Reporting Live From Revision Hell

Last month I had an idea.

“I’m going to spend February revising my manuscript for The Witch’s Patron,” I said to myself. “Then I’ll be able to get back to focusing on my other projects!”

How hard could it be? I had already received and reviewed notes from my beta readers, so I knew what I needed to focus on. Plus I had already written a bunch of new scenes back during NaNoWriMo 2017, so my word count was much healthier than when I originally finished the first draft.

I spent the last half of January getting ahead on The Wind and the Horizon so I could have all 28 days of February to focus on my revisions. It was going to be a great a productive month and, when it was over, I intended to have a polished and significantly stronger story ready to query once pitch season rolled around!

Ha.

As of right now there’s a week left of February and I still haven’t finished making my first pass of line edits.

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#same

It turns out revising a manuscript is every bit as tedious and soul-sucking as far more experienced writers say time and again.

When am I going to learn?

What I originally thought was going to be a quick pass to fix some typos and reacquaint myself with the story before going on to make the changes identified by my beta readers quickly spiralled into what can only be described as a very rude wake-up call.

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*sobs* YES, you mean spirited little gremlin!

Now, i’s not like I haven’t had to do revisions and rewrites before – just never on this scale. The Starborn Series books are web serials that get posted weekly, so I’m rarely reworking more than a handful of chapters at once. I even did a major rewrite of the short story The Witch’s Patron is based off of, but that was only 2,000 words.

But this? This was something else entirely.

I wrote The Witch’s Patron for NaNoWriMo 2016. Having done very little pre-planning I was rushed and frantic, and it shows. Sure, there are parts that still really hold up on their own; I don’t have to rewrite all of it… But I do have to rewrite a lot.

Early on in the process, as the reality was starting to hit me, I felt hopeless. I was convinced the story was terrible and it wasn’t even going to be worth the time it’s going to take to make it better. I even (briefly) considered tossing it like the trash I was convinced it was.

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Am I implying that the story was a dumpster fire or that it belonged in a dumpster fire? Yes.

But I had loved the story once upon a time, hadn’t I?

And my beta readers really enjoyed it too.

It couldn’t be that bad, right?

So, rather than giving up, I stuck it out. I got to the parts I really loved and they reminded me of why I believed in the story in the first place. Soon, I wasn’t looking at all the red ink and sticky notes (yes, I’m doing this the old fashioned way with a hard copy) as daunting work to be done, but rather as exciting opportunities to make the story I love the best it can be.

There is no way I’m going to have this project finished by the end of the month; I definitely bit off more than I can chew with that goal. But I am going to keep working on it and I’m not going to rush it.

This story has potential. I just have to give it the time and hard work that it deserves.

Have any revision stories or tips you want to share? Tell me all about it in the comments!

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Eight

[ Beginning | Previous ]


Endless possibilities flashed through May’s mind, all of them bad.

Had the others been caught? Were they dead? Was all this a set-up?

Pulse pounding, she and Em followed Marina through a side door and into the house. As if she could read May’s anxious mind, Em reached over and took her hand tightly in her own.

Marina didn’t speak. They followed her through a series of rooms – an entryway littered with shoes and the debris of a busy life, a kitchen stocked with state-of-the-art appliances covered in grubby fingerprints – and into a dark sitting room. She closed a pair of frosted glass doors and drew the window curtains before turning to May and Em.

“Are you alright?” she asked, scanning the pair with worried eyes. The look of concern on her face reminded May of someone, but May couldn’t quite put her finger on it. “Are you hurt?”

Em shook her head. “No, just tired. Kind of hungry.”

On cue, May’s stomach let out a deep and embarrassing growl. She hadn’t realized how famished she was until Em had said something.

“I can imagine.” Marina dropped into an armchair, looking almost as exhausted as May and Em. She gestured to the couch and the pair sat tentatively.

“Where are the others?” May asked. Her brain was still shouting terrible what if’s at her. “Are they safe?”

Marina sighed deeply. “I have no idea. Connor would never tell me that, no matter how much trouble they were in.”

May’s stomach lurched. “Trouble?”

