Updates of the Quick and Fun Variety!

Every time I log in to my blog these days it kind of feels like coming up for air. Between writing, commission work, and a few other projects I’m also preparing to get married in a week and a half! So, to say things have been chaotic would be a bit of an understatement.

Still, before said chaos pulls me back under, I wanted to share a few quick updates!

#1: The WIP Podcast interviewed author Zoraida Cordova!

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Zoraida Cordova – author of Labyrinth Lost and the upcoming sequel, Bruja Born – recently joined us on The Work in Progress Podcast as our first ever guest! Not only was it hella exciting to talk to an author whose work I deeply admire, she also had a wealth of information about playing the long game in publishing. Oh, and she’s also super cool. You can listen to the episode on Anchor or subscribe on some of your favourite podcast apps!

#2: I did my first public reading!

A little while ago I was asked if I would like to participate in Vancover’s Dominion Reading Series, hosted by the International Centre of Arts and Technology. The event on May 25th focused on works of YA fantasy, and while The Star and the Ocean isn’t quite young adult, it was still a thrill to get to read a couple excerpts for an audience!

#3: We hit an exciting milestone on Patreon!

Last week we hit the minimum amount of patrons at the “Floofers”, “Boofers”, and “Snoot Boopers” reward levels on my Patreon to unlock monthly commission contests!

Here’s how it will work: every month, subscribers at the above mentioned levels will be entered into a draw for a free commission (note: patrons at the Snoot Booper level get two monthly entries). Winners will get a full body, cell shaded art commission of a character of their choice (or even a portrait of themselves! I don’t care!)

ALSO, we’re only $9 in monthly pledges away from my first goal! Once I hit $50/month I will begin releasing two new early access chapters of The Wind and the Horizon per week until the book is finished. Subscribed patrons are already a full month ahead as it is, so this is a major bonus for TWATH fans!

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Chances are this will be my last post aside from chapter updates until after the wedding, so I’ll see you on the other side!

Tips For Making Your Wattpad Story Wattys Worthy

Watty’s season is here again!

For anyone who isn’t super familiar, The Wattys are like the Oscars of Wattpad. Every summer hundreds of thousands of books are entered for consideration, with only a small group ultimately winning the coveted title in a handful of categories.

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 12.10.50 PMLast year I was extraordinarily lucky enough to be one of those winners. The Wattpad edition of my first novel, The Star and the Ocean, was named one of 50 winners in 2017’s Watty Awards. It’s an accomplishment I still haven’t gotten over, and it’s exciting to know that a new round of authors will soon get to experience that special thrill for themselves!

But if you’ve been following me for a while, you know I actually submitted TSATO for The Wattys in 2016 as well (it was only because I didn’t finish the book until February of 2017 that it was eligible to be re-submitted last year as well).

Needless to say, I didn’t win the first time around.

While I didn’t say anything publicly, I was SUPER heartbroken over it. I, like so many other entrants, truly thought my book had what it took to win. But because I knew I’d have a second shot I excused myself from my pity party and took some steps to make sure the book was as good as it could be when the contest opened back up again in 2017.

Whether you missed the mark last year or are planning on giving it a shot this year for the first time, here are some of the things I did to get my book ready for the Wattys!

Look for feedback and actually do something with it

Even the most constructive criticism can be hard to take, but if you want to improve your work you’re going to have to suck it up. Ask your readers for feedback and pay close attention to what they have to say. A lot of it might end up just being matters of preference but if you see legitimate issues cropping up, make the effort to address them.

I completely restructured the beginning of The Star and the Ocean, as well as the length of my chapters, in September of 2016 because of reader feedback. It was a massive undertaking (not to mention a frustrating pain in the ass) but in the end, it did make the story stronger and more attractive to readers.

