Esther Velez

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Review: Allegiant


By Jessica allegiant coverVelez

*Spoiler Alert*

In order for me to review this, I”m going into detail at some points.

Allegiant is the third book in the Divergent trilogy, preceded by Divergent and Insurgent, written by Veronica Roth.  I”ll start with a little background about the other two books.

Beatrice Prior lives in a world divided into factions based on personality types and values:  Abnegation, Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, and Amity.  Beatrice grew up in the Abnegation sector, where selflessness is the defining trait.  Upon turning 16, every child must take a test to determines if they should stay in their faction or transfer to another.  Beatrice tests come back as inconclusive (or as Divergent) and she decides to transfer to the Dauntless faction. Continue reading

Story Time 04: Killing Hanrue

Episode 4 of Story Time is here!

Greetings everyone! Today’s episode is going to take us into the Hanrue Universe, as I like to call it. It’s the universe where a lot of my stories are going to be set in the near future. This particular story is an origins story of sorts, but it stands on its own as well. Let’s get to reading!

(For those who haven’t yet read “Killing Hanrue,” click here.)

I wrote this story for an Introduction to Creative Writing class in the Fall of 2012. It follows a young assassin named Paige Romano on her final mission before becoming a full fledged Morland Sister. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this story is set in a fictional universe, even though it lays claim to places like New York and Kentucky. It is set in the Hanrue Universe, as I have taken to calling it, on Earth, in the days before the Great Flood. Killy Hanrue, a young politician, has taken the world by storm with his rhetoric, and promises to make the world a better place. This is in direct conflict with Paige Romano, who wants the world to be so wicked that it will spark the return of her savior. Her mission is to kill him, and once she completes this mission, she will receive a new name, the highest reward within the Morland Order.

Speaking of the Morland Order, what are they? The Morland Order is a group of men and women who have dedicated themselves to a deity known as the Giver of Life. They live in anticipation of a savior who will right all the wrongs of the universe and lead them to victory over their enemies. They also serve as chaos makers, destroying anyone or anything that threatens to bring peace to the world. Remember: their savior will only return when their world is completely evil and wicked. As an incentive for new recruits to kill, they set up an elaborate system which required each person to complete ten successful assassinations for a new name, assigned to them by the Giver of Life himself. Additionally, they added chastity as a rule to keep their numbers in check, and to keep their recruits under their control. As you have probably guessed, they are a bad group of people.

Paige Romano is caught right in the middle of this. She hints at some pain throughout the story, saying that she believed that joining the Morland Order would make it all better, almost like how people convert to religions thinking it will save them. Paige has a lot of relationship issues, as she finds herself doubting human’s capacity for love. Her parents were her heroes growing up, but when their marriage disintegrated, it left her feeling bitter and cynical. Paige joined the Morland Order thinking it would make her life easier, but it has made everything harder for her. She struggles to remain chaste, and must deal with the feelings of attraction she has toward Hanrue, the man she is supposed to kill. Paige acknowledges that she has messed up in the past before, with a Morland Brother named Adrian, and her sisters have never forgiven her for it. The driving force for Paige’s actions in this story is to clear her name, to show her sisters that even though she messed up once, she is still worthy of the name the Giver of Life will give her.

As you read the story, did you notice that everything was going wrong for Paige? Right from the beginning, she got caught and the security guard turned on her. Then, the taxi driver ratted her out and Hanrue himself tried to stop her from completing her mission. What’s a good story without any conflict, huh? Paige’s struggle to go through with this murder is super important because it shows her growth as a character. Even though she was originally going to kill him and actually went through with her murder, she changed. She came to terms with her parents’ betrayal and essentially forgave herself for what she did with Adrian. She came out stronger in the end.

But what about Hanrue? Was he part of the Morland Order? That little twist at the end was unexpected for me, but it all made sense. Killy Hanrue was an assassin just like Paige. He went through the whole process, killed his ten, got his new name. But he learned something along the way, something that changed his life forever. He left the Morland Order and began his journey to learn more about the Giver of Life, the deity he had been serving his whole life. Hanrue tried to share this with Paige, but she killed him before he could say anything.