“They’re coming though, right?” Em asked. Her expression was one of calm but the grip she had on May’s hand gave her away. When her eyes flicked, May knew she was sizing up the room just in case they needed to run.

“They are,” Marina assured them. “I promise, they’ll meet you as soon as they’re able. I don’t know the details of what’s going on and, before you say anything, I don’t want to know either. But when my brother reached out to me I knew it had to be serious.”

“Why’s that?” May asked. She hadn’t known Connor had a sister until Em mentioned it back in Luxton. It dawned on her she didn’t know how involved in WIND and Wishes this woman was.

“Because I never hear from Connor,” Marina said. She smiled, but her eyes were sad. “Generally speaking, it’s always been safer that way. I didn’t pry when he asked me to find you, but I knew it was important.”

“How’d you know we’d be on that train?” May still didn’t feel as safe; she wasn’t convinced they were in the clear yet. Despite everything, it just felt too easy.

“Jeremy let me know.” Marina pulled out her phone, opened it to a glowing message, and handed it to May. “That asshole has eyes everywhere.”

The message was from an unknown number. All it said was “8:15”. Attached was a pixelated security camera photo of May purchasing tickets at the Luxton station. Under different circumstances, the image would have made May sick with fear. Instead it filled her with a rush of relief; if Jeremy was somehow hacking into security cameras, it meant he had made it out of that alley alive.

Having read the message over May’s shoulder, Em sat back. “So, now what?”

“If you’re caught up with my brother and his friends, you likely need a safe place to wait,” Marina said, taking her phone back. “You can stay here, but only on the condition that you both stay out of sight. I don’t want any trouble, got it?”

Somewhere in the house, a door slammed, making May jump.

“Well?” Marina’s intense gaze held them both.

There was a sound of shuffling, followed by footsteps coming their way.

May cut a wide-eyed glance to Em, panic rising back up with each thump of the incoming footsteps.

“Of course,” Em answered with a nod. “We could use a safe place to lay low.”

Marina smiled, warm and relieved.

“Mom?” A voice shouted from somewhere down the hall.

Something in May’s mind clicked into place. The mess in the entryway and the fingerprints in the kitchen suddenly made sense: Connor’s sister had a family of her own. May recognized Marina’s worried expression because she had seen her own mother and sister wear the same one over the years.

“In here, hun.”

The door squeaked open and through the crack peered a sandy-haired boy of about nine or ten. His eyes landed on May and Em, full of curiosity.

“Where’s dad?” Marina asked the boy as he took a cautious  step into the room.

“We stopped at the store on the way home,” he replied, glancing at his mother. “He’s putting the groceries away.” He wore a grass-stained soccer uniform. One of the knee-high socks had slid down his shin. May’s mind wandered back to Omi, the same way it usually did when she saw young boys who reminded her of all the things about her nephew’s life she was going to miss.

“Go give him a hand, please,” Marina said with the contrary gentle firmness only a mother can pull off. “We’ll be out in a second.”

“Who are they?”

“Myles, go please.”

The boy harrumphed but did as he was told, closing the door as he went.

“Like I said.” Marina was looking at May and Em again when they turned back to face her. “I won’t ask any questions. If you don’t cause any trouble, you can stay. Fair?”

It was May who nodded this time. The reality of what Marina was putting on the line for them was all the assurance she needed. “Very.”

Marina stood and smiled. “Good. I promised Myles ice cream after his soccer practice, but I’m sure I can find you something with a bit more substance first.” She winked.

May grinned. Something about the warmth of a family setting made her feel at ease.

But when she looked at Em, it was clear she didn’t share that feeling. Brows furrowed tightly, Em was so deep in thought she didn’t notice May stand up until she crouched down in front of her.

“Are you okay?” May asked quietly.

Em gave her head a shake and with it, her grimace faded. She forced a smile.

“Sure.” She took May’s hand. “Let’s go get that ice cream.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Seven

[ Start at the Beginning | Previous Chapter ]


The only visible reaction Em had to May’s announcement was the tension pulling at her shoulders.

“Where?” she whispered, throwing quick, surreptitious glances to her right and then left. She didn’t want to tip whoever was following them that they had noticed.