Finish your story (or at least be as close as you can)

Technically your story doesn’t have to be finished to be eligible for The Wattys (in the past you’ve been required to have a minimum of five parts up) but I truly think it helps. The first time I submitted TSATO it wasn’t quite halfway finished, whereas last year it was complete. I’m sure the judges do their absolute best to keep an open mind when going into unfinished stories, but you’ve got to admit that it’s easier to appreciate and understand a full and complete work over a handful of chapters. Think of it this way: would you ever pick a favourite movie based solely on the teaser alone?

Get those reads

This piece of advice is completely based on speculation and observation. The number of reads your story has don’t technically factor into the judging criteria, and there are definitely winners each year with only a few thousand reads. But the majority of winning stories tend to have read counts on the higher side. Does it matter? Probably not. Does it hurt to try? Nope.

If you’re stumped over how to drum up reads, begin by understanding that no one breaks the 100k read mark overnight. When I submitted TSATO in the Wattys the first time I had around 3k reads by the time the contest closed. In 2017 I had over 100k when the contest opened. It’s a long game and you have to be committed to playing it.

Admittedly, a lot of my reads came from features; first by making the Wattpad Featured Fantasy list and again by their official LGBT account. While Wattpad has since changed how its Featured List works, there are still plenty of other Book of the Month lists you can apply – or have someone nominate you – for. I also recommend entering book clubs. They’re a bit time consuming but you’re guaranteed reads PLUS most book clubs require participants to leave feedback, which we already know can also be helpful.

Be kind to yourself

Would it be amazing to win? Damn right! Are you a shitty writer if you don’t? Of course not. Not everyone can win and there are SO MANY great books out there that will never win anything. No contest defines your worth as a writer, so don’t let this one stop you from doing what you love!

Best of luck to everyone who throws their hat into the ring this year – I’ll be rooting for you!


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Six

[ First | Previous ]


May’s heart twisted and tore as she watched Em crumble in her arms.

She refused to believe the violent spectre Em had become was anything more than remnants of Audrey breaking through. May knew Em’s love – its strength and its light. Anyone who loved as strongly as Em couldn’t be so cold hearted, May was as sure of it as she was sure she was still breathing.

But none of that could erase what Em had done.

I need you to be stronger than that, May wanted to tell her. I need you to stay who you are.

She released her grip on Em’s shoulders and wrapped her arms around her instead. Just thinking those words made May feel selfish. It was so easy for her to forget how much Em was already suffering just by being here.

“Just… tell me something like this won’t ever happen again,” May pleaded quietly.

Em took a shaky breath in. She opened her mouth to answer, but a different voice spoke instead.

“I take it this is a bad time?”

May gasped and Em sat up with a start. The stranger’s voice was like a flood light snapping on, chasing the moment from the room as though it were darkness.

Standing in the doorway was a man in his early fifties, built like a stone with shoulder-length greying hair and a beard that made him look even older than he likely was. Inscrutable hazel eyes watched them from beneath thick eyebrows.

“Shit, Grant.” Em wiped at her eyes. “I didn’t hear you coming.”

“I figured,” the man called Grant gunted in reply. He gave a pointed look to May. “How’re you feeling? You’ve been out for a while.”

“I’ve been better,” May admitted.

The man nodded and turned, motioning for the girls to follow.

“Do you think you can walk?” Em asked quietly, not quite meeting May’s eyes.

She helped May to her feet and held her hand tightly through those first tentative steps. The ache in May’s legs gave way to tingling that faded by the time they made it out of the office. Blinking, May’s eyes swept over a surprisingly bright warehouse below the grated walkway on which they stood. Warm afternoon sunlight pressed in through greasy windows that lined the top half of the walls, reflecting a lazy cloud of dust motes. The ground floor was busy; two neat rows of vehicles lined either wall and pairs of legs protruded from beneath their hoods and chassis.

“A garage?” May asked. The sounds and smells made sense now, but she was still surprised. “What kind of safehouse is this?”

“The safest kind,” answered Grant.

He led them into a room at the end of the metal walkway. The room, perhaps originally intended to be a breakroom, half-served its original purpose while doubling as a command center of sorts. A long card table filled the middle of the room, surrounded by mismatched chairs and littered with sheafs of paper, empty beer bottles, and stained coffee mugs. Blinking computer servers and monitors lined the far wall in a set-up not unlike Marina’s workshop.

