Ayala Storme Prepares for the Re-Stormening!

HALLO HUMANS

 

It’s been quiet around these parts. I’ve been incubating stuff. New books, short stories (move your butt over to Patreon if you want to catch up with lots of fiction!), cats, mawwaige (evidence below), and a big impending move to Scotland.

 

 

There are approximately thirteen blog posts in that sentence alone, but this one is about Ayala, and she’s got swords, so I better get the focus back to her.

 

Ahem.

 

I won’t beat around the proverbial bush. Ayala Storme’s four book series has been Amazon exclusive for eBook since it came out, but NO MORE! BHC Press’s Indigo imprint is bringing Ayala to wider distribution (and with a brand new interior book design! SO SHINY!) on 26 June!

 

You can read the press release here! We decided to keep the covers because Jes Negrón did such a stellar job, but these bad boys will have a gorgeous new look inside! ALSO, I recently wrote a foreword for BHC Press’s release of their first Signature Classic, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, which you should read because Ayala and Anne have a lot in common (no, seriously).

 

Mark your calendars for 26 June! Help me say bon voyage to the US with a return to Nashville and Ayala’s story. Plus, there’s butts. Lots of butts. And Nana bunny. You should read this series for Nana, if nothing else. Think of Nana.

Signed Book Time!

Ordering is now closed! If you ordered signed books, I’ll update this page periodically throughout the process!

11 April: Getting ready to order from my distributor!

11 April: Books ordered! Shipping to me is the slowest bit–they estimate 28 April as delivery day, but usually they’re here faster. I’ll make sure to update you when I get a tracking number!

19 April: Books shipped, said to have a delivery date of TOMORROW! V Exciting, will update once they arrive. WHEE.

24 April: Books shipped to YOU. Most of you should have them by the end of this week. International shipping should be within the next 10 business days! If you need a tracking number, please let me know!

Here we go! I’ve had a lot of folks ask when I would next be doing a run of signed books, and finally the answer is now!

I’ve tried to simplify ordering this time around.

Here’s What to Expect.

  1. You place your order through PayPal in the form below. Ordering is open from 27 March until 10 April at 8 PM EDT. Shipping and handling are included in the price you see on the form!
  2. On 11 April, I order the books from my distributor.
  3. When the books come in (usually in about a week), I’ll sign them, pack them up, and ship them.
  4. When they ship, I’ll email you your tracking number.
  5. You’ll get them in 2-3 days (domestic — 5-6 business days internationally) after that, priority mail.
  6. International shipping is still horrible. I am so sorry. For transparency, it’s about $24 for shipping alone for a single book. The medium box holds up to six books and costs almost $45 to ship. I’m trying to make this accessible, but for those of you in the UK, once I’m there you’ll be the domestic ones and can exact your revenge. MUAHAHA.
  7. That means US folks, uh….maybe take this opportunity to order now! I can’t promise I’ll be able to do another run before we move to Scotland.
  8. Australia, I’m just really sorry. Everything is so expensive for you lot.

Go forth and get yerself some books!

MUAH.

Love,

Emmie

 

A Q&A with Emmie and Sara: What Comes After Agent?

This week has been an indubitably difficult one. I am a queer, trans person with a disability and mental illnesses. And I have a book coming out next week, which feels all too apropos of this moment in history. I am fiercely proud of it. It’s a book about hope. Last week, my agent Sara Megibow and I sat down to talk to you about the next steps for authors once you get an agent. This little Q&A is about those next steps, about this book. If you need a distraction from this week, I hope this’ll provide one.

 

A simple place to start is why this book? Agents and authors come at things from different points, but they often meet over the love of a thing. What made LOOK TO THE SUN one of those things?

 

Emmie:

This book was a kind of experimental thing for me, and also a hyper-personal one. I’ve pitched it as LES MIS meets SHADOW OF THE WIND (by Carlos Ruiz Zafón) because both of those books deal with people caught up in systems of politics that are often personal to everyone involved. Javert is obsessed with Valjean not just because of the law, but because Valjean represents Javert’s personal failures. In SHADOW OF THE WIND, one of the plot threads is also an inspector with a vendetta (and no little amount of sadism). In both books, the stories we tell one another are front and centre, whether we tell them with raspy breaths in a sick bed or scrawled out on pages of letters or books.

