Why You Need a Writing Buddy

People think writing has to be a solitary affair. I thought so, too, for a long time. But you know what’s so much better than doing it alone? Having a writing buddy. Some people call them critique partners, but it’s so much more than that if you find the right person.

Writing buddies are a beautiful thing. You get a critique partner, but also someone who you can just talk to about your book or short stories or novellas or whatever it is you’re working on. It isn’t the same, trying to talk about your book with someone who might not actually be interested or who may not understand. And, of course, there’s the fear that you’ll annoy someone if you talk about it too much, but that’s not an issue with your writing buddy, because ideally, they’re as into the book as you are.

With a writing buddy you have someone you can bounce ideas off. You have someone who can give you unsolicited advice that you didn’t know you needed until she suggests it. You have someone rooting for your work and asking for more. It’s a great feeling to see “Ready for moreeeeee” at the ends of feedback emails. Even better is hearing that they’re having fun reading the 738-page book they’re beta-reading for you, because “it’s almost like a reread cuz I already know the story and the world, so it’s just comforting.” You have someone who not only looks forward to your work but whose work you look forward to reading in return. Maybe you can even buddy-read books with them because you’re basically the same person and so, of course, you enjoy the same books.

A writing buddy like that, who has also become a dear friend, is invaluable and a literal blessing. They’re someone who can urge you to write when you’re not feeling like it, someone who can help keep you accountable or also acknowledge that, no, sometimes it’s okay to take a break and take that nap you’re just really wanting to take. I know a lot of people say they write for themselves, and sure, I do, too. I wouldn’t be writing the stories I am if I wasn’t interested in reading them myself, but you know what else is nice? Having someone to share those stories with that’s excited about them. And they make you feel like, oh, maybe I don’t entirely suck, and maybe my work is worth the time and effort put into it.

I decided, partially, to get my Master’s because I wanted to surround myself with other writers, but I somehow never expected to actually find a friend that I would end up talking to literally daily. So, thank you a thousand times over to my writing buddy’s partner for pushing her to message me. I will be eternally grateful to you always.

Now go check out her website, because the trilogy she’s working on is amazing. And also, her post about writing buddies here, because naturally we organized posting these at the same time ;).


What I wrote over the last week

Inserted two more chapters into The Children of Oher, because apparently I just can’t stop expanding this book.

What I’m reading right now

Blood Sworn by Scott Reintgen

The Last Revision by Sandra Scofield

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

And finished Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer yesterday

But can we talk about those covers? And yes, I absolutely did buy Blood Sworn before I even started Ashlords, because that cover.

Yes, Horses Do Show Up In Most Things I Write

There’s a video of me at the age of six where I proudly announce, in Dutch, that I want to take horseback riding lessons (or, I guess more accurately, “horse lessons”). Lucky for me, there was a small horse farm fifteen minutes from where we lived. When I was seven, I started taking lessons there. And my intense love of horses has never faded. All through school, including Undergrad, I rode at least once a week, usually more. I even started showing in sixth grade through 4-H, though I was never the biggest fan of it. The first show I went to wasn’t one I was in, but one I went to watch. I don’t recall most of it, but I strongly remember getting stepped on three times by various horses while wearing flipflops. Which insane parent let me wear flipflops to a horse show?

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From riding them to reading about them to playing with horse toys to collecting Breyer statues that I still own to this day, I fully immersed myself in being a crazy horse girl. I even wrote about them.

The first story I remember writing was started in an unlined journal while sitting in the airport, probably on the way to or from Holland, and to no one’s surprise, it was about a girl who had horses. Now, I can’t remember what it was about beyond that, but I’m almost certain it was inspired by The Unicorns of Balinor, because I’m pretty sure the characters were named Ari and Finn, both of whom are characters in that series. Either that or I just liked the names.

Horses have never stopped appearing in my stories since that first one, nor have I stopped reading about them. Once again, shocking to not a single person, one of my favorite books is The Scorpio Races, which is all about horses, both real and mythical. All throughout school I read horse books, many of which I still own (including the entire Unicorns of Balinor series), and even as an adult I still seek them out, though they’re surprisingly harder to find unless you want to read non-fiction, which is generally not something I’m searching for. This is even more true if you’re looking for fantasy. Don’t worry fellow horse lovers, I’m coming to your rescue 😉.

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Maybe that’s partially why horses play such a big role in most of my stories. That’s not to say I can’t write something without horses in it – The Children of Oher features exactly zero – but if there’s a place for them, I’ll make sure to fill it. There’s a quote by Toni Morrison that goes, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” and I certainly seem to be doing that when it comes to including horses. So yes, I do fully intend to write Spirits of the Sea solely as an excuse to write about them, because I know some other crazy horse person out there will appreciate it as much as I do.

What’s something you love that you just can’t help putting into the things you create?


What I wrote over the last week

Chapters twenty-one through twenty-four of The Children of Oher

What I’m currently reading

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

The Last Revision by Sandra Scofield

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

The Importance of Flexibility

This month has been a lesson in not getting too hung up on writing plans. I made myself this very specific, month-by-month schedule for writing for the year at the end of 2020. But as this month has progressed, and The Children of Oher has kept growing beyond what I can reasonably finish by the end of January, I’ve had to accept that this year probably won’t go quite as I’ve arranged. I might need more than three months to revise the second Enorians book, and then I might need more than two months to give the first Enorians book another look before I start querying it.

This week the owner of the horse I ride every Wednesday told me she would be out of town this weekend and next weekend and said I could ride him a couple extra days. While I obviously very happily agreed, because I’d never turn down extra pony time, it does mean that my writing has and will continue to suffer a little. I simply have a significantly smaller number of hours after work to write when I ride.

So, I’m trying to be flexible and forgive myself if things don’t go quite as I planned. It’s important not to get too hung up on how you think things should go. It’s important not to beat yourself up if you don’t write that exact number of words you were hoping for (guilty of doing that myself on many occasions). It’s important to remember that there will just be days when life gets in the way, and it’s not the end of the world that you didn’t get to write.

I have a whole second half of the year schedule, but honestly, if I can get the two Enorians books revised and start querying the first one, I’ll be happy.


What I wrote over the past week

Chapters eighteen, nineteen, and twenty of The Children of Oher

What I’m reading right now

The Archive of the Forgotten by A.J. Hackwith

Red Dust and Dancing Horses by Beth Cato

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Brown & Dave King

Favorite Books and Authors

Let’s talk about my favorite books today.

“What’s your favorite book?” is always a hard question for me. Not just because my favorite books typically change, but also because I don’t have just one. Who has just one favorite book? That’s crazy, right? So, here we go.