“A few feet behind us,” May whispered back, knowing that breaking into a run would have been the worst decision she could make but desperately wishing she could anyway.

“Melanie?”

The memory of the relentless Loyal woman who had pursued them more than a year ago in Tenna, flipping their whole world upside down, flashed through May’s mind. Her stomach clenched.

“No.” Thank goodness.

Em licked her lips and May could tell what she was thinking – they were sitting ducks out in the open like this; they needed to lose the agent.

Based on the amount of people milling through the massive main hall of York Central Station, it was clear the city was a busy and popular place to be. Everyday commuters wove expertly through swarms of gawking and disoriented tourists. May noticed a rather large gathering – a tour group from the looks of things – congregating close to a coffee stop built into the smooth limestone. She nodded discreetly in their direction.

“Good call,” Em muttered. Without another word they crisscrossed through a stream of people heading in the opposite direction, splitting up just enough to make it harder to keep an eye on both of them without wandering out of sight of each other.

May got to the tour group first and wedged her way into the cluster as if she belonged there. She kept her head down and, rather than stopping in the false sense of security the densely packed crowd provided, continued through to the other side. The tourists themselves were in such a state of disorganization they didn’t spare her a second glance. She emerged in time to see Em skirting around the far side of the group, the hood of her sweatshirt up and ducking low.

Moving faster now, they scurried into the coffee stop and around the line. Em scanned the room.

“If there’s a way out of here,” she said. “It’s going to be through their back room.”

Behind the counter and the three hectic baristas hung a curtain that blocked the back from sight. May homed in on the solitary woman working the bar – young, pretty, with plenty of black eyeliner – and leaned over the counter to get her attention.

“Do you need the bathroom key?” the barista asked, sounding not unfriendly but certainly distracted.

May shook her head. Em watched her carefully, wondering what her girlfriend was up to with the frightened look she had pulled over her face like a mask.

“Is there a way outside through the back?” she asked in a hushed, hurried voice. “There’s a creep who was on our train and now he’s following us around.”

For the first time the girl stopped moving, her expression dropping in an instant. Her dark-lidded eyes flicked up to the buzzing line of customers as if she might be able to pick the guy out without knowing more than what May had told her.

May was banking on the chance that the barista probably could have, had their pursuer been real.

“Shit,” Em hissed, turning sharply away from the crowd and tugging on the drawstrings of her hood. “I just saw him lurking in the hall.”

“Okay.” The barista glanced quickly at her co-workers before nodding toward the curtain. “Come with me.”

She waved May and Em around the counter and held back the curtain so they could slip through.

“Right there.” She pointed to a heavy-looking metal door against a back wall. “It will let you out in the alley.”

“You’re a lifesaver,” May whispered in gratitude.

“The world needs more sisterly solidarity,” Em said, giving the barista a salute. “Thanks for leading the charge.”

The girl smirked. “Good luck out there.”

Out in the alley, May let herself smile.

“That was brilliant, babe,” Em said with a laugh. “Quick thinking.”

“I feel a little guilty about lying to her now,” May admitted.

“Don’t. Women can be creeps too. Now which way should-”

Mid-turn, Em stopped dead and stared open-mouthed at the entrance to the alley. May looked over her shoulder. It was as if the world itself ground to a halt; the Loyal woman was already there.

May grabbed Em’s arm and tried to pull her in the opposite direction, but she stood solid, transfixed.

“Please stop running,” the woman pleaded, hustling up to them while throwing anxious glances behind her. “You’re going to draw attention to us if you keep this up.”

Em was still gaping. “You’re…”

“Marina,” the woman finished, looking flustered. “Connor’s sister.”

And just like that, the world resumed spinning, leaving May feeling nauseous.

“All that freaking out for nothing.” She doubled over, hands on her knees. “There had to be a better way to get our attention without scaring us like that!”

“Consider it a compliment to your evading skills,” Marina said, still fidgeting. She shifted her weight from foot to foot, twitching at every sound. “I had a hard enough time following you as it was. But we’re not out of the woods just yet. Come on, we’ve got to get you two out of the open.”