As I mentioned earlier, this story is part of the Hanrue Universe. So how does it all fit in? Well – this is about to get a little complicated, so bear with me – Killy Hanrue gave a prophecy before he died, a prophecy that will feature in later stories. Paige Romano found out about Hanrue’s teachings a few years after killing him. She eventually began following the Giver of Life and received a message from him: the world was about to destroyed in a Great Flood. She was to take seven others with her and escape Earth in a spaceship and resettle in another galaxy. This other galaxy, the Sagedell System, is where my Stones of Hanrue Trilogy takes place. Like I said, it can get a bit complicated.

But there is still a bit more to this story. What are some of the themes underneath it all? Well, the Morland Order represents religion, of course, and its effort to stifle people with a list of do’s and don’t’s. But just giving someone a rule doesn’t do anything to change their desires: Paige’s struggle to remain chaste represents this well. In addition, the Morland Order represents people who attempt to create their own “saviors” – whether the savior be pleasure, relationships, or material possessions. They seek out something that makes them feel whole, that makes them feel better about themselves, something that keeps them going every day, something that ultimately isn’t satisfactory. They have so blinded themselves to the truth that they aren’t able to see the truth when it is standing right in front of them.

Love is also another big theme in this story. Paige doesn’t really know what it means to love. She thought love was unconditional, but her parents split up and her friends abandoned her. She thought she loved Adrian, the Morland Brother, but her rehabilitation convinced her that the things she felt for him were not love at all. So she is struggling to understand what that means, and this story shows part of her struggle. She thinks that her Sisters will love her again if she successfully completes her mission, and she is really holding on to this hope. What I like about Paige is that she finds out what love really is when she comes in contact with the Giver of Life – but this doesn’t happen in Killing Hanrue. That’s something that comes later, so at the end of this story, you are kind of left hanging in that regard.

I’ve written extensively about this story because I know a whole lot about it. I was very nervous about this story because I had to present it to my whole class, but most people liked it and everyone understood it. It was super hard to write, though, because I was taking a good number of classes that required a lot of writing, and I struggled to find the time to finish it by the deadline. But, I had fun with it, and it laid some foundation for another story I would write in the future. I am happy with this story.

I hope you guys enjoyed it, along with this episode. Let me know what you thought about what I wrote in the comments section below! As usual, let’s get to talking.


Too Invested?

By Esther Velez

Alex Ruiz, one of the writers on this site, recently went through a series of his top five favorite anime couples (you can read it here). It was a great series and if the comments are any testament, we all enjoyed it. There was one post, #2 on the list, that really struck a chord with me, though. We watched the short video Alex posted at the end, and 3/5 of those watching were left in tears. And not just a few tears, but tears streaming from puffy, red eyes onto equally puffy, red faces.

There’s something different about that kind of cry. You are sad, but it isn’t like someone you love has left or you’re being punished for something you’ve done. Somehow or other, you’ve made a connection with a character or a story, and you’ve gotten so invested with them that this emotional situation – whatever it might be – has left you in a puddle of tears.

I’ve been thinking on the power of stories lately. My sister told me of a line that stuck out to her in The Great Gatsby and I told her that the author had done his job correctly. He had gotten her to think about his story long after he was dead. Another sister of mine told me about a book she didn’t like and how she disagreed with the ending. While I agreed with her analysis, looking back on it, the author of that book did her job correctly as well. Regardless of personal opinion, she got us talking about her book, long after she’d closed the document, long after my sister had finished reading it. The fact that my sister had an opinion for how she wanted the book to end, or at least was unsatisfied with it, shows how much she had invested into the story and those characters.

But why do we get so invested in characters and stories? Why do we want to know what happens next in the lives of our favorite characters or at the end of the episode on TV? A quote from the movie Shadowlands puts it perfectly: “We read to know we are not alone.” That’s right. We read to know we are not alone. What does that even mean? That we’re all depressed loners who search inside of books, TV shows, and video games for friends? I don’t think so.

