Serial Story: Fae and Folly Part 12 (finally!)

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When Neo brought us up to a private room at this little upstairs vegan restaurant a few blocks down from the Radisson, I wanted to ask how the southern branch of the IFA could afford to pay their Fae so much. I was back in my capitol hill attire, which was a fairly nice looking gray-and-blue getup, but even in some of my best clothes, Neo outdid me with his sharp, matching suit, tiny cuff links (which probably cost more than the human-sized ones), and his ability to slip the hostess enough money to get us a table wherever we wanted. By the spartan modern furniture and the ultra-hip price-less menu, I would bet that this place – The Grange – was one of the fanciest vegan spots in Austin.

Watching him with all his charm and wit, it occurred to me that Neo’s wealth was likely from the same source as Caleb’s. Neo was still a Muse, even if he wasn’t one the front page of the New York Times. He probably had assets attached to family enterprises throughout the south. It’s not as if the south had a surplus of Muses.

I was wedged in between several huge, plushy pillows in various bright-but-tasteful colors, sitting at the too-cool-for-chairs table which was only inches off the ground. Fortunate for us it was the perfect size. The waitress stepped through the gauzy curtains to take our orders, shutting the door to the private area behind her when she took it back to the kitchen. I chewed on my lip, just praying that whatever I ordered wouldn’t break my own bank account. I was sure that Caleb or Neo would gladly pay for me if I needed it, but I wasn’t about to ask for such a thing. Just because I was a Tree Fae didn’t mean I had no pride.

“So Amelie,” Neo started right in, resting comfortably on his own mound of pillows. “You’re a Northwest original, yeah?”

“I have some roots from the native tribes,” I acknowledged, taking a sip of my water. “More Irish than anything, though. Transplants.”

“So many of us are,” Neo smiled, his teeth starkly white against his dark skin. He nodded towards Caleb. “Especially that one, not even born in his region. How do they let you lead them up there?”

“It’s all in the name,” Caleb shrugged. “You’re doing well for yourself.” The look that Caleb was giving Neo struck me as a little odd – almost suspicious – but I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. I didn’t know him well enough yet.

“Not bad,” Neo hedged. He winked at me in a very human way, to which I reflexively smiled. If ever there was a male match for Dyana, it was Neo. He had that same overly pleasant quality which would be annoying on anyone else, but was perfect on him. “I keep myself busy, you know. Tell me, Amelie, what did you do before you joined the IFA?”

“Activism, mostly,” I told him, “didn’t pay very well, but it was alright. I felt like I could make more of a difference with the IFA.”

“We need more of that optimism,” he rolled his eyes in Caleb’s direction, “don’t take after this guy. He’s a dark one.”

“I noticed,” I chuckled.

Caleb made a rude gesture at Neo, which drew laughs from all three of us. The two of them together made an odd pair – probably just as odd as me and Dyana. Caleb motioned toward the window, which we couldn’t quite see out of. This restaurant didn’t face the side of the street with the protests we’d passed. “Have you had any trouble from them?”

“I stay out of the city when I can, travel pretty light,” Neo hesitated, “sometimes I do wish you’d let me have my cheerful conversations.”

“This is a business trip,” his ultra-serious, dark eyes held steady on his old friend. “You said you had some important things to talk about, but I don’t think it has to do with anything personal.”

Neo’s eyebrow raised and his wings fluttered indignantly. “Straight to the point, yeah? Does he ever relax anymore?”

“He’s insufferable,” I said.

Caleb, for his part, just made that usual almost-smiling face, half of him wanting to disapprove the other half – the real Fae half – wanting to be playful.

“I didn’t want to come down here to begin with, you understand,” Caleb tossed back a couple of antihistamines with his sip of water. “I don’t know how you can stand it anymore. It’s gotten worse.”

Neo sobered. “Everything has, my friends.”

“That’s to be expected though, isn’t it?” I nodded out towards the window. “The protests? After what happened in Alabama…”

“This isn’t just about Alabama,” Neo shook his head, “we started showing up in their legislature, and they’re not happy about it. A few weeks ago a youngling was killed by a church group outside of Waco. The threats we get at the Granite-”

“A youngling was killed?” Caleb pressed a finger into the table for emphasis, “here in Texas?”

“It’s not something we like to publicize,” Neo said bitterly, “didn’t want to put it on the news and encourage that kind of thing.”

“You should have told the IFA,” said Caleb.

“Don’t you think I did?” Neo chuckled hollowly. “The IFA doesn’t want to hear about what goes on down here. They expect us to disappear given enough time.”

It didn’t seem likely that someone like Cally had heard about this – maybe I was naive, but I expected that she would be honest with her bridgers about it. The waitress stepped in to set down a plate of stuffed mushrooms, which gave me something else to look at while I was thinking. It was just another odd incident to add to the list of things that were starting to concern me about the IFA as a whole.

Caleb pensively cracked his neck, a maneuver I’d seen him do once before. “I’ll have to talk to Cally about that.”

“For all it will do,” said Neo.

“We should have known before we were sent down here. If it’s that unstable…” Caleb glanced at me, then sighed. “There’s no way to disburse the protesters before the summit?”

“It is their right to be there.” Neo gave him a dismissive wave, “security is good. As long as all of us are careful it should be fine.”

“Should?” I shook my head. The Fae weren’t known for their fighting skills. Leprechauns, maybe, but not us. I toyed with the mushroom on my plate.

“We’re… anticipating that the crowd may be trying to make some kind of point,” he pulled out his phone, fiddled with it a moment, and handed it over to me.

The blog post read –

Calling all spiritual warriors: “Climate” meeting in Austin, Texas this weekend. Anti-capitalist sympathizers and Nephilium all going. Are you?

The responses below included everything from climate change deniers to people openly calling for the genocide of the Faerie people. I could hardly stand to read any of it before I turned it over to Caleb in disgust.

“’Nephilium?’” I asked.

“Sons of god, daughters of men,” Neo explained. “Certain people think we are the fallen angels from the bible.”

“I… hadn’t heard that before.”

“It’s the newest thing,” Neo shook his head, “we have Austin PD and a private security company on watch. It’s not as if we’re just standing by waiting, but I thought you two should know. I’m letting everyone of importance in on it.”

“But you haven’t told the media.”

“It’s the same idea as telling them about the youngling,” Caleb spoke up, still thumbing through the phone. “It would only draw more people to their cause.”

“Why not tell homeland security?” I struggled to speak fluidly, and failed. “They… surely… these are still terrorists, here. What they’re talking about is terrorism just as bad as the Elementals.”

“If I could find it, they could find it,” said Neo. “They do have a motive to protect the human representatives, so I am hoping they do something with it. I did let the human reps know.”

Caleb’s sharp, warning look startled me, but didn’t seem to startle Neo, who was taking the brunt of it. “Is there some reason you don’t want to talk to the feds?”

“I am a bridger, Caleb,” Neo’s demeanor turned entirely serious all of a sudden, for the first time since I’d met him. “If I was afraid of the feds I’d be in some other business.”

Caleb closed his eyes for a breath or two, then handed the phone back. “We appreciate the heads up. I don’t know what you think we can do about it.”

