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Dear Amazon

Dear Amazon,

Yesterday, you told me that Rings of Anubis could be had for $4! Well that’s deal, I thought, and I went to look at the page, thinking I would advertise the sale to my five readers. Only, when I got to the page, I saw the book was no longer part of Prime, and that Amazon was not, in fact, the seller.

Huh.

I wrote to my publisher, asking if the book was going out of print — it was the only thing that made sense at the time, that perhaps only used copies were now available. (It’s not the case.) While I waited for a reply, a poked around the page a little more and discovered that there was still an Amazon option for buying the book, further down the page and for more money, where someone who has already seen a $4 deal is probably not going to wander.

Well, that’s bullshit, I thought. My publisher wrote back and said, “it can happen.” Talk about some shrug emoji.

I asked my online writing group about it, and was pointed to this article from Publisher’s Weekly, and then later found this other piece PW did. Apparently it’s a thing you do, Amazon, and apparently it’s not going away.

I asked my publisher what could be done about it, and it’s still radio silence on that front. What can we do about this, Amazon?

Reading more online though, it makes me wonder how this random seller got copies of my books. I have a guess, but haven’t been able to confirm it.

Hundreds of copies of Rings of Anubis were donated by my publisher to a fundraiser built on geeks and their works. Super cheap books for someone — anyone — to buy, to support this charity and their humanitarian efforts around the world. The author sees no royalties from such a donation, or the sales that follow. And people who buy those books can do anything with them, including resell them on Amazon. Is this what happened? I don’t know.

What I do know is, Amazon, I will likely see no income from those copies sold on your platform. Rings of Anubis was not a bestseller; it had no marketing support and no big fanbase; the book has all of 16 reviews in its four years of life. Rings of Anubis is nothing in the scheme of publishing. But it was my debut novel, so means something to me even though it was a failure. It was a story that Apokrupha believed in and wanted to see the conclusion of (book five comes out soon! Book six, the end, is nearly written!).

Amazon, you are engaged in a seriously dishonest business practice and you’re probably cackling because there’s not much I, a super tiny author, can do to change it. But maybe readers can. They can stop supporting your bullshit practices that cut the author out of the equation. They can support their local independent booksellers, who understand that without authors, there are no books.

Fuck you, Amazon. Fuck you for doing this to me and countless others.

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Groove

Francesca Woodman, photograph

Francesca Woodman

Two weeks ago, I slipped down the stairs — because who doesn’t love doing that, really — and bruised my tailbone. The bruises have only just shown themselves, and it was kind of a relief to see them, and say “oh hey, that really did happen, and I’m not quite nine hundred and three years old after all.”

I suppose I’m bad when it comes to believing in things unseen, sorry Jesus.

I started this blog a week ago, with its title, and now I’m like “Well, what the heck was I going to talk about,” and I’m pretty sure it was this: I wrote eight days in a row on the sixth F&M book (clearly a groove), and made a ton of progress, while also moderately liquefying my brain in the process. Last weekend was writing; this weekend just past was for recovery (which apparently involved a lot of Expanse episodes — they’ve entered book three, where things get INtense. It also involved Solo with my peeps — I thought it was a great escape, very fun).

I used to think that writers had to write every day. I don’t find that to be useful any more — though your mileage may vary. For me, I fill up, I write, my brain gets empty, and then I fill back up so I can put out again (dirty).

Of course, now it’s hard to sit for long periods of time. I find myself needing to stand and move a little more, lest my black and blue behind get very angry with me. This results in finding another kind of groove, the one where you put Madonna on the turntable and relive your youth.

But then Madonna helps fill that well, too, and the book words rush back and you’re excited over structure and mothers and daughters and grandmothers and you think, if you are very-impossibly lucky, you will be able to pull the book out of your head and put it onto the paper exactly as you see it.

Do you know how rare that is?

Will it happen?

We don’t know! I hope the suspense lasts!

But it sure has been going well so far. I never love the middle of novels, but this one is flying and singing, and maybe it’s because it’s the last book, that all the worries have fallen away, and maybe it’s because I know the characters so well now that they just do their thing when I’ve got them on the page. These books have taught me a lot.