My Favorite Books:

I have to start with the Harry Potter series just because it’s the reason I started loving reading, and writing, in the first place. It also continues to engross me with every reread, even knowing what’s going to happen. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has and always will be my favorite, though.

And in no particular order, here’s the rest (for which my lovely foxes will be helping me show off each wonderful book):

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – I read this first years ago, and then last year during my Masters program, I took a Neil Gaiman class. I’d somehow forgotten everything about the book. It was like reading it for the first time all over again. I don’t even know exactly what it is I love about this book so much, but I do love it. It’s strange and beautiful and full of magic.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Have you ever read a book and thought, “Damn, I wish I wrote this book”? That’s this book for me. I freaking love this book so much. I honestly think part of why I love this is just because horses… It’s about horses. Carnivorous water horses. And people who love those horses so much. It just speaks to me. And I love the characters. I love all of it. And ever since I read it, I wanted to write something about horses, which is, I think, another reason I wanted to write Spirits of the Sea.

Under the Skin by Michel Faber – I loved this book the first time I read it seven years ago in Scotland, and I’ve loved it every reread since. I even managed to convince the boyfriend, who never really reads, to read it. He didn’t seem to understand my love for it, but, honestly, I can’t even tell you why I enjoy it so much. There’s just something about it that makes me want to reread it over and over (which I guarantee I’ll continue doing).

Fledgling by Octavia Butler – I flew through all of Octavia Butler’s books in like a year and a half, and my favorite is really a tie between this one and Kindred, which was the first one of hers I read after it was recommended by a professor during my Masters program. Fledgling is strange and uncomfortable and somehow wonderful at the same time. This seems to be a theme, but I don’t know exactly what it is I love about it. I just loved all of it and its change on vampire ideas.

Red Rising Series by Pierce Brown – This has to be one of the best sci-fi series I’ve ever read (or, well, listened to in this case). I am just so impressed with the world building – and thoroughly jealous of Brown’s skills in that department – and the characters are wonderful and real, and the plots are insane. Before book six comes out, I fully plan to reread the first five, because there is just so much going on it’ll be a good reminder.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carman Maria Machado – Only recently have I started enjoying short stories, and this was recommended to me by my wonderful writing buddy. And I enjoyed every single one of the stories. I’ll definitely be going back and rereading them again.

There are so many more I could list, but I’ll leave it there, otherwise we’ll be here all day.

Other books I read this year that I absolutely loved:

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The Killing Moon, The Shadowed Sun, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, and The Kingdom of Gods all by N.K. Jemisin

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Favorite Authors – aka I’ll read anything of theirs you put in front of me:

N.K. Jemisin

Margaret Atwood

Neil Gaiman

Keri Arthur

Octavia Butler

Both Hank and John Green

What is/are your favorite book(s)? Favorite authors?

What I Wrote Over the Last Week

Chapters four and five of The Children of Oher. I am determined to finish this by the end of January, so I can keep somewhat on my planned schedule of revising book two and then book one and starting book three of the Enorians Saga by July.

What I’m Reading Right Now

Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

Horsemanship Through Life by Mark Rashid

How NaNoWriMo Went and What I Wrote

Phew, NaNo is over, and thank goodness for that. I am tired. It’s crazy that I managed to go beyond NaNoWriMo length in April and May. But, then again, I wasn’t working at that point, nor did I have anything else going on in my life given, you know, COVID, so I had all the time in the world to write. It was a bit different last month for a number of reasons. The first is that I started a new job, so I went from working something like twenty-five hours a week to suddenly working full time. Second, I wasn’t working on a novel or anything specifically planned or set like I was in April and May when I was working on book two of the Enorians Saga. Instead I had a vague idea of some stories I might want to write.

I’m really glad I decided to go with writing a bunch of different things, because I ended up coming out of it with six myths (only three more to go to hit my goal of twenty), a few short stories, and the start of two novels.  

There were so many days after waking up early and working eight hours that I just did not want to write. And three of those days I gave in and wrote nothing. A couple others I counted my blog posts to try to hit my word goals. It was rough. Writing is hard!

On days I was really on the struggle bus but knew I had to get those words down, I ended up writing things I knew would be easy, which was how I ended up writing about Rowan (seen on the left here in the art breeder version I made) and Ien for funsies. But I did manage, for the most part, to write consistently. The first time I attempted this was my sophomore year of undergrad when I got halfway. And this year I finally finished! Which means that I wrote 50,000+ words in a month three times this year. Which is kind of absolutely insane.

Props to anyone who manages this while working full time, especially if they have kids, too, or things they have to do outside of work. Managing full time work and existing as a human adult who also has hobbies and friends and family and responsibilities can make it hard to fit writing in. It’s so easy to make excuses, to find reasons not to write, and for so many years I made those excuses and found those reasons. It wasn’t until I started my master’s program and decided that seriously this time, I was going to write every day whether I wanted to or not, that things changed. And as I said, there are certainly still days where I don’t write, but they’re far and few between compared to before.

Also, can I just mention how difficult finding a good picture to along with my daily Instagram post was? Especially when I was trying to post them right before bed. When in doubt, post a cute picture of a cat, right? (Haha see what I did there? A cute cat ->)

So what’s next? Well, this month I’m continuing one of the novels I wrote the first chapter of… After I finish the character sheets and planning out specific story moments. So, you know, probably like six days after I originally wanted to start it, but oh well. And then when the new year hits, I want to revise Enorian Saga books two and one (again) and then write book three. Maybe I’ll even come up with titles at some point so I can stop referring to them by number.

All right, enough rambling. Let’s look at what I wrote last month, and maybe share an excerpt for each section 😉.

Things I wrote during National Novel Writing Month

Myths

“The Folly of Blissfruit” – A myth about an enorian fruit (blissfruit) that causes crazy amazing highs and why enorians shouldn’t eat it. 

“The First Aesan” – A myth about Aesa’s decision to take children to her realm upon their death rather than sending them to the Aether.

“Aesa’s Ring of Conception” – A myth about a Velite woman who desperately wants children but can’t have them and Aesa’s special ring that allows conception no matter the circumstances.

“The Apex Predator” – A myth about Nora-Vel’s objects, which are all body parts of her favorite creature.

“Typheus the Wind Scythe” – A myth about how a weapon of Kezerien’s, a wind scythe, became a god-blessed weapon.

“Borea’s Heart of Darkness” – A myth about a god-blessed lantern of Borea’s that allows the holder to live even beyond the moment they should have died while they seek their vengeance.

Excerpt from pages two and three of “Borea’s Heart of Darkness”

Ashira’s head swam as she pushed open the door. She dropped to her knees, weeping at the sight of her parents dead in their bed. A wave of weakness washed over her, and she pressed a hand to the wound along her belly. It burned beneath her palm, hot and painful. She didn’t know what was wrong, but she knew she was dying. She felt it.

