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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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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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty One

[ Start from the Beginning | Previous Chapter ]


By the time May, Em, and Priva returned to the campsite, Connor already had the fire blazing with a satisfying crackle. Rue busied herself with food prep while Jeremy had been tasked with creating small tin foil bowls for everyone. They took turns layering their bowls with meat, potatoes, and eggs, positioning them delicately on a camp grill once the coals were hot enough.

The snapping fire was the only sound as the group sat wordlessly, waiting for their meals to cook. May watched spits of ash pop from the flames and drift skyward into the darkening sky. The sherbet colours of twilight gave way to night by the time Connor inspected his bowl and deemed dinner to be ready.

May wondered if the tension around the fire had been in some part the result of empty stomachs. As she collected her meal, she felt the mood lighten as everyone tucked into their food, and decided now might be a good time for casual conversation.

“Back to camping,” she said with a sigh, dropping back down beside Em, the edges of her foil plate pinched between her fingers.

“Hey,” Em remarked, looking mildly scandalized. “I thought you liked camping.”

“I like some parts of camping more than others,” May replied with a wink.

Em rolled her eyes dramatically.

“Kids these days,” she grumbled, earning her playful kick in the ankle from May.

The comment raised curiosity in Rue.

“How old are you two, anyway?” she asked.

“Twenty-five,” May answered, distracted. She leaned over to survey what was in Em’s plate. “Yours is cooked better than mine.”

“That’s because I’m a pro,” Em teased. Then, turning her attention back to Rue, “I’m, uh, a bit older.”

At this, Priva laughed loudly.

“You saying you’re a cradle robber?” She grinned at Em who mirrored her expression.

“Ha! Not quite that bad.” Em scooped a hearty forkful from May’s plate and shoved it in her mouth. After swallowing, she continued, “Still, I almost passed out when I realized my girlfriend was just a wee babe.” She turned to look at May. “Yours is fine, by the way.”

“You’re not that much older than me,” May defended, digging her own fork into Em’s plate. The utensil pierced the foil bottom, catching in a way that May hadn’t expected. Her hand slipped, sending the plastic handle snapping backwards and striking Em’s breast with a sharp thwap.

“My boob!” Em cried, choking on laughter and clutching at her chest. “You got me right in the tit!”

May doubled over, breathless in a fit of gasping laughter and tears, unable to reply.

Everyone but Jeremy succumbed to the first true bout of laughter since the two groups met, a moment of pure weightlessness that made the night feel a little less dark and the stakes a little less dire.

“So, how’d you two meet, anyway?” Jeremy asked, his question stopping the laughter dead.

May’s heartbeat stumbled. When she and Em decided to lie, they hadn’t taken the time to fill in the blanks of their cover story. Hoping her own panic wasn’t showing, May glanced at Em and found her to be a picture of calm.

“Maybe’s a dancer,” Em said, a goofy lovesick smile on her face that left May flushing. “I was in the audience one night when she was performing and I was instantly smitten.” She gave May a wink. “I’ve been her biggest fan ever since.”

That night in Omea’s community theatre – the night everything changed between them – flashed through May’s mind. She could still see Em standing in the wings, wide-eyed and marveling, watching her take the stage for her final performance of the night. Was this what Em was thinking of as she spun her tale? May had never asked Em what it was that pushed her over the delicate line between friends and lovers; that there might have been some truth to Em’s story made May giddy.

“Of course!” Rue’s face lit up. “We saw you dance at the circus. How long have you been performing?”

“Since I was in school,” May replied, delighted by Rue’s interest. “I’m self-taught though, so sometimes it feels like I’m making it up as I go.”

“She’s selling herself short,” Em insisted.

“Self-taught?” Connor look gob-smacked. “I’m impressed.”

“Me too,” Rue agreed brightly.

“Thank you,” May gushed. But elated as she was to have a chance to talk about one of her truest passions, she wanted to steer the conversation away from her and Em. “What about all of you? I’ve been so curious to know more about Wishes. I mean, I know what Wishes are but…” she shrugged, struggling to find the right words. “What does that mean for you? Is it different than being human?”

Sure, she was playing dumb to a certain extent. But this was the first time she had ever met other Wishes; she was curious about what she might have been missing. Em’s attempts at distancing herself from her past had often made her answers to May’s questions vague or indifferent. May figured this was a chance to learn more about herself as much as the others.

Connor rubbed his chin, mulling over her question. He looked to his friends. Priva shrugged.

“I guess for the most part it’s not that different,” he admitted. “We’re born to our mothers and, if we’re lucky, we live our lives and die when we’re old. The only difference we’ve noticed – aside from how we come to be, of course – is that every Wish has their own unique ability.”

May blinked in a way she hoped conveyed naive confusion. “What kind of abilities?”

“Something we’re naturally very good at,” Connor replied. “Think of it like a talent on steroids. Everyone’s is different. Mine is my strength.” He gestured back to the massive dead tree they were using as firewood and May picked up on the implication that he had felled it singlehandedly. “Nothing too fancy here.”