Silently May and Em followed Marina as she sprinted down the alley and to a curb in front of the building. As soon as she stepped out into the open a white SUV tore out from a row in the sprawling parking lot and lurched to a stop in front of her. They piled in, the vehicle speeding away before the girls even had a chance to sit down.

May wrestled off her pack and pulled it onto her lap as she sat back. Eyes closed, she let out a sigh of relief. When she opened them again, she looked to the driver’s seat, wondering who their getaway driver might be.

But the driver’s seat was empty.

“What’s going on?” May shrieked, fresh terror flashing through her like a flood. “Where’s the driver?”

Em looked up from the seatbelt she was trying to stretch around her, pack and all.

“Holy shit!”

“Please stop yelling,” Marina begged. She was focused on her phone, typing rapidly as the vehicle sped along, driverless.

“This car is driving itself.” May felt like she was dreaming. “You can’t blame me for freaking out!”

At a stop light, Marina crawled into the driver’s seat and buckled herself in. She pressed her thumb into the screen embedded in the dash. The lights illuminating the dashboard features faded from green to blue and suddenly it was clear that Marina was in control.

“You know,” she remarked, meeting May’s wide eyes in the rearview mirror. “Most people are impressed when they see my auto-valet program in action.”

“Yours?” Em leaned forward between the seats. “As in, you invented it?”

“Concept, code, and fabrication,” Marina replied, her eyes firmly trained on the road. “Now sit back, the windows aren’t tinted up here.”

May looked to Em who whispered.

“She always was a smart cookie.”

She gave up on struggling and buckled the seatbelt around herself, pack still on her back.

Marina steered them down a winding series of side streets, through sleepy neighbourhoods and passed bustling mom and pop shops selling produce and home furniture, far away from the chaos of the downtown core. The space between houses grew wider, the homes set farther back from the road, and eventually Marina slowed and turned the vehicle down a tree lined drive. May pressed her face to her window, peering through the trees at the expansive, lush grounds leading up to an impressive home that looked like it could have housed three families comfortably.

“Woah,” she muttered, awestruck. Not even Mr. Anoki – the well-to-do theatre director back home in Omea with all his glamorous galas – had a home like this one; May had never seen anything like it in her life. “Do you live here?”

“I do,” Marina answered. “With my family.”

Em’s gaze was intense as she scanned the front of the house. “Are the others already here?”

In the driver’s seat, Marina shifted, her lips pressed into a tight line and tapped a button on the dash screen. She didn’t say anything, acting as if steering her SUV into the yawning mouth of the garage ahead took every ounce of her concentration.

“Marina,” Em pressed, louder and impatient.

The garage door clunked into reverse as Marina shut off the engine.

“No, they’re not,” she answered without glancing back. Her tone sent a shock of cold racing through May’s veins. “Let’s talk inside.”


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Find Me in “Love & Bubbles – A Romance Anthology Under the Sea”!

In case you missed the announcement on Twitter, one of my short stories was selected to be included in the upcoming Love & Bubbles anthology! Seeing as this will be the first time any of my work has been published in a physical book, I’m pretty damn excited!

But before we can celebrate too much, we have to get the anthology produced, and to do that, editor Gaven (aka Jaylee James) has turned to KickStarter.

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WHAT IS LOVE & BUBBLES?

From the KickStarter page:

Love & Bubbles  is a collection of short stories of underwater romance. The characters range from classics like mermaids and selkies, to creative interpretations on the theme that take you to the Amazon river basin, alien water planets, and an ice-crusted lake.

We put out a call for love stories of all gender pairings and styles, and were surprised to discover the bulk of our submissions featured lesbian couples. Of the eleven base stories featured, eight feature relationships between queer women. We considered going ahead and focusing this anthology solely on queer women, but… I think you’ll agree the three stories featuring queer men and straight couples are well worth the uneven distribution of pairings!

WHY BACK THE KICKSTARTER?

By backing the KickStarter you not only get a copy (ebook or hardcopy, depending on your reward level) of this romantic anthology full of fanciful underwater characters, you can also get all kinds of extra goodies too!

The funds raised by the KickStarter go to all kinds of things: getting the book formatted and published, paying the editors and authors, getting a swanky cover made by a pro, and more!