As I write F&M #6, the fifth book is soon to launch — I’ve seen the cover art for The Quartered Heart and it’s beautiful and you will not love it as much as I do, but I hope you will look at it and believe it is a book you need to read. TQH is about love and loss, it’s about discovery, and how success can feel very much like failure. It is about losing, and picking yourself up and carrying on anyhow. It is a book about life, the universe, and some very angry jackals.

Soon.

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Weight

I used to really enjoy lifting weights. There’s something comforting about it, which… I know that sounds weird. But it feels good to have moved iron around. And to look at me, you’d certainly never think oh my this lady likes going to the gym, but I used to — until all the other weight I was carrying kind of lodged me in place.

By weight, I mean everything I’m doing — I looked back at my previous post here, and had a come to Jesus talk with a couple of friends, and there’s a plan going forward, but it’s scary, because that’s what the unknown does best, right. There is an abyss out there and the only way across is via clever metaphors that people may never read or understand..erm.

In weightlifting, you don’t put the heavy plates on first, of course. You work your way up to them. Sometimes, as you increase weight, you can only do one rep at this new, heavier weight, but that possibly marks a personal best, given you’ve never hit that weight before. Still, that weight may also be too much; you might not be there yet. You may never get there.

But you look at the others in the gym, adding plates and squatting 300 and you think damn that looks awesome and you wonder why you aren’t doing that, why you can’t do that, and remind yourself that all bodies are different, and that yours is unique because it’s not as strong in places as it used to be, so you lift much less, and watch as others lift even moar, and have support in doing so (stronger thighs and backs, back braces, and wrist guards and spotters and and and).

Is this a metaphor? Is this weightlifting alluding to something else entirely?

And what’s with the Fionna and Cake picture, Elise, really? (I love Fionna and Cake, c’mon, but also you know who they almost are — the stars of the show — yet they’re not that, but still are comfortable being who they are, because they have the support of everyone who also isn’t the star of the show and — God, what’re you even talking about at this point…)

Watching everyone else is part of the problem. Someone can lift 300 because they’ve trained to lift 300, and maybe you feel like you should be at that level because how many years have you been training? But you still can’t do it.

Some backs aren’t meant for that kind of weight.

So you look at the weight you can carry, and the additional weight you have been trying to bear, and you figure out what has to be set aside before you can actually move forward, before you can be not lodged in place.

You wonder, who will I be without this burden I have been trying to carry? Who will I be with a smaller bundle on my back?

And it’s probably terrifying, but look, you can walk straighter without it.

Adventure Time,
C’mon grab your friends,
We’re going to very distant lands…

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The Well, Actually

I first met Anne Lamott in the 90s, via her book Bird by Bird. Someone told my mom about the book and she said she wanted to get it for me, because it was about writing. We gleefully crossed paths with the hardcover (in a bookstore! gasp!) some weeks later, and brought a copy home. It is a book I return to so frequently that its spine has begun to split.

One thing from the book I hold tightly to is the idea that writer’s block doesn’t really exist (your experience may be different, of course, as we are all different humans). It’s more that the creative well inside ourselves runs empty, and we have to allow it to fill again before we can put anything else onto a page. I find this true in my work, that if I haven’t taken something in, I can’t put something out. Lately it feels like there isn’t enough time to take anything in.

This isn’t to say that I’ve been lax — I’ve seen Infinity War, after all, so Important Works are being consumed. I’ve recently finished Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit and A Human Stain by Kelly Robson; I’ve started reading The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton.

I’ve read a writer friend’s drafted manuscript; I’ve read a writer friend’s drafted script; I’ve pondered a writer friend’s poems; I’m taking care of my mom as her memory continues to degrade; I’ve edited stories for an anthology I’m joint editing; I edited stories for Shimmer and those are endless, aren’t they; I formatted the May Shimmer not once but twice because of scheduling conflicts; I assembled the cover design for the May Shimmer; I’ve read an excessive amount of slush and we’re still not caught up.

I edited 60k words of manuscripts for my main freelance gig; I’ve explained exactly why plagiarism isn’t allowed; I’m reading another 200 pages of manuscript for another freelance gig; I have an edit to handle for a Kickstarter reward; I handled three other edits for other Kickstarter rewards; I’m figuring out why the hell the hood over the stove suddenly doesn’t work and oh it’s just the dumb solder on the light that doesn’t allow it to sit flush and actually illuminate; I’m trying not to scowl at the Mormons who broke my doorbell, but c’mon man; I added almost 11k to the Anubis manuscript in April…what.