“Just be on watch,” Neo sat back on his pillow, “and don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.”

The table sobered. The waitress came back in, bringing a forced light-heartedness to the table. I was still halfway spinning from all that I was hearing and all that had happened since our trip to Eugene. Part of me wanted to know why all of this was happening – another part of me knew all too well. We were on the verge of getting some real rights and recognition, and the people who thought we were demons, or fallen angels, or false gods or whatever… they were afraid.

Those people and the oil companies, to be more accurate – two groups of people known for getting their way. My head was starting to hurt.

“Anything else you wanted to tell us about?” Caleb asked after the waitress had delivered our salads.

Neo’s eyes flitted between the two of us. He made a small humming sound while he thought. “Not if you’re asking that way.” He placed a friendly hand on my shoulder. “You look a little pale, Tree Fae. There’s no reason we can’t enjoy the rest of our meal. They have good food here.”

My sad attempt at a smile faltered. “It’s a lot to take in,” I said feebly.

“You get used to it,” Neo shrugged. “I live with it every day.”

“We’ll stay on top of it,” Caleb tried to reassure me. “It’s going to be okay.”

“You’ll forgive me if I think you’re both full of it,” I said.

“Well,” Neo smirked, “both of those things can be true.”

Caleb managed a real, blossoming smile, and it left me wondering what exactly connected them. I waited.

“You’re making me wonder if you’ve changed at all,” said Caleb. By the sound of it he meant something deeper than I was able to understand. They shared another one of those strange, indecipherable looks.

“Not in the important ways,” Neo replied.

“Excuse me guys,” I interrupted, tucking a lock of hair behind my ear. “Would you kindly include me on your little… secret language?” Among other things.

“Neo and I go back a long ways,” Caleb said quickly, giving me his best earnest look. “I know a few things about him that he wishes I didn’t.”

“As if you would tell this pretty one about the time the two of us had an entire fraternity trying to ride a herd of cattle,” Neo laughed. No hollowness, this time; just mirth. It looked good on him.

Caleb’s cheeks flagged red, and I couldn’t help but giggle. “Sounds like the private and the manhole story,” I snorted.

“Private and the manhole, hm?” Neo waggled his eyebrows, “I hadn’t heard that one.”

“I haven’t heard it either,” I leaned my elbows on the table in the most un-ladylike way that I could. “It sounds like he owes us both a story.”

“I like her,” Neo stuck a thumb out at me, “she’s good for you.”

“She keeps me guessing,” Caleb looked at me from the corner of his eye, sufficiently distracted from the darker side of our conversation.

The rest of the afternoon was filled mostly with silly Muse-stories, enough for me to get a better idea of who Neo (and Caleb) were. The whole time I was listening I was laughing – all while a strange, foreboding feeling was building in my stomach. I couldn’t quite put it into words, but there was something Neo wasn’t saying… something Caleb already understood.

In retrospect I would wish that I had known the right questions to ask, but even then, it probably wouldn’t have changed a thing.


Sorry for the delay! Between working the emergency room and my new rotation I’ve been a little bit scattered. Here’s hoping things are settling down into more of a routine… as routine as intern year gets. Back to the grind, folks.

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Cut Scene: The Original Prologue

Tragedy has an interesting past that I don’t think I’ve shared before. The very first scene was written when I was 15, just after I completed my first (never-to-be-published) novel, 4012. Teveres was originally created as a gray-morals character to be featured in 4012‘s sequel (which I never wrote), a contrast to the story’s heroine. Teveres was someone from another planet, as this was more on the sci-fi side of speculative fiction, and his situation came to me in one picture: a powerful young man with green-and-gold eyes, face-down in the dirt after the brutal murder of his family. He was supposed to end up running away and meeting 4012’s heroine.
Six years later I was inspired to create Aia’s character, and in the process stumbled upon this scene on my hard drive – it just so happened that Teveres was exactly the kind of person the story needed. The life-and-death duo of Aiasjia and Teveres, born out of story fragments. Oddly enough the scene which brought Teveres into this story just didn’t really fit in the final product, and was cut during the editing phase.
It’s not much, but here’s a little blast from the hidden past: the prologue that never was.


When Teveres hit the ground outside his father’s plantation, he stayed there. Like a slave, like a beaten child, like a rodent he dug his hands and knees into the ground, letting the dirt agitate the skin beneath his fingernails. Spittle dropped from his lips to the moistened soil; he could feel his tongue sending a river of blood down his throat that choked him.

Ignorant fools.

The men and women of the city – his city – cackled around him. They were more like animals than people, circling him in his weakest time. He grew up in their presence, helped them educate their children and tend their fields, yet they lacked the basic decency to treat him like a fellow human being. They disgusted him.

In his fury, he caught only fragments of words. “Whore, just like his mother,” “Slimy son of a bitch,” “Dirty,” “Arrogant,” “Blight-touched,” the words just kept dribbling from their unbridled mouths.

Hair dripping from the rain, he began to shiver. “I’m asking you to stop,” his voice was low-pitched and eerily controlled. The undercurrent of rage was lost on the mob.

“And what will you do, my lord?” the farmer called, “your lands have been taken. Your house is in ruins. You are nothing.”

They think it was me. How could they think this was me?

A woman hit him in the head with a farming implement. His ears rang and his vision blurred, drowning out everything but his sense of touch. Someone spat on him.

“Don’t make me do this,” he hissed.

When one of the men kicked him, Teveres didn’t move. He didn’t have to. He breathed in, out, calmed his heartbeat and closed his eyes. When he finally looked up to the chalk-colored skies, the ringing in his ears was gone and everything was still. The townspeople all lay quietly, peacefully deceased. A smile made a hesitant tug at Teveres’s lips.

He fled.


In other news, I am now 108,000 words deep in Forsaken Lands 2… and it’s still not done. Maybe this month, my friends. Maybe this month.

The First Reader You Disappoint

Today is a good day. Today I got my first sub-4-star review from someone who was disappointed in Broken. When I got it I paused and felt the initial punch of sadness – They read it and walked away unhappy?! – and then intrigue – What did they see in the words that they didn’t like?

I’m pleased to say that this is a new experience for me after a year and a half (ish) of positive reviews across the board. It’s hard to complain about that, so I’m not going to. I’m also not writing this post to confront the reader, as per author’s etiquette. I side with the large group of writers who feel it is poor form to get into arguments with readers over differences of opinion. I have certainly disliked books that other people loved in the past (Lord of the Rings, for one, even though I respect the story as a whole). What I’m writing about here is the thing that I love about art in general – no single piece of art is viewed the same way by all people, and that is okay. I would argue that it’s the entire point.

The same story does not have exactly the same meaning to any two people, and as a character-driven author and reader, I see those differences of opinions through the relationships we have with characters (sure, we can get bogged down in plot points and technicalities, but I find those problems much less interesting). If we look at the well-dramatized TV show Mad Men, for instance, we can find a divide in fans between those who like Don Draper and those who find him beyond redemption. Draper is an adulterer, a liar, and a drinker. He is also someone who is tormented by what he’s done and memories of where he came from; he has sparkles of kindness that show up through the lying/cheating/drinking (i.e. his care for Anna), great charisma, and a brilliant mind for advertising. What a viewer sees in Don Draper depends so much on their own experiences – to one who has been cheated on, he may be the embodiment of deep hurts. To the child of an alcoholic, he may be a reminder of a father too infrequently present. At the same time, he could actually evoke sympathy in the same person, not just for the character, but for the real-life incarnation of his indiscretions.