Also, if the campaign hits its $8,500 stretch goal your’s truly will be creating a series of special illustrations for the book!

ANYTHING ELSE?

Yesssss! I’m planning on producing a special art piece inspired by my story. I’m offering my Patreon subscribers a chance to get an exclusive print of this piece in exchange for pledging to the KickStarter campaign!

Simply send proof of backing the campaign with $15 USD or more + a shipping address to me at maggiederrick85 [at] gmail.com! Open to all paid Patron tiers!

I’m so excited about this project and I really hope we get to share it with you!

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Six

[ Beginning | Previous Chapter ]


May’s heart threatened to hammer its way out of her chest.

In the first light of morning, it was impossible to tell who was standing there, blocking the shelter’s exit.

“Can we help you?” Em demanded but did not rise.

Once May’s eyes adjusted, she saw the intruder was a boy, only fourteen or fifteen-years old. He didn’t speak. He didn’t smile. He simply looked between the two women huddled in the corner and, without acknowledging it, dropped a tightly folded piece of paper on the ground and left. The sound of a bike being righted from the ground and peddling off was the last they heard from him.

“Who was that?” May asked, hushed but panicked.

“I have no idea.” Em’s head was cocked, listening.

May crept forward, stiff body aching in protest, and reached for what the boy had dropped.

“No,” Em pulled her back. “Leave it. Just wait.”

Too nervous to argue, May did as she was told. In motionless silence, they waited. They waited for what felt to May like forever.

Em nodded. “Okay, I think we’re good.”

This time when May reached for the paper, Em didn’t stop her. Instead, she peered over the shelter’s half-wall, scanning the picnic area around them. A couple runners plodded along a trail skirting the grove. Otherwise they were alone.

Licking her dry lips, May shot Em an anxious look and unfolded the paper.

We’ll meet you there.

“That’s Priva’s handwriting.” Em crouched back down beside May. She studied the note with a frown. “Meet us where?”

May searched her memory; Priva had told her where they were going, that day in the woods when she opened up about her family’s history of exploration. The memory was fuzzy now.

“Priva told me once,” she groaned, closing her eyes and trying to remember where Priva had pointed on the map. “We were going to get there by train. Ugh, it was a city, had a short name… I think it started with a y?”

“York?”

“Yes!”

Em looked surprised but didn’t say anything.

“What’s wrong?” May asked, fresh panic making her heartbeat quicken. “What’s in York?”

“Connor’s sister.” Em answered. “Or at least, that’s where she used to live.”

It was May’s turn to be surprised; this was the first she’d heard of Connor having a sibling.

Em recommended they get a move on before it got much later. It was still early enough that the streets were quiet, but they kept to sleepy side streets and alleys until they eventually found the train station. When they arrived, May donned both Em’s wig and hat before heading into the station alone.

“You just missed the morning train, sweetheart,” the smiling, grey-haired woman at the wicket told her. “But there’s one heading that way around 5:30 if you’re willing to wait.”

May glanced around the station. Morning commuters and travellers milled about, but she didn’t spot any familiar faces – friendly or otherwise. “I’ll take two tickets, please.”

A few minutes later, May sat alone at the cafe across the street. She was too anxious to eat but forced herself anyway. Em, she knew, was perched on the roof of the building, keeping an eye out from a safe distance.

One day I’m going to look back on all of this and think it was really exciting, she thought. She figured if she told herself that enough, she might start to believe it.

When she was sure no one was watching, May tucked the other half of her breakfast sandwich into her hoodie pocket for Em, slinked into the washroom, and shoved open the window.

“Good thing you’re so tiny. That window isn’t very big.”

May gasped. “Emmy! Don’t do that. I’m too freaked out for surprises right now.”

Em hovered just outside the window, which mercifully faced the alley behind the building. She kept her eyes trained on the sidewalk.

“Yell at me later. We’ve gotta hustle.”

She helped May shimmy out the window and carried her up to the roof where she had set up a spot near the edge. From there they could keep an eye on the station. The building was five storeys – the tallest on the street. May collapsed onto the little nest-like space Em set up, feeling safe for the first time since she went looking for Jeremy the day before.

