About the Mysterious Rewrite


Anyone I’ve spoken to in the past month knows about my mysterious rewrite. Back in July, I began work on a new, fresh version of a novel you may have read (hint hint: it’s called Dissonance) but, being me, I did not outline at all.

In my experience, letting a novel loose to do whatever it wants is a guarantee that it will look nothing like the original.

Now I am baffled at the parallel: it is a rewrite of Dissonance, but has little in common with Dissonance at all. The characters have different roles, names and backstories. Reflecting on it, I’m not sure what the rewrite has in common with Dissonance.

Perhaps it’s different enough that I can try something that has been nagging me all year – traditional publishing. However, I don’t know when that would be, since The Autumn Prince is still first in line for querying. It could be years: I still have to edit Mysterious Rewrite, and chances are I’ll get impatient and start working on the next books of the series.

I’m surprised as you are with this development. Don’t ask me why I wanted to rewrite so badly – perhaps I knew that certain elements in the Dissonance plot could be focused on and improved. Perhaps I wanted to delve into characters that didn’t get much attention the first time.

Don’t worry about the original series – I still have a Book Three draft somewhere on my computer, and it’s so different from Mysterious Rewrite that I don’t have to abandon it, like I had feared initially.

For now, I’m just going to celebrate that I’ve completed a draft longer than 60,000 words. I’m basking in the job well done and sipping lots of orange juice. I’ll figure out what to do with all my manuscripts later.

Check back for updates when I eventually figure out my path.

The Late Serenade Announcement


My second book, Serenade, has been available on Kindle for a few weeks now, but I didn’t want to write a blog post about it until you could get it on paperback. Now it’s all set up (get your paper copy here!) and I can finally gush about it.

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This is the second book following Allie’s adventures–the second of many books, because I’m not good at coming up with endings. I keep coming up with subplots and different ways to expand on world-building. I’ve been working on Serenade all year; it’s so strange to be holding it as a paper book! It finally feels real.

I had a lot of help from friends and family (hi, Mom!!) Special thanks go to Kristia S. for the lovely cover. Thanks also to my editors, Alex and Sarah. Then there are all the beta readers–some of which even read the book twice–including Syd, Rae, Faith, Phil, Alex (she has been such a great help!) Jennifer and Chris. Briana has also been a great encouragement. I wasn’t able to mention everyone in this blog post, but know I could not have done this alone. You’ve all been very patient with me; I am blessed to have so much support for this journey.

Here’s what the story is about:

Months after her narrow escape from death, Allie feels incomplete. She is weakened by Dissonance, a music-based illness which drains her strength every day; she struggles to feel useful, living a quiet life with her family in their Florida apartment.

As faery tales begin to fall, an unexpected death drives them back to Serenade, a kingdom where many see them as traitors. Facing new responsibilities, Allie must prove she has the strength to be a Muse and finally beat her Dissonance for good.

Read it on your Kindle by purchasing it here! And remember, each time you buy a book, you help me fund my coffee obsession. :D I’m already working on book three! (And a couple more.)

I hope you’ve had a good year, and when you read Serenade, I hope you enjoy it!

-Mariella

On Mermaid Tales & Short Stories


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I may have completed edits for Serenade (which I still expect to release sometime in October,) but that doesn’t mean I’ve stepped away from these characters and their adventures.

It has been a fun week of world-building and character profiling. My personal copy of Dissonance is currently full of sticky notes! They were placed to mark facts I would like to expand on in future books. The first book focused more on characters than setting, leaving plenty of room for creativity in future installments.

In the process of taking notes for backstory and character personalities, I accidentally worked out a rough outline for Book 3. I have always wanted to write a world involving mermaids, and can finally get to that when I work on Allie’s next adventure. With the help of some friends, I have worked out some of mermaid culture, and it’s more complex than I had anticipated.

It would seem backstory is a lot easier to work on than a blurb for Serenade. I will try to have it ready this weekend, though; in the past I have been very good at procrastinating, but want to change that. There will never be a blurb if I don’t sit to type it up.

Another habit I’ve been working on is writing a little every day; a lot of that random fiction has been shared on this blog. It’s a way to control plot bunnies and make sure my Muse doesn’t get bored. Short stories are an interesting new form of writing; I look forward to practicing and getting better. I’ve been reading collections of short stories, starting with a book of Mark Twain’s work, and for Halloween I’m going to try Lovecraft.

