you look.”

Mitch’s face twisted into a snarl. Too late, Kya remembered that these people were already allowed to use their magic, but she didn’t back off. “You let new kids talk like that, Sparrow? All right, kid; welcome to your first test!”

Sharp fingernails swiped across Kya’s face. She winced, but kept a steady gaze on Mitch.

“Sparrow, I challenge your kid to a fight! She challenged a superior clan on her first day!”

Sparr’a sighed and turned to give Kya a brief, appraising look. Finally she nodded. “Very well. But no magic, clear? If I see so much as a wisp come from you, the rest of us will rip you to shreds.” She waited until Mitch agreed, then turned back to Kya, “Here’s the deal: physical combat, prison rules. No magic permitted. You lose when you’ve been put face down on the floor twice. Your clan mates may speak now,” she paused to address the others, “but do not jump in with her! We don’t need this to get any worse!”

With that, the crowd formed a circle around Mitch and Kya. For a few short seconds, Kya wondered what signal started the fight, when all of a sudden she felt a powerful blow strike her temple. She fell to her knees; she vaguely heard Leo and Nick yelling something. The floor in front of her shifted back and forth and her vision blurred as she remembered that she could only fall all the way twice and she was already part way down. Her head cleared and she climbed to her feet, only to have Mitch punch her in the face. She reeled away as his fist made contact and she waited for another blow to knock her to the floor, but it never came. He’s dragging it out, she thought, he wants me to hurt. He had two years of experience in fighting this way. But Kya had an older brother. A plan sprang to her mind as she recalled all the ways her brother had taught her to protect herself.

She swung around fast and aimed a kick at his crotch, but Mitch grabbed her by the ankle. “Didn’t really expect that to work, did you?” he sneered and flipped her away. Her face smacked against the stone floor and she tasted blood.

Mitch leaned down over her, “Ain’t your regular fight, is it sweetheart?”

Kya brought her head up with all her strength. She jumped to her feet as Mitch’s hands flew to his nose, now spurting blood.

“Atta girl!” Cota yelled.

Before Mitch could straighten up all the way, Kya ducked in close to his side and punched up into his liver.

“Arhh!” he yelled, doubling over.

Kya took the opportunity to kick the heavy heel of her boot into the back of his knee, effectively dropping him to one knee. Wasting no time, Kya came up behind him and slammed her elbow into his back. Mitch fell face-first onto the floor.

Kya stood, panting and eyes ablaze as Mitch struggled back to his feet. He turned and looked at Kya with savage red eyes; she saw those eyes and remembered the scratches on her face. Mitch’s power must be morphing – he could turn into a cat!

“You fight bloody, newbie,” his voice was low and deadly, but Kya raised her own voice.

“Like a she-cat?” she taunted.

His eyes widened and he let out a genuine hiss of rage. The next thing Kya knew, she was falling backwards with Mitch on top of her, but she managed to hold her upper body up as they landed. Mitch clamped his hands around her throat, trying to shove her all the way down. Kya gasped and grabbed his arms. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t move her body. She was sitting up underneath him, but his weight was keeping her pinned down. As her vision started to spot, she saw a target close-by and too beautiful to pass up. She let go of Mitch’s powerful arms and punched out in front of her.

Mitch howled and rolled off Kya, clenching his legs together.

“Sure…seems like…it worked,” she panted as she turned away from him so she could catch her breath. At that moment she heard Nick scream for her to watch out. Then needles were tearing through the back of her neck and she heard a feral snarl.

“No! No, get off her!”

Then Sparr’a and Arda were there, yanking the weight off her. She saw a leather-clad arm snake around her waist as she was lifted from the floor.

Sparr’a was livid. “Baine! He broke the rules! He used magic on a newbie! Clan Larkin forfeits the fight!”

Kya woke up on her bed. She opened her eyes to the anxious faces of her clan mates.

“Ah, you’re okay,” Nick let out his breath.

“What happened?” she asked groggily.

“You passed out and we brought you back here. Arda stitched you up.”

“Thanks,” Kya mumbled, trying to search out Arda’s face.

Nick’s stomach rumbled and Kya remembered that she caused everyone to miss breakfast. She and Nick hadn’t eaten since before the truck picked them up the day before.

“Oh, sorry.”

“We’ll live,” Cota said cheerfully. “I’ll slip out and get us some grub, maybe a cake for our victor.”

“She picked a fight with a second in command on her first day,” Sparr’a pointed out. Kya couldn’t tell if Sparr’a was mad at her or just disappointed that a new member was hurt already.

“She punched Mitch in the balls,” Cota laughed. “I’d call that worthy of a celebration!”

Kya smiled at him. “Careful there, Cota. When you all asked me to do something last night to demonstrate my power, I seriously considered hitting you in the balls.”

Arda burst out laughing – the first time Kya had even seen her smile. “Gotta be a first for you, huh Cota?”

Cota glared at Kya, but a smile broke through, “Guess I can rule out the soul mate possibility with you, huh Snowflake?”

“I’d refrain from calling her that,” Nick warned as Cota slipped out into the hallway.

“Soul mates?” Kya asked as the door closed.

Arda nodded, “If you fall in love here and you are proven to be true soul mates, you two get your own room and you’re exempt from certain tests. S.M.s usually have the same power and it works together stronger than apart, that’s why they’re coveted and somewhat more protected. Faster way to the top.”

“I sensed a lot of heat down one of the halls we passed on the way back here today,” Mac commented.

Sparr’a nodded, “Soul mate wing.”

“And Cota is seriously looking for his?” Nick asked skeptically.