When we read stories (or watch them unfold in movies and TV shows), we encounter human beings, and if not actual humans, then beings with human-like characteristics. We join with them on the journey that is the story to see where they’ve been and where they are going. But we also see ourselves in them, even if in a small way. We watch a particular show and in one episode, a character says something and we agree with them in our mind. Yes, I’ve felt that way before. Yes, I have dreamed about that as well. Yes, someone has done this to me before. We may not realize it, but stories often show us things we are not willing to see in ourselves. Let me explain.

I recently read an article about a man who had lived in an RV while getting his Master’s degree and wrote a book about it. He said that he felt compelled to write because people need stories. Stories give them the power to feel certain things, to realize that they are not the only ones who have felt something before. This writer said that other writers need to be brave and pick up their pens and tell stories so people can have the power to feel these things. Almost like they can have permission to feel these things. And it might be subtle. It doesn’t have to be overly dramatic.

And that’s where the quote from Shadowlands comes in. We aren’t necessarily picking up a book saying, “I’m reading this to know that I’m not alone.” But we are reading to see other humans interact with each other. We’re reading to see people overcome obstacles. We’re reading to see characters change. We’re reading because we need these in our lives: we need to interact with one another, we need to overcome obstacles, and we need change. And, sometimes, the strength in a character can spill over into our own lives. There are stories and characters that I’ve experienced that have deeply affected the way I see the world. There are characters that are alive in my mind, so to speak, that feel real and I feel like I know them, even though they aren’t real. I’m not being creepy about this. Just think about your favorite character and story of all time.

Stories are super important. Just ask Jesus. He used stories to convey his messages all the time in the Bible. Stories stick with us. The made up ones, and even the real ones, have this strange power when we invest in them, when we connect with the characters and follow them on the journey that is their story. I have some questions for you guys! Has a story impacted you? (It could be fiction or non-fiction – it doesn’t matter.) What’s your favorite character or story of all time, and why? Let’s talk about that in the comments section. I’ll even join you guys in the discussion down there 🙂

Let’s get to talking!

Liked this post? Read more at Unabridged: A Blog

Here’s A Little Secret: Peter Parker Hates Being SpiderMan

For clarification purposes, I will not refer to director Sam Raimi’s Spidey (the early 2000 live action movie series) as Peter Parker. He simply isn’t Peter Parker. He is Tobey Maguire. I don’t care what anyone says.

Oh! And just so you know, this post has a bunch of poorly sized and organized photographs, one of which should make you laugh. Let me know in the comments which one it was.

That being said, this one is kinda long, so slip those endurance reading caps over your head and plow on ahead …

Is it just me or does Tobey Maguire seem happiest when he isn’t Spider-Man? I mean, when he was a nerd-face in I and II, and when he went emo-core in III, didn’t he seem like the happiest guy on the block? Whenever he fell down in his nerd-face mode, he always sprang up with the gracefulness of a gazelle. When he was an emo-core punk, the girl next door gave him attention and fed him cookies while his one-armed reptilian professor told him that the black suit of death would make him dance unashamedly in jazz night clubs. You can’t tell me that the poor guy wasn’t happy. Sure, busting bad guys felt good for the Spider, but everyone knows that you can’t sling webs 24/7. You gotta take a break and go home to the family now and again.

Speaking of family … I would contend that Tobey Maguire is happiest when Mary Jane is not the object of his affections, but rather, his disdain. Sure, he kinda still liked her in II when he pretty much told her that he didn’t care if she was married, he still wanted to go out and eat hamburgers with her. And you might say that he had positive feelings for her that his emo-core self didn’t know how else to express except in a strange, embarrassing, finger-snapping-infused dance-off. But if she was out of the picture, he was free to have fun, do well in science class, and eat homemade cookies from the hand of Olga. Or was it Gretchen? (Not being racist or perpetuating stereotypes. I’m just not sure what her name is.)

“Eating hamburgers makes me happy. Do they make you happy?”

I like to tear my shirt open like I’m Superman or something. But I’m really just an emo-core punk with a suit that demon possesses me. Don’t think too much about that.