How have your stories been treating you? Do you have a specific method for world-building? Do you work on detailed character profiles?

I would love to hear your advice!

On Finishing Serenade & Old Clichés


There is a curious emptiness many writers feel when a project is finally done. I’ve finished editing Serenade, and find myself searching for ways to pass the time—plotting a new novel, or working on my TBR pile.

It’s tempting to keep searching the document for things to edit, but I’ve already made all the changes suggested by my beta readers. I checked for typos and inconsistencies; I mended paragraphs and smoothed out sentences. Any changes I could make now would be for the sake of doing something to the manuscript, which wouldn’t necessarily help it. I have to sit back now and work on something else, because Serenade is as close to ready as it’ll ever be.

There is a point where you know you’ve done all you can for a book, that it can stand on its own, and it’s almost time for a book release. This is an exciting feeling, for sure, but it also brings the emptiness—the sensation that you need to be working on something, writing something. There’s almost a feeling of betrayal—why isn’t your manuscript around to help you anymore?

It’s attachment, it’s habit, and it can be bittersweet. It’s also liberating, because now I can start plotting my next novel.

Thank you for providing support on this journey as I went through the beta rounds, made edits, and even procrastinated work! I don’t know exactly when the book will be out. It’ll probably be in October, because that’s my favorite month (Halloween!)

Also—Serenade is shorter than Dissonance by a couple of chapters, and I feel perfectly okay with that. A struggle I had throughout the writing process was fear of not making it the length I wanted. I read the manuscript this morning, though, and feel that it said what it needed to. It’s not worse because of those couple thousand missing words. Quality over quantity—it’s an old cliché, but a lesson I learned, and a piece of advice I will keep with me whenever I am working on a new book.

How do you deal with the emptiness after you finish writing a project? Are there specific ways in which you pass the free time?

Road to Serenade – Day 1


When you’re a writer, time goes by slowly. Maybe it’s because we play with time in the stories we tell; everything appears bigger and full of mystery.

It feels like years have passed since I started drafting Serenade. I completed the first version in early January, and in the time since then, I’ve learned a lot about writing and the story itself.

I’ve been on a writing hiatus for several weeks, but it’s time to get back to work. Because of the second beta round, I have wonderful feedback to work with. Some friends were patient enough to read the manuscript twice, for the spring and summer beta rounds. I don’t know where I would be without them!

On the first day of edits, I’m going to spend a lot of time rearranging my desk (hahaha…) and figuring out how to organize the critique. Each reader commented on different aspects of the novel, so I got to see it from many perspectives; I realized books take shape depending on the reader.

I’m confident that, once combined, all the feedback will help me turn Serenade into a novel many people will enjoy. I already think it’s better than Dissonance, and the next book will certainly be better than both of them.

I will be blogging as I edit, sharing excerpts and venting frustrations. Thank you for having accompanied me all year as I worked on this new story. I hope you get to read it soon!

Dealing with Manuscript Fright


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Writing a book is one of the most difficult things in the world. Having just finished a novel this week, I feel like it’s the most difficult thing.

Even now that I have an almost-complete draft, putting it away for a month remains a challenge. My mind won’t settle; it keeps insisting that I have one more change to make, a change that can’t wait until my hiatus ends.

To make matters worse, Serenade is a sequel. I have to check the first book, Dissonance, to make sure I don’t publish a sequel with contradictions. Because I’ve spent the last six months editing my work, I can’t even seem to get through my first novel without correcting each sentence, and it’s already published!

Over time, our writing styles change. I don’t hate my writing, though—it’s more complicated than that. Sometimes I come across lovely passages and surprise myself, thinking, “Did I write that?” Other times, I struggle with the impulse to rewrite and edit everything.

In theory, I could rewrite everything—it’s a benefit of being an indie author. That doesn’t make it the right choice, because no matter how many times I rewrite a novel, I will never be satisfied with my own work.

If you’re a writer, you probably won’t be, either. Most writers struggle to recognize our own talent, because we are always comparing ourselves to other authors. It’s a wall we can’t get past.

My voice will never be like Bestselling Author #1. My imagery will never be lyrical like that of Bestselling Author #2. I’d like to forget the feeling that they’re so much more talented than me, but my brain won’t allow it.

The only way to get better at my craft is to practice, ignoring those thoughts.