I’m a little staggered by that last fact there — I didn’t expect that number to be anywhere near that high. I’ve felt very empty when it’s time to work on my own shit; some days, it doesn’t happen, I’m not gonna lie. Some days, you open the file and have nothing to give. Some days, maybe you don’t even get to open the file.

Some days, though, you open the file and add 500 words. Maybe it turned out to only be a session of plotting, of getting people out of a metaphorical corner. Maybe it was 50 words and no more.

Those words add up, though. Small chunks? Keep going.

At writing group, I suggested we talk about everything we’ve accomplished in the time since we last met. I think it’s easy to look at our work and say “omg look at everything I haven’t done.”

Okay, but look at everything you did.

If literally all you’re doing is queuing up video games when you get home and losing yourself for days, then maybe we need to reconsider our choices, but I sure as heck have been exploring Assassin’s Creed Origins when I have bits of time. You could have been writing during that time, someone is thinking right this very second. And no, I don’t think I could have been.

Wells need refilling.

Sometimes that means you need to go pet cats in ancient Egypt.

Neko Atsume, Egypt edition

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Not Always Graceful

Goodbyes aren’t always graceful.

You can’t always plan for them.

Sometimes we know.

Sometimes they come out of left field and sock you in the face like a baseball.

If you haven’t seen Infinity War, you may want to skip this entry. I have no idea what I’m going to say, but suspect a spoiler might leap up and grab you when we least expect it.

Mostly, the movie has me thinking about goodbyes, and how we aren’t always given the space or time to properly process them. This movie ends with a cliffhanger, if you want to call it that. I would call it a pause, because we know there will be more Avengers films. We know certain characters will be returning.

We can also guess about two or three who may not.

But the end of the movie puts a lot of things on hold, leaves a lot of storylines without resolution. I’m okay with that, because it made things feel more real. For all the aliens and super powers, for all the portals and witty quips, the end of the movie feels real, because there’s no time to breathe or to understand what we just saw.

It doesn’t make sense. Death is like that.

It isn’t fair. Death is like that.

It makes you want to scream. Death is like that.

Two stories hit me hardest here — oh hey, here come the spoilers, I can feel it.

First, Gamora. If I have to see or read about another man who said “I love you,” and then killed the woman he just said that to, I’m probably going to hurl the world into the sun, It’s too real. And here I was just advocating that the end of the movie was real so I was okay with that.

But watching another woman get fridged so a dude can complete his Utterly Nonsense Plan?

Were we supposed to be shocked that Thanos actually did love her? Was Gamora’s surprise intended to foster ours? It only made me angry, watching him cry over her, over knowing that he was about to kill her to make the universe a “better place.” Fuck that.

Second, Peter Parker. The movie opens with Tony having dreamed that he and Pepper were pregnant; the movie opens with Tony feeling it’s time to be a dad. The movie ends with Peter turning to ash in Tony’s arms, after Tony has, perhaps unintentionally, spent the movie being a dad to him.

I can’t even with that. Even though we know Peter’s coming back (hi, movie contracts). But. BUT. Even as I can’t, I CAN, because apparently I contain multitudes. If time is reset, and they remember this timeline, how does that change who they are going forward? If the reset button erases memories, that will mean this film was a waste.

Goodbyes aren’t always graceful. Those on screen, in a book, or in real life. I’ve had people vanish without warning. They may as well have turned to ash in my hands. Some of those people never came back. A few of them did and I’m never ever letting them go again.

No matter all the magic and wonder and portals and pryotechnics, goodbyes are sloppy and imperfect, and so is Infinity War. So though it makes me angry, I think I understand it.

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Say the Thing

Writing can be really weird, right?

In my current WIP, I’m alternating points of view for my chapters, which means that at some points of the plot, I’m not in what I think must be the ideal POV for the moment — and as I keep writing, I continue to discover that I’m entirely wrong, and that the POVs I’m using are layery and flexible so as to accommodate what I’m doing, because what I’m doing impacts everyone there, so…

This moment is Eleanor’s, so why am I in Virgil’s POV?! But then I noodle around with Virgil and Something Reveals Itself, and everything is really layered and Doing Things and well, okay.