“Do they make those cookies in emo-core flavor? They do? Sweet. Make me some more of those.”

You wanna look like this? Eat some emo-core cookies.
















If he had a choice, I’m almost sure Tobey would give up his Spidey powers forever. For no apparent reason, he seems to be losing his powers in II. The waning of his powers coincides with his internal struggle with being Spider-man. He desperately wants to love Mary Jane as something more than a friend. But he knows that he can’t, because everyone will come after her and kill her if they know that she belongs to the Spider. Of course, in II, the Octopus goes after her even while she is about to get married to J^3’s son. (He may have witnessed the scandalous scene which transpired there a few seconds earlier. After hearing that Tobey Maguire didn’t love her, Mary Jane proceeds to grab his hand while wearing her engagement ring, and ask him to kiss her. Of course, we know that she is trying to “feel” if he is the one who gave her the kiss as Spider-Man (which is straight up creepy). Doc Ock had to have seen this. There is no other justification for why he chose to steal Mary Jane from the Tobes.)

And if you keep thinking about it, Mary Jane just keeps getting herself into trouble that has little to nothing to do with Tobey Maguire. The reason why she is attacked by the Green Goblin is because of Harry. Let me clarify. Harry loves his dad, but his dad doesn’t care for him. So, in an effort to reach out to his dad, he tells him his girlfriend issues, which just so happen to involve both the Tobes and our girl, MJ. It is this information that gives the Goblin the idea that he could use MJ as bait for the Spider. Clearly not his fault.

I’ve already cleared up II. That was Mary Jane’s fault. She should not have been trying to kiss guys while wearing her engagement ring. If she had been acting like a good fiancé, she would’ve been perfectly safe.

She has an engagement ring on that finger. And there’s a menorah in the background. Just saying.










Lastly, in III, Eddie Brock decides to grab her because he is in love with Gwen Stacy and wants to get Petey away from her. Although Tobey is involved, he is not responsible. All this to say: if they get together, I’m almost sure that they wouldn’t have much problems. In fact, if you think about it, she only ever has a problem once a movie. And we all know that Spider-Man is gonna save her. Now, show us a few times when he fails and people die, and then maybe I would agree with the poor guy. Instead, Spider-Man II is just one long emotional roller coaster ride, and I’m only observing the relationship. I can’t even give any advice, even if it would be ignored. It’s troubling. And III is no different. It’s just too much.

I’m telling you, if Tobey Maguire just dumped the outfit in another garbage bin, he’d be so happy. If he chose to will away his powers – like he did in II – then he would be able to get married to Mary Jane – which, I hope, is what he wants to do with her – and they would live happily ever after. No more Spider-Man. Unless he reveals how he became the Spider and people attempt to imitate it, sparking a Neogenic nightmare in which thousands of Spider-Men crawl around the city, using their powers for neither good nor evil, if that is even possible. But he still wouldn’t be Spider-Man and it’d be someone else’s problem.

And Uncle Ben wouldn’t be dead. And the Sandman would probably still be in jail. And Bone-Saw would still be throwing down in the underground wrestling matches. Let’s not forget the most important things that he did as Spider-Man, long before he donned the professional red suit.

So, yeah. Let Tobey Maguire live out his dreams as nerd-face/emo-core Peter Parker, and he would be just swell. We would never have to see his leaky eyes, of which I would have been most grateful. In the words of the MJ of “Spider-Man 3 HISHE” : You cry too much!















Just for fun, watch this video!  How SpiderMan 3 Should Have Ended

And this one, just b/c it’s funny 😀 How the Amazing SpiderMan Should Have Ended

Episode Two: Killing Hanrue, Pt. 1

He still kept paper records, which was strange for the year 2092. As a member of the Morland Order, I had a lot of dealings with books and physical libraries, but the rest of the population had moved into the digital realm a great many years earlier. As I thumbed through folders and folders of thin, yellowing paper, I couldn’t help but wonder if this man was anything to be afraid of. My mission was simple: kill the New England Regional Director. The reasons, however, were not. Even still, I wasn’t sure how anyone so behind the times could interfere with our plans.