 

In LOOK TO THE SUN, I wanted to explore those aspects as well as the shock that comes from realising the political is personal and vice versa. The sometimes sudden erosion of our sense of safety in our homeland. More than anything, though, the point for me with this book is that people live in the midst of revolution and tumult. They fall in love. They find connection. They learn about themselves and their families. They make the best choices they can. I had a particular vision for this book, and I brought it to Sara knowing we would be looking to sell sub rights instead of seeking a print home for it. It took a different path than others, and I still feel great about that decision.

 

 

Sara:

LOOK TO THE SUN is an amazing book – lyrical, beautiful, moving. As Emmie says, it’s a story about “fighting fascism with love” – what could be more important?

 

Emmie’s AYALA STORME urban fantasy series (STORM IN A TEACUP, etc) released last year to tremendous enthusiasm, huge sales, a big audiobook deal and fantastic reviews. AYALA STORME is a high-action, save-the-world adventure series with a kick-butt heroine. As an agent, one of the things that impresses me the most about LOOK TO THE SUN is that it’s different in tone from Emmie’s urban fantasy series and also impeccably crafted in its own right. Emmie can write kick-butt urban fantasy and then write beautiful, thoughtful fantasy and they are both amazing. To me, that’s a demonstration of exceptional talent!

 

 

 

Most querying writers are familiar with the first parts of the agent-author partnership. After the first book an agent signs an author for passes (either because it sells traditionally or doesn’t), what happens next?

 

Sara:

Great question! Roughly 10% of my week is spent reading submissions (queries, sample pages and full manuscripts). 90% of my week is spent supporting my current clients (including Emmie). The vast majority of my work happens AFTER a client has said yes to my offer of representation. I think that’s something most querying writers don’t see – I read 25,000 queries a year but one hour of query-reading only comes AFTER nine hours of client work.

 

Let’s say I offer representation to an author and they accept. What happens next?

 

My job is to monetize my clients’ books. Making money takes strategy so the very first thing I do for a new client is communicate a plan for pursuing a profitable author career.

 

Strategy is different for every author and every book. And, in every case strategy changes over the years. Here are the four things we look at in order to craft profitable strategy: in what genre does this author write? How quickly does this author write? What makes up this author’s backlist (are they debut or published)? Finally – what is personality of this author (does this author prefer a large amount of control or not)?

 

Once we have established a strategy based on these four questions I take the client’s book out on submission. While waiting on offers I encourage my client to keep writing! I will be in communication while we wait – I pass along editor responses, continue to answer client questions and keep thinking about strategy.

 

The above question was, “what happens next” and yet we’re still only at the tip of the iceberg! Not every book on submission gets a book deal but once that exciting offer finally comes in I get really busy! Much of my job happens behind the scenes and I will keep in constant contact with my clients as things unfold. These are the tasks that querying writers probably don’t see but here’s a short list of what I’m doing while the author continues to write: I track what a client is writing next and let them know when/where there might be additional opportunities for book deals, I negotiate contracts, track delivery dates, release dates and payments, audit royalty statements, sell subsidiary rights (audio, translation, Hollywood, etc), coordinate publicity with the publisher, coordinate travel and conferences and Keep In Communication. It’s not unusual to answer 50 emails a day from various clients with questions like, “is there an update on my cover?” and “can you check on something for me?” We’re a team and we’re busy!

 

As a side note, if a book doesn’t get a book deal then that book is either edited, shelved or self published and we decide that together based on, you guessed it, strategy!

 

Every author career is different once an author accepts my offer of representation the goal is always the same = make money on those books!

 

 

Emmie:

Sara covered most everything! From the author standpoint, there are some immediate shifts – you hit the crossroads where art meets business. That can be super daunting, and there is very little out there in the way of transparency about what happens on submission (and sometimes very little support outside your family and your agent). It’s really easy to get overwhelmed, especially because most of the time, submission is a “hurry up and wait” sort of deal. I like to think of publishing as a tortoise in a bog with a jetpack. The overwhelming majority of the time, that tortoise doggedly plods through the mud, but you never know when that jetpack will fire. Ever.

 

That can be compounded when a book doesn’t sell, because then you have to fret over the next one – but it’s completely necessary to keep moving. When a book does sell, the challenges of writing the option book, or the sequel, or a book for a new submission entirely? That is a step there’s also not a tonne of information out there about. It’s hard. The best suggestion I have is to try and find communities of authors at whatever stage you’re at and have private (important!) place where you can ask questions or ask for support. It’s important to have that private venue that isn’t say, the Absolute Write forums or Twitter where any person in the industry or out could happen by just as you’re crying into a half-empty bag of Cheetos in a cloud of orange dust because your deadline is in a week and you’re convinced the sequel to your debut sucks.

