Creative Spotlight: Melissa Sievers

Hi all! It’s been a while, but I’m back with our next creative spotlight!

So, disclaimer. This one is my sister. But, to be honest that wouldn’t have stopped me from not posting if it wasn’t quality work. But, in my humble opinion, she was able to spin out something exciting and fresh, which I have no doubts we’ll be seeing in bookstores one day. For now, though, she spends many of her days working full-time at Starbucks (my obsession), and when she’s not writing in her spare time, she is either just being plain-old lazy (it’s hereditary) or watching makeup tutorials online, as she is a self-taught authority on hair and makeup. Also, if you ever have trouble finding her, she is likely being smothered under a pile of cats.

You will find her interview and the first chapter of her WIP below.

Chapter 1: Cold Ramen

“So, Ms. Carlisle.”

The fair woman cocked her head to the side and set her cut­sapphire eyes on Aria. She tucked

a wild strand of black hair behind her ear and pushed up her glasses.

“I’m sure you know, but I can’t be rude. My name is Cardinal, and I am the orchestrator of the

Birds of Paradise.” A short pause, as if to let the information sink in. “Marigold has told me about

your abilities and your desire to be amongst our ranks. Would you like to elaborate?”

Aria felt her heart behind her ribs, beating like a war drum. The meeting was almost like a job

interview. Her first job interview. With a fire slowly burning upwards from the bottom floor to their

position on the tenth floor. Add in some hell hounds barking at the office door, and there was the

degree of Aria’s anxiety. Being seated with the city’s most influential person aside from the

mayor was awe­inspiring and wonderful, but terrifying and dreadful at the same time.

“Well,” she began, choosing her words as if she were writing with a pen on a final. Her thoughts

flicked to her sophomore finals, and her anxiety worsened. “I’m really honest. Like, much more

so than other people.”

A jet black eyebrow raised, unimpressed.

Aria felt her panic rising, but she swallowed it. She made sure her face was as composed as

she could (people said she was too easy to read) and she smiled. “I can’t lie.”

The silence that followed her statement was heart breaking. Her power wasn’t glamorous in the

least, but her childhood friend known in the Birds as Marigold had assured her that no power

was insignificant. ‘Marigold’­­her real name being Hadley­­had told her that she would at least

be considered for an apprenticeship if she went through with her meeting with the Cardinal.

Damn it, Hadley.

“Is there anything else?” Cardinal elongated the last two words of her sentence and let them

hang in the air, like throwing a rope into the pit Aria had talked herself into.

“Not really,” she found herself replying, before she could hold her tongue. Aria was the second

generation in her family to be born with a power (or a mutation, if political correctness mattered).

Her mother, Justine, had the same lame ability­­to never lie. She found herself cursing her

family; how dare they carry such a boring mutation in their genes?

The Cardinal’s cold gemstone eyes were planted on Aria, and she knew the words that would

be spoken before they ever left those red lips:

“I’m afraid we aren’t really looking for someone with your abilities at this moment. Do you mind

leaving me with your phone number, and I’ll give you a call if the need arises?” The words were

spoken politely, but with a detached smile that told Aria a phone call wasn’t coming.

The college student felt her mood sink, and she knew she had on her ‘lost puppy’ face. It took

all her energy to push her lips back into a smile and agree to something she never would have

wanted to agree to.

“Sounds like a plan.”

Aria left with an “It was nice to meet you” that was halfheartedly returned, and a long elevator

ride that felt like the walk of shame one would make after clogging the toilet.

.

The night of her interview found Aria sitting at a table in her apartment, letting the steam of a $1

soup cup burn the tip of her nose as she stared into it, stirring with rhythmic disinterest. She had

a chemistry book open before her, and her notes splayed out in organized chaos, but her will to

study was at an all time low.

She heard the doorknob click and knew her roommate had returned from work, but couldn’t

muster the energy to look less depressed.

“Uh oh,” Hadley spoke, her voice filling the room as it always had. Her best friend was

supplemental to herself; where Aria was quiet and preferred to hold her tongue, Hadley was

loud and would tell you when there was a problem. Where Aria was a target for people who

were more outspoken, Hadley was the one who stood up for her. “So it didn’t go well, the

interview?”

