I finally hemmed a pair of pants that I’ve worn pinned up with safety pins for eight or nine years now.

I did an absolutely awful job, but at least I won’t have to feel the click-click of safety pins against my shoes next time I wear them. That will only happen with the other pairs of pants that have also been safety-pinned for five-plus years.

Nothing left but hooks and some wire

I feel like I’m moving.

This is what the doors into my office looked like a few months ago, when I finished Stars Fall Out. I’ve been reading and analyzing my draft, making plans for the revision, and spreadsheeting the hell out of everything.

One by one, I’ve taken down my first draft scene cards as I get ready to make my changes. I keep thinking of that line from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, that all he left were some hooks and some wire. It’s like a physical manifestation of the process of separating from the first draft. I found a lot of stuff I liked on my read-through (all my characters are grumpy, except the antagonist, of course), but there’s also plenty of work to do.

I kind of want to start the next book already just so I can put up more colorful cards.

I carried Touching from a Distance around in my backpack for most of my senior year of high school, and even I don’t think this needs to exist.

I’ve seen a lot of rainbows this summer.

It’s been especially fun when they show up because we’re watching a lot of 80s cartoons lately, and the biggest lesson we’ve learned is that rainbows are the gold standard in fighting evil, fascism, dark magic, people who hate fun, and people who live in castles that are very dark and pointy.

An Unexpected Song from a Faraway Place

This is the last of the excerpts I’m posting for Stars Fall Out, and it’s one of the earliest in the book.

My main character steals a magic vial with the power to instantly travel from one place to another via any natural body of water, and soon starts spending a lot of her free time doing just that.

It’s an escape, and an addictive one.

Her routine doesn’t vary much: wake up, work at family bakery, be escorted home by secret husband. And so, the other characters start noticing quickly, starting with her friend, a glass merchant who takes the university magic test every single day, even though it’s supposed to test innate ability.

It wasn’t until well after I wrote this that I hammered out the details of how, exactly, she stole the vial. In the rewrite of this scene, she’s going to be much, much more nervous.

Clapping came from the window table. “I didn’t know baking could be an athletic event.”

Pinuar had come in, and I hadn’t heard the bell.

“The usual, please, after you’ve had a chance to catch your breath.”

I turned away and chewed my enormous bite of sausage braid as quickly as I could. How long had he been there? There was no way to ask without revealing the depth of my embarrassment, and so I set to getting his [usual order].

“That was an interesting song,” he said as I put down the food and took his money. “Unexpected.”

I didn’t immediately realize what he was talking about.

My blankness must’ve showed. “The one you were humming during your performance.”

I struggled to remember blur of the last few hours. Realization smashed like a shipwreck. The song from the city camped outside the city. The song I had picked up in a place that, still, was a total mystery to me. I had been humming like a deranged person as I whirled between the three recipes.

Relax, I told myself. He was only making conversation. “I suppose it helps the work go by faster.”

Pinuar sipped his cinnamon tea and peeled back a layer of his roll. “You seemed fast enough.” He shrugged. “But the Suong aren’t allowed in your city, and I know you’ve rarely left.”

Never. I had never left, not until last night, and I hadn’t known until now that I had been in a Suong encampment. I went back to the counter to fetch Pinuar a napkin, my mind spinning useless circles around my imbecilic slip-up.

Peeling back another layer, he dunked the roll in his tea. “Where did you pick it up? Songs don’t have the legs to travel on their own.”

Of all the things to ask. I decided to tell what was probably the truth. “Oh, I picked it up from a Suong. One with the legs to sneak into places.” With just a hint of lie thrown in. “Nirsuathu isn’t exactly air-tight.”
Pinuar smiled. “Very true.”

I decided to change the subject. “Taking the magic test again tomorrow?”

“Oh, yes. I’ve been practicing.”

In Case You Didn’t Get My Previous Message

Aside from some excerpts concerning the magic vial, most of my snippets from Stars Fall Out haven’t dealt with the magic in the book.

Many of the scenes I could’ve posted are too spoilery, and in fact, this one might be as well. But it showcases something that comes up a lot in the second half of the book: the oneiromantic messenger bird, as manifested by Master Zanhrori.

In this world, there are dedicated oneiromancers whose only job it is to pass messages with these birds. They are often looked down upon as a cross between a secretary and a mail carrier, two professions involving skills that aren’t always visible on the surface. The same goes for those who send messenger birds.

On his way back down, the paper and smoke bird hit him in the chest. He grabbed it reflexively before he realized what it was, then frowned at the crumpled thing in his hand.

“Let’s see,” he said, and held it up without opening it. “’Piro, Piro, Piro—’”

“He wouldn’t write your name three times.”

“No, I suppose not.” He held up the messenger bird and began again, “’Pirohleko. I hope this finds you well. If you are able, please bring five dozen loaves of Nirsuathan seed bread. Snoo will take nothing else. Please make sure that Tyatavar knows where she is going, even though I have already gone over this with her. And fix your hair. Signed, Zanhrori.’”

Then Piro shoved it in his pocket, and we returned to the sort of behavior that had been costing us time for the last while. We were gazing into each other’s eyes in what was likely a quite sickening fashion when the second messenger bird came.

I slapped my neck, thinking it to be some sort of enormous insect.