“What is this place?” May marvelled quietly. The equipment seemed far more advanced than a garage required.

“Woah, hey!”

May spun to find Jun in an opposite corner, hunched over his own workstation. He jumped to his feet and stood so his body shielded his monitor from view. “What are you doing in here?”

“Relax, Jun,” Grant grumbled from the other side of the room. He busied himself by pouring a deep amber colored brew from a mason jar into a mug.

“I’m workin’ on something here.” Jun sounded scandalized. “What if they see?”

The man turned to Jun, a single eyebrow raised. Frowning, Jun sank back into his chair without another word.

“I already told you – these two are friends of the kid.” Grant screwed the cap back on the jar and slid it onto a shelf. He carried the mug back to May and held it out to her. “Drink this. Throw it back. If you try to sip it you’ll never finish it. It’ll make you feel better.”

May had her doubts but took the mug anyway. With a curious look at Em, who only offered a shrug, May did as she was told and tossed the drink back in one searing swallow. It lit a fire in her belly that burned in a flash and then sizzled out, filling the rest of her body with a comfortable fuzziness. She shook her head and coughed.

“There’s no medicine on earth that cures quite like a strong shot of hooch,” Grant said, taking back May’s mug as she hacked out another couple of ragged coughs. “Better?”

Coughing aside, when May stopped to consider herself she was surprised to find she did feel better. Grant took the surprised look on her face for confirmation and nodded, satisfied.

“May, is it?” he asked. Clearly Em had already filled him in on a few details.

“Yeah,” May replied, shaking his hand. “Thanks for taking us in.”

“Yo, Parker!” a voice shouted from the floor below. “Whaddaya think of this?”

Grant turned to Jun. “Go tell them I’m gonna need a minute.”

Jun didn’t argue, shuffling from the room and closing the door behind him.

“Who’s Parker?” May turned the name over in her mind, wondering why it sounded familiar.

“Me.” Grant gestured at himself. “Last name.”

A memory clicked into place sending a wave of realization washing over May.

“Grant Parker?” she asked. “Are you related to Jeremy?” Her eyes lingered on his greying hair, searching for a hint of Jeremy’s signature fiery red.

His strong arms were crossed, but May caught the slightest hint of a smile tug at the corner of Grant’s mouth.

“No, but he and I go way back.”

As he turned and walked away, May shot Em a quizzical look.

“It’s a long story,” Em whispered.

“Ladies, come over here a minute,” Grant called over from the command-center wall. “There’s something I need to show you.”

Everything about his words sounded like bad news. May followed Em to join him, both wary and weary at the thought of how things could possibly get worse than they already were.

He stood in front of a monitor featuring the image of a man’s serious face, frozen mid-sentence. The name Wyndam Aviar hovered at the bottom of the screen and below that, the word aldermember. Em bristled when she saw him, but said nothing. Grant tapped a few keys and the image – a paused video – jumped back and played from the beginning. Shaky cellphone footage showed dark vans parked along a hedged street and a swarm of people in uniforms lining the end of a private driveway. Between their shoulders, May could make out the unmistakable rosy shade of her own hair. She felt the blood drain from her face as the person shooting the video made a foolhardy dash across the street and continued recording from behind one of the vans.

Explosions of light and energy filled the screen and distorted the feeds. May relived the horror of Em being blasted back by the Loyals’ arm cannon and her miraculous recovery. The cameraperson swore as Loyal agents were knocked back by another one of Em’s assaults and then the picture zoomed in. The screen was filled with Em’s dark and dangerous face. The view pulled back, shaking as the person directing it tried to capture exactly what they were seeing: a young man, jerked high into the air.

Screaming and pleading.

Em, unflinching as she snapped her arm downward.

The video cut off just before the young Loyal agent hit the ground.

Beside her, May felt Em tremble.