 

 

 

How do agent-author teams figure out what project to concentrate on next?

 

Sara:

Great question! Going back to my previous answer, an agent-author team figures out what book to concentrate on next based on our strategy.

 

Sometimes the Muse is very loud and a client will tell me, “I HAVE to write this book next!” in which case that’s what they do. Sometimes the client is looking for more direction in which case we’ll look at some ideas they have and evaluate those ideas together. Planning profit for a debut author is very different than planning with an author who has 18 books already available for sale. Similarly, planning with an author who writes 4 books a year is very different than planning with an author who writes a book every two years (I have clients on each end of that spectrum for sure!). And, planning for middle grade authors is vastly different than planning for authors writing science fiction/ fantasy for adults. We look at Next Possible Books through all these lenses and Keep Writing!

 

Emmie:

I almost always have some sort of dialogue with my agent. That can be as simple as “I HAVE THIS IDEA AND I’VE ALREADY OUTLINED IT AT THREE AM” or “I’d really like to move into more science fiction. How can we do this?”

 

As Sara says above, strategy changes, and again, this is the part of a writer career where art meets business. If I hear editors are actively acquiring something that fits a manuscript idea I have, I’ll probably concentrate on that manuscript and try and finish it up. If I see three similar ideas picked up on Publishers Marketplace, I might table my idea for a while until I can figure out a way to know it’ll stand out.

 

 

What should new authors know about subsidiary rights from each of your perspectives? What ARE subsidiary rights?

 

Sara:

We said above that an agent’s job is to monetize an author’s books. The good news is that an author makes money on more than just the print book deal – we make money on deals for audiobook, translation, Hollywood (Film/TV), graphic novel, etc. What should new authors know about subsidiary rights? That they are huge opportunities for profit!

 

For example, Emmie’s books are all available in audiobook format and narrated by the brilliant Amber Benson (TV Star from Buffy The Vampire Slayer). Those deals were done because I shopped Emmie’s books to my contacts at various audio publishers and we accepted a deal with Audible. We’ve been very pleased with Audible – the production and publicity have been outstanding!

 

Emmie’s books are also being shopped for translation deals by our foreign co-agents at the London Book Fair and Frankfurt Book Fair. In the above question, it was asked, “what happens next?” and shopping subsidiary rights is a big part of that next step. An agent is constantly selling a client’s books – to print publishers, to audio publishers, to foreign publishers, to Hollywood entities, etc.

 

Emmie:

Sub rights are something that I think get really overlooked. New authors tend to get super focused on the print book deal (which is huge indeed), but as John Scalzi said recently, audio and other formats can be a massive portion of an author’s income. In the end, subsidiary rights are a way to get your work in the hands of more readers. That’s the goal.

 

I’ve found some amazing people through my audio deals, and it also is super important to me that my books are as accessible as possible (whether via eBooks and the ability to change text size or with audio narration), so having the Ayala Storme series, A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS, and LOOK TO THE SUN in audio means a lot to me.

 

Why should people check out LOOK TO THE SUN on 15 November?

 

Emmie:

I went through most of these questions before the election. I’ve spent this week in horror, fear, and huddled with friends reporting harassment, hate crimes, intimidation, and, heartbreakingly, suicides. LOOK TO THE SUN is a book I wrote during this campaign. I hoped so much for a different outcome. This book is about hope. It’s about love. It’s about standing up for what is right and for those others seek to harm. It’s about overcoming tragedy and injustice. If you need that right now, this book is for you.

 

Sara:

Emmie has an amazing ability to tell a story that really touches readers’ hearts. LOOK TO THE SUN is incredible, engaging, unique and MEANS something. Overcoming conflict with love? Yes please! We need more of that right now!

 

You can preorder LOOK TO THE SUN here, and it’ll be delivered to you on 15 November! If you want to otherwise support me and my work, you can find me on Patreon, where each month you will get exclusive short stories and can even get my books early!

 

Signed Copies Available!

WHEW.

It’s halfway through July already. How did that happen?