The prism of characterization, molded by our own experiences.

My own experiences have come into play rather prominently with the latest book I opened up, the semi-autobiographical Country Doctor’s Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov. Mikhail is a classically acclaimed physician-writer, best known for his novel, The Master and the Margarita. In Country Doctor’s Notebook he describes his experiences as a new doctor in 1917 rural Russia. As I started reading the book I felt this overwhelming sense of kinship with a man now long dead; somehow, between the pages of an almost 100-year-old book, I met a friend. There are obvious differences between our experiences as young physicians – while Mikhail was stranded in snowy Russia with inadequate resources and no other physicians to advise him, I am working in a well-appointed hospital with supervision. Where he is expected to do everything from surgery to psychiatry, I am training in a narrower specialty.

Those obvious differences aside, in so many ways our experiences are not different at all (starting with the fact that we are both physicians who write). I think every healer has felt that sudden doomsday sensation with the first patient you see as a qualified practitioner, knowing that you are the one with the answers now, or you’re supposed to be. I laughed when Mikhail wrote about concealing a textbook on the procedure he was about to perform on top of the patient’s chart, when not a week ago I was googling the steps to procedures and drugs I was about to initiate as I was walking into a room. His desperate thoughts on his first day ‘please don’t let this be a hernia,’ are not so different than my own ‘please don’t let this be a stroke.’ Through his work I came to understand that the insecurities of the young healer are a function of who we are, regardless of when we are – all of us through time have had the same fears, and that… is kind of awesome.

As the story went on Mikhail revealed the increasingly dark side of his early years as a doctor, when he became addicted to morphine. His description of the descent into addiction was surprisingly frank for someone of his time and profession; I could not help but admire his courage. Courage aside, there’s no way to defend practicing medicine while intoxicated; what he did was not right. It was bad.

I understood it, and think what you will of me, I still felt the same connection to him. What he did wasn’t what I would ever do, and still I found him sympathetic, for whatever reason that may be.

We look at these sorts of characters in their most broken times, and for us they are so many shards of glass – tilt them one way and we see something we want to see, tilt another way and we see quite the opposite. When you have a reaction to a character, what are you seeing? Are you seeing them for who they are, or are you seeing your friends, your family?

Do you see yourself?

We will not all agree on stories, characters, or values, but what we see in them is always a part of us in some way. I could never fault someone for that. Thank you for the reviews, no matter what they say.

Serial Story: Fae and Folly Part 11

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The look the woman at the ground transit desk was giving me made me long for the perplexed suspicion of the TSA agents in the midwest. I resisted the urge to cross my arms over my chest, opting for the charming smile with easily-visible hands stance, hovering just high enough to see her eyes, but not too high.

“You said you were looking for what?” her forehead wrinkled, her sun-weathered skin plastered with enough makeup to make my own face itch. The brown eyes peering over her glasses at me were anything but understanding.

“We had a shuttle scheduled for 10:30,” I explained yet again, “but our flight was delayed taxiing in. We’d like a cab to the downtown Radisson.”

The cross in the center of her chest sparkled at me, and I imagined that her Jesus was up in their heaven sky-land laughing. “I don’t believe there are any cabs around with the right… equipment for your kind.”

Our baggage dropped on the ground when Caleb swooped upwards, perching in a way that was almost dainty.

“Marlene,” he said softly, calling the woman’s attention. I watched him, and for a moment was offended that he was butting in – but then I saw it, the faint sparkle when the light hit his eyes, a glow that had the quality of an intricately-cut jewel. Though Dy only rarely used her magick to curie favor with humans in my presence, I’d seen it enough times to recognize it. “It would be to your advantage to pick up that phone and call the nicest, Fae-friendliest cab driver that you can think of.”

Marlene’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t believe in special treatment-”

“It would make you righteous,” he continued, taking a new tack, “so much better than the lost Fae. So much more generous.”

Marlene blinked, and I could see the muse magick taking. She paused, catching her bottom lip between her teeth, and finally went to pick up the phone. The light went out of Caleb’s eyes.

“It will be just a few minutes. You can wait outside,” Marlene said, as polite as could be.

Caleb flashed the woman a peace sign, and I couldn’t help but snicker. Marlene didn’t even seem to acknowledge it.

I picked up my bag, carefully sliding the strap over one shoulder where it wouldn’t interfere with my wings. I stuck my thumbs in my jeans pockets and allowed Caleb to lead the way out the automatic doors.

A wave of heavy heat hit me in the face, and I coughed at the impact. Austin in the winter may as well have been Portland in the summer. I had been assured by the Granite glade that it should be “cooler” this time of year, but it was clear that our definitions of “cool” were somewhat different. It was sunny, warm, and just humid enough to be uncomfortable. The air here was nowhere near as clean as Portland’s; I’d taken a prophylactic benadryl before we touched down, yet I felt that I would be needing another sometime soon. Even Chicago didn’t seem to be as bad as all this.

I’d heard from several scientists that there was a crisis going on in the southern United States. They called it the second dust bowl – winters had effectively begun to disappear, and the pollution around southern cities seemed to be eating into the surrounding rural areas. The oil in the air here was thick, way beyond the usual Fae tolerance; we could handle hydrocarbons at the level usually found in nature, but this was several times normal. It was like breathing pure gas. It was no wonder that Houston’s glade had been abandoned two summers ago.

Caleb leaned up against a concrete piling, tying his black jacket around his waist. He rubbed his eyes with one hand.

“Itchy?” I asked.

“Burning,” he groaned. He drew a pair of rather dashing sunglasses from his backpack, looking so very out of place with his pale skin. “And you wanted to visit the south why, again?”

I squinted, taking my first look around the place. Austin wasn’t completely devoid of trees; I’d seen some from the air, certainly, and there were trees appropriately spaced throughout the medians in the roads and next to buildings. All the same, there was something so sad about the trees, compared to Portland and her rolling hills of endless firs. The poor things were in a battle with their environment. I shivered, feeling their ache in my bones. After our tree Fae magick session last week I’d been practicing my skills more often, and I started getting the weird plant-empathy that most pure tree Fae felt all the time.

“I’m not sure want is the right word,” I muttered, taking off my own jacket. In hindsight it was silly to bring a jacket at all. A young lady who looked like a hippie waif I might see on the streets in Portland passed by and slowed down long enough to smile and nod at us. I returned the gesture. “Why couldn’t we have gotten a girl like her at the transit desk? Austin is supposed to be the Portland of the south.”

“Marlene’s tribe lives up in the northwest, too,” said Caleb, his expression again unreadable under the glasses. “They’re just afraid to talk about it as much up there. They’re outnumbered. They’re outnumbered in this city, too, but step outside the limits and it’s a different world down here.”

“I have read books, you know.”

“Yes, but you haven’t spent time down here like I have.”

