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
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.
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
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