If you missed the news, EYE OF THE STORM is now out in ebook, paperback, and audiobook! The fabulous Chuck Wendig invited me to share a very personal post on Terrible Minds, and my next project, a contemporary magical realismesque standalone A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS is available for preorder! I am also on Patreon, and we are almost halfway toward my first goal, which would be a new SHRIKE novelette!

That’s a lot!

But there is also more — if you are itching to get your paws on signed copies of any of my already-released books, now’s your VERY LIMITED TIME moment.

Starting now, I’ll be taking orders for one week (from today until 22 July). Then I will order the books, sign them, and ship them out, so they should be to you within a month with shipping times. Last year my system broke down due to a move in the middle, but this year I am stationary and you have my guarantee that it won’t take more than six weeks.

You can order the books through PayPal below. You can get any of them on their own, or you can buy series bundles.

For Transparency: I can ship to UK/AUS/NZ/Canada, but the shipping cost is, unfortunately, much higher. One book internationally is $25 in shipping alone. I use tracked USPS Priority Mail flat rate boxes to ensure that the books, you know, get where they’re supposed to go and are insured. Happy to do this, but I apologise for having to charge so much more. Combining the cost I pay for the books themselves (discounted, but not even close to free), shipping them to me, processing orders, and shipping them out, the overhead cost ends up over $40 per single book internationally.

I’m able to process multiple books to the same address more cheaply, hence the price per book going down significantly if you bundle them.

How to Order: Orders have officially closed! Depending on demand, I may do another round of signed copies for the holiday season in a few months. Thank you to everyone who ordered!

 

 

#ChatStorme Approaching: Join Amber and Me Tomorrow!

EOTS FRONT COVER
Don’t forget to preorder your copy of the series finale! Click image to GIT ER DONE

What: Me, You, Amber Benson, a cosy little Twitter chat on a Tuesday eve

When: Uh….Tuesday eve. Tomorrow, specifically, at 6 PM EDT. 

Why: Amber and I want to chat about Ayala Storme with you AND give away some snazzy audiobooks!

Where: Get thee to Twitter tomorrow at 6 EDT, and type #ChatStorme into your search bar!

Who: You. Is this thing on? You, me, Amber Benson. Ayala Storme. MAYBE NANA. (See featured image, re: Bun In A Teacup)

 

 

Are you excited? I’m excited. You should be excited. BUN TORNADO EXCITED.

BunTornado

 

Stormy Weather: Ayala’s Back in Bunnies

AAAAAHHHHH YOU GUYS.

Ayala’s back! ANY PORT IN A STORM is finally here!

Even better? You can still snag STORM IN A TEACUP for a bitty $0.99 for the rest of today!

EVEN BETTER? (I know, I know, I KNOW!) You can now buy SHRIKE: THE MASKED SONGBIRD in trade paperback!

Okay — take a deep breath with me. So many books. So much win. Very superheroes, so bunnies, such wedgies WOW.

So. Many of you have asked me about signed copies, and I am super excited to finally be able to oblige you!

From now until June 26 (deadline extended!), you can order a signed copy through the button below. I will place the bulk order on July 1, and the books will be mailed out no later than July 15. Pricing includes shipping, and tax will be added during checkout because I do not want the IRS knocking at my door. They won’t accept cookies in lieu of evaded sales tax.

Because several people from outside the US have asked about signed copies, I’ve included pricing below to the UK, continental Europe, and Australia. If you live outside these places and are interested, contact me. I’m sorry it’s so expensive; many authors don’t offer international shipping due to the price being prohibitive. I ship the books USPS Priority Mail in a flat rate box. They arrive within 6-10 business days and come with tracking, and the cost for overseas shipping is $25 per book. 

If you would like a copy of any of the books, use the order form below! Please make sure you select the book you want from the dropdown menu and double check to make sure your PayPal address is your actual address. I will never share your information with anyone. No way, no how. Also, if you would like the book personalised to someone who is not you, please make sure to let me know!

Select a Book




 

ANY PORT IN A STORM: Exclusive Look at Chapter One!

I thought since I’ve been cooped up and laid out flat this week with monster tonsillitis that it could be A Nice Thing to share the first chapter of ANY PORT IN A STORM. If you haven’t yet read STORM IN A TEACUP, navigate away and SAVE YOURSELF FROM ANY POSSIBLE SPOILERS. Because I am sick and lazy, here lieth the extent of the intro. ENJOY.

[Thar be language. My books have that. F-bombs and violence abound in Ayala’s world, be warned, matey.]