He was looking out at the trees, still, while I was twisting my eyebrows at him. “I didn’t know you spent time in the south.”

“Cally didn’t put me down here with you just because we make an striking couple,” his lips twitched on a grin, “You remember my father?”

“I think everyone remembers your father.”

He just nodded. “Howard Hughes didn’t always live in California. Hughes’ family was from Texas, and my family came over with them from Ireland back in the settling days. I spent some time visiting Houston as a youngling, before the Fae deserted it.”

“You still have family down here?”

“Techincally yes.”

“’Technically?’”

“I don’t consider everyone who shares my bloodline to be family,” he replied flatly.

“I see.” I wasn’t sure that I did, but it didn’t sound like he was ready to share many more ‘semi-secrets’ with me. Since our trip down to the Willamette glade last week we’d seen each other for brief periods in the IFA headquarters, but never really spent any time together. I think we were both avoiding each other, hoping that if we could leave things on relatively good terms we wouldn’t end up tearing each other to pieces at the climate change summit.

“Tell me,” I began again, “if muses can have that affect on humans, why haven’t we received everything we’ve asked for?”

“The more deeply-held the belief, the harder it is to inspire an opposite action,” Caleb shrugged. “There has to be a basic interest in whatever it is we inspire – for our friend in the airport, she has a basic need to feel that she has done good works. Muse magick brings basic beliefs to the surface to produce motivation. The idea was already there.”

“And the people we’ve been arguing with don’t have beliefs you can capitalize on.”

“Not when the incentives to continue their established policies are rooted in so many different motivations,” he paused, chewing on his inner cheek. “Most of what we’ve done in history has been easier than what we’re trying to do now. The skateboarding private that Cally told you about over dinner? He had an intrinsic interest in risk taking. I just… encouraged that behavior.”

I snorted. “I can’t imagine you playing tricks on people.”

“That sounds a lot like a challenge, Ms-” he caught himself, “Amelie.”

I was rather proud of myself for not rolling my eyes at him. We stood in sweltering silence for some time before we were approached by a lime-colored prius with a giant logo on the side reading The Green Cab. Caleb looked to me with a smirk.

“That’s inspiration for you,” he chuckled. I had a feeling that Marlene didn’t make many calls to the Green Cab.

“You two must be who I’m looking for,” a man hopped out of the car, casually dressed in khakis and an untucked white shirt. He was tan and fair-haired, young from afar but up close was clearly in his mid-thirties. He bent slightly at the knees to offer us each a hand to shake.

“I think so,” I said, squeezing his hand. “Amelie Fletcher.”

Caleb likewise introduced himself, allowing the driver to take the bags.

“I’m Jessie,” the driver said as we loaded up. I blushed when he opened the door on my side to help me with my belt. It wasn’t like we couldn’t ride in cars with human-sized belts, it was just less comfortable.

I closed by eyes, relieved to have a properly air conditioned environment. We hadn’t even been out in the heat for fifteen minutes and I couldn’t handle it. How was I going to handle an entire week down in this mess?

“The Radisson, right?” Jessie asked as he started pulling out.

“Downtown, yes,” Caleb replied. He looked surprisingly relaxed, watching out the window as the airport passed us by. “Appreciate the service.”

“Ah, well,” I could hear the smile in Jessie’s voice, “I was kind of excited to hear that two Faeries were looking for a ride. They say they have them out in the hill country, but I’ve never met any before now.”

“This state isn’t known for its welcoming nature,” said Caleb.

“Are you here for the summit?” his eyes glanced at us through the rearview mirror.

I’m not sure why, but his knowing where we were going made my heart skip a beat. I shouldn’t have been afraid of him – of anyone – knowing who we were and where we were going. It must have been all the catastrophizing in the media getting to me.

“We are.”

“I was hoping some of you would show up. I have a booth in the lobby.”

“You own this company?” I asked politely.

“Yes ma’am,” said Jessie, cheerfully enough. “It’s not much, I know, but we all have to do our part, right?”

I smiled up at the mirror, where he could see. “Every bit helps.” Maybe I wouldn’t need to worry so much – not about Jessie, anyway.

“Where are you two coming from?” he asked.

“I’m from Portland. Caleb here is from Vancouver.”

“Are you… bridgers? Is that the word?”

“Yes, we are,” I paused, “you weren’t worried that we were with the people who bombed Birmingham?”

When Caleb shot me a withering look I kicked him in the shin. I would say whatever I pleased, and I was liking this new approach of putting it all out in the open. I tried on the polite diplomatic scheme for a while, but in the end, it just wasn’t me. This was activist me, the one who spent a week in the Sacramento jail for orchestrating a sit-in against the burning rice field policies. I liked activist me.

Jessie just smiled, shaking his head. “Well if you were, would I really be your target? The Elementals went after humans who were going after the Fae. I feel pretty safe as a human ally.”

“Very reasonable,” Caleb interjected.

“Glad you think so.” He kept on glancing back at us, almost in disbelief. I laid back in my seat, pursing my lips. I never got used to being looked upon as some kind of celebrity. I couldn’t blame him, of course. I would probably be pretty intrigued by humans if I went my whole life hearing about them without seeing them.

Looking back out on Austin as the sky-scrapers appeared ahead of us, the fear started creeping in again. People of the Northwest saw their fair share of Fae, and even in Chicago, it wasn’t altogether unlikely to see a Faerie now and then – here, though, we were an endangered species. I think the last estimate put our number at about two thousand in Texas, the vast majority of those glade-bound. In the last hundred years those numbers had cut themselves in half as more and more of the elder Fae slipped into near-Earth, never to come back.

It made a person wonder why the southern Fae stayed here at all. That was one question I imagined I should keep to myself, at least for now.

“Is this your first time in Austin?” Jessie asked. We were turning off on one of the exits marked for downtown. For all its hype, Austin was actually a rather small city as Texas cities went. The internet informed me of this.

“It’s Amelie’s first time,” said Caleb. “I’ve been here a few times.”

“So you’ve been down sixth street.”

Caleb grinned, and I realized that I was watching him work his charms. “Of course. Plenty of aspiring artists around there. It’s the perfect place for a young muse.”

“A muse?” Jessie nearly lost track of the road with his excitement, hitting the brakes a little harder than I would have liked at the stoplight. “Are you both…?”

“Caleb is a muse,” I spoke up. “I’m a little of everything.”

“I read an article once about…” Jessie turned his head over his shoulder, appraising Caleb more thoroughly this time. “Wait, are you…?”

“Caleb McLain, and yes, I’m probably the one from the article.”

You inspired The Lost?”

I snickered in spite myself. Jessie was referring to Caleb’s relationship with a certain now-deceased screenwriter, Gregory G. Carrol, who wrote the most influential film since Star Wars. Caleb’s foray into artistic inspiration was short-lived; he couldn’t have been quite twenty when The Lost was released, and faded back into public policy thereafter, with a much louder voice once he was known for something. I got the feeling that The Lost was probably Caleb’s father’s idea, but I hadn’t asked him about it directly. Of all the things he’d done, that was perhaps the least interesting to me.

“Surprising, I know,” Caleb said on a laugh. “It was a long time ago. I didn’t write it, after all.”