The video moved on to the talking head of Wyndam Aviar as he addressed the viewing audience.

“It doesn’t matter if it is by magical or mythological might: any supernatural being who uses their abilities to harm the defenseless is a criminal. Whomever this woman is, she is dangerous and must be apprehended. Please use extreme caution when-”

Grant paused the video, frozen on the aldermember’s face like when they first found it.

Em clasped a hand over her mouth, breathing fast and hard.

May’s mind raced through all the things this video meant for them.

Grant turned and surveyed them both, his expression unreadable.

“Well, ladies.” His gruff voice broke the heavy silence.

“Looks to me like you’re in a whole lot of trouble.”


[ Next ]

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The Artist Life For Me: My Support and Work-With-Me Master Post!

As some of you already know, I lost my job at the end of February.

While the news was completely unexpected, I decided to treat this major upheaval as a blessing in disguise.

Anyone who writes and creates while working full-time can tell you how challenging it is. Finding the time to dedicate to your craft while also spending most of the day working is hard enough; Couple that with trying to spend time with loved ones and maybe even take care of yourself, and you understand what it means to say “there aren’t enough hours in the day”.

All I’ve ever wanted is for my creative projects to be how I make my living.

So, rather than rushing back into the job market, I’ve decided to the artist life an honest shot. Over the past month I’ve spent hours a day writing; Treating it like the priority I want to be in my life. I’ve also been hustling on several side projects – you know, the ones that pay the bills, ha ha!

I’m really, really excited to be giving writing and art a real chance to be my new full-time job.

But to make this work, I need those side hustles! So, if you’re looking forward to all the extra content I now I have time to pump out and/or you just want to help make the dream happen, here’s how you can support my work!

Subscribe on Patreon

If you’re trying to decide on how best to support my work, Patreon gives you the best bang for your buck! For as little as $1 a month (yes, seriously!) you get new early access content every single week. You’ll also get lots of exclusive content like stories and artwork, plus steep commission discounts and entry to monthly contests!

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Donate on Ko-Fi

Not everyone can make regular financial commitments to their favourite creators, and I get that. Whether you’d like to tip me for the content I share, or you just want to make a single donation to help me along, the Ko-Fi platform is the easiest way to do it!

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Commission me

My art commissions are now open, with no slot caps! I’m open for character and cover illustrations, social media avatars, and even merch designs!

Shop the Starborn Store

I’ve recently added a bunch of new designs to the Starborn Store, with more on the way! If you’re a fan of the Starborn universe (The Star and the Ocean, The Wind and the Horizon), this is the only place to get your hands on official merch! Have requests of a design you’d like to see? Hit me up and I’ll do my best to make it happen!

Hire me

In my previous life, I was a communications professional. I’m university educated (University of Toronto 0T8) and have completed post-graduate studies in public relations, with a decade’s worth of experience under my belt. I even taught college-level social media courses for four and a half years!

Add this to my experience in the world of books and fiction, and I your one-stop shop for all kinds of projects and initiatives, including:

  • Beta reading
  • Sensitivity reading (bisexuality, chronic depression, generalized anxiety disorder, anorexia)
  • Copywriting (blog posts, articles, newsletters, advertising copy, etc.)
  • Press release writing
  • Social media consultation

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And finally:

TELL YOUR FRIENDS!

Can’t support me yourself? That’s okay! There might be people in your network who could benefit from my services and/or who might like to read the things I write!

New Designs Added to the Starborn Store!

I’ve just added a brand new collection to my merch shop called Starborn Style. These designs are perfect for anyone who wants to rep their Starborn love but don’t want to rock one of my illustrations out in the wild (don’t worry, I’m not offended!)

Sign-up for Redbubble’s newsletter for exclusive promo codes (there are lots of opportunities to get in on a good deal!) or keep an eye on my Twitter feed where I also share the codes!

Here’s a sample of what’s in store (ha, get it?)

Have inspo for designs you’d like to see added to the store? Just let me know! I’ll be adding more designs over time.