A bright flash of pink caught my eye and my fingers froze. There it was. Director Killy Hanrue’s expansion plans for Manhattan, printed on neon pink paper, just as my research had indicated. I didn’t know what the Morland leaders wanted with these architectural designs, but it was none of my concern. This request had come in a few days before I left Kentucky for New York, and the only thing they would tell me was that I had better not return without them.

Shoving the plans into my light gray satchel, I closed the file cabinets and surveyed my surroundings. I had managed to get inside with little to no hassle, although the welt on the security guard’s eye would beg to differ. The office was large and neat, with a cluster of metal bookshelves to one side and the Director’s desk to another.

I stepped over to the mahogany desk, which looked fairly new, despite the fact that mahogany, or any kind of wood for that matter, was extremely rare. On the wall behind the desk was a huge screen, with a dozen different news channels running at the same time. I reached out and gently touched a portion of the screen, and one of the channels enlarged and covered the entire screen. We didn’t have much technology in the Morland Temple, although we knew of its existence, and it still fascinated me. The woman on the screen, began to speak, her voice shrill and loud to match her decorative face paint.

“Director Killy Hanrue delivered a speech last night in Old Times Square, with thousands of supporters flocking just to see him.”

The image suddenly shifted to my target, standing on a podium a few blocks from Altin Hall, where his office presided. His bright blue eyes gazed directly into the camera, every short black hair neatly in place. He opened his mouth to speak, revealing straight white teeth.

“My goal is to bring peace to our world, to create a New American Society in which we are not afraid to let our children play in the streets. A New American Society where we don’t have to worry about being robbed or even murdered simply because someone isn’t getting enough to eat.” The camera panned over the crowd, which featured young men and women cheering ecstatically, mothers and fathers holding their kids high on their shoulders, older folks nodding fervently. It was easy to see why the Morland Order wanted this man dead. He had such an enthralling effect on the people, as he promised what everyone wanted: the peace and safety to live their lives as they pleased.

As a Morland Sister, I did not want peace, at least, not from a human being. Our people believed that a savior was coming, from somewhere in the vast universe, who would bring lasting peace to this demented world. He would only come, our sacred texts claimed, when the world was in a terribly chaotic state and mankind had no hope left for the future. Any man or woman who promised peace was standing in the way of our future glory, and deserved to be eliminated.

The sound stopped abruptly and the images before me slowly faded to black. I reached out to the screen, confused, when a voice from behind startled me.

“What are you doing in here, young lady?”

I turned around to the speaker, my face nearly reddening with shame. How had I, the best assassin in all of the Order, gotten caught with my pants down? My target stood in the doorway, right hand on the light switch, left hand still on the doorknob, staring at me.

I hadn’t expected him to look this handsome in person. In preparing for this mission, I’d spent hours watching documentaries detailing his rise from obscure lawyer to New England Regional Director, poring over dozens of photographs, but I always assumed that without makeup or special lights he’d look like a regular man. Now, I wasn’t sure if something this beautiful even deserved to die.

Cut it out, Paige. You’re exaggerating, I chided myself. Of course he deserves to die. His policies are going to turn the whole world against you.

He gently shut the door and crossed the room to where I stood. I glanced at my watch. A quarter to eight. I still had time. My flight back to Kentucky didn’t leave until nine, but I wouldn’t need that long to get this menace downstairs.

“That’s an interesting necklace you have there,” he said, gesturing to the small ruby around my neck. I immediately covered it with my hand, slipping it into the neck of my black sweater. How could I have been so dumb? Today was simply not my day. If he had gotten closer, he would have seen the two golden dragons painted on either side that identified me as a member of the Morland Order. Turn it around and he’d see the thin indented line where my new name was supposed to go.

If you don’t hurry up and kill him, you’ll never get your name.