“The next train to York doesn’t leave until 5:30,” she said to Em, who settled down beside her. “I brought you breakfast.”

Em took the sandwich and smiled softly. “You’re amazing. You know that right?”

“Because I brought you food?” May gave her a teasing look. “I didn’t realize the bar was set so low.”

“First of all,” Em chuckled, laying down beside her. “Don’t underestimate the importance of food. Second, that’s not what I meant. I’m proud of you and how you’re handling all of this.”

May sighed and covered her eyes with her forearm. “If by ‘how I’m handling this’ you mean ‘not well at all’ then you would be right.”

She felt Em’s lips press into hers in a loving kiss. “You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for, babe.”

Relenting, May let herself smile. “Thanks, Emmy. You’re pretty amazing too.”

“How about you take a nap?” Em offered. “We’ve got nothing but time. I’ll take the first watch.”

This time, May kissed her. “Have I ever told you how much I love you?”

Em grinned. “Once or twice.”

May wriggled into the sleeping bag Em pulled from her pack and fell asleep to the sound of her love unwrapping her breakfast.

They were unmoored, separated from the others and uncertain of where the Loyals might be lurking next. But they were together.

This time when May slept, it was deep and it was dreamless.

By the time their train was ready to board, May was convinced there was nothing worse than waiting.

Save for the blissful hours she spent sleeping, every moment left her plagued with worry.

Where were the others? Were they safe? How long before they found each other again?

Though Em never would have admitted it, May knew she was worried too. She could see it in the way Em dipped her head forward to hide behind the hair of her wig. May let her board the train first while she hung back, scanning the platform for suspicious faces and doing what she could to avoid drawing the attention of anyone who might have been searching for a couple of young women travelling together.

She found Em again a few minutes later, crouched low in her seat.

“Everything okay?”

Em twitched, startled. “Sorry. Yeah, I’m fine. Just trying to keep my head down.”

May slid into her seat and adjusted her cap to cover her surreptitious glance around the train car.

“I think we’re all clear,” she said, forcing a smile for Em’s sake. “Now we just need to figure out what to do once we get there.”

“I don’t suppose P had a chance to choose an assembly point in York, did she?”

May shook her head. “I’m not sure she thought that far ahead.”

“I figured as much.” Em gave May’s hand a firm squeeze. “Don’t worry, babe. We’ll figure it out.”

The pair dozed in and out for most of the trip to York. It wasn’t until the train was pulling into the station that they made the hushed decision to find a motel to hole up in until they figured out what to do next.

“Shouldn’t we go find Connor’s sister?” May asked, heaving her pack onto her shoulders. Its weight was beginning to wear on her.

“How would we explain to the others how we knew where to go?” Em replied over her shoulder.

“We could always lie and say that one of them told us.”

“Are you suggesting we gaslight them? Lie until they believe our bullshit?”

May shrugged. “Aren’t we already kind of doing that?”

“Touche.”

Down on the platform, Em found an information stand and pulled various brochures. She didn’t remember York well enough to know where to search for a place to stay. While she researched, May kept a lookout.

She scanned the crowds of bustling travellers from beneath the brim of her hat. Between the weary faces and scurrying bodies, May spotted a happy reunion between a pair of lovers. The laughter and smiles struck a chord of envy in her; what she wouldn’t give for a carefree welcome like that right now.

As she stared off, imagining a different timeline in which she and Em hadn’t made this trip alone – one in which WIND was with them and everything was going according to plan – May’s eyes focused in on a different face in the crowd. A face that, unlike the other bodies on the platform, stood still.

The face of a woman who staring right at her.

Unnerved by the stranger’s intense gaze, May shivered.

“Find anything yet?” She glanced at Em, who was absorbed in a brochure for a quaint bed and breakfast. When May looked back, the woman had moved on.

“I think so,” Em muttered, flipping the paper over to read the inn’s address.

“Let’s go find a cab then.”

They wove between the other travellers, pressing through the crowd in search of the station exit. May glanced around and her heart stopped; the woman was trailing just behind them.

“Em,” she hissed, sounding far more calm than she felt. “We need to run.