I keep writing, even though I never feel good enough. I keep writing, even though I can’t see my own progress. I keep writing, because I have stories to tell. I may not be poignant as Bestselling Author #3 now, but I’ll never improve if I give up.

Besides, those bestsellers I compare myself to struggle with this, as well. Most writers are haunted by the very same conflict. In the end, it’s our choice—will we let the ghosts silence us, or will we continue on the storyteller’s journey?

I’ve made my decision. It’s your turn.

Writing Update: The Spontaneous Novella


As I stated in this post, when I am immersed in a writing project my blog suffers. It’s been weeks since my last post; every day I had the intentions of writing a review, since I did quite a bit of reading despite the writing and edits, but there never seemed to be time.

Since my last post, I’ve made a surprising amount of progress with projects. Serenade went through heavy edits and will soon begin the second beta round. Not only that, though—in my free time after I finished the round of edits, I started a novella.

Perhaps I had the story in me for so long that all I needed was an outline to help gain momentum. A couple of weeks after I started the project, I finished with a 41k manuscript. It’s a first draft nobody can read yet, but it was refreshing to know I could start something new and make progress.

It’s related to Dissonance and Serenade—it’s a novella based on the character Meredith, whose backstory is powerful. It seemed fitting to give her a spotlight. I learned how different a character can look when seen through the eyes of another protagonist.

Every writer should try seeing their characters from new angles, discovering strengths and weaknesses. It’s not necessary to write a whole book, but you learn quite a bit by exploring a different perspective for a few paragraphs.

Later I will write a blog post about this. Today I just wanted to update the site so it isn’t so dead—I promise I was doing something productive! There are two manuscripts on the way now.

I hope you’ve had a good summer so far! What books have you enjoyed most over vacation?

Writing Update: On Short Novels


I’m taking another break from editing Serenade, and thought this an appropriate time for an update. I get so caught up in the editing process that I forget to tell people how I’m doing.

I’ve learned many things since editing began, but perhaps the biggest lesson is that my books tend to be short. It’s been a cause of frustration, since I’ve always thought books should be longer as the series progresses (looking at Harry Potter as an example.)

It means I fell into the comparison trap. If the Fallen Faery Tale series winds up being a collection of short, well-written books, I’ll be happy. Future readers will be happy, too!

I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about what to do for my word count to increase. Whenever I focus on my book length, the story quality decreases. Not only that, I stop enjoying  the storytelling process.

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What should I do? I’m going to let the story be. I can’t make a tale longer than it wants to be. It takes away from the magic of writing! Besides, some of the best books written are short.

I’ve created a rule I’m struggling to follow: I’ll only worry about writing the amount of words required to tell a good story. It is not my goal to write a long story, but a good one.

Don’t get me wrong—long books are wonderful, too. I just haven’t come up with a plot that could comfortably stretch into one. There are some plot bunnies whispering “it’ll be me!” but I’m refusing to look at them yet, as they would become distractions.

My goal right now is to release Serenade. I’ve been working hard, which is why my blog lost momentum in the last two weeks. It’s all for a good cause.

Until Serenade is ready, why not give Dissonance a try? Find it here!

3 Ways to Heal Through Storytelling


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The storytelling process is often described as healing; it lets us explore situations on a deeper level. There’s nothing like uncovering heartbreak, letting wounds heal in fresh air; however, it takes courage to bare your soul in a way that’s often public and raw.

Even truths told in allegory can be difficult for the person saying them. Readers see an eloquent passage, but the storyteller knows what it means. Many are afraid to express themselves through writing, because it’s often too powerful.

Sometimes it isn’t done on purpose. After publishing Dissonance, I looked at scenes I’d written and marveled at how personal they felt. I’m not dealing with the same situation as Allie, but truth slipped through the cracks about my greatest struggle at the time I was writing it.

I would elaborate on this, but it would spoil Dissonance and I want you to read it! To keep it short, storytelling heals—it’s not just a cliché. If true, the words come from your soul; you never know what’ll come to the surface of your manuscript.

You might be nervous about writing for this reason alone, and it’s understandable. Here are three tips for people who want to use storytelling to heal. I hope you try, because the struggle is worth it.

 

KEEP A FICTION JOURNAL.

If you’re struggling with the past, someone might already have told you to write in a journal—so I’m going to take it a step further. Keep a journal where you write fiction. There is truth in fiction, though many scoff at it for being fake.