“Oh, I know – I mean, well, I’ve read… geeze, I’m sorry.”

“You’re not going to offend us so easily, it’s alright. We’re like anyone else.”

“If you’re not easily offended then you’re not much like most people.”

Caleb chuckled. “Maybe so. You have me there.”

“So Jessie, how long have you had the cab service?” I asked, feeling much more at ease. I could see the Radisson coming up down the street, and wished it wasn’t so close. The Colorado River gleamed at us from over the bridge, putting me in mind of Portland – even though this place most certainly was not. It was relaxing to be in a nice, safe car with a nice, safe human. The more I thought about what we were doing, the less at-ease I felt.

“Oh, ever since I finished grad school,” Jessie’s wrist rested casually on the wheel. “I couldn’t find a job in my field, so I managed to put together a business loan and here we are. I have six cars that run the city and suburbs.”

“What was your field?”

The corners of his eyes crinkled. “’Energy and Earth Resources,’ believe it or not. I guess running a sustainable cab company was about as close as I could get.”

“Seems like that could be marketable.”

“Not if you want to stay in Austin. I probably should have widened my search,” he shrugged, “I like it here, though. I’ve lived here forever.”

Even though I had the same kind of connection to the northwest, I still couldn’t imagine a good reason to stay in this particular place. “I guess I could see that,” was the best I could manage.

Caleb just smirked at me with a yeah, right look in his eyes.

Jessie stopped the car in the little pull-through area, and he, too, looked sad to see us go. He helped us with our bags, and just for fun I let him watch me hover about a little. I didn’t need to show off, but the widening of his eyes was adorably child-like. Caleb handed off the IFA credit card (or maybe even one of his own, I supposed, since they seemed to be one in the same), and ran the transaction while I stood near the door.

“Hey, it was very nice to meet you,” Caleb reached out to shake Jessie’s hand. “If we see your booth tomorrow we’ll stop by.”

“That would be great!” he smiled at both of us, and behind it I could see a question he desperately wanted to ask but didn’t have the courage to say.

I was about to bring it up myself before Caleb opened his mouth. “Was there something else you needed before we go?”

“Well… it’s dumb. Don’t worry about it.”

“What is it?” I asked.

He thought about it for a breath or two before his shoulders slumped, surging ahead with abandon. “Okay, well, since I was a kid I always wanted to see magick. It’s dumb – really – I shouldn’t ask…”

Caleb looked to me and raised his eyebrows. I laughed out loud before throwing him my bag. “That’s all?” I scanned the parking area. There were a couple people unloading behind us – I was sure they would be imaptient except for the young children who were enraptured with our presence. I went on as if they weren’t there, finding a nice example of a tiny, young blue bonnet planted in one of the pots. True to season, it had yet to flower – though I wondered if it ever would in this heat. I motioned Jessie over, standing next to him to shield the scene from casual onlookers.

“Here,” I slid my hand to cup one of the stems, an end that would become a flower someday. Closing my eyes I strengthened the connection through the touch, feeling the energy of the plant as if it were a part of me, an extension of my hand. Softly, gently, I coaxed the energy up, a silent request, come closer, show me who you are.

The stem lengthened, the leaves brushing up over my palm. The stages of growth accelerated, and the tip developed a series of buds, then bloomed, until my hand was full; when I opened my eyes the delicate purpley-blue flowers looked back at me.

I rubbed them with my thumb, a note of thanks before letting them go. I looked up at Jessie sidelong, his excitement subdued under the layer of adulthood. Poor humans with their repressed selves – much as I valued their culture, some parts of it were so unfortunate. I could understand hiding sadness at times, but happiness should be shared.

He brushed the back of his fingers against the flowers in disbelief, as if he expected them to disappear. “That’s amazing.”

I hopped up and down in the air, still feeling the growing energy tingling through my muscles. “My grandmother could do much better than I.”

“Thank you,” Jessie bowed his head, “you didn’t have to do that.”

“Like Caleb said, it was really nice to meet you,” I reiterated, retreating away from the adoration. Funny, really, that he found it so impressive. Nan could have made the plant twice its size and made the whole thing flower. I was lucky that I got the one stem to cooperate.

Jessie waved us good-bye before going for his door. “Hope you have a good visit.”

“That’s the idea,” Caleb waved back.

As we watched him drive away I imagined my grandfather and what he would have said – There goes a once-and-always friend. The Fae believed that spirits sometimes traveled together in groups, and when the met briefly in life they could feel an old connection.

I wasn’t sure I believed that, of course, but if I did that would have been one of those moments.

“That was refreshing,” Caleb noted, heaving his pack over his shoulder. “Ready to go in?”

Just having the jacket tied around my waist was making me sweat. “I suppose so.”

The inside of the Radisson was large and lodge-like, with appropriately Texan accents – antler chandeliers and stars here and there, as if one might forget what state they were in. The lobby wasn’t terribly busy yet – virtue of traveling on a Tuesday, I was sure – but the kids from outside were there, standing beside their parents at the desk.

A little boy about Caleb’s height was looking at him with giant, brown eyes, and much to my surprise (and my amusement), Caleb made a face at the child, his tongue stuck out and his eyes practically in different directions. The look lasted only a second before his face straightened out back into the lazy half-smile he usually wore.

The child’s high-pitched squeal of delight even made me grin. His older sister stood beside him, trying her best to look unimpressed, even as I caught a hint of pleasure. Repression started early.

“That’s not very professional, now, is it?” a voice came from our right.

Caleb and I turned at once to see a dark-skinned Fae, standing a little taller than Caleb, wearing a crisp purple-and-white striped shirt and newly-ironed pants. His wings were also purple with edges dipped black, his pointed ears clearly visible against close-cropped black hair. His clean professional getup made me feel even more travel-weary than I already was, with my jeans and t-shirt wrinkled from sleeping on the plane.

“Neo!” Caleb’s handshake was a half-clap as he folded Neo into a brief hug. “I didn’t realize you’d be here.”

“I just started bridging with the south a few months ago, and you never call,” Neo pulled away, his smile infectiously wide. “And who is this lovely young Fae?” He tipped his head amiably, “beautiful set of wings you have there.”

I fluttered them gamely, mirroring his tip of the head. “Amelie Fletcher, one of the northwest bridgers. Also new to the job.”

His eyebrows waggled up and down. “You must have talent. I’ve never met a bridging tree Fae.”

His comment could have been disparaging, but instead it was quite sweet – he meant it. “Well, that remains to be seen I think.”

“Plenty of time, plenty of time,” Neo cleared his throat, “I was sent to take you two to brunch, but I think it’s full-on lunch at this point.”

“Plane was late. ‘Technical delays,’” Caleb emphasized the latter with sarcasm. It was almost certain that the delay was because we were aboard. “If I’d known you would be here I would have called.”

“And spoil my entrance?” Neo gestured with flourish. “I think not. You two get checked in, I can wait while you change. We have…” his eyes darkened as he looked out the door, as if he could see something in the street that we could not, “a lot to talk about.”