Though Aria couldn’t tell a lie, she could withhold from speaking altogether, which had become

a common response when asked questions she didn’t want to answer. Her face sank deeper

towards her dinner.

“It was really that bad?” Hadley took a seat at the table with Aria and grabbed her hands.

“Please tell me you’re just kidding and she asked you to join right then and there.”

Aria huffed, blowing a coarse and curly strand of dark brown hair out of her face. She set her

light green eyes on her friend and shook her head. “She didn’t even offer me an apprenticeship.

At this point I would have said yes to being a janitor in the headquarters.”

Hadley squeezed her hands gently before releasing them. “You’re not a janitor, Aria. You’re a

hero and if she can’t see that then it’s her loss.”

“She said she didn’t need anyone with my ability right now and she would call me to let me

know if she ever did. So in other words, she doesn’t need me now and probably never will. I

think I’ll call back and ask to clean bathrooms for minimum wage.” Aria pushed her soup aside

and laid her head on her arms, which were crossed on the table. Her curly hair made her head

look like an untrimmed hedge.

“No, if she said she’d call you then she will. I promise,” Hadley said, sounding as reassuring as

she could in the situation. She knew that Aria was a pretty delicate girl, because she had been

protecting her since they were children. Her power was being honest to others, but sometimes

she couldn’t handle hearing the truth herself. Still, Hadley was sure the Cardinal would have

offered her something­­even if it was just work detail. The Birds were an organization built for

the protection of people with mutations, which was an unfortunate measure that needed to be

taken when the first few powers started presenting themselves in people. Mostly, the boss lady

was extremely welcoming to her own kind.

Aria shrugged and peeked over her forearm. “I think I’m done for with them, but I guess it’s for

the better. Maybe the Flightless could use me.”

Hadley could hear in her friend’s tone that she was kidding, so she smirked playfully and took

the bait to joke back. “Oh, so you’re going to go darkside on me now?”

“I might. The Cardinal seemed completely disinterested. Maybe I need to swear her my enemy

and work on my ability for years to finally surpass her as the leader of the Flightless,” the inner

filmmaker in Aria spoke, one caramel­colored hand to her chin in thought. Her appearance was

obviously mixed between caucasian and african­american, with her corkscrew brown hair and

her warm skin tone. Hadley had always been a little jealous of her plump lips and standout

eyes.

“That would make us enemies too,” she pointed out, suddenly feeling the slightest bit

self­conscious of her own appearance.

“Well, that’s no good,” replied the self­appointed leader of the Flightless. They were a

street­named organization who were actively working against the Birds of Paradise. Their name

was from obvious origins, but their intentions were not so clear. The group was infamous as

public enemy number one, and the Birds were active in containing the threat. Though the

enemy group was comprised of gifted people like themselves, they didn’t seem to understand

that the Birds were an organization built to protect them, too.

Hadley chuckled at the joke a last time and stood up. Her stomach led her to the kitchen, and

she opened the fridge almost mindlessly. “How would you feel about ordering pizza tonight to

celebrate your new calling as a supervillain? It’s on me for landing you a crappy interview.”

Aria looked down at her cup of soup and back at Hadley. “I already made dinner, though.”

Hadley’s response was an eyeroll, which stood out because of the mystical gray color of her

irises. “Nothing is worse than ramen except cold ramen.”

“My life is cold ramen,” Aria dramatized, though she felt considerably better with the presence of

her other half. ‘Better’ enough to eat, so she eventually agreed to a pizza date, and they

decided to walk to the nearest restaurant.

.

The night was warm and mildly humid, which was typical weather for May in the city of

Passerine.

A man of around 25, clothed in a coat that was too long for the season, followed along the

sidewalk. His footsteps were practiced and silent. He’d walked along the same streets his entire

life, but only recently had they changed. Only recently did the citizens feel the need to cross the

street when passersby approached. Though, it was no more than two years ago that he could

say his home was peaceful.