We’re being followed.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Five

[ Start from the Beginning | Previous ]

Content warning: Strong language


May crashed through the door and raced into the living room of the flat, breathless and frantic.

Everyone else was there, their faces falling when they saw the state she was in.

“May, what happened?” Em was on her feet in an instant. Since meeting WIND she had been reluctant to use her abilities in front of them, but now she didn’t think twice about bounding airborne across the room just to pull May to her faster. “Are you hurt?”

“It’s Jeremy,” May choked. “The Loyals. Two guys have him in the alley. I think they know we’re here.”

“Em, May, we’ve got to get you out of here,” Connor barked.

Without another word he, Rue, and Priva jumped up and began re-packing their belongings in haste.

Em looked at May with wide eyes. “Babe, are you okay?”

May wasn’t sure how to answer.

“I don’t know. Jeremy was the only one who saw me but…” she trailed off, the grisly images of Jeremy’s assault flickering through her mind in rapid succession.

Priva rushed up to her, eyes full of panic.

“These Loyals,” she said, her voice cracking. “Did they hurt him?”

May couldn’t find words so she nodded instead, wrapping Priva in a tight hug when she sobbed.

Connor strode back into the room, a pack in each hand.

“I know it must have been awful but you did the right thing, May.” He handed the packs off to Em. “We’ll take care of Jeremy. Do you two remember what to do?”

It had been one of the many, many things the group had discussed before leaving the motel on that first day, and yet May still remembered the rule with perfect clarity. For every stop along the way, Priva would choose an assembly point somewhere a safe distance away. In the event of an emergency or separation, the group was to find one another again at that point.

“We remember,” Em assured him, slinging her pack over her shoulders.

“Good,” he said. “Now go.”

For the second time in their relationship, May found herself escaping out a window in Em’s arms. Together they soared in the direction of the assembly point, moving as quickly as Em could before the added weight of May and both packs forced her to find a discreet place to land.

“Good thing it’s dark out.” Em panted as she brought them carefully to the ground behind a row of dark houses a few blocks away.

“Are you going to be alright?” May asked. “Do you need me to carry your pack?”

“No, I’m good. Do you know which way we’re headed?”

“I think so.”

Hand-in-hand, the pair took off, avoiding busy roads and streetlights, speaking only when absolutely necessary. Every flash of a vehicle’s headlights or shout in the night made them jump; May’s hand was sweating in Em’s but she didn’t dare let go.

It took hours of sneaking around and getting lost before the pair finally found their way to Still Water Park. They followed a winding trail into a wooded grove in the heart of the park to where a lonely rain shelter stood like a shepherd amid its flock of picnic tables. Everything was still and quiet – they had beaten the others there, but at least they were alone.

“I feel like I’m in one of those hokey haunted houses and I’m just waiting for some actor to jump out and scare me,” Em whispered as they picked their way blindly into the shelter.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about but I can still tell it’s not funny,” May hissed. She reached the far corner and settled onto the poured concrete floor, pressing her back to it so she could still see the opening.

“Right,” Em mumbled, joining her on the ground. “You probably didn’t have those on Hoku. When this is all over, remind me to take you to one.”

The shelter wasn’t much more than a raised roof and three half-walls, but it would do for the night. May shivered, partly from the chill but also from the adrenaline still coursing through her, but she didn’t want to risk taking out her sleeping bag in case they needed to make another hasty retreat. Em wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close.

“Do you think they’ll be okay?” May asked, her eyes fixed on the shadowy shelter entrance.

Em gave her a squeeze. “I do. Trust me, they’ve prepared for every scenario. If anyone can figure a way out of this, it’s those guys.”

“How long do you think it will take before they can meet up with us?”

“I’m not sure. They’ll want to wait until they’re confident they won’t be followed. We have to be patient.”

A quiet breeze swept through the park, rattling the leaves on the trees above. May nestled in closer to Em.

“They really hurt him,” she whispered, so softly she wasn’t even sure Em would hear her.

For a moment, it seemed she hadn’t. But then she sighed and rested her head against May’s.