‘The Aftermath,’ an Aia and Elden Cut Scene

I was overwhelmingly inspired this evening, my first totally free evening following the completion of wicked medical licensing examination part 3! Now that my exam is over my fingers are itching. This is a cut scene between Elden and Aia in Forsaken Lands 2 – you can read it here or not at all. 😉 Folks who have already read Broken may find this particularly interesting. There are minimal spoilers, however, if you’re super anti-spoiler you may want to avert your eyes for now.

I will be in touch later this week, you can be sure! More Fae and Folly is on the agenda. Until then…


“This girl you keep dreaming about…”

“Lyda,” when I said her name it came out all crackly, not smooth at all. I threaded my fingers in my hair like it would keep Aia from listening to my thoughts. I couldn’t tell when she was and when she wasn’t, which was about the most unnerving thing I’d ever experienced, let me tell you. Usually when a person unnerved me it made me avoid them, like the dealers on the streets that I wouldn’t even buy from because of their crazy eyes. Aia unnerved me like that, and at the same time made me feel a little better about myself. I couldn’t figure on why.

She shifted a little closer to me, the ocean wind blowing her hair so I couldn’t see her face. It was real dark out here in the middle of the ocean. The water below us was like an abyss, and in it I could almost see Lyda’s face. You could see anything you wanted down there.

“I don’t really mean to pry,” she started pulling her hair back in a bun the way she usually had it, “but sometimes you just… when you’re upset like that I tend to listen in. Makes me worried.”

I guessed if she could really feel and hear things the way she claimed to she would have all kinds of reasons to be concerned. I’d been dreaming about Lyda a lot lately, probably because I’d been half-sober most of the time since hooking up with Garren. Except that one night at the outpost, obviously, but that was just generally a mistake.

“Sorry,” was all I could say to that. I glanced to one side, thinking that maybe I could come up with an excuse to leave.

“No need,” her little smile was kind of cute, if a little sad. A lot of people smiled at me like that over the years. “I… am really curious about who she is. All I get are bits and pieces when you dream. There’s obviously a story there.”

She wasn’t asking for anything directly, which I took to mean that I could disappear right then if I wanted. Fool that I was, I didn’t leave. She kind of deserved an explanation after saving my ass all those times. Three times, I think. I was losing count.

“Lyda and me grew up together,” I said, and felt myself detach from what I was saying. I just went numb. “She was… my best friend. We were really close, till the day I left.”

“When you left home.”

“Yeah, then.” Aia knew most of what happened when I left Chall, or as much as I told anyone about it.

“So what’s the rest of the story?” She didn’t look at me, maybe to make me more comfortable.

I sighed. “I kind of… you know, I loved her.”

I had to shut my mouth, then, because I hadn’t said that out loud in a couple years at least. I’d told some guy once after we were together, cause he was asking about my history. It helped that I was drunk at the time. I wasn’t drunk now, though, so maybe that was why it felt like I’d just stabbed myself in the gut.

Aia just nodded. She had to have already figured that out from the dreams. I didn’t remember them all, but I know at least a couple were about the day I left, when I asked her to forget me. Sometimes I wondered if she really forgot. She would have been better off if she did.

“You keep dreaming about her in Feya,” Aia’s voice got very soft, almost too soft for me to hear. “I thought you grew up on the border.”

“Feya was the last place I saw her,” I reached in my pockets hoping to find some covash, distantly remembering that I’d already traded it away. My fingers fidgeted all around, like maybe if I fidgeted hard enough I would magically summon some of the stuff. I started speaking instead, and the words went way too fast. I didn’t even realize what I was saying as I was saying it. “Bout a year after I went in the wind I ended up in Feya. That was just before I went on my tear up the eastern coast, see, and I wasn’t doing so great. It was almost night…”

My breath hitched, and Aia was looking at me with those serious, piercing eyes, and I don’t think there was any way for me to run at that point. I had to keep going. “I knew where she’d be. Lyda was real smart, had an apprenticeship offer in Feya before I left. Wanted to be an alchemist. I went to lots of shops that day, but I was… well, high. About as high as I usually was back then, which was worse than when you met me, for sure. I had this dumb idea that I would walk up to her and say hello, you know, like nothing happened. So I ended up at this place that was down by the water, and I saw her. She had a basket in her hands, probably from the market, and she looked real good. She had new clothes and her hair was in a braid, which she’d never done before. I got all ready to go up and see her, and…” I shook my head. I wasn’t going to cry, not now in front of Aia, but if I was on anything I probably would have been bawling at that point. Thank the gods I had some restraint left in me. “I looked down and I was just a mess. I couldn’t walk up to her like that, filthy, piece of shit that I am. Then as I was starting to turn around – you know, to leave – this guy walked up to her. I don’t remember anything about the guy. I just remember that she smiled real wide, the way she used to smile with me, and she kissed him.”

I went quiet. It was a boring story, I thought, for anyone but me. Why should anyone get all excited about some girl they never even fucked kissing some guy? Lyda deserved to be happy. She deserved it a lot more than I ever did.

I don’t think Aia found it boring, though, with the way her eyebrows were all knitted together. “Skies, but that must have hurt.”

I shrugged. More than I can say.

“Have you thought about going to look for her again, now that you’re doing better?”

I managed to chuckle. “Sweetheart, I think you might be forgetting the week I’ve had. I’m nobody’s definition of ‘better.’”

“You’re never going to be perfect, especially not in your own head. That doesn’t mean you have to cut her out of your life forever.”

“It’s been four years, and I’m halfway across the world from her. For all I know she died along with everyone else in the earthquake.” I said it like it was a fact, easy, the way a person would talk about some random lurker on the street getting killed. On the inside it made my heart thump so bad I thought it might come out of my chest. I don’t know what I would have done if I knew for certain she’d died. I think I might have lost it again, the way I lost it when I was sixteen, and that could only be worse. I could do a lot more damage now than I could back then.

“Hm,” in her eyes I could see that Aia was coming up with some kind of plan, but I didn’t care to hear what it was. It was probably some high-minded idea that she could go find Lyda when we got back home. I didn’t want to tell her how frightened that idea made me, first because if Lyda was alive I would have to explain what happened to me, and second if Lyda was dead I would have to deal with the fallout of knowing.

“Don’t know why you care so much about all this,” I shook my head, “my problems don’t have to be yours, too.”

“Would it make you feel better to hear some stories about my shitty past?” she grinned, and it made me snort out a laugh. I didn’t know she was one to swear at all, but maybe I was rubbing off on her.

“Maybe,” I said, more than happy to get away from all my own problems. “I wouldn’t guess you made the sort of mistakes I did, though. You’re a good person.”

The grin dissipated, and suddenly she was somebody else, somebody with a totally different story than the one I’d constructed for her in my head. The grin didn’t go away completely, but it changed to a new kind of smile, one that I’d seen on people who knew things that no one should.

“Sometimes,” she said.

Serial Story: Fae and Folly Part 10

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9


I found Caleb in the most likely place he’d be – the guest house up near the council chamber. I’d flown around the glade a bit before finally going up to his hiding spot, considering what I wanted to say to him, if anything. My aerial pacing had gone on long enough that clouds had gathered in the sky and a sprinkling of rainfall tickled my skin. It was now or not, I supposed – even the weather decided that I needed to make up my mind about which hut I would fly back to.