My conscience was very vocal today, but it spoke the truth nonetheless. The Morland Order was the strictest sect of the Chestani religion, with only two mandates: maintain your celibacy and murder your targets. Each Morland Brother and Sister received a new name after their tenth successful mission. This name was said to be delivered by the Giver of Life, our greatest deity. No one was allowed to share their name, or a curse was said to be placed on them. I was eager to get my name, for I knew that once I had it, my Sisters would accept me again.

“Aren’t you the new intern here?” He asked suddenly, narrowing his eyes. I blinked in surprise. One of our field agents had secured the position for me so I could get inside the Director’s office in Altin Hall, but the two of us had never met, and I hadn’t expected him to know me.

“What are you doing up here?” He asked again, not waiting for my response to his previous question.

“I came up here because I was afraid of the security guard.” I had practiced this line a thousand times, and I delivered it as flawlessly as I’d hoped. It was a half truth; the security guard would be after my hide when he found out that I hadn’t left any payment for his silence, but I would be long gone by then.

“Jimmy?” The Director laughed and shook his head. “That old guy has been with me for ten years. He wouldn’t harm anyone, I assure you.” He smiled and reached out his hand, expecting me to take it. Instead, I shoved my hands in my pocket and looked away, casting him a nervous glance, almost as though I was scared.

“Young lady, there is nothing to be afraid of. My goal is to make New York City safe again.” He paused and ran a hand through his close-cropped hair. “Do you want me to take you home?”

Goodness, I thought to myself, is this guy too trusting or what? And does he think I would really let him take me home?

“That’s a generous offer,” I replied, smiling slightly. I stepped around the desk to his side and he laughed.

“You can’t be more than nineteen years old. What are you doing all the way in Old Times Square by yourself?”

He led me over to the door, his hand grasping my sleeved arm. If it’d been bare skin I would have killed him right there and then, even if I couldn’t hide the body. I’ve learned a few things maintaining my celibacy, and chief among these was limiting physical contact with males.

I didn’t answer him, but stepped out into the hallway. The security guard with the welt on his eye stood there, arms to his sides and eyes blazing. I hadn’t expected to see him again.

“There you are, you little liar!”

He lunged at me with both hands, but I was faster, ducking and landing a quick punch to his stomach. He swung wildly at me, but I kneed him in the groin, sending him doubled over in pain.

“What is the meaning of this, Jimmy?” The Director shouted, grabbing the security guard by the shoulders. Another security guard stood at the end of the hall and he rushed toward me when he saw his partner go down.

Let’s do this.

The guard pinned me against the wall, hands clasped on my shoulders. I didn’t feel a thing, though, as my mind raced through the steps my trainer Alexi had hammered into me. First step: determine which of his targets are vulnerable to attack. His hands were tied up with me, so that left the groin, eyes, chest, armpits, that piece of flesh under the forearm. This guy was sloppy. Next step: determine what weapons are available for me to use. Both my hands and my feet were free. This guy was going down.

Lifting my left leg off the ground, I kneed him in the stomach, bringing my right arm around from the back to catch him in a headlock and twist his body around before he could double over in pain. I pulled the handcuffs off his belt in a split second, working them over his wrists as he struggled to free himself from my grasp.

“Quit squirming,” I muttered, clicking the metal rings into place. I pushed him away from me and he whirled around, anger lighting his pale blue eyes. He lunged at me with bound hands, but I stepped out his path and he crashed into the wall. I pulled out the pistol tucked in my jeans – I hate guns but they’re effective – and shoved the barrel into the back of his head.

“One more move and you’re a dead man,” I snarled as he raised his hands in surrender.

“Hey, young lady, I’d like to know what is going on here!” The Director released the first security guard, the one who was supposed to be my accomplice but seemed to have forgotten our agreement, and stepped over to my side.

I turned the gun toward him, my eyes still on the second security guard.

“You’re coming with me, Director, and if any of your guards try to do anything about it, you’re a dead man.” Of course, he was a dead man either way, but there was no use telling him that.

He stared at the side of my face for a full ten seconds then sighed and shook his head.

“Guys, thanks for your help, but I’m going to go with her.”

I gestured to the elevator at the end of the hall.

“Let’s go.”


To be continued……

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