The fact is, you might find more truth in fiction than traditional diary entries. Fiction allows us to push boundaries, expressing truths the way our hearts see them. With fiction, we have no limitations at all.

 

BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF.

Don’t force a story if you aren’t feeling it—that just adds to the stress. Unless you’re on a deadline, there’s no hurry to get the chapter polished. This story is meant to help you heal, and no one may ever read it but yourself. You’re doing it for you.

Besides, writing is rarely good when forced. Set small goals, and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t reach them. What matters is that you make the effort, because over time you’ll craft a story, and the effort will pay off!

 

AVOID SETTING LIMITATIONS.

In a first draft, you’re allowed to break the rules. Play with genres to find one that lets you express yourself best. It’s also fine to have fun and combine several. The point is to get your message on paper so you can see the big picture.

What we want is to understand ourselves; no one is the same, so our work can take any shape or size. Since you don’t have to publish this piece, allow it to be different—even if only you understand it!

 

The most powerful stories are based on real emotion. A lot of people think telling the truth means crossing a line that shouldn’t be touched; in reality, there might be readers experiencing struggles similar to yours. Over time, you might write the story they relate to best, helping them cope in a personal way.

Remember, though: This writing should exist to help you, the storyteller. Don’t rush it for the sake of fame. Your masterpiece will come when it’s ready; it’ll be worth the grueling, often painful process of putting words on paper.

Let’s fill the world with writings of truth; nothing is more original than the story you’re living now.

The Start of Serenade Beta


Well, guys–it’s begun.

Earlier this year I completed a draft of Serenade coherent enough to show other people, but since it’s still a little rusty, it’s time to enter the beta reading phase. What is beta reading? It means I find people I trust who are willing to give me some of their time in order to help make Serenade the best it can be.

This is a frightening phase for the writer. I’m second-guessing every scene I wrote and was proud of; I’m afraid the characters are unrealistic or that the entire storyline will come off as a joke. When I slip into moments of such panic, I have to remind myself that beta readers are here to help mend any such errors. I have to trust that they’ll help make this book into a diamond.

It hasn’t been a year since I published Dissonance, and already I am weaving together the next adventure for my beloved characters. Serenade still won’t be out for a while (and there’s the possibility of a title change by the time all this is finished.) Using the notes my beta readers take, I’ll be working on it again in the autumn and arranging for publication in the winter.

I remember when four years ago I wanted nothing but to be an author. Now I am, and it never really gets easier, but with friends to help and support me–as well as the lovely reviews I get, even honest ones!–it’s totally worth it.

While beta readers tackle Serenade, I’m working on a few other projects, including my next blog serial expected to launch in the summer, and musehollow–a collection of shorter fiction. I want to learn to write good stories, short stories, and poetry. Yesterday I published the first musehollow tale here!

I’m living the dream–even the editing, the work, is part of the dream. Thanks for being with me through all of this, and I can’t wait until you can read Serenade too!

 

Giveaway Story #3: Tears of a Daemon


Read the other stories–In the Silence and The Sailor’s Son!

Learn more about the giveaway here!

This is my personal favorite. I hope you enjoy it!

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Tyson had always preferred going places on foot, seeking open space as if it could help him control the strange power within him. For as long as he could remember, he’d felt an explosive in his chest instead of a heart, fire pulsing through his veins even in the calmest of times.

In closed spaces he was an even bigger threat. If that explosive in his chest went off in the house, there was no chance of people running. In the house, Tyson always kept a distance from his family—knowing it wouldn’t help forever.

And yesterday he’d finally lost control. Now that his life was over, he looked at his reflection in the car window and saw what he truly was: A daemon.

I hate cars, he thought, tracing patterns on the window. When Tyson doodled without thinking, he always wound up creating tongues of fire like the one that ended his life.

It smelled like lavender in this car, but Tyson suspected his presence was corrupting it with the odor of smoke. He didn’t know why the strange man with the silver car was so keen on helping him. He’d found Tyson in a shoddy old neighborhood, looking for an abandoned place to hide. He’d been looking for a shack where no one would find him unless they followed his trail of smoke.

The man’s wife hadn’t protested to letting Tyson into their spotless car. In fact, she practically shoved him in the back with their son who, though he said nothing aloud, watched the daemon with his nose in the air.