Any Port in a Storm
Chapter 1

I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to butts all over my apartment.

They’re all very nice butts — shades get the best of both hellkin and human gene pools — but that’s sort of beside the point. There are butts all over my apartment yet again, and it’s just another Thursday night of me having no idea where to look. The butts are bad enough, never mind the other side.

Even more annoying, it’s a full moon tonight, and shades are too literal to even laugh at my jokes.

I miss Mason.

Maybe worst of all, I miss him the same way I miss Roger, the frog I stashed in my room for three weeks when I was a knobbly-kneed Mediator-in-Training. Roger got found out, then thrown out into the pond.

Is that awful? That I miss Mason like that? He wasn’t a pet; he was a person. And he isn’t really past tense at all — not in general. He’s alive and well and somewhere covered in sand in the Middle East. Probably pissing off the locals and eating whole goats.

But he’s past tense for me.

Looking — carefully — around  my living room, my eyes seek out a tattooed shoulder. The tattoo itself is part of that whole “shades are literal” thing. It’s Saturn’s shoulder I’m searching for, and the ink is exactly what you might expect it to be, the rings of the planet rippling over his muscles when he moves.

I see Carrick, my roommate who I guess is pretty enough to kiss but mostly I want to kick. I see Rade and Hanu and Jax.

It’s really sad I know most of these shades by their butts alone. Ugh.

No Saturn.

Frowning, I make my way through the crowded room.

Saturn said he had something to discuss with me, and at three in the morning on a work night, I don’t really want to go wandering through Forest Hills to look for him.

He always sticks close to the place he first drew breath, Saturn. I saw him take that first gasp of air.

It’s not as romantic as it sounds. That first breath came because his full-grown body exploded out of a woman half his size. Lena Saturn. Back when I thought she could be saved.

Jax touches my shoulder when I pass, his brown hand as callused as mine. I return the gesture. His mother was a man called Jack, and I think the x is Jax’s way of making himself a possessive.I’ve yet to meet a shade whose name wasn’t in some way traceable to his mother. The shades call all their hosts mothers, whether they were spawned from a male body or female body or anywhere in between. The ones who gave them life at the expense of their own.

Ain’t nobody living through that.

Rade and Hanu touch my shoulders as I pass them as well, followed by the the others, who stop what they’re doing and reach out to me until my shoulders feel kissed by ghosts. I make sure to return each touch, meeting indigo eyes as I walk. My body never brushes their skin as I move among them. Only their fingertips make contact with me, and only mine make contact with them.

Shade culture. They’re creatures of extreme violence. A gentle touch has evolved into how they say you’re safe. That they expect the same in return from me, well. I don’t know if I should be flattered or frightened.

Then again, I am also a creature of extreme violence.

Carrick finishes talking to Miles. Carrick is a white man with long hair the color of walnut wood. He’s naked as a jaybird and looks even paler next to Miles, who is black with shoulder-length, delicate locs that swish when he moves. Where Carrick is a volcano with long periods of dormancy punctuated by explosions, Miles is steady like the Colorado River. Sometimes I think when the world ends, in the quiet moments when every other being is finally dead, Miles will be the only one left standing, a canyon carved away around him.

I walk among titans these days. Lordy. All except the damn one I want.

“Carrick, where’s Saturn?”

I should expect Carrick’s diffident little shrugs right now, but they still make my toes itch to make contact with his shins. Instead, I gesture at him, impatient.

“Is that a shrug you don’t know, or a shrug you don’t care, or a shrug you don’t think it matters?”

“You know me too well,” Carrick says. His English accent still sounds disingenuous coming from the mouth of a shade, its lilt ever-so-slightly off even to someone used to the speech of Londoners.

That’s probably because his speech is held over from the seventeenth century, and no, I’m not used to that thought yet. He looks like he’s in his mid-thirties. He only acts like he’s twelve.

I wait, looking back and forth between Carrick and Miles. Miles, of course, is unmoved. I do see a crinkle at the corner of his eye where he’s hidden away a smile, though, and the sight steels me to keep my deadpan look for Carrick. After a long pause with only the murmurs of the other shades and the clinking of Nana the Bunny in her cage in the background, Carrick scowls at me.

“He’s at home.”

Fuck. I just got home. I don’t want to leave again.