I could see the silver shimmers through the lit window and blushed when I saw that he was changing his shirt, his well-muscled back to the outside. I held myself on a breath just above the deck and spun to look away, but not before the sound of my wingbeats alerted him to my presence. The flooring creaked softly as he walked to the windowsill.

“If you guessed I was cursed with modesty then you guessed wrong,” he said wryly.

I sighed deeply and audibly, my arms crossed. How did Nan talk me into this, anyway? I looked over my shoulder at him reluctantly. His elbows were rested on the natural wood sill, shoulders bare. I raised an eyebrow, mildly curious as to whether he was even wearing pants.

“I was trying to be-” I caught myself, realizing that my attempt at a heart-to-heart was coming out more like a frustrated child instructed to say ‘I’m sorry.’ “…polite.”

He just blinked at me, unmoving.

“Can I talk to you?” And would you kindly put on a shirt?

“If memory serves we don’t do well with that, you and I. Of course it has been several minutes, so that may have changed.” He paused, as if to pull back from his excessive snark. He began again with a slightly kinder tone. “Sorry. We could try it again if you’re up for it. It would be nice if we established some kind of communication before Tuesday.”

“Tuesday?”

“I just got a text from Cally. She said that you emailed her earlier today and told her you wouldn’t call off the Austin trip.”

“No, I won’t.”

“You’re sure about that?”

I dropped down on the decking, arms still crossed. My body refused to relax no matter what I told it. “What business is it of yours?”

“Cally decided that if you go, I will need to go with you.” He promptly disappeared from the window, sliding to the side to mess with something on the small dresser situated next to the guest hammock. He wore pants, at least – something softer than what he’d rode up in, probably for sleeping.

My jaw slackened while he went about his business. “Does she think I can’t handle it by myself now?”

“You know that’s not it.”

Of course it wasn’t, even if that was the first thing that came to mind. Most likely she suggested it because traveling in pairs would be safer in some ways; someone around to make sure I didn’t disappear for some mysterious reason, as the Fae tended to do in places like Texas. “Bombing or no bombing, I will be fine by myself. I’ve been planning this trip for weeks.”

“And bombing or no bombing, I have a plane ticket to Austin and no interest in losing my job.” He wasn’t looking at me, still. He sat on the edge of the hammock, a jar of what looked like lotion in his hands. “We don’t even have to see each other outside of official business if that suits you.”

I considered asking him if I could come in. I almost did, but at the last minute thought better of it. This was one of my home glades. I could see the whole guest hut already through the window, so it wasn’t like I’d be exposing anything by barging in. I pushed past the generic tapestry and sat my behind in the reading corner, a fair-sized plush chair next to a sparsely stocked bookshelf. The guest hut was well-appointed, but lacking in any sort of kitchen. It encouraged guests of the glade to mingle with the locals.

“Are you an Elemental?” I blurted.

He paused with his fingertips in the jar, his eyes immediately hooded with suspicion. He licked his lips. “Excuse me?”

“You’ll probably lie about it if you are,” I hedged, averting his gaze while I dug myself out of my hole. “I suppose I hoped that if you were lying I would notice, so I may as well ask, then, in case you aren’t. Either way, at least if I say something about it we can stop this passive-aggressive thing, which I guess is more me than you-” I stopped myself. This was getting rambly. “You must think I’m quite odd.”

He frowned, wiping off his hands and setting the jar aside, his task no doubt unfinished. It took a while before he spoke.

“Well, that certainly explains a few things,” he groaned and rolled himself onto his back, the hammock swinging gently from the force. “Let me guess – Dyana is the one who has you worried about all this.”

“Yes,” I said, insecure with the answer. I could have said no, but then I wasn’t sure what good it would do to lie.

He nodded, eyes closed. “Among muses she has a reputation for knowing things she shouldn’t.”

My mouth went dry. “You mean it’s-”

He startled, his eyes fluttering open. “No, no. It’s not strictly true. She would be right that I’ve had intentional run-ins with the Elementals, and it’s true that I’m not one of the people who hate them. I find that the fine line between ‘not disagreeing’ and ‘not supporting’ is difficult for most people to parse, Fae and human alike.”

“You’re saying that you know who these Fae are and you haven’t done anything to bring them to justice,” I replied, hoping for clarification while unable to banish the disdain from my tone. My initial thought was that he was parts each wishy-washy and weak, but I realized that I probably needed more time to think about it than our conversation would allow.

“Not quite like that,” he said softly, his gaze unfocused. “If I’d known they were going to initiate the attack on Birmingham I would have suggested they find something with less loss of life. Barring that, I would have informed the human government,” he paused, “I didn’t know, though.”

“So you’re not… one of them.”

“I can tell you I’m not, but I don’t expect you to believe that.”

I went quiet, watching him rock in the hammock, hands resting on his abdomen, never looking directly at me. I ran down a whole list of things that might be useful to ask before landing on the one that stood out.

“Does the IFA know?”

“Just Cally,” he shrugged. “She seems to understand, at least enough to ignore it so she can benefit from my family’s wealth. The others – the bridgers – I don’t believe any of them know, save for you, now,” he chuckled, “which would make two semi-secrets you’ve discovered about me in as many days.”

“You didn’t have to tell me,” I huffed.

“I’m not certain I would lie if Peter or Alex asked me the same question,” he said, genuine contemplation in his voice. “I suppose I would if it was bothering them as much as it appeared to bother you.”

“You act like you’ve known this whole time and just waited for me to bring it up.”

“I wasn’t sure-” he hissed, and all at once it looked like his shoulders seized up. I found myself jolting to get up out of the chair – to do what, I wasn’t sure. He managed to shake his head when he saw me about to stand, his eyes closed as he breathed through the attack. “…but I thought this might be it.”

“Do you have some kind of medicine for that?” I bit my lip.

He nudged his head toward the dresser. “The salve helps. Cramping usually lets up after a day or so. I haven’t flown that far in a long time.” He pushed himself back up on a sigh, scooting so he could sit cross-legged while he reached for the jar. “Was there anything else you absolutely had to know before the morning?”

I shook my head slowly. It seemed that there were a few other things that might be nice to know before I went traveling across the country with a Fae I scarcely trusted, yet at the same time I felt some relief at hearing him explain things for himself. I didn’t want to believe that he was some kind of shady covert operative.

I wanted to like the guy, for what it was worth. That was the crux of it, I realized, in the midst of all the angst I’d developed in the last two days since meeting him – this need to redeem him in my own mind. Perhaps that was what made everyone adore Caleb McLain; some intangible thing about him that made people hope that he was better than he might really be. As I was thinking I could feel myself frowning. More irrationality.

Just because I wanted to like him didn’t mean I would take his statements at face value. He said I could ask Cally about it, and I had every intention of doing so.

I snapped back to reality when I noticed him awkwardly reaching around his back to apply the salve to his wing muscles. “Would you like some help with that?” I asked – blurting again. Perhaps that was another intangible power of his. I usually liked to think before I let go of my voice.

“No need.”

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. “Just watching you is driving me crazy,” I approached him with my hand outstretched, “here. It’s my fault, anyway,” I smirked, “and I thought you said you weren’t modest.”