If they were hauling him to an orphanage, Tyson would find a way to escape. He couldn’t afford exploding again in the presence of other children. He dared hope, vaguely, that they would offer him some food before leaving him to charity. Tyson was already a daemon, it made no difference if he stole a cheeseburger from them before vanishing into thin air.

The blonde woman in the passenger seat turned, holding out a pile of neatly folded clothes. “These are for you,” she whispered.

She had knowing blue eyes. Tyson sensed that her words would have calmed anyone else like healing water, but he couldn’t bear to get wet. His world was one of sulfur, ash thickening his memory; smoke blurred the details, leaving only the ache of self-hatred and rejection.

Daemon, they had always called him; now he knew it was true.

He took the clothes selfishly, even though he knew he’d ruin them when he ran away. The thought brought him a pang of guilt, for something in her eyes made him trust her even though they were opposites—she with her soul of healing water, while his was of smoke and death.

The man who was driving found Tyson days before. He proceeded to ask questions about why Tyson was alone, where his parents had gone, why he was in such a bad neighborhood. The daemon knew better than to say the truth: That he’d been looking for a place to haunt, the prison where he’d live the remainder of his life.

This man persisted, finding him again and coaxing him into the car. He even brought his family the second time, perhaps in case he needed to wrestle Tyson to the ground. The daemon fixed his gaze on the clothes; if he looked into that woman’s eyes, her kindness would shake his resolve.

You don’t have to tell us what happened,” the man said as he drove. “Not yet. But we want to help.”

He had the accent of a foreigner—Italian, Tyson guessed—but his wife spoke like an American. The boy sitting next to him hadn’t said a word; he was the only person in this car treating Tyson as he deserved, like a criminal.

Should Tyson tell them what happened? He wasn’t ready to recount it, not yet, not while the echo of his sister’s dying screams fresh in his mind. Not with smoke still blurring his eyes, unwanted tears he deserved.

He closed his eyes, succumbing to the dreaded memory.

*

She’d been playing in the attic, where Father built her a dollhouse with wood from the forest behind their home. He was a talented toymaker; that dollhouse had lined pillars, a thatched roof, lace curtains…

Tyson!” she had screamed down the stairs. “I can’t reach Emma!” Emma was her favorite doll, the one she venerated like a real person.

The boy made a frustrated sound. He’d been trying to finish his charcoal drawing, his hands black from the stick he was using. Normally he helped her reach things on the shelf, but he’d been utterly absorbed in the piece…

Use your stool, Hailey,” he retorted, making a thick and pronounced line of charcoal across the sketchbook page.

She must have tried using the stool but failed, because a brief pause ensued. Then she shouted again, “Tyson!”

Another pronounced line. “I’m busy.”

TY—”

His stick of charcoal slid off the page, leaving a smudge on the tablecloth. Mother would kill him for that. Tyson felt a wave of fear and anger creep over his body, and the dark energy in his soul slipped from his control.

Suddenly the house smelled of smoke…

*

What’s your name?” the woman in the passenger seat whispered.

Tyson’s hands were trembling; he needed to leave the car before he killed an entire family. “No one needs to know,” he said through his teeth, peering out the window at the shadowy English road. “I want to get out.”

You aren’t going anywhere,” said the man. “We know what you are.”

Then why am I in your car?” Tyson shouted, exploding for the first time since the man found him. “Why would you want a daemon in your car?”

Yes,” said the blonde boy suddenly, breaking his silence. He spoke carefully in even tones, like a professor or a general. “Why is that, Giulino?”

Julian,” the man snapped. “Be kind, Peter, or say nothing.”

You aren’t a daemon,” the woman added, turning in her seat to fix Tyson with those eyes. “You’re a Changeling, and there are ways to control—”

It’s too late for that!” Tyson realized he was sobbing between words. “What’s the point controlling myself when I already killed my sister?”

He felt Peter inch away.

Because you didn’t mean to,” said the man—Julian, Giulino, whatever—“because you didn’t ask for these abilities, and they don’t have to be bad.”

My sister is dead!” Tyson shouted. “Because of me! She’s dead!”

The woman’s eyes clouded over. He feared for a moment he’d made her cry, but her words were steady. “It was a terrible accident,” she whispered. “It’s never going to stop hurting, but you deserve a new life.”

No,” he choked, “you should kill me.”

We are going to love you,” she told him, almost a command. He broke into tears just then, lacking the willpower to argue. He turned to the window, unable to stop the tears sliding down his cheeks—water instead of fire—misery instead of anger.