I look at the clock over my TV. Three seventeen. If I leave now, I might catch Saturn in time to get a whopping five hours of sleep. I make a pit stop to give Nana’s head a scratch and feed her a carrot, her rose-dusty fur as soft as down. When I make my way back through my living room, Hanu and Jax give me a nod goodbye. Miles watches me with indigo eyes that almost glow. His gaze falls on my shoulder, then flickers to the back of Carrick’s head. It’s not until I’m out the door that I understand why.

Carrick’s the only one in that room who sleeps under that roof, and he’s the only one who doesn’t touch my shoulder in greeting.

Forest Hills always makes me jumpy. I blame it on the fact that I took down two slummoths and a jeeling here a few months ago. By “took down,” I mean I limped away from that fight with a palm sliced almost clean through, a festering, demon-poisoned bite on my shoulder, pulled muscles, and a heart that only just was still beating on the right side of my ribcage.

You know.

Memories.

By now, I know where to look for Saturn, and I tread carefully through the underbrush, the sycamores and oaks forming a cathedral in the night above, stars shining like stained glass. More important than the scenery though is the soundtrack. Even in early autumn, the crickets play their little songs, their rhythms syncopated and bright in the darkness.

Their sound is safety.

Norms ain’t the only ones who hate hellkin — and fear them.

Saturn sleeps in the trees. He doesn’t seem to mind gnarly bark digging into his nether bits, so I never pester him about it. Most of the other shades have some sort of shelter, but he likes it here. There’s a tall oak across the clearing he tends to occupy, but even though it’s dark and the yellow-orange leaves — dark grey in the night — obscure the trunk enough to hide him, the pit in my gut says he’s not there.

The night is muggy and clammy in the way only southern nights can be, and the prickle that dances along the skin of my forearms has less to do with that and more to do with the way the crickets have quieted.

It’s not that they’ve stopped — it’s like someone’s been gradually turning the volume knob downward until I’m not sure if it’s me or my surroundings that’s changed.

Except I know better.

My shoulder gives a twitch, as if it can remember that demon’s teeth too well.

Slowly, I unsheathe my swords. One long and curved like Saturn’s rings, one short and stabby.

I listen to the now-distant hum of the crickets, the rustle of the trees. A good stealthy person learns to move with the wind, to let the earth disguise her footsteps.

Demons, thankfully, get an F in stealth.

So why am I now surrounded by silence?

It crawls onward through the night, creeping outward, dulling my senses.

A crash of branches would be welcome.

Slowly, I swivel, turning on a full 360 degrees until I’m sure even the dim stars and sliver of setting moon have shown that I’m alone in the clearing.

A single harkast demon scampers out of a bush. Or rather, scampers about well as anything with legs that short can. Stumpy is the best word to describe these things. My blades stop the hellkin beastie before it takes three steps into the clearing, and then it’s dead. A moment later, I hear a chirp of a cricket. No more demons, so why is my spider-sense still going off?

The wind shifts, and I smell them coming before I hear them.

The scent is hot and smells slightly of ash and metal and life. Shade blood. A lot of it.

I’ve been around them long enough, fought beside them enough to recognize it.

A moment later I hear the crash of bushes and a yell, followed by a gurgle.

I keep my sword points low, hoping the blood’s not Saturn’s and that the voices are friendly. My hope is misplaced. Half of it, anyway.

“Put him there!” an unfamiliar, urgent voice barks.

Then I see them, rounding Saturn’s large oak.

It is Saturn. And the blood is definitely his. Mira Gonzales, another Mediator and tentative friend of mine, helps him lay back against the trunk of the tree. I don’t recognize the morph with them. She moves with sharp, precise competence, pressing her hand against the side of Saturn’s neck, which is the source of the blood.

My feet start moving without me, lurching me forward over the mulch-covered ground. The morph lets out a yell of alarm, but Mira sees me and waves the other woman off.

“Wane, chill. It’s Ayala.”

That’s all Wane seems to need, because her attention snaps back to Saturn so fully that it seems she’s forgotten my existence. I drop to my knees at Saturn’s feet, and I finally get a good look at him in the dim clearing.

Someone sliced through almost two inches of his neck. His left side is gushing blood. It pulses out between Wane’s fingers like oozing lava.

“What happened?” I’ve seen a lot of shit, but this makes me feel like someone’s running their fingertips along the inside of my stomach lining.