She sank onto her side, stating up at the bed, surrounded by the heavy silence of her slaughtered family. Her family had long ruled Lirona, and though she did not know for certain who had sent the assassin that murdered her family in their beds, she knew she could not die without punishing them.

Closing her eyes, Ashira stoked her hatred for the Sandrian assassin and the unknown person who had given her the assignment. She let the hatred, the anger consume her, and then she prayed to Borea. She had heard tale of an item blessed by the goddess of hatred. A special lantern that would keep the holder alive until they got their revenge.

Borea, in her realm where it rained acid and blood, heard Ashira’s prayers over the moans and screams of caged souls. So great was the princess’s hatred and anger that Borea felt it through the suffering of those around her. Borea understood the need to sate the bloodlust. And who better to offer her Heart of Darkness to but someone so desperate for vengeance that they would prolong their life to achieve it?

But the lantern came with a price. Before she sent it to the girl, Borea spoke to her through the still-pooling blood of her parents. The blood slid off the bed and formed a vague-enorian shape in front of Ashira. It stood mere inches high, but the voice that rang out was clear and laced with loathing.

I have heard your prayers, Ashira of Lirona. I will give you that which you so desire, but know it comes at a cost. You have until the light goes out to kill your target, at which time, you will die. If the light goes out before you kill your target, you will die. Upon your death, your soul will come to me, where you will spend eternity among the tortured souls in my realm. Do you still wish to seek your vengeance?

Ashira stared at the wavering blood-made being before her. She didn’t care where she went after she died. All she wanted was to destroy the person who had slaughtered her family. “Yes,” she whispered.


Short Stories

“Spirits of the Sea” – Once a year, the residents of Senresse ride their horses down to the sea to wash the evil winter spirits from their legs. But danger lurks beneath the waves, for the sea spirits require a sacrifice to keep the island flourishing (this was really just an excuse for me to write about horses).

An untitled story about a girl who receives a phone call from her mom, who died the year before.

An untitled story about a server struggling while being the only one on shift as told via table numbers.

“The Journals of Silsia” – Silsia was one of the enorians who first came through the portal. These journal entries show her struggle in adapting to this new, strange place.

Excerpt from the first journal entry in “The Journals of Silsia”

Day 2

It’s terrible, staring up at the portal jutting up into the sky, knowing we’ll never go back. We arrived at the beginning of the cold season, it seems, though we have no idea when – or if – the weather might change. Perhaps there is only a cold season here. All I know is the snow keeps falling, coating the ground in a thick, white layer. My clothes barely ward off the chill. I miss the coat our creator blessed me with. The thick, shaggy hair would’ve kept me warm like it always does during the winter.

But it’s more than that. It’s more than just missing my coat. Kalasandria “blessed” us all with these human forms, as she called them. The Zaria tells us we have to wear them to blend in, in case any humans show up. But I haven’t seen another soul since we arrived. Only us enorians. I hate this form. It’s so confining. My skin prickles and itches like it knows it’s not my real skin, like the hairs of my true form tickle it from beneath. And I keep forgetting I don’t have my secondary arms. I dropped a mug the other day, one of the few Dris and I managed to bring. I went to grab it with my lower hand, forgetting I didn’t have it, and the mug shattered on the frozen ground. That’s the fourth time I’ve dropped something now. I don’t now if I’ll ever get used to this.

The Zaria says it’ll take time, but we’ll all get used to these new forms. Those of us with wings seem to be struggling more than us land-bounders. They’re used to flying everywhere, but now they have to be careful. They can’t be seen, the Zaria warns. Apparently, these humans can be hostile when faced with something unknown.

If we don’t finish up these shelters we’re building soon, I’ll have to change back, no matter what the Zaria says. I’m freezing, and so is Dris.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Kalasandria did save us from Enos and the war, after all, but why didn’t anyone consider our living arrangements before we came through the portal?

The portal that’s now sealed. Closed off to us forever. Will I ever see home again? 


Starts of Novels

Chapter one of The Children of Oher, which started out as a short story idea, then was going to be a novella, but then I plotted out the chapters the other night. Now it looks like it’ll more than likely turn into a novel.

Kora Mercer (pictured in the art breeder version I made) gets kidnapped by the Children of Oher and is forced to marry one of their young men because the group hasn’t had a female child born in years, so they have to resort to pulling women in from outside their walls. But when she realizes her new husband, Asher Webb, is in love with his best friend and wants as little to do with all this marriage business as her, she has to decide whether to trust him in hopes they might escape their prison together.

Chapter one of the novel version of Spirits of the Sea, which will be told in first person from the point of view of the sister of one of the protagonists of the short story version. – When Amalia’s (pictured here in the art breeder version I made) brother is taken by the sea spirits, she takes matters into her own hands and searches for a way to travel to Ijamere to get him back. 

Excerpt of the first two pages of chapter one of The Children of Oher

Kora’s wedding day looking nothing like how she’d imagined it in her childhood. First, she was only eighteen. She’d always thought she would be well into her twenties or older. Someone else had picked out her dress, a simple, straight white thing that made her feel like she was wearing a sack. Not the graceful gown she’d pictured, with a flowing train and a sparkling bodice. She didn’t have a veil, though she’d always liked the idea of her husband lifting it to kiss her when the time came. Her hair hadn’t even been done nicely. It lay in its dark, messy waves, the top all frizzy from having a bag pulled off her head. Not pinned up in some elegant style like in the pictures with diamond-studded hairclips and flowers weaved throughout. And the last thing she’d ever wanted was to get married in the middle of summer outside. The sun beat down on her, making her hot and uncomfortable. But worst of all, the man Kora stood in front of, the man she was supposed to marry, wasn’t a man she loved. In fact, she hadn’t met him until ten minutes earlier.

Trying not to look into the stony face of her supposed future husband, Kora glanced at the people around her. They stood in a garden surrounded by houses. An unnaturally perfect garden. Kora had always liked overgrown ones, where the plants were allowed to flourish and go where they wished, but this one felt sterile, controlled. Each flower, each leaf, each petal placed just so. Water rushed somewhere behind her. A river? She wasn’t sure. The grass prickled against the soles of her bare feet.

She wasn’t the only one girl who seemed out of place. On either side of her a half circle stretched at least ten girls long, each one wearing the same sack of a white dress. She couldn’t get a good look at some of them, but the ones she could see looked to be in various states of shock or grief. The blonde girl beside her wept silently, eyes on the ground, her shoulders slumped. She couldn’t have been more than sixteen. The woman on Kora’s other side had hair as green as the eyes she darted in Kora’s direction. Woman, Kora thought, but young, still. Not much older than herself. All the girls in line couldn’t have been older than their mid-twenties. Had they all been brought in from the outside like her?