“He’s tough.” Em sounded as if she was trying to convince herself as much as May. “Incredibly tough. Believe it or not, he’s been through worse. He’ll be alright.” She planted a kiss on her lover’s temple. “Still, I’m sorry you had to see that.”

“I wish I could have done something.” May felt dangerously close to crying. “He was in trouble and I just froze. If he hadn’t spotted me and signaled for me to run I probably would have just sat there like a useless lump.”

“Do not do that to yourself.” Em was gentle with her scolding. “You did exactly what you were supposed to. Thanks to you, we got out of there in time. You saved us, May.”

Unable to accept her accolade, May merely hummed vaguely and wrapped her arm around Em’s middle.

“I know it’s probably asking a lot right now, but you should try to get some sleep.” Em stroked May’s hair. “No matter what happens, we’re going to need our energy in the morning.”

May wasn’t sure if she managed to reply. As uncomfortable and frightened as she was, Em’s simple suggestion was like permission, and in moments May was asleep.

But it didn’t feel like sleep, and if the intention was to wake up refreshed, May’s subconscious was doing its best to sabotage her. Nightmares and night noises kept her flickering in and out of wakefulness.

Sill, she must have drifted off eventually, because the sun was rising when she felt Em jolt beside her.

“Holy shit!”

May scrambled.

A silhouette stood at the entrance of the shelter.

They had been discovered.


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2018 Housekeeping

Now that we’ve launched into a fresh new year, I figured now might be a good time to do a bit of housekeeping! I’ll make it quick:

The Wind and the Horizon returns publicly on Friday, January 26th and will shift to updating every other week.

Not fast enough for you? Want new chapters now? Well, if you’ve pledged on my Patreon, you already have early access to the latest two chapters! You’ll also get weekly updates until the book is finished for as little as $1 per month.

Patrons also get access to all kinds of other early and exclusive perks, including artwork, colouring sheets, and steep commission discounts.

Can’t commit to a monthly pledge but still want to help support my work? Ko-Fi is always there for single donations!

The Work in Progress Podcast just posted Episode #8! It’s a little wild to think this podcast we started on a whim has already been going for eight weeks. Do you have any topics you’d like the four of us to discuss? Leave a comment and let us know!

As of right now you can listen to us on iTunes, Google Play, Overcast, and Pocket Casts. Don’t forget to rate, review, and subscribe!

Okay! I promise I’ve got some fresh posts and useful content coming up soon. In the mean time, thanks for letting me get this bit of business out of the way ❤️

Hello 2018!

I wasn’t going to do a New Years resolution post, but when I decided I wanted to post something today it felt weird to write about anything else.

2017 was one hell of a year: it started with my world falling apart which was quickly followed by a big move. It took months before my life really started to feel normal again but, when it did, good things happened.

Last year I finished the beta draft of The Star and the Ocean, a passion project more than 20 years in the making. The beta draft of that web novel went on to win a Watty Award, which really made me feel like a have a chance with this whole writing gig.

In 2017 I finally felt comfortable with calling myself a writer. I started work on the sequel, The Wind and the Horizon, dove back into art, started a podcast with my friends, and even launched a Patreon.

Oh, and I finally took up guitar, although I hesitate to say I “learned to play” because, well, I haven’t. Yet.

In next weekend’s episode of The WIP Podcast we talk about our different creative resolutions. Compared to Athena, Bri, and Rey’s goals for this year, my plan felt less grand and structured. Still, after all this time (not to mention the state of mind I ended the year in) I know what’s going to work for me with regards to where I am right now.

My creative resolutions aaaaare:

  • Finish the beta draft of TWATH (it’s half done already!)
  • Get The Witch’s Patron ready to query (and then do exactly that!)
  • Plot out my idea for NaNoWriMo (it’s never too early, dammit)
  • Create more art (and get better at it as I go!)
  • Get back to practicing guitar (I’ll actually learn to play properly!)
  • And that’s it! No deadlines or word counts.

What about you? Tell me all about it!

 

Welcome to 2018!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Wishing you all an incredible 2018! 🥂

I hope you like my EmMay Champagne dolls! Patreon patrons can get a high-res text-free version of this image, plus the line art for colouring!