“Boy, you and I both know that’s not how you find one. Easy lays to take the edge off this place, that’s all Cota is after. And a guy who can read a girl’s feelings is pretty well set.”

Sparr’a and Arda stood and drifted away to their own beds.

As Mac wandered away too, Leo stepped in closer. “Kya, I -,”

“’S okay, Leo.”

“That was my fight, I started it.”

“There shouldn’t have even been a fight. And Baine started it. Look, I won and I see no reason to tell anyone what you said.”

Nick nodded in agreement.

Leo relaxed. “You know, I knew he was going to morph before he actually did. Guess my power is stronger than I thought.”

“Guess so,” Kya smiled.

“Now you know how we can use it,” said Nick.

“Better go tell the others,” Leo said, leaving Nick and Kya alone.

“Way to almost get killed on your first day, Snowflake,” Nick tried to joke, but Kya saw pain in his face.

“I’m kinda surprised you didn’t jump in to help me.”

“I’d have been more hurt than help. Do you want everyone to think you need help in a fight?”

Kya groaned as she sat up. The back of her neck still stung, but her headache was going away. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

A silence fell between them until Nick stood up and muttered something about wanting to talk to Leo.

Kya felt whipped enough to sleep, but decided against it; she ought to try to do some good today. She got stiffly to her feet and made her way over to Sparr’a’s bed.

“Bored are ya?” Sparr’a asked without looking up. “Hop up,” she offered, making some room on her bed. Nail clippers, files, and a bottle of black nail polish were moved aside.

“Nail polish? In here?”

Sparr’a shrugged and straightened up from her work. “Higher ranking clans have privileges, such as trading fight points in the Store Room. Our clan got pretty high up in the ranks once. Arda traded her points for that army jacket she’s wearing. I was tired of living in a colorless world and got some red nail polish. When we got knocked back down, Arda was warm and I felt like a fool. But,” she blew lightly on her nails, “a fool in style. Have some?”

Kya nodded and reached for the bottle. “Where’d you get the black polish?”

“To be honest, it’s nothing more than resin glue and ink. Traded with some people for it. Fair warning: when you take it off, your nails will be stained for a while. Me, I’m never without it anymore; it’s become sort of a trademark. But it’s the little things that bring the humanity back to this place.”

“So how did you get so high in the ranks?” Kya asked slowly as she concentrated on getting the polish on. “And how come you’re back here?”

Sparr’a sighed. “Going up is easy. We excelled at the tests. Going down was sudden. It was the members before last, so not the people you’re replacing. It was an endurance trial. Basically, it is to see how much someone can withstand. But in some cases, you’re tested by a member of another clan.” Sparr’a paused to help Kya paint the nails on her right hand. “The testing clan was Larkin, who we’d already made enemies of, and the tester was Cota. Baine wanted him to go beyond testing. He wanted Cota to kill the kid; he said Cota’s  loyalty was questionable because he’d already disobeyed Baine’s orders regarding a new member of their clan. Anyway, there they were in the trial, and Calvin – our clan – came to his breaking point. Baine and the rest of Larkin was screaming at Cota to finish him off. But Cota backed off. Baine kicked him out on the spot. Loners are made either when they quit a clan or are forced to leave. They may choose to live alone – if they are confident enough that they can survive – or they may accept an offer to join another clan.”

“So that’s when he joined Clan Bronwyn?”

Sparr’a nodded and screwed the lid tightly back onto the bottle. “He spared a life from our clan.”

“But what put you back down in the ranks? Because Calvin lost?” Kya prompted.

“Baine killed Calvin,” Sparr’a ground out. “He was in his rights; his second in command disobeyed his orders in front of a trial audience. He killed Calvin to save face. If we coulda gotten the kid out of the room, he would have been ok, but…” her voice trailed away and Kya was sure Sparr’a was remembering that trial as if it just happened. How could she lead her clan knowing any one of them could be killed so easily?

“We accepted Cota unanimously and I made him my Second. My previous Second had been gone for three weeks and Cota has never failed me. He would make an excellent leader, believe it or not, albeit not always likable.”

“You seem to like him though,” Kya tapped at her nails, finding them dry. “And I don’t imagine you like a whole lot of people,” she smiled, but it faded when she saw Sparr’a’s face.

She looked serious and appraising. “If I can, I try to find something in each of my clan mates that I like. It gives me something to hold on to, so I can protect them better. But between you, me, and the brick wall, I do like Cota. And Arda. And you.

“Me?” Kya asked doubtfully. “Even after what I did this morning?”

“You scared the crap outta me today,” Sparr’a admitted, “I’m responsible to keep you safe. I didn’t want our clan to look any weaker either. But you proved yourself. Solidly. I’m proud of you.”

Kya paused, her thoughts whirling. There was far more to Sparr’a then she thought. Again she tried to wrap her mind around the intensity of this place. Now she understood what her father used to say about 90% of a war being fought in the mind.

“Speaking of trials, you’ll see your first endurance trial today,” Sparr’a commented. “Make sure you eat when Cota gets back. No telling how long a trial will take. Depends how Monica is feeling today.”

“Who’s Monica?”

Sparr’a made a sound like a hiss. “Real piece of shit, she is. Monica is in charge of this whole sick show. Everyone who works in the Fortress is under her command.”

“And she’s always at the trials?”

“In case things aren’t moving along fast enough or the crowd can’t come to a decision. Or if the trial has something to do with a Leader or Second. It’ll make more sense once you’ve seen one,” she waved her hand dismissively and ended the conversation as Cota slipped back into the room. Kya sat on the bed a few moments, letting Sparr’a’s words set in.

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