Each of the girls had a male opposite standing in front of her. Kara glanced at the man before her again. His skin was the color of wet driftwood, and black eyebrows formed a deep frown, his forehead winkled and beading with sweat. The muscles in his jaw stood out, as if he clenched them. But his deep-set eyes weren’t on her. They gazed at something to beyond her, and when they flicked to her, she quickly looked away.

Beyond the couples, if they could even be called that, the garden was filled with a large crowd, all dressed as if they were attending an actual wedding rather than whatever this was supposed to be. They spoke to each other in quiet, excited voices. What were they all waiting for?

Trying to relief the discomfort of keeping her arms behind her back, Kora rolled her shoulders, grimacing. She tried her plastic cuffs again, moving her hands in hopes this time they were looser. The cuffs rubbed painfully against the already sensitive skin of her hands. All the attempt did was earn her a sharp jab in the spine. She shot a glare back at the man behind her. That earned her another jab in the same bruised spot.


Other

I wrote five different chunks of scenes written just for fun, which consisted of things that happened in book two of the Enorians Saga but in this case written from an alternate point of view, background information on the antagonist of all three books, and a couple of scenes that might end up in book three.

I’d given an excerpt from my “other” things but a lot of it is very spoiler heavy in terms of things that happen either between books one and two or in book two, soooo I’ll have to skip that.

What I wrote over the last week

I finished up “Borea’s Heart of Darkness”

A scene about Ien and Akrin that will hopefully take place in book three in some capacity.

I then took two days to do nothing to recover from NaNoWriMo and used the next couple days to plan out The Children of Oher.

What I’m reading right now

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Horsemanship Through Life: A Trainer’s Guide to Better Living and Better Riding by Mark Rashid

Friends – They’re Important

To continue from last week’s idea of friendship and how making friends as an adult is hard, I wanted to talk about, well, friends. I’ve never had a large number of friends, and that’s fine. I’d rather have a small number of close friends than a lot of superficial friends. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with making friends as an adult. I’ve had a lot of work friends, people I say I’ll keep in touch with after I leave that job, but we rarely do. I know that’s partially me being terrible at staying in communication with people (even my sisters), but also it’s hard to stay connected when your schedule is different than theirs and you each have such separate lives.

There’s two exceptions to that I-suck-at-staying-in-touch-with-friends part of me. I talk to my dear friend and writing buddy of a year and a half daily, but I think that’s just a rare case of us being essentially the same person. And then there’s my BFF, who I’ve spent the last I don’t know how many years texting every day. Some days we literally say good morning and then don’t really text much the rest of the day because I have work and writing and a million other things to do, and she has three kids.

Friendships as adults are weird because we grow up seeing our friends at least 5 days a week, sometimes more if we saw each other on weekends. We grow up getting to spend literal years seeing them so often, and then suddenly school is over.

Now you’re stuck trying to juggle working, existing as a responsible human adult, fitting in your hobbies or pets or spouses, or in my case, making time to write every day, and also every so often getting to see or even just talk to your friends. It’s so different from being essentially forced to spent hours a day with your friends during school, so it’s unsurprising that making friends as an adult is hard. It’s one thing to stay in contact with people you were already friends with in school, like I do with my BFF. That’s so ingrained in my daily routine that if we don’t text each other, it feels wrong.

And I think that’s why it’s so easy to become friends with your coworkers, because you’re forced to spend hours with each other. But then when that time spent together vanishes because you find a new job or they find something else, it becomes difficult to stay in touch for all the reasons mentioned above.

But anyway, friends. The reason I wanted to talk about them, really, is because I think friends are so important. Of course, your family (if they’re not toxic, terrible people obviously) and your SO are important, too, but friends are so necessary beyond those people. There are things my friends understand that even my family and my boyfriend don’t. Like the insanity that is my desire to read 90 books in a year or horses. I need my horse friends to gush over horses with.

My BFF just moved back to Wisconsin a few weeks ago, and it’s been so wonderful to get to actually see her again and to have her within driving distance. Sometimes you just need to see your friends.

And I somehow manage to just only make short friends, so I look like a freaking giant when I stand next to them. Thanks, Dutch genes.

So anyway, how does that relate to my books? Well, when I first wrote book one, many moons ago (like 10+ years), it really had no friendship in it as far as I can remember. But…that draft is a hot mess, a disaster. We don’t talk about it. It will never see the light of day. So now onto the current draft, when I realized people need friends, there’s actually three major friendships: the one between Rowan and Robin, the one between Aurea and Draea from both sides, and the most important one between Aurea and Eliana.

Rowan leans on Robin often. He seeks her out for advice and comfort. Their friendship is forged on the foundation of shared grief. And when human comfort isn’t enough, Rowan turns to his beloved animals: Ateela and Alvaro. I think in Rowan’s case, those animal friends are even more essential to his mental health than even his human ones are. So I guess I should amend the earlier statement and say there are four major friendships, the final one being Rowan and his animals.

Aurea and Draea’s friendship is different in the sense that it began with Draea caring for Aurea and her brother when they were younger. Their friendship is more than just friends. They have something of sisterly bond. Aurea even sometimes considers Draea like a mother figure. They depend on one another, and when Aurea has to go on her mission, they both struggle with being away from each other, Draea in particular.

When I first wrote about Aurea questioning her beliefs (not a spoiler since it’s mentioned in the blurb in the “Projects” page 😉) it all stemmed from her relationship with Rowan. Now, while that was all fine, I wanted there to be more than just her changing for a boy. We’ve all seen that before. Eli was already a character by then, and someone Aurea was superficially friends with. So I had all the groundwork there. I just needed to solidify that friendship, and I think Aurea’s arc is much stronger for it, because now her change doesn’t stem from just Rowan. In fact, it starts with Eli when she realizes humans really aren’t all that different from her. I really wanted Aurea’s change to come from more than just a boy, and I hope that worked the way I intended.


I really love all the friendships in this book. I think friendship and its importance shows up in two and three, as well, in different ways. So, anyway, now that I’m done rambling about friends and their importance and friendships in book one, here’s a couple of excerpts showing the three POV characters and their friends.

It was pretty hard to pick for Draea and Aurea, since they don’t actually get to see one another from chapter one through forty-five, so most of their friendship details come from background details and letters Aurea writes to Draea. I was going to show something from Draea’s POV, but instead here’s a small excerpt from when Aurea first gets settled in her new room in Orien’s Haven.