Sometimes, we need to chill out and let the brain do the thing. At some point, you trust the process.

This past weekend was the first official meeting of Writing Group, which doesn’t have a name and I’m not sure if it will get a name, but we shall see. This is my first in-person group in about forever, so I hope I don’t fuck it up.

I like the idea that there are people who will hold me accountable when it comes to getting shit done. Surely I am good at this on my own, but let’s not be silly: there are many areas in which a girl could stand to improve.

Mostly — and perhaps this is ridiculous — I am going to need someone to hold my hand as I write the book after the last Anubis book. Right now, it looks like a yawning abyss, an abyss that isn’t even really interested in gazing back at me, so yeah.

Having time (making time) to focus on craft and intent should be good. Also, SNACKS.

Yesterday’s novel writing involved throwing everyone into significant jeopardy, hooray? And because I didn’t think I was in the right POV, I kept wanting to delay one chapter, because then we’d be with Eleanor, and not Virgil, because WHAT was his investment in this scene, really.

But I leapt into the jeopardy and trusted Virgil to tell me his shit, which he did, and I’m pleased and astonished with how it turned out. This is a reminder that usually, there’s no point in dragging a thing out or hiding information from your reader.

I am also reminded of the one editorial note I got from Marion Zimmer Bradley on a submission I made to her Fantasy magazine. I cleverly tried to obscure a thing my heroine was grasping in a sand dune, because I wanted suspense and intrigue and mystery machines. MZB wrote on the page “doorknob!” and I have never forgotten this (nor have I thrown that page away). It is infinitely more interesting to say my heroine found a doorknob/door beneath a sand dune than show her touching something vague and round and unnamed.

SAY the interesting THING always.

Let your character DO the THING.

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Egypt Doings

Curly sheep at Meroe

In case you don’t know, I’m crazy for ancient Egypt. If I can read it, watch it, play it, I’m there.

The Mummy? Yes.

Amelia Peabody?! Absolutment.

Stargate? Yes!

Joann Fletcher escapades? Yes!

What about that book in Gail Carriger’s series where they finally go to Egypt?! YES.

Gods of Egypt?! EVEN THAT.

Immortal? Yes. (A French film from 2004, based on a 1980 graphic novel, that involves Egyptian gods sometimes playing Monopoly, and Horus gets really rapey, and just UGH. Was it worse than Gods of Egypt? Good question.)

Assassin’s Creed, Origins?! Eventually — I’m not made of money.

Tomb Raider? Duh.

The Pyramid? Yes, chiefly because it involves Anubis, which…well. The entire thing is hilarious.

What about that episode of Highlander where Duncan walks around with a naked Nefertiri? Give it to me!

Naturally when I saw a show on Netflix called Egypt, I clicked on through. Feed my hunger, Netflix!

Egypt is a series produced by the BBC–apparently there are only six episodes (?!), of which I’ve seen two now. And it’s a strange, strange thing. The episodes recreate historical events in Egypt, namely white-centered historical events, like Carter and his search for Tut’s tomb. They’re also going to cover Belzoni, who was really a jerk (yet somehow also brings in my love of carnivals, as he was a circus strongman before he started raiding Egypt for its treasures), and then the Rosetta Stone discovery/translation.

The Carter episodes were almost hilarious, because they centered Carter as the hero (I mean, of course they did), and how he’d been screwed over by those he worked for, but also by the dude who was in charge of being sure Egypt got to keep Egypt’s treasures. And are we supposed to be outraged that the white archaeologists couldn’t haul anything and everything out of the country, thanks to the Department of Antiquities? I just wasn’t. Howard Carter, that burial tomb isn’t yours, no matter what digging permit you’ve been given. Back UP, sir.

What’s fun about the show is watching them recreate the tombs and the nature of that entire world. It’s so easy to lose yourself there, to put yourself in Carter’s shoes as he hammers through a wall and shines a light through. Also, when he finds the intact tomb seal. Just… Ahhhhhhh. What a moment that must have been.

This is the intact seal Carter found on Tutankhamun’s tomb. *screams*

I’m 20k into the writing of the last planned Folley & Mallory book, but I guarantee, my Egypt love won’t stop there. I’ve loved that world too long to let it go. Excited also to read K. Tempest Bradford‘s steampunk Egypt book, too, and vicariously take part in her upcoming Egypt journey.