Ironically enough, the peace went away when the peacekeepers arrived.

The man held back a disgusted facial expression aimed toward one of the two girls walking in

front of him. She went by Marigold, and she was one of the so­called peacekeepers. One of the

Birds of Paradise. He watched her dark blonde ponytail swing left to right with her steps and

wondered if she knew what she was truly a part of. Most importantly, he wondered if she would

care if she did know. One could commit any crime, take any punishment­­but none of it mattered

if they didn’t feel regret.

He shook the thought as Marigold said something to her company and disappeared into a

family­owned Italian restaurant.

His only chance to speak to the girl alone had arrived.

.

Twirling her hair with one hand and scrolling through her phone with the other, Aria took on the

typical appearance of a bored teenager.

She leaned against the brick exterior of the pizza place they had decided on and thought

ravenously of the triple­meat­triple­cheese they had ordered. Though ramen was the meal of

her people (broke college students with a part time job at Burger King and not enough financial

aid), pizza was the dinner of champions in her hungry eyes.

Eyes.

Aria looked up from her phone to see a pair of eyes looking straight at her. She dropped her

device in shock, and did not pick it up to check for a broken screen. The eyes that were staring

at her were less than a foot from her own face, and when she mustered the sense to look left

and right for help, she noticed one of his arms stretched out by her head, his hand flat against

the same wall she was leaning on.

Her first thought had something to do with getting raped and left in a dumpster.

Her second was the realization that that was impossible, with Hadley just on the other side of

the wall from her and a street full of people surrounding them. Except that no one was moving,

even people who appeared to be in mid­step.

The world around her was frozen, and all that could move was herself and this man.

“What?” she finally demanded, pressing herself further against the wall to make more space

between them.

He moved closer to account for her created space, and spoke with a voice that was soft and

urgent. “I need to talk to you.”

“This really isn’t a normal way to go about doing that,” she pointed out, squirming to the left,

since her right was blocked by a creepy­man­arm.

He put his other hand up to stop her, and for some reason she could only wonder if her breath

still smelled like garlic from her pre­dinner ramen. She shook her head to expel the thought as

he made his reply.

“What I need to talk to you about is much more important than being polite.” As he spoke, he

blinked his eyes and Aria noticed they were a lovely chocolate brown. His hair and stubble was

dark, which stood out against the pale skin of someone who didn’t get out much.

She found herself averting her eyes to the pavement and to multiple sets of feet that were not

moving but should have been. He had an ability, and it was powerful enough to get into the

Birds­­or the Flightless. Just by the aura he gave off, she assumed the latter. “What is

happening? Why do you need to talk to me? I’m not a Bird, you know.”

“I know you’re not.” He smiled, and it was a smile with strings attached. His teeth were almost

too white. “You aren’t a bird, and neither am I. We have no good or bad blood, and I need you to

meet with me somewhere so we can talk in private.”

“I think this is private enough for me,” Aria said, putting her hands in front of her chest, inches

away from being flat on his ribcage. “You’re really close.”

“It’s my ability,” he said, his smirk still present. “I can freeze time, but it’s hard to keep any

amount of space that isn’t myself from being paused. The smaller the space, the easier to

exempt. Any more questions?”

He said the last part like it was an inconvenience, and Aria felt her face scrunch in displeasure.

“Not anymore, you rude man. I don’t want to do anything with you, especially not to be in your

stupid unfrozen bubble.”

Aria’s face was red with frustrated heat, even though she was normally a cool­tempered person.

She wondered why his tone had gotten to her so much, and this was her last thought before she

shoved her already outstretched hands into the man’s chest and sent him­­or rather herself­­out

of their shared bubble.

In what felt like a split second but could have been days of being frozen for all she knew, Aria’s

company emerged from the Italian place, carrying with her two boxes stacked one on top of the

other.

Her seaweed eyes skimmed the streets around her for the man, but saw no one out of the

ordinary. Everyone that was frozen was not, and it was as if nothing had happened.