Happy shopping!

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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Welcome to 2018!

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

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The Star and the Ocean is now on Goodreads!

I made a surprising discovery this past weekend, babes!

I don’t really remember how I stumbled across it, but apparently The Star and the Ocean has been listed as a title on Goodreads!

It seems the listing is connected to the Wattpad edition of the book. Even though I have no clue how it got up there (did Wattpad submit it? Does Goodreads comb the internet for web novels?) it’s still pretty cool to see my book up on a site used by so many readers.

Despite the fact that I still plan on publishing the Starborn Series in some capacity one day (once the web edition has been re-written and polished), this listing feels like a little victory. As a web-based author, I often feel – and openly bitch – that people don’t take web novels seriously. Forget the fact that many of us write full novels, take the time to proof and edit like trads and indies do, PLUS make our work as accessible as possible (which is to say, we give it away for free); our books are constantly relegated to the bottom of the reading hierarchy (if they’re considered at all!) Getting listed on Goodreads makes me feel like I’ve earned some sort of badge of legitimacy.

Hard work aside, I know I’ve been really fortunate with my online readership. I’ve seen some heartwarming successes since I started publishing online back in 2016. Because of this, I’m trying to pay it forward by advocating on behalf of other web-based authors to help change the perception that web novels “don’t count” as real books.

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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Four

[ Beginning | Previous Chapter ]

Content warning: Strong language


The party reached the town of Luxton by mid-afternoon the following day. As the one least likely to find her face on a wanted poster, May volunteered to source out accommodations, and came back with keys to a rented flat shortly before dinner.

After days in the woods, everyone was more than eager for access to clean running water and soft places to sleep. They took turns showering and crammed the washing machine to bursting with dirty clothes. After making a stealth grocery run, May dropped onto the plush living room couch and immediately declared it her favourite place in the world.

While Connor took to preparing dinner, the others explored the flat, calling dibs on different bedrooms and making themselves more comfortable than they had been in days.

“Hey, Maybe!” Em called from another room. “Guess what I found?”

Before May could venture a guess, Em sauntered into the living room holding a well-loved acoustic guitar. “Do you think you remember everything from the crash course that hippie gave you?”

Of course she remembered; it was a cheeky remark that May had to stop herself from chirping back at lest she accidentally mention her own special Wish ability. In only a couple of hours she had all but mastered the basics of strumming and fingerpicking. Em handed her the instrument and with a little bit of messing around she was able to recall the chords she had learned in that first and only lesson.

She strummed and plucked until the notes for a song Em often sang came back to her. With fingers as nimble as her feet when she danced, May strummed the familiar tune just to make Em smile. In return, Em curled at the floor at May’s feet and sang along in a voice she normally reserved for moments when she thought she was alone and – somewhat surprisingly – for drunken karaoke.

Rue and Priva applauded when they finished.

“You two have great harmony,” Rue said with a wink.

May blushed but Em was quick to accept the compliment. “Yeah, we’re pretty cute.”

From his seat across the room, Jeremy grumbled something beneath his breath. Just as Connor stepped into the room to announce that dinner was ready, Jeremy maneuvered passed him and disappeared into the flat.

Connor looked at Priva, who rolled her eyes.

“Anyway,” he drawled, gesturing toward the kitchen. “Who’s hungry?”

May, Em, and Rue followed him but Priva hung back. The four hadn’t even finished dishing out when the sound of raised, angry voices erupted in another room.

“Oh shit,” Em said, casting a wide-eyed glance at the rest of the group. “Should we do something about that?”

Rue and Connor frowned at each other, but before either could respond, Jeremy stormed through the flat and out the door.

“Should we stop him?” May asked, unnerved.

“Let him go,” Priva growled as she stalked into the kitchen. “Can’t talk any sense into him right now anyway.”

Nobody asked what happened, nor did the press the issue. Together they settled in and ate their dinner in a silence reminiscent of their first day together.