“Mine, on the other hand, is very fancy,” Priva said, sounding rather proud of herself. She leaned forward and grinned. “I don’t have to sleep.”

“That’s only partially true,” Rue quipped, giving Priva a cutting look. “She can live on very little sleep. One night’s worth for every three or four days awake.”

“Killjoy,” Priva pouted.

If this was a reason to be any less impressed, May didn’t see why.

She looked to Jeremy expectantly. “What’s your ability?”

Arms crossed, Jeremy studied her for a moment before answering.

“Perfect memory.” He tapped his temple, his expression impossible to read. “I don’t forget anything.”

“Oh.” May smiled. “I’ll bet that comes in handy.”

Jeremy didn’t reply.

“What about you, Rue?” Em cut in on the awkward silence filling the space between May and Jeremy.

Rue laughed. “Oh, I’m not a Wish.”

May looked at her in surprise. “Really?”

“Yep.” Rue set her bowl down and settled back beside Connor, leaning gently into his side. “My place in this little family is kind of different than the others. I come from an ancient line of astromantic druids.”

Now genuinely confused, May frowned. “What does that mean? Are you human?”

“For the most part. But way back, in the beginning of human history, my people came to be specifically because of the Stars.”

The firelight danced, reflected in Rue’s magnificent golden eyes. May’s breath caught as she remembered why they had seemed so familiar.

“Were they Wishes?” May asked.

“No.” Rue’s eyes – the same otherworldly gold as the Star called Welkin – creased in the corners as she smiled. “They were Starborn.”


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Ko-Fi May

My NaNoWriMo 2017 Projects

You don’t need me to tell you that NaNoWriMo is almost here. I’ve been seeing people posting about their 2017 NanoPrep since September! Still, November 1st is just a couple days away so I’d be remiss if I didn’t say anything about my plans for this year.

Last year was my first successful NaNoWriMo; I managed to write 50k words in the first draft of my book, The Witch’s Patron! Even though the challenge was hard and stressful, it was also incredibly fun and motivating. I’m in love with the community and the rush that comes with knowing thousands of other writers are right there with you as you push to hit those 50k words.

Despite not having a fresh novel to work on this year, I didn’t want to miss out. I have so many projects on the go right now that I decided to do what I’ve seen Twitter referring to as NaNoRebel: a version of the challenge where you work on something other than a novel.

My goal is still to write 50k words by the end of November, only this time I’ll be spreading those words out across three different projects:

By the time the month is over I should have so much work off my plate, but more than that I’m excited to have a good excuse to write every day!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo next month? Let’s be buddies!

Also, tell me all about your project in the comments! Are you going the classic route or will you be joining the Nano Rebellion?


Ko-Fi May

I Went to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and all I got was Everything

Over the past weekend I was extremely fortunate to attend the 25th Surrey International Writers’ Conference with two of my favourite people. Athena Wright, Brianna Kienitz, and my bad self all attended the two and a half day event and had the most inspiring and informative experience. I learned so much and met so many wonderful people!

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Yours truly along with Brianna (IN A MAY HOODIE!!!) and Athena!

SiWC brings together writers of every level and all ages, as well as agents, editors, and other industry professionals for a series of presentations, panels, and networking (not to mention the fun shopping to be had at the trade tables. I spent a LOT of money!)

I’ve been to a number of conferences in my life, but this was the only one I’ve ever been to that wasn’t tied to my day job. I went because writing is something I’m so incredibly passionate about, which made every opportunity that much more exciting.

Attending SiWC is an investment. There are different levels of passes ranging from daily to full conference experiences. Even though we were able to save some money by staying at my place (Surrey is roughly 40 minutes east of Vancouver) we were still only able to spring for the basic conference pass, which got us into the morning keynotes and daily sessions but excluded us from the group meals and evening networking events and parties. While it definitely would have been nice to go to the extra events, the basic pass gave us plenty of opportunities and was worth every dollar.

Writers are such warm and welcoming people. It was clear right away that many of the attendees had been coming for years, which is a pretty good sign of the overall quality you can expect. Even without going to the meals and events there are still lots of opportunities to network and connect with others – whether it was by simply starting a conversation with the person next to you, exchanging a business card at the free-form “unconference” sessions, or tweeting with fellow attendees using either #SiWC17 , #SiWC2017, or #ThisDayWeWrite. It also doesn’t hurt that you will have at least one important thing in common with every single person there!

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My current business cards, which also double as a limited-run mini-print! Once I’m out of this design it’ll be retired and I’ll move onto something else.

I’m planning on doing a short series of posts about my key learnings from the sessions I attended and re-capping my experience of pitching The Witch’s Patron to an agent, but ultimately I wanted to capture the lingering excitement first. If you’ve been looking for a professional and informative writing event to attend, I highly recommend the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Tickets will go on sale late spring/early summer 2018, with the conference obviously happening some time in the fall, so mark your calendars now!