From Chapter 3

But even more important than the concealer was the note and the present Draea had given her before she left. If she’d lost them, she would’ve been devastated. She opened the box to reveal a thin silver chain with a circular pendant hanging at the middle. Etched into the pendant were three symbols: A halfmoon curved along the right side and along the left, the symbol for Enos, the silhouette of his curved horns, their tips meeting the tip of the moon. Between the two curves of the horns and the moon hung a drop of blood. The symbols of the gods they’d come from. Kalasandria for Aurea, and Verox and Enos for Draea.

Aurea touched the little pendant, a small smile playing on their lips. Draea had one just like it, though neither could wear them openly. Aurea tucked the box in with the tubes of concealer, unfolding the note.

In case you ever get lonely or miss me. Know I’m always here. I believe in you, my sweet Auri. I love you.

Dray

And Another From Chapter 10

She found a tall, sweeping tree overlooking the lake, one with white flowers covering its entirety. She had no idea what it was, what kind of fruit it grew, but she settled herself beneath it and lay flat on her back, gazing up at the clusters of white. She smiled at the surge of memories.

Many warm nights, after training, she and Draea would go into their backyard, small as it was, and lay below the tree that took up a majority of the space. They’d stare up through the leaves at the darkening sky, watching the pink-tinged clouds float by, arms pressed together as they lay side by side. Sometimes they’d talk about their days, sometimes they’d lie together in silence. On more than out occasion, they’d taken turns consoling one another, arms wrapped around the other as she cried. Most recently, she’d been the one holding Draea, promising her she’d be back, that she’d be fine.

Tears prickled behind her eyes. Gods, how she missed Draea. It was like a piece of her was missing. She lay there on the uneven ground for a long time, watching the clouds through the breaks between the flowers, listening to a bee buzzing near her head. Another one moved above her, going from flower to flower lazily. The wind rustled the flowers, sending a few stray petals floating down toward Aurea. It was peaceful there, as she’d suspected. And yet her stomach held itself in a tight knot.


For Rowan and Robin I’m just going with the introduction of Robin, which is a moment where Rowan gives her a birthday present.

From Chapter 4

After dropping off the groceries with Samina, the head of the kitchen, he found Robin cleaning the library. Her son, Oliver, was strapped to her chest with a wrap wrapping over her shoulders, between her moth-like wings, and around her middle. Her dark grey skin and her short black hair had the same bluish quality when the sun hit it.

“Dahlia and Carolin are joining us for lunch, if that’s okay,” Rowan said, holding out his hands in an offer to take Oliver.

Robin loosened the wrap and pulled out the six-month-old boy, handing him to Rowan with a grateful smile. “Thanks. He’s getting heavy.” She rolled her shoulders. “That’s fine with me. Is it okay if Emilie comes, too? I ran into her a few minutes ago and might have invited her.”

“Of course. The more the merrier.” Emilie Kiman was one of his horse trainers, a young Mersian who Robin had become good friends with after she’d moved into the house not long before Oliver was born. He set Oliver on his hip and dug in his pocket with his free hand. “Here. I know it’s early, but happy birthday.” He held out the little box.

Robin scowled. “Rowan! You don’t have to get me anything. You do enough just letting us live here.”

“Nonsense. I already bought it. Take it.” He pushed it into her hands.

She shot him a dirty look before opening the box. “Oh, Row. Thank you.” Tears brimmed her bright green eyes. “It made me think of Aims when I saw it. It’s why I liked it so much.” She moved closer and hugged him tightly.

He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t made the connection. Aimery had been a Kezerite, so of course the lightning-like pattern had made her think of him. He wished, as he always did when she was reminded of her dead husband, he could take away her pain. Rowan gave her a squeeze with his free arm. “Sorry I made you cry.”

Robin laughed, wiping at her eyes. “No, no. Thank you, really. It’s beautiful. I love it.”


For Aurea and Eli, there’s a moment where Aurea misses Draea greatly and the two women bond over missing their friends.

From Chapter 10

“Hey, Lena. I thought that was you.”

Aurea tilted her head back to see Eliana walking over. “Oh, hey.” Eliana’s smile made her feel better somehow.

“Mind if I join you?”

“Not at all.”

Eliana lowered herself to the ground, stretching out beside Aurea. Her arm touched Aurea’s, Eliana’s foot bumping hers. The faint scent of Jasmine washed over Aurea, settling her and filling her with a quiet peace.

Aurea swallowed the lump rising in her throat at how familiar this felt.

“What are you doing over here?” Eliana asked.

“Just watching the clouds.”

“The flowers are kind of in the way, though.”

“Well, yeah. But I like them better anyway. They’re pretty.” And they reminded her of the little while flowers that grew along the fence in their yard at home.

“Are you okay?” Eliana tilted her head to look at Aurea. “You seem sad.”

“I miss home. And my best friend. I thought it would be easier, moving here.” Aurea met the hazel eyes. “You know?”

Eliana smiled sympathetically. “I understand missing a best friend.”

Aurea had all but forgotten that Eliana’s best friend had moved away. “How long ago did she move?”

“Last summer. She went north.” A sadness flickered across her face, smile faltering.

“Why did she leave?” Would Eliana get to see her again? Or was her friend lost to her? An ache bloomed at the idea of never seeing Draea again. At least Aurea knew she’d get to be with her again.

“She followed a girl, someone she loved.” Eliana sighed, eyes turning skyward. “I don’t blame her. If Warren asked me to leave with him, I would.”

Aurea wouldn’t leave Draea. Not permanently. Not for anyone.

“Have you ever been in love?” Eliana asked after a moment.

“A few times.” And each had ended in heartbreak. She’d fallen hard and fast every time. But she’d never have considered moving away from The Isles permanently, for any of them. Draea, though, she knew, would’ve left with Edur. She’d been considering it, considering moving to the mainland when he’d been killed in that hunting accident.

Guilt slithered into her heart at the memory of the relief that’d filled her. At the relief of knowing Draea wouldn’t leave her. But gods, had she felt awful for feeling that way. Draea had been grieving her son, her husband, and all Aurea could think was how grateful she was that Draea wouldn’t be abandoning her. It still made her sick to think of her own selfishness.

“So you understand, too, then, the lengths you’d go to, to stay with them.”

“Yeah.” But she didn’t. And maybe she never would understand what it was like to love someone so deeply, so thoroughly, that she’d be willing to leave The Isles, willing to leave Draea for him. Aurea turned her head to look at Eliana, a fondness for the other woman filling her as she inhaled another lungful of the faint Jasmine smell. She smiled when Eliana grasped her hand, grateful for the woman’s presence, for her understanding.

“It’s okay to be sad and miss your friend. You don’t have to pretend with me.” Eliana squeezed lightly. “We can be sad together.”