Daemon, they’d called him since he was a baby. Mother always said it; Father refused to make him toys, because he feared Tyson’s red eyes. No one had ever loved him like they did his sister; this woman must be an angel if she could love a daemon.

He closed his eyes, allowing this family to take him away. He shouldn’t be allowed to make his own decisions. If they refused to send this daemon to jail, he would succumb to their control.

Peter’s shoulders relaxed; perhaps it settled his nerves to see Tyson cry. He clasped his hands in his lap, addressing the daemon for the first time: “What’s your name?”

A sob escaped him. “Tyson,” choked the daemon, hating the sound of his name, how the T came powerfully like an explosion. “My name is Tyson Rakes.”

You’re one of us now, Tyson,” the man at the wheel said, looking at him in the rear-view mirror. “And we’re going to help you control your ability.”

Tyson said nothing. They might help him learn to control his ability, but nothing would erase the guilt from in his firecracker heart. They drove into the night, leaving him to wallow in miserable silence.

He was tempted to reply and say Good luck helping a daemon.


Question #3: Why is Tyson crying?

Giveaway Story #2: The Sailor’s Son


Here is the second story for the Dissonance giveaway! (If you just found out about this and want to know details about how to win, click here!) Reads for the first story and responses to that question still count, you can find it here!

Thanks for joining me, and I hope you enjoy! Again, here is the lovely graphic explaining simply how to win!

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David West had given his old denim jacket good use. He never explained his attachment to the thing, but now it was battered and threadbare. The material was too soft and it smelled of the ocean, testament to the times Peter spent with his father out on the boats.

Peter hounded his dad to get a new jacket countless times, especially when the buttons began to come off. Now he was the one wearing it.

He picked at the last remaining button he’d secured to the cuff with extra thread. Memory of that hounding filled him with regret. Not long ago this jacket was a cause of embarrassment, but after David’s death, Peter picked up many habits he had once despised.

He still didn’t understand Dad’s attachment to the jacket, but it didn’t matter. Peter sometimes thought he would die wearing it; sometimes he fell asleep wearing it, though his father’s scent was long gone. It kept him warm where his father’s embrace once did, this ratty jacket he’d once despised.

Just like Dad, he refused to part with it, even when Enna offered to buy him a new one.

Road trips made it too easy to get caught up in sad memories. They were headed to the plantation, and had been on the road for several hours. Last time they visited, Peter hadn’t left the car. It had been too soon after the accident; he couldn’t marvel at Julian’s magical world without Dad in it.

A year had passed and Peter wasn’t sure he believed the things Julian told him. More than that, he wasn’t sure if he disbelieved on purpose for the sheer delight of exasperating the Muse—like last week, when he finally lost his patience.

We were friends before,” Julian cried last week, “and you believed me! Why would I lie to you now?”

Peter hadn’t responded. In the past he’d accepted Julian’s tales because David never questioned them.

Dad’s not coming back, said the voice in Peter’s head he hated. It’s time to make your own judgments.

He tuned it out, letting the monotonous crunch of tires on pavement numb his mind into silence.

Before long they’d turned up a driveway, heading for a sprawling plantation with creamy yellow walls. The air around it appeared to shimmer with power Julian said was present—proof the Muse was not lying, proof Peter refused to accept.

But Dad’s not coming back.

Are you awake back there?” Enna asked over her shoulder.

He could not be mad at her. Julian was easy to snap at, but his wife only tried to be a friend. “Yeah,” Peter replied.

She peered at him with a faint smile. “You’re quiet.”

Peter shrugged and nodded to the book next to him. It told of explorers who conquered the ocean; it spoke of ships and brave captains who sailed them. One of Dad’s books—his name was written on the front page, David James West.

A sad glint darkened Enna’s smile when she turned away. She didn’t drag on the conversation, giving him space like she promised on the morning after the accident. Peter liked her, but wasn’t sure about her husband. The Muse had once been his best friend; now there was a chasm between them, and it was probably of Peter’s making.

Julian broke the silence, asking a tentative question: “Do you want to go in? I imagine there’ll be lunch.”

Peter imagined what his dad would say—We’re going inside, boy, you haven’t eaten all day. It’s rude to hide in the car. Julian never did that, keeping his distance as if scared of Peter, who would fight if the Muse told him what to do.