Mira’s violet eyes are black in the night, her brown skin turned blue grey, her hair like onyx. It’s then I see the way Saturn’s clutching her hand and the quick, shallow rise and fall of his chest.

His eyes are closed, but his lips form my name.

I scoot up beside Mira, feel the coolness of her presence compared with the heat of Saturn’s fear. He burns like a star instead of a planet.

“He got ambushed. He was on his way home. We were supposed to meet him here and heard the fight.” Mira’s voice is dispassionate, but her fingers clasping Saturn’s aren’t.

“Did you see who did this?” I ask.

“Keen blade to the carotid. Would have finished the job if he hadn’t gotten away long enough to make our presence scare them off. Whoever did this cared more about not being seen than they did about finishing the job.” Wane pipes up, her voice brittle.

“Motherfuckers.” Mira says.

I’m about to say something, but the morph keeps going, ignoring Mira’s expletive.

“He’ll live,” she says. “I can feel him healing. I’m trying to help him along.”

I stretch out my hand and touch it to Saturn’s shoulder. His throat convulses.

Help him along. I forget that morphs can transfer energy. By nature their animal transformations are fueled by some sort of primal woo-woo creation magic — they can manipulate that when they see fit. A lot of them are in health care. From Wane’s clinical choice of words, I think she probably is too.

My body relaxes a bit at her prognosis, exhales breath it had locked in my lungs.

“He said he had something to tell me,” I say.

Mira shrugs. “Whatever it is, it’ll have to wait.”

She’s not wrong about that. Saturn’s not able to say anything right now.

The three of us hold watch over Saturn as the sky slowly lightens with the coming dawn. Finally, the blood flow from his neck slows to nothing, and he sleeps between us, blood drying on his naked form.

By nine in the morning, Saturn is healed enough to move him to Mira’s, and I help Wane and her get him to her car and load him in, leaning the passenger seat back as far as it’ll go. She covers her seats like a good little Mediator, but getting him in the car leaves crackling flakes of his dried blood dusting onto her floor mats, the seat backs, and the center console anyway.

I belt him in while Wane climbs into the back seat. I finally get a good look at her. She’s of medium height and wiry, with short hair that’s the color of old quarters. Her face is unlined, with a strong jaw and light brown skin. Her eyes are grey, and after being surrounded by shades and Mediators for months, the sight is welcome and a little unnerving, a reminder of the norm world I’ve lost track of. The reminder is like a drop of cold water falling out of the air onto my scalp. I’ll have to ask Mira about this morph later.

Mira herself meets my gaze, violet to violet. Her face is unreadable for a long moment, then she gives me a cheeky smile.

“I’ll take care of the invalid. Come over after work.” She cranks up the radio — old school Bonnie Raitt — and waves an impatient hand at me to close the door. Before I do, Saturn reaches out and touches my shoulder with his fingertips, and for the tiniest moment, his indigo eyes flutter open and meet mine.

They drive away, and a wave of relief crests in my middle to know he’ll be okay and that he’s in good hands. Too much death and loss this year already. I can’t bring myself to think about what I’d do if I lost him too.

I hike slowly back to my car, taking a detour to where Mira and Wane found Saturn.

It’s  not hard to find — his blood is still red and heavy, splashed on the trunk of a cottonwood.

After a few moments of finding exactly nothing helpful, I leave.

Whatever Saturn wanted to tell me, I have a feeling I’m not going to like it.

Gwen’s Back! THE MASKED SONGBIRD Returns!

On the eve of Scotland’s referendum for independence, a hero rose in Edinburgh. 

SHRIKECover

 

It’s been a long road, my friends.

This book and I have been through hell. BUT. We have come out the other side of the Fire Swamp, and we are NOT in the belly of an ROUS.

Shrike is back!

It is with a frenetic, dribbly-tear form of glee that I point you toward that link and blubber into your shoulder that the book exists again. Thank you — all of you — for the kindness and support you’ve shown me over the last few months. I’m so thrilled to finally get to share this book with you again.

A request for those of you who already know Gwen and her story: if you previously left a review on Goodreads or Amazon, would you be willing to plunk it on the new Amazon page? I’m not certain that Amazon will allow me to transfer the old version’s reviews to the new edition. I would deeply appreciate the boost that would provide.

Thank you again!

The trade paperback is still in the works, and I’ll keep you updated on when you can expect it! (This is one book I am dying to hold in my hands and sniff, so believe me, I’m on it!)

Love and wedgies,

Emmie