Aurea laughed. “Sounds great.” It was nice to have someone to talk to, someone she felt comfortable with, someone she could spend time with without worrying about pretending to be okay with it.

“What brought you to the orchard? I’ve never seen you here.”

“It looked quiet. I just wanted to be alone for a bit.” Aurea turned her gaze to the flowers again. “Do you come here much?”

“I work here on and off. I switch between the green houses and here depending on where I’m needed.”

Aurea didn’t know how Eliana had enough time for everything she did. “So you work here and at the green houses, The Tea Room, and you run your market stall?”

Eliana grinned. “And sometimes I help Warren’s father at the butchers.”

Aurea laughed again. “How do you have time for yourself?”

Eliana’s smile faded. “I like to keep busy. Keeps me from thinking too much.”

They were silent for a while, Aurea waiting to see if Eliana would elaborate. But it seemed like Eliana wasn’t ready to explain. Aurea’s eyes found the little white flowers, the sun peeking through the clouds beyond and sneaking through the petals to warm her face. “What kind of tree is this?”

“A pear tree.”

“What other kinds of fruit grow here?” She wondered what pears tasted like. Were they sweet or tart? Or bitter? She had no frame of reference. She doubted anything she’d ever eaten compared to the fruits growing in the orchard.

“Apples, plums, and cherries grow on the trees. But we also have a couple rows of berry bushes.”

Aurea lifted herself slightly to look behind her. All the trees were covered in flowers of white or varying shades of pink. It was beautiful here, peaceful. Not the same peacefulness she felt at home, laying in the backyard, listening to the sounds of the ocean, but as she settled herself back beside Eliana, she felt the homesickness ebbing. The wind rustled the flowers of the pear tree, sending ripples across the lake down below.


And because Rowan and I are both crazy horse girls, I have to include Rowan and Alvaro from about halfway through the book, so I’m cutting it a bit short due to spoilers.

From Chapter 38

When Rowan reached the stable, he grabbed the lantern hanging outside the side door and brought it into the dark building. The familiar sound of soft, sleepy nickers came from the stalls nearby as he shut the door behind him. He inhaled the scent of hay and horses, making his way to Alvaro’s stall. Ateela followed, pausing every now and then to sniff at the floor.

Alvaro stuck his head over the stall door when Rowan neared, greeting him with a whicker. Other heads poked out of nearby stalls, curious who was interrupting their sleep.

“Hey, buddy,” Rowan said, hanging the lantern on the wall beside the stall. He slipped inside and quickly shutting the door again before Ateela could get in. “Sorry to wake you.”

Alvaro nosed at his pockets, blowing through his nostrils.

“Ah, you don’t care that I’m here. You just want these, don’t you?” Rowan smiled, digging a few treats out.

Alvaro’s soft lips brushed against his palm as he took them from Rowan’s hand.

Rowan brushed aside the stallion’s forelock and rubbed his forehead. He already felt much calmer than he had earlier, surrounded by the familiar, comfortable smell of the horses, the sounds of hooves moving over hay-covered floors. He pressed his forehead against Alvaro’s, closing his eyes.

Ateela pawed at the stall door, whining.

When Alvaro had eaten the treats, Rowan moved back over to the stall door. He opened it enough to let Ateela in, then lowered himself onto the floor, leaning against the wall. “Mind if I stay for a bit?”

And Alvaro, as if sensing Rowan needed it, lay down and draped his head over Rowan’s lap. Ateela lay down on his other side, pressing his warm body against Rowan’s leg.

Tears filled his eyes as Rowan ran his hands over the stallion’s face.


What I wrote over the past week

“Typheus the Wind Scythe” –  A myth about how a weapon of Kezerien’s, a wind scythe, became a god-blessed weapon.

I finished up “The Journals of Silsia.” And you’ll be shocked to hear this, it came in at just over fifteen pages, because what even is short?

A for funsies scene from Ien’s POV that I can’t explain due to spoilers for book two.

Some background stuff about Droken to get to know him better and flesh him out more before I start revising book two.

“The Heart of Darkness” (no relation to Heart of Darkness the book hahaha) – A myth about a god-blessed lantern of Borea’s that allows the holder to live even beyond the moment they should have died while they seek their vengeance.

What I’m reading right now

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill

My Horseback Riding Instructor is Leaving, and I’m Sad

As you may — or may not — know, I love horses. I might have mentioned it a few times here and there. It might say so in my “About me” page. I’m definitely not shy about my love of horses and have fully accepted my crazy-horse-girl self. It also won’t be surprising to anyone who reads book one. Rowan is 100% also a crazy horse girl, according to my boyfriend. Which, to be fair, he kind of is. He does love horses and talks to them – kind of like me… Whoops? I have a feeling horses will appear in most of my writing in some capacity. As my boyfriend told me recently, “If I were a crazy horse girl, I’d be able to tell you’re a crazy horse girl” based on how I write about them. (Am I about to use this as an excuse to share a bunch of horse pictures? Absolutely)

I started riding when I was seven, but I realized after I left for college that I didn’t really know much beyond how to stay on the horse. Which, to be fair, is an important skill to have. I might be exaggerating a bit, but that’s how I felt. And that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the many years I spent riding where I did, because I do. So much.

I got to ride so many different horses. I got to spend ten years riding Sinbad, the best horse ever, who I still miss and forever wish I could have owned. He might have tossed me an awful lot, but I learned that was because of me. If I was just brave and unafraid of those jumps, he’d sail right over. Unfortunately, I’m still scared of jumping because of all the times I fell off. Thanks, Sinbad. I love you anyway.

But anyway, when I got to college, I realized I knew a lot less than I thought I did. And there, I once again got to ride a wide variety of horses, and I had a great time, and I made wonderful riding friends and explored trails and got to follow a 5k on horseback, which was amazing. I galloped through a field in St. Andrews, Scotland, and rode past cows and through streets where we nearly ran into a little old lady. And I did a three-hour trail ride in Ireland. After I left college, though, I still felt like I didn’t know much.

Because horses and lessons are expensive, I ended up just not riding for five years after I moved in with my boyfriend. But then two years ago I decided if I ever wanted to buy a horse (which I do, desperately) I’d better get back into lessons and actually learn how the heck to really ride. I don’t want to go into horse ownership (eventually, hopefully in the next few years) blind. Both for myself and for any potential horse I own.

And I found the most wonderful and positive and lovely person to give me lessons. We ended up taking a break because she was gone for the winter and then my mom was sick and all of that happened. But last year on my birthday I finally got back into actual regular weekly lessons. Boy was that huge five-year gap a mistake. I didn’t realize how much I needed horses until I started riding again. I didn’t understand how much I missed it until I got back on a horse. And I will never go years without again if I can help it.