When everyone had finished, Connor and Rue chased the others from the kitchen, swearing they hand clean-up under control. Priva retired to a bedroom, leaving May and Em alone to whisper.

“That was about us, wasn’t it?” May asked, eyeing the door to the hallway down which Priva had cloistered herself.

“Most definitely.”

“Do you think we should go talk to her?”

“And say what?”

May sighed. “I don’t know but personally, I’m kind of sick of everyone being cagey about Jeremy’s attitude problem. Let’s just see what she says. Even if she isn’t honest about anything at least we can say we tried.”

Em thought about it for a moment and nodded. “You know what? Yes, let’s. I want to hear what she has to say about all this.”

They crept down the hallway, pausing to listen at the door before knocking.

“I’m good,” Priva called.

May looked at Em.

Em’s expression was determined.

“Glad to hear it, P,” she replied. “But we’re not. Can we talk about what happened?

There was a groan, the sound of creaking bedsprings. Priva opened the door with a scowl.

“What’s wrong?”

“That’s what we were wondering.” Em raised an eyebrow, a sure sign that she wasn’t about to back down.

“That fight,” May said in a tone far less confrontational than Em’s. “Was it about us?”

Priva licked her lips and glanced between the pair. “Honestly, you don’t need to worry about it. It’s just J being J.”

Em wasn’t having it.

“Cut the bullshit, Priva.”

Emanthy,” May hissed.

“This isn’t the first time he’s gotten pissy at or because of us,” Em barrelled on. “And quite frankly, it’s making an already tense situations worse than it needs to be. What are we doing wrong?”

“You’re not…” Priva looked past them, brow furrowed and gaze unfocused. “It’s complicated.”

“It always is.” Em folded her arms. “But resentful members of this little family we may be, I think we deserve to know if we’re doing something to rock the boat.”

Priva gave a resigned sigh and retreated back into the bedroom, motioning for the girls to follow. She collapsed on the bed, miserable, and May and Em tentatively took posts on either side of her”

“Jeremy and I are dating,” Priva told the ceiling. She didn’t seem ready to look at either of the girls. “Sort of.”

“Sort of?” May questioned, careful to make sure her tone didn’t come across as judgemental.

“If I’m being honest, I think it’s pretty one-sided.” Priva twisted at one of the coils from the half of her hair that hadn’t been carefully braided into tight rows across her scalp. “Honestly, I don’t know why I’m still trying with that boy. He’s never going to love me back.”

“Why do you say that?” Em asked, trying to keep her expression neutral.

“For starters, I’m not fucking stupid.” Priva grumbled. “But also because he’s still in love with someone else.”

There it was; a massive truth dropped so casually that May almost wondered if Priva might have been talking about someone else.

“Who?” Em pushed, waiting for more.

Priva sat up. “This is the worst part – and honestly, just thinking about admitting this makes me feel like a bitch: he’s in love with a dead woman.”

Em nodded at the duvet she had been picking at to avoid looking Priva in the face. “That’s rough, buddy.”

“Ha, that’s putting it lightly.” Priva agreed.

“So, why are you with him then?” May asked. “Has he always been this angry?” And, when Priva raised an eyebrow at her, added, “Or, uh, maybe it’s just me.”

Priva massaged the back of her neck with both hands and sighed.

“No,” she admitted sadly. “He used to laugh. He’s smart and fun and even dangerous in a way that’s so hot. But… thing have changed.”

“Since we showed up.” Em wasn’t asking.

There was a moment when nobody spoke, though the air was heavy with words waiting to be said.

“What does all of this have to do with us, Priva?” May asked gently.

Priva looked at them each in turn, awkward discomfort colouring her expression.

“The woman he loved – the one he still loves – was one of us. She was one of the original members of WIND. Honestly, she was such a badass and I really don’t blame him for being hung up on her. But she was a Starborn, like you.” She gestured to Em, who pursed her lips to keep herself quiet.