“Hey, when did your phone crack?” Hadley said, motioning with her nose at the cell phone in

Aria’s hand.

The latter of the two girls looked to her palm that should have been empty (her phone had had

an unfortunate rendezvous with the pavement, if she was remembering correctly) and noticed a

spider web of cracks extending from the upper right corner of the device.

“I dropped it a second ago,” she said, and it was obviously the truth, or she would have choked

on the words. “While you were getting the pizza.”

“Uh oh, that’s not a cheap fix. Maybe you should call Blue Cardy about being a janitor,” Hadley

joked, nudging Aria with her elbow as she passed by.

Aria followed her friend all the way home, but was much too consumed in her own thoughts to

laugh at the arguably “too soon” joke. She found herself being quiet through dinner and

immediately excusing herself to her bedroom in their shared flat because she “needed to study

for finals”­­which was very true but not her intention.

In the safety of her room, she felt comfortable enough to pull out her phone and google known

people with a time manipulation mutation. When she was about to pull up a list, her phone

buzzed twice and beeped a short melody.

It was a text message from an unknown number that read, “I took your number from your phone

after you pushed me. At least I picked it up for you. I’m a gentleman, I know. Return the favor by

meeting me on Tuesday at 11 P.M. at the enclosed address. See you then. ­S”

The wrinkle between her eyebrows grew deeper with every letter in the message. That guy was

crazy if he thought she was going to do anything for or with him after the chilling first impression

he made. Aria tabbed back to her search and read the list of about 50 names.

One stood out to her, and it made a cloud of noxious realization settle around her and fill the

room.

Sparrow.

“See you then. ­S”

Aria’s posture straightened and she shot to her feet. She closed all the curtains in the room and

found herself pressed against her bedroom door. She sank to the floor and stared at her phone,

reading the name over and over.

Sparrow.

The name was much more familiar than she was expecting. It was very popular when she was

in high school, and she had heard it almost everyday back then. Now, with the Birds growing

stronger every day, it was heard a little less. She hadn’t even considered him, of all the people

who could probably freeze time on the planet.

Really, what could the leader of the Flightless want to talk to her about?

**

WS: First off, tell us about your writing background: What books/authors did you enjoy as a child? Do you see their influence in your current work?

MS: When I was younger, I loved all sorts of books. If you put it in front of me, I would read it. I feel like my style has developed on its own, but I was definitely inspired by the Artemis Fowl series and Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I devoured anything by Suzanne Collins (her most famous work being The Hunger Games) and of course I grew up on Junie B. Jones.

WS: Aria and Hadley have a really interesting dynamic as roommates. How do you view their relationship, and how do you think it will play out in the rest of the story?

MS: I wanted to have a main character who had a lot of growing up to do, and I plan to have Hadley help her out a little. The two girls will learn from the craziness their lives are going to become, and it’s up to them to decide if it brings them closer or breaks them apart.

WS: There are birds everywhere in this story. Why birds?

MS: I chose the “Birds of Paradise” because it is an exotic flower as well as a breed of birds. I wanted a theme for all my heroes’ names that will also have meaning that hints at their personality. Such as, Cardinals are majestic and proud birds, and they stand out in their surroundings–so I named the lead of the Birds “Cardinal”. Marigolds are beautiful flowers that bloom fully only when the sun is out, and they represent courage and confidence–so I named Aria’s supporting character Marigold. It’s not so much I love the idea of birds, but how I think Cardinal–if she were real–would want it.

WS: Can you give us a little hint as to what to expect as the story unfolds?

MS: In my work, I set up a story full of cliches–a girl without a power who wants to be a hero, a supervillain who is just “misunderstood”, a town with a constant good vs. evil battle. I have every intention of taking these cliches and shattering them, only to use the pieces to create something unique and marvelous.

WS: Do you plan on publishing this story as a novel when it’s complete, or do you have other plans?

MS: I wouldn’t be opposed to being published (who would?), but for now I am writing for myself. My story is in its rawest form, so I have some time to decide.

**

Whelp, there you have it! Thanks for reading everyone, and expect to see the next post up here soon!

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