I’ve learned so much from my trainer in the last year and a half. I realized what my flaws are, what I need to work on, and while I definitely still struggle not to make the mistakes, at least I know about them now, I feel like I’ve gotten much better than I was when I started riding again two years ago.

What I didn’t expect when I started taking lessons again was to become friends with my trainer. And of course I knew we were friends and I knew I liked her because she’s such a great, fun person, but I didn’t realize how much I’d come to care about her until she told me last month she was leaving.

I’ve left two barns. I’ve taken lessons from multiple lovely people and when I left or they left, it was fine. But somehow this is different. Somehow this time I’m really sad. When she told me she was moving out of state, I was shocked to find myself getting all teary-eyed and emotional. After repeatedly saying “This sucks” because I didn’t really know how else to express myself, we hugged and I actually cried. I didn’t know what would happen when we eventually parted ways – if we ever did – nor did I know how it would happen, but I didn’t ever expect it would involve me basically weeping in my car before driving home.

Have you ever been so sad that you’re just useless? Yeah, that’s how I felt that day after I got home. I know I was supposed to write. I don’t think I did. Or maybe I did and ended up writing some emotional scene about Rowan. That sounds exactly like something I’d do if I was sad haha. Anyway, the point is that making friends as an adult is weird and stupid and hard and then you make one, and when they unexpectedly have to move, it sucks hard.

I think the deep sadness came from more than just a friend leaving, though. I think it came from a combination of knowing a friend was moving away and the unexpectedness of the news when I had, apparently, expected our partnership to go on for much longer. I fully expected to go horse shopping with her helping me and then continuing lessons once I got said horse, and obviously that won’t be a thing. And I think I’m also sad about that. I feel less…certain, I guess, about horse-buying. Not that I have the money for it right now anyway, and it probably won’t happen for a couple more years. But I felt like once I got a horse, I had someone to rely on if I needed help, and now that person is leaving, and I’m not sure where to go next.

Wednesday was my last lesson with her, and I’m so bummed about it. I’m happy I get to keep riding at the barn, but it’ll be weird not getting to see her or hear her chipper voice or listen to her telling the horses, “It’s so hard to be a you.”


What I wrote over the last week

Finished up the untitled story about a girl who one day she gets an unexpected phone call from her dead mom.

“The Apex Predator” — a myth about Nora-Vel’s objects, which are all body parts of her favorite creature.

A scene that will probably take place in some capacity in The Enorians book three, during which Ien tells his friends and family they need Vivian’s help.

“The Journals of Silsia” — a story about one of the enorians who came from Enoralori through the portal written in journal entries.

As always, check out my Instagram for excerpts from said stories.

What I’m reading right now

A Torch in the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill

Grief and Writing and My Mom

I wasn’t planning on writing this for a few more weeks, but then I started writing a story yesterday that came from a dream, and it seemed to better fit today. So, let’s start with that dream: Last May, my mom died of cancer. Then, sometime between last October and this month (I can’t remember exactly when it occurred) I had a dream that when I was coming out of the barn where I ride horses, I got a phone call from an unavailable number. When I answered, my mom was on the other end, and I told her, “But this is impossible. You’re dead.” She agreed and then carried on as if everything was normal. The moment I woke up, I knew I wanted to write a fictionalized version of that. And yesterday, after months (possibly even a year) of sitting on it, I finally started it. Naturally, it brought up some feelings, and I made myself tear up for the first time while writing. So that was…fun?

And yes, I am going to absolutely post a bunch of pictures of my mom, because she was the best. I know a lot of people don’t want to be like their parents, but if someone told me I was like my mom, I’d be nothing but thrilled and honored they thought so.

When my mom was still alive, I called her pretty regularly after work or after riding to just say hi, and we’d talk on my drive home. And sometimes she’d call me around the time I was usually done working to do the same.

There were numerous instances after she was gone where I’d get into my car and get this almost instinctual thought – I don’t want to call it a thought, because it wasn’t a thought. It was more like an automatic thing I was supposed to do because I’d done it so often, but thought will work, I suppose – to call her. That was followed by a near immediate reminder that I couldn’t. And that sucked. So. Hard. It was like a nice little punch to the gut. Like having the rug swept out from under me. Thankfully that doesn’t really happen much anymore.

When we first found out she was dying of cancer, I asked my boyfriend how I was supposed to function as a normal person after she was gone. It’s crazy how we do, actually, eventually, continue to just function after someone we love dies. How we get used to a new normal without them. How we can even be happy without them in our lives, as impossible as that seems. Or, at least, I learned to function like a normal person. I’m sure not everyone is able to do that.

And naturally I think about her daily whether it’s just from seeing her pictures on my desk or when she comes up in conversation, but generally there’s not really sadness associated with those thoughts. Like of course I wish she was still here, and I miss her. She was never anything but loving and supportive. But it’s normally surprisingly easy to just continue life without being sad.

But there are moments where her being gone sucks extra hard. Big moments where I want to call her and tell her exciting things have happened, and I can’t, and I hate it. Last year, after she was already gone, I managed to finish a draft of book one of the Enorians Saga. This year, I not only finished writing book two in five months and then revising book one in another three. Neither of which I ever thought I could ever manage so quickly. And then I got my MFA in writing, and my professor had nothing but good things to say about my thesis.

And it was so hard not to be able to call her about all of that. Especially because I feel like she started all of this when she picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and read it to me when I was a kid. I’ve probably said this many times, but I honestly believe that I wouldn’t love reading and writing and fantasy, I wouldn’t be the book crazy person I am, if she hadn’t done that for me, because before Harry Potter, I didn’t like reading. I want to share it all with her and go, “Look. You did this. This is because of you. And I can never thank you enough.”

I’m sure there will be many more moments in the future when I have similar feelings. But thankfully I do have a bunch of other wonderful supportive people in my life that I can tell all the exciting things to. But it would still be pretty cool if cancer wasn’t such a bitch. To everyone who has lost someone to cancer, I feel your pain, and I hope you can find some joy in the world beyond their passing and remember only good and happy moments.

Now, let’s end with a little excerpt from that story, which is currently untitled, because titles are hard. I didn’t use much from my own life in this beyond the whole mom died bit. But this is one moment, the moment I mentioned above when getting in the car, that I did pull from my own experiences. It wasn’t quite as dramatic for me, but I wanted to try to illustrate just how much it sucks:

“As she slumped down into the front seat of her car, Phoebe had a momentary instinctual desire to call her mom. It lasted only a second before the realization hit. Before she remembered that she couldn’t, because her mom was dead. Her heart plummeted into her stomach. Her stomach dropped down into her pelvis somewhere and vanished. All her insides had been sucked out of her, leaving her with an empty, hollow feeling. Her throat burned along with her eyes, and her cheeks grew warm as she felt the tears pooling.