“I don’t know why he thought this,” Priva continued, looking flustered. “And believe me, I know how nuts this is going to sound, but… he had it in his mind that you were her. Maybe he thought her death was a cover up or something but he was really convinced that that you were her.”

“But he knows that I’m not, right?” Em insisted. “I mean, I can appreciate his disappointment but why’s he mad at us?”

“Girl, I wish I knew,” Priva said, tossing her hands up in defeat. “I think maybe he built it up so much in his mind that he can’t seem to separate you from her now. And you -” she pointed to May. “- you’re just caught in the middle of all this bullshit and I’m sorry. That’s what we were arguing about; he needs to stop getting pissed off over you two. He needs to stop taking out the fact that he was wrong on you.”

“Maybe he just needs a bit more time?” May ventured.

Priva shook her head. “I don’t know. I think I’ve given him enough time. I feel like such a fool.”

May and Em exchanged sad looks.

“You’re not a fool.” Em put a hand on Priva’s shoulder. “You’re fucking brilliant. We couldn’t have asked for a better navigator. You just need to keep looking forward. Come on, let’s get the maps out and you can show us where we’re headed next.”

“Actually…” Priva glanced out the window with a frown. “I think I should go look for Jeremy. He’s been out there sulking for a while and it’s starting to get dark.”

“Let me go,” May said, earning equally befuddled looks from both Em and Priva. “What? Maybe he just needs to get to know me. I am determined to get this guy to like me. Besides, out of all of us, no one will really be looking for me, remember?”

Priva still seemed reluctant but couldn’t argue with May’s logic. “I guess so…”

Please be careful out there, love,” Em said with a pointed look. “If you’re not back in five minutes, I’m coming to get you.”

“Sure thing, mom,”

“Ew, stop.”

Dusk had settled by the time May got down to the streets. Jeremy wasn’t anywhere in view. Pulling her hat low, she set off, figuring she’d start by circling the block before getting more creative in her search.

Aside from an occasional vehicle passing, the streets were deserted. May shivered involuntarily and tried not to fixate on how alone she was.

“Maybe I should have let Priva go after all,” she mumbled, folding her arms and pinning them tightly against her body. “I have clue where Jeremy might -”

A voice, gruff and indistinct echoed down an alleyway. Another voice followed; it sounded threatening. May was immediately filled with a sense of dread. Self-preservation told her to keep walking but a third, familiar voice stopped her dead.

“I told you, we haven’t found anything yet. Why would I lie about this?”

It was Jeremy.

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

Holding her breath, May crept into the alley. Taking shelter behind a row of garbage bins, she carefully peered out to find Jeremy being interrogated by a pair of men. The bigger of the two had a tight grip around the collar of Jeremy’s shirt and used it to keep him pinned against the wall. The man’s other hand was raised in a first, and based on the bruises blooming across Jeremy’s cheek, it was clear he had already put it to use.

“We did some digging when you didn’t check in. Sounds like you went sniffing around some circus.”

“We were following up on a lead,” Jeremy spat, feisty even in the face of danger. “It was a dead end.”

The men gave one another knowing looks. One nodded, the other struck. His fist hit Jeremy’s face with a loud crack.

“Don’t fucking lie to us, Parker.”

“Why would I lie?” Jeremy shouted.

The man who held him in place rattled him, slamming his small frame back against the wall. “Keep your voice down, man.”

“Why don’t I believe you?” The other man growled.

Jeremy glared at him through swelling lids. “We’re not stupid, you fucking neanderthals; we know what’s at stake here.”

His captor leaned in. “Don’t you forget that.”

“I won’t.”

“Oh, I think we’re going to need a bit more assurance than that,” the other man said, giving another nod to his partner who took the cue and threw Jeremy down at their feet.

Jeremy winced. When his eyes opened again, his new vantage point revealed May, crouched and terrified in her hiding spot. Fear flashed quickly across his face.

The world slowed to a crawl.

May watched one of the men swing his foot, aiming for Jeremy’s stomach.

In the split-second before impact Jeremy held May’s eyes with his and mouthed one word.

Run.


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