Ahhhhhhhh EGYPT.

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Multipass Saw Her Standing There

A few years back, this blog had a feature called Multipass, which ran on Mondays. It was widely read and acclaimed (ha no) and had adorable post titles based on song lyrics and here we are again! Today, four things make a multipass.

Over the holiday weekend, I put Fellowship of the Ring into the DVD player (the four hundred hour version, naturally) while I baked all the carrot cake that was fit to eat. After Fellowship concluded, in went Two Towers. I only got through the first disk there before real life called me away. But!

It’s been a heck of a long time since I’ve seen the films and gosh, they look old. Granted, I’m not looking at a blu-ray version, but the digital elements are often really obvious. Oh technology, what’re you doing to our media anyhow?

It’s funny how the films struck me, and also how the sweeping battle scenes haven’t aged well — at least for me. They feel cold and heartless, whereas you get smaller scenes like Eowyn offering Aragorn her awful stew and there’s loads of subtext; she’s highly into him because he saved her world, he’s like 87 and trying to still be polite when he’s ready to run away with the elves because he knows he looks fine while barefoot on a chaise lounge. These small moments payoff when we see Eowyn confront the Witch King, because we’re like “yes, girl, that’s who you are,” but the bigger battles of warg vs. Rohan farmer don’t carry much emotion. They’re all spectacle and little else.

Clarkesworld Year Nine (Volume One) is out, and I’ve got a story in its pages. “Pithing Needle” is one of a duology that I wrote for CW (the other being “The Cumulative Effects of Light Over Time,” in the Upgraded anthology).

These two stories take place on a fucked up Earth where an alien vessel has crashed and all manner of insanity is streaming out of the ship’s remains. The aliens are weird and humanity is made stranger for our contact with them. I laugh when I think of the reviews these stories received, one reviewer saying I was “obsessed” with this story, because I’d published two different versions. The stories are in conversation with one another, is all; they show very different aspects of the world and character. If that’s obsession, okay. In writing this multipass, I found this amazing article by Octavia Cade about aliens and eating and horror and food, which includes “Pithing Needle,” and just wow. Thank you, Octavia.

(The other thing about this story is, I remember being distinctly thrilled to appear along side Helena Bell’s “Lovecraft.” Oh my stars, that story.)

Volume One is out now (more here!); volume two hits later this year, and I’ll have a story in there, too — it’s one of my favorites, “Migratory Patterns of Underground Birds.”

Four years ago, Masque Books published a digital edition of my book, Watermark. They had no interest in publishing it in paper given how badly Rings of Anubis was selling (or do we call that not selling?) — but I sure did, and now that the contract with Masque has come to a close, Watermark is available in paperback!

Watermark tells the story of a kelpie, sent to the human world as a punishment. Pip lives between worlds, not fully remembering why she was expelled from Otherworld, the fairy world that stands on the eve of its own destruction. Pip meets up with other unseelie fae in the human world, some of whom are convinced she can save Otherworld, others of whom contain the memories she can no longer access.

It’s a kissing book, okay?

It’s also a book about losing things and finding second chances in the ashes. It’s about the hope that those closest to us are never quite gone.

Leave a comment on this multipass and I’ll enter you in a giveaway for a copy, okay? Okay! I’ll draw at least one name at the end of the week, April 6.

You can read chapter one here!

I spent Lent away from Twitter again — searching my blog proved I did that last year, too. It’s good for the brainmeats.

I’m ~15K into writing the next Folley & Mallory adventure, which is also the last planned book in that series. I realized something about the book last week, because why have one neat timeline when you could have three braided together — because the subtext of these books has always been mothers and daughters and how they both love and hurt one another, sometimes with intention, and these things need some form of resolution. We can’t be all spectacle; we need to understand the pain so we can fully enjoy and appreciate the confrontation with the Witch King.

They’re taking the jackals to Isengard!

Wait, I’ve mixed my medias.

Leave a comment! Win a book! Multipass! (International is fine!)

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They’re good reads, Brent

I use Goodreads a lot — at least as a reader. As a writer, I try to make sure my stuff is listed, and beyond that I try not to fuss, because reviews are ultimately not for writers, they’re for other readers.