She’d thought she was done with this now. It’d been over a year since her mom died. She’d had many moments like this over the first few months after her death. Moments that left her trembling and crying. Moments that left her breathless with unexpected grief.”


What I wrote over the last week (since 11/5 in this case):

“The Folly of Blissfruit” – A myth about an enorian fruit (blissfruit) that causes crazy amazing highs and why enorians shouldn’t eat it. 

“The First Aesan” – A myth about Aesa’s decision to take children to her realm upon their death rather than sending them to the Aether.

“Aesa’s Ring of Conception” – A myth about a Velite woman who desperately wants children but can’t have them and Aesa’s special ring that allows conception no matter the circumstances.

Children of Oher Chapter One: The Wedding – This one started out as a short story idea that, entirely unsurprisingly, has grown into novella length. Kora Mercer gets kidnapped by the Children of Oher and is forced to marry one of their young men because the group hasn’t had a female child born in years, so they have to resort to pulling women in from outside their walls. But when she realizes her new husband, Asher Webb, is in love with his best friend and wants as little to do with all this marriage business as her, she has to decide whether to trust him in hopes they might escape their prison together.

Untitled story about someone struggling through a busy lunch shift at a restaurant.

Untitled story about a girl who one day she gets an unexpected phone call from her dead mom.

More things written from Rowan’s POV that weren’t originally written in Rowan’s POV, just for funsies.

To see little excerpts from all the things, go check out my Instagram.

What I’m reading this week:

Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill

I also just finished Blackbird Broken by Keri Arthur yesterday and am impatiently awaiting the release of book three, Blackbird Crowned.

World Fantasy Convention

I’m participating in my first writing (virtual) convention this week! It started yesterday, and it has been absolutely phenomenal so far! I learned so much already between the editing, world building, and query letter writing workshops. I can already see why people participate in these kinds of things on a regular basis. The next four days will be jam packed with just so many fantasy and writing panels and readings by authors and digital art shows. Many of which I’m sure will help make my writing better! I’m so excited to see what the rest of the week brings. I’m going to be mentally drained by Sunday night, but it’ll be so worth it.

Here’s a picture of Captain helping me learn about world building. Ever the faithful assistant (and demander of pets).

I didn’t do a whole lot of writing this week what with preparing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which starts Sunday, and also getting ready for the convention, but I did finish up a “short” (I say because it’s 27 pages) story I started a few months ago. I thought it might be fun to give a little excerpt from that, so here’s the first page and a half.


Excerpt from “Spirits of the Sea”

The wind moaned as it swept through Senrese in the early hours of the first day of spring. The villagers had long believed the moaning was caused by the spirits of the sea, and the fact that the sound seemed to originate from the water only helped fuel those beliefs. The wind rattled the shutters of steep-roofed houses, rustling well-kempt bushes and causing dimly lit lampposts to sway as it blew along the red bricked streets. The air smelled of an oncoming storm, the dark, swollen clouds covering the moon.

Newly sixteen-year-old Veerlie Smalbrok lay awake in her bed, staring up at the glow-in-the-dark stars. They were the same stickers she’d placed there with the help of her best friend, Marysa, when they were in first grade. She’d sat on her mom’s shoulders, sticking the little plastic pieces to the ceiling. Then they’d run next door to do Marysa’s room, too. She wondered, listening to the wailing wind make the rusting windmill atop the barn creak and groan, if Marysa was also lying awake with her stomach in nervous knots so bad it hurt. In only a few hours they’d both be riding, for the first time, in the four hundredth annual sea ride. Anyone with a horse would ride through town and down to the beach to wash their horse’s legs in the salt water to banish the evil winter spirits.

She almost grabbed her phone to text Marysa, but she didn’t want to wake her friend if she was asleep. The clock on her nightstand read 4:06. Only three hours until she had to be up.

Next door, Marysa Kenser slept deeply beneath her glow-in-the-dark stars. Her dreams were full of nightmares where her mare, Mellie, shrank to so small Marysa could touch the ground from her back. In one she rode through the streets naked. In another she felt herself pulled beneath the waves. She rolled over in her sleep, bunching the handmade quilt in her fists.

A few miles down the road, the moaning wind whipped through an open barn door, sending the hanging lightbulb swinging back and forth. Twenty-two-year-old Joren Holka stroked Wybren’s thick, bay neck. The gelding stiffened at the sound, snorting nervously. Joren couldn’t sleep, so he’d come to check on the horse for the sixth time since dinner. He ran his hands down Wybren’s legs, down across the feathers around his hooves, making sure the horse was in top shape for the ride that afternoon.

It was his and Wybren’s fifth year parading through the streets. His sister, Amalia, had just turned sixteen and would be riding their other horse alongside him. Their parents weren’t exactly thrilled at the idea of Amalia riding so soon, but it was tradition, and she’d insisted. Joren promised to keep her safe.

He did one last check of Wybren’s body, gave the gelding a pat, and went to inspect their other gelding, Soleil, before heading back inside to hopefully get a few hours of sleep before the long day ahead of him. A spattering of rain lashed against his back as he ran to the dark house across the yard…


What I wrote in the last week:

“The Soulbond Mark” – An enorian myth explaining markings

The last seven pages of “Spirits of the Sea” – Every spring the people of Senrese ride their horses down to the sea to wash their legs in the salt water. It’s said to get rid of bad winter spirits. But danger lurks beneath the waves, for the sea spirits require a sacrifice to keep the island flourishing.

What I’m reading this week:

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (Yes, still reading Mistborn haha)

Writing Unforgettable Characters by James Scott Bell

Officially Have an MFA!

My final grades came in today, which means I officially have an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University!

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It took me years to finally decide to do it. At first I didn’t think it would be worth it or that I didn’t need to do it. People write books and get them published without any degrees let alone ones specially in Writing, after all. But after a while I realized I needed more structure. I needed other writers around me (even if it was just online). I needed, for a while, to be forced to write. And I’m so incredibly grateful I did it.

Yes, of course it cost a lot of money, because anything college-related is expensive, but it was so worth it. I read some excellent books, gained a better appreciation for short stories, had some amazing professors, met my writing buddy and very dear friend, and, of course, gained so much in terms of writing experience and knowledge. I can honestly say my writing and my books are so much better for it. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

If you’re ever questioning if something like more schooling is worth the time and effort and money, yes. 1000x times, yes. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

I only wish my mom could be here to see me finish, but that’s something I’ll talk about another time.

For now, have a beautiful night. My regularly scheduled post will be coming on Thursday. 😉