This time Julian hadn’t ordered him in, asking if he wanted to. Peter did feel rather hungry, so he replied: “Yes, I do.”

The Muse raised both eyebrows in surprise at the sound of Peter’s voice. He exchanged a glance with his wife. Peter bit the inside his cheek; they made him feel like a badly behaved puppy who’d finally learned a trick.

You’ll like it in there,” Enna promised. “The architecture is beautiful. They have a lot of sailing relics, too,” she added as an afterthought, triggering in him a rare spark of interest.

Peter hadn’t gone sailing since the accident. He tried filling the void with books about sailors, but words on a page did no justice to the freedom he felt at sea. Seeing maritime objects in person might fill the void a little.

God, he missed his dad.

How should we behave?” Enna asked her husband, as he switched the car off. “Are we in mourning?”

Peter remembered the baffling announcement Julian made earlier that week. One of the twins who lived in the plantation had gone missing. She vanished without a trace; none of the search parties had any luck to this day.

Julian tapped at the steering wheel, torn. “Perhaps it’s best to only speak of Georgiana if she’s brought up.”

It’s still her house, though. Wouldn’t it be rude to pretend nothing happened?”

Peter listened, sliding the book into his backpack. He’d never met the twins, because the last time they came he’d been hiding in the car. However, he sensed a supernatural sadness in the glimmering fields. The Van Meteren plantation was in mourning.

Let’s not make it the dominant topic, darling,” said Julian, taking her hand. “I’m sure by now he’s had plenty of guests give condolences, not knowing for sure if she’s dead.”

Enna nodded with a sigh, holding his gaze as if searching for stability. Peter watched, torn. He’d always harbored the guilt of an intruder, having joined them six months after their wedding. They had a magic bond stronger than marriage, one he’d never understand.

Dad knew about this bond. When Peter asked about it, he said Enna saved Julian’s life. He was careful to cloak the details, as if masking a crime.

Let’s go, then,” Enna said, turning to Peter with the smile she always had for him. “I’m sure they’ll let you explore.”

Explore. He almost smiled, egged on by the word he’d read so many times in his book. It might not be an ocean and he wasn’t in a boat, but he needed an adventure.

He slung the backpack over his shoulder and followed them up the sidewalk. It smelled like roses and rainwater, though the ground was dry. The calendar said it was July, but the weather was mild for the south.

As if reading Peter’s mind, Julian said, “We aren’t in Alabama anymore. We’re in a place called Bonifay.”

He knocked at the front door, assuming a confident gait he always wore when meeting other Muses.

Perhaps it was the Muse’s confidence, but this time Peter didn’t question his claim. If Julian said they’d taken a left turn into a different universe, Peter didn’t need evidence. His life was chaotic to begin with.

The door opened a heartbeat later. Peter tried to look dignified in his ratty jacket. Lear Van Meteren looked like he’d left a corporate meeting, complete with a red necktie, hands clasped behind his back.

Ah,” he said, gray eyes flashing, “Giulino, welcome back—”

Julian,” the other man corrected him as they shook hands. When Lear raised an eyebrow, he explained, “I had to change it. I couldn’t keep on with…the other name.”

I see,” said Lear, words meditative. He glanced at Peter, who shifted uncomfortably, then turned to Enna. “I assume your name has remained the same, Mrs. Alzarsi?”

She smiled, the sadness in her face replaced with pride. “It is,” she said, accepting his handshake daintily. “Thank you for having us…” Peter could hear her unspoken words: Even though your daughter is missing.

If Lear heard them he didn’t respond, instead barking over his shoulder, “Meredith! Hurry down and say hello.”

Peter frowned, thinking it a harsh tone to use on one’s daughter. Then a girl he assumed to be Meredith hurried down the winding stairs and he lost his train of thought. Graceful and blonde, something about her energy distracted him.

She curtsied and greeted the guests with enthusiasm to counter her father’s steely distance.

Meredith!” Enna cried, embracing her. “What a delight to see you again!”

Meredith turned to Peter with eyes of curious blue. He realized his hands were sweaty; he did not know how to greet her. He could only nod, because his hands were too clammy for a handshake.

He thought with distant embarrassment that yes, Julian’s words were true. This had to be another universe because her smile changed something inside of him. For the first time in over a year, he didn’t think of his dead father or his ratty clothes or even sailing.

She’d changed something in him, and perhaps one day he’d find out what.


Question #2: What tragedy has befallen the plantation?