One thing I lovehate about Goodreads is the yearly reading “challenge.” You can specify how many books you want to read in a year as a goal, and as you mark your books read through the year, GR keeps track of what you’ve read.

However.

GR will also tell you how many books ahead/behind you are.

Which implies there must be a timed schedule to one’s reading challenge, and I call bullshirt. (Thanks, The Good Place, I love you.)

I think I understand why they do it. It probably does help some people, especially possibly younger readers who may need that structure. If, for instance, you say you’re going to read 52 books in a year, GR presumes you’re going to read a book a week to get that done. But…not necessarily? What if you read two books in a week? What if you read nine books one month and only two the next? According to GR, you sure are forking up your challenge.

GR thinks I’m four books behind right now, because I haven’t updated, nor have I finished some of what I’m presently reading. But every time I pop into GR to examine New Books I Possibly Need, I see that I’m allegedly four books behind. Pfft.

(There’s also this little anxiety inside when I see that I’m behind, because I know that I’m not, but it says that I am, but I know that I’m not.)

I think it’s a ridiculous assumption for GR to make; you read how fast you read. Here’s your goal, GOOD LUCK, no stress, just read as you like and record when you want, and oh my gourd, who cares if you aren’t keeping to a schedule.

Anyhow.

Go read a book.

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Stride

artist, Duy Huynh

I don’t tend to think of myself as disabled, but then I’ll be out with friends, and I’ll notice that oh, sure as heck, I’m– Is that the word?

When I was sixteen, I was in a motorcycle accident with my boyfriend; we hit the back end of a car that pulled out in front of us, flew over the car, and hit the pavement.

Instantly, I couldn’t feel my left leg, and distinctly remember asking M if he could see my leg. Where had it gone? It was there, he assured me, and then passing motorists had stopped, summoning help, one putting his leather jacket under my head.

Sprawled in the street, there was no pain. In the ambulance, that’s when the pain kicked in. In the hospital, I could see the x-rays, my left femur broken neatly in two. M broke his in two places.

I had to learn how to walk again — but couldn’t put any weight on the leg for three months. Doctors put a metal rod down the center of the bone, and any weight on it might bend the rod and break the bone all over again. (M broke his femur again when he tried to walk too soon.)

I was excessively good about not putting weight on the leg. Being out of school for so long, I had a tutor who would bring me lessons as I attempted to keep up, but when I got back to school, still on crutches because I couldn’t walk without them, I discovered I might not graduate anyhow. I had a gym requirement to fulfill.

That was a strange experience — who doesn’t graduate because of gym? Obviously, all worked out — I was encouraged to do what I could, because they didn’t view me as disabled. It was all only temporary.

But it’s not, of course. My leg will always be with me.

When I was in sixth grade, I broke my right ankle; that’s a break that has never given me trouble since, and usually I’d say broken bones are like that. They hurt like fuck, but your body does an amazing job of healing and moving on.

But then you take a bone like the femur and everything’s different. You can’t stand, you can’t walk, and when you learn to walk again, you feel like a huge toddler; you hold on to walls, onto tables.

Your leg never feels quite right. It’s always weaker. You find you’re more flexible on the side where you were broken, because the other side never relaxes enough to quite let you go; the other side of you is going to hold you up come hell or high water. You’re uneven.

My left leg is shorter than my right; not by a lot, but enough to make it noticeable to me when I’m wearing long pants. I am certain no one else has never noticed. The scars from the surgery — those have been noticed.

It’s worst in the winter. When it’s cold. You’d think that being encased in the middle of my bone, that rod wouldn’t bother me or get, of all things, cold, but it does. The whole leg is cold and never works right quite; the knee doesn’t have all its feeling; the joints are cosplaying the Tin Man and are in dire need of oil.

And this changes the way I walk.

I walk a lot — I love walking, let me put some music on and go. But in the winter, when it’s colder, I slow down.

This weekend, my friends outpaced me as we walked the city streets. I felt a little ridiculous, going slow and falling behind and walking alone, but also knew not to push the leg. Pushing the leg makes it tire, and makes the knee more likely to give out.

I’m slow in winter, and when it came to doing flights of stairs at the end of a long day, I opted for the elevator. Two flights of stairs, but I knew my leg would be aching for it. I couldn’t keep up.

And I felt different for the first time in a long time. Unable.

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