He gave me a look that I could only describe as petulant before handing over the salve. “You’ll want to wash your hands after touching this stuff.”

It smelled neutral enough, with the texture of body butter. I used a modified hover to hold myself in a seated position. It gave me a good view of his wing musculature – lean and well-developed, completely normal except for the painful bunching around the four wing stalks, black as the wings themselves. When I brushed my fingertips over the skin he bowed his head.

“What’s in it?” I asked, distracting him as I rubbed the salve in.

“Anti-inflammatories, for the most part,” he replied mechanically. “A family recipe, as it were.”

“How’s that?”

“When I was diagnosed my father spent a great deal of money and time on searching for a cure. We didn’t find one, obviously, but they did manage to come up with some salient therapies.”

I narrowed my eyes even though he couldn’t see my face, swirling small, thoughtful circles with the salve while my gaze wandered the lovely, dark arches of his wings. “Did they… experiment on you?”

His laugh was devoid of light. “Astute. It sounds so medieval when you say it.”

I wondered, all at once, if his outlook on the Elementals and everything else might have been different if he didn’t grow up knowing he had MRPS. Flight was one of the things that defined us, made us different than humankind – our culture was much more accepting and relaxed than their society, and most of us believed it had to do with flight. It was one of the few ancient Fae beliefs that I ascribed to. Caleb had grown up knowing his wings were a curse – something that made my own wings shiver.

“Can I ask how long you have?” I said after a time.

“You can ask anything you want,” his voice was smooth, “twenty years, give or take, before I won’t be able to fly at all.”

Twenty years before the pain becomes debilitating. I knew that was what it really meant. Twenty years was nothing in a lifespan as long as ours. “That’s so… soon.”

“Most cases in our generation are rapidly progressive.”

“You say that like it doesn’t bother you.”

“It bothers me plenty, but what good what it do to get upset over it?” He looked at me from the corner of his eyes, “you could spend your life consumed by hating the color of your wings, but that wouldn’t make them change.” My cheeks betrayed me with a blush. His enigmatic smile blossomed. “I didn’t mean you specifically. Your wings are…” he swallowed, trailing off without resolution. He waved me off gently.

I snapped my wings in close to my back, dropping from my hover. I set the salve on the table. “Will that do?”

He rolled his shoulders gingerly, turning to plant his feet on the floor. “It’s much better. Thank you.”

“Well…” I cleared my throat, awkwardly shifting my stance. “You’re welcome.”

His dark eyes looked me over, as if he was deciding something. I couldn’t come up with anything to put in between the silence, relieved when he finally filled it himself. “Like I said, you should wash that off.” There wasn’t any running water in the guest hut.

“Ah, yes. I meant to visit the water nymphs anyway.” I started to drift toward the door, feeling him watch me. “Landsong will want to have breakfast in the morning. He always does.”

“I’ll be there.”

“Good.” I slipped through the tapestry without another glance at him, and in my head it felt like a retreat.

Muses were such complicated folk.

Kickstarting Diversity in Fiction: An Interview with S.E. Doster

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to connect with fellow fantasy author S.E. Doster, writer of The Alliance Series. Her first book, The Alliance: Bloodlines, tells the supernaturally-charged story of unlikely heroes and their fight to take back their city. Doster is now working on the sequel, Drakon, while she is running a Kickstarter campaign to support her upcoming Sacrifice novel. She, like myself, is a strong supporter of character diversity in genre fiction, and took the time to answer a few questions about the topic and her latest work.

Tell me about Sacrifice and your Kickstarter. What inspired you to go the Kickstarter route?

Traditional publishing can be a hard industry to break into, but trying to find a home for such a diverse novel proves to be even harder. I originally intended my first Kickstarter to be one of my comic book projects, but the passionate enthusiasm of my beta readers convinced me to try Sacrifice first. I self-published the Bloodlines novel with a meager budget and the help of friends, but the overall quality of the product suffered. I wanted to give Sacrifice professional editing, formatting and cover design, but each of those come with such costly fees.

Sacrifice is an Urban Fantasy thriller that involves meta-humans and supernatural creatures. The story includes the romance of a lesbian couple, but that factor doesn’t define the story. There are gay and straight characters of all races, but it’s shown in a community that already accepts equality.


Diversity in literature… what are your thoughts on its importance?

I think it’s very important that we work to increase the diversity in literature. There are so many groups of kids that don’t get to see main characters like them. It sends the wrong message when bookshelves are filled with books that contain mostly straight, white male protagonists. Characters of color or even queer characters seem to fill the much smaller roles in novels, but how does that even make sense? Mainstream literature shouldn’t be filled with primarily straight white characters because the world is not made up solely of straight white people. I have a very diverse group of friends of all races both gay and straight, so I decided to write a book that reflects real life for me.

Over the last few years we have seen a small increase in diversity on television, but the publishing industry seems stubborn to accept the change. This is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken, or we’ll continue to give future generations literature that does not reflect real life or teach equality.


How do you think independent authors impact diversity in literature?

Indie authors have the ability to be their own boss, and choose to include diversity that maybe wouldn’t be accepted with a traditional publisher. They can write without fear of an editor demanding changes to avoid too much risk. I’ve seen many indie authors embracing diversity, some are writers like me that don’t want to wait for publishers to wake up and smell the diversity (pun intended) so they create the stories they want to read.

The one negative impact I see with indie authors is the percentage that lacks the polish of a traditionally published novel. I want to read LGBT fantasy novels, but I’m usually discouraged when I search Amazon or Goodreads for LGBTQ or lesbian fiction. I usually locate novels with poor reviews and covers, which makes me incredibly sad. The stories may actually be wonderful on the inside, but poor editing, formatting and covers can still be a detriment to sales and reviews.

I know how tough self-publishing can be when you’re paying out of pocket, and I understand why some indie authors settle on quality, but this is why the Kickstarter was important for Sacrifice. We need more quality diverse novels if we hope to see them hit the shelves of our favorite book store.


What can readers do to help promote diversity? What can writers do?

Readers can send letters to publishers to demand for more diversity, and support books that are diverse. There are some campaigns right now that promote diversity, and one of them focuses on children’s literature. You can find their site here: http://weneeddiversebooks.org/ This group offers great suggestions for diverse YA and children’s books.

Writers should make a conscious effort to bring diversity into their own stories, as well as supporting fellow writers who do the same.


How can we help with the Kickstarter, and when do you expect Sacrifice to come out?

Every little bit helps with crowdfunding. Like and share the Kickstarter post on social media. Tell your friends and family why diversity is important, and donate to the campaign if you can! Every single dollar helps. If every single person who saw my Kickstarter could donate just one dollar, (which is less than the price of one soda or cup of coffee) and asked/shared with their friends, we could make self-publishing Sacrifice a reality.

The Kickstarter launched on September 4th, and still needs your help to be successful!

Many thanks to S.E. Doster for participating in the interview! I for one am very happy to support her cause for all the reasons she’s given. As I’ve said before, media is an incredible vehicle for self-discovery and change; by promoting diversity in our entertainment we expand our own ideas of who we are and what we can be. Please visit the link above to donate and/or share her message.