Author’s Note: Really, it was past time for Enya to start learning control.

A Bit of Practice

“The lake is mine.”

“You can’t claim it. You’re not the only water elemental around here, you know,” Enya said, stopping to take off her shoes before she stepped into the water, letting it swirl around her ankles with a smile. She didn’t see Occie, but that didn’t mean anything. Water elementals had the kind of breath control that would make divers jealous. They could stay underwater almost as long as the fish could. “You look a lot better than you did when you got back.”

He glanced down at his chest before coming toward the shore to pick up his shirt. He pulled it on and shrugged. “I’m wet. A lot of things look better wet. Not cats, though. I don’t think it would be fair for one of us to have a cat.”

“Probably not. I might set it on fire, you could drown it, and Moira would end up knocking the poor thing out of the house with a gust of wind.”

He smiled, shaking his head. “I don’t know that I ever gave a lot of thought to pets before. When we were younger, when you would have thought we’d have wanted them, we never really did that begging for an animal thing.”

“Your parents were evil, though.”


Enya glanced back at the house. “Flint suggested trying something simple out here by the lake. Moira told him to stop pushing me. I don’t know if he’s coming or not. He said he was right behind me, but with the way those two can fight…”

Cress waded further into the water, letting his hand turn around in an idle pattern, creating ripples across the surface. “You don’t want to know what I know about that.”

“She does like him, doesn’t she?” Enya grinned. “I knew it. That’s just their way of flirting.”

“Seems to be. Could be something else.”

“You’re the one that reads emotions.”

“Yes, and Flint’s would seem to be genuine, but what I do is not an exact science. I don’t always know what it means when I feel things from other people, and I know part of the time, I’m making it worse by trying to shut it all out. I don’t want to feel everything. That stuff is… private.” He let out a breath. “I think the worst is when I feel something from Occie. She’s my sister. I really don’t need to know that kind of thing.”

“She holds a lot of it back for you, though.”

“Too much.”

“Maybe what you need is someone else to help you when you’re down, not just her. We found a decent fire rogue. Maybe there’s a rogue water somewhere who could help balance you.”

He shook his head. “I don’t want another water elemental. I don’t want to burden my sister, but this… Well, it’ll all be over after we get Stone back. We’ll have him, we’ll destroy Aether, and we’ll go our separate ways, finally. Everyone gets to be free.”

“Even you?”

He frowned at her, and she stepped closer to him, deciding it didn’t matter if her pants got soaked or not. “Cress, you got denied a lot of things, probably more than the rest of us because you were responsible for everyone, and you should be able to have the same freedom.”

“I suppose.”

She rolled her eyes, prepared to start arguing with him when she felt something warm pass by her, skimming across the water.

“Neat trick, huh? Maggie could make it last a lot longer, and she always was proud of the whole flame defying the water thing. She thought that was something special.”

Cress stirred the water, and Enya would have sworn he was soothing it this time.

“That wasn’t what I intended to show you, though. That takes quite a bit of practice.”


“You don’t have to do this, you know. I can hear how tense you are already.”

She sighed. “I’m sorry. It was… That fire was probably the worst night of my life, and it wasn’t like I… came into this thing easy, either. We were playing in the street, Sherwin was chasing me, and I hit the car mirror—next thing I knew, everything was on fire and people were screaming and…”

Cress put his hands on her shoulders. “I think everyone was terrified when they first figured out what they could do. Everyone but Sherwin. He was always so upset about being the last to know. When the water started going everywhere, I think I was screaming the loudest, even though it wasn’t after me at all. I was back against the wall where I’d hit the mirror, and nothing got close to me, but it was still frightening. I don’t know what I would have done if my attunement had been fire.”

“You couldn’t be anything but water,” she said, leaning back against him for a moment. She looked up at him. “So… you think you’re up to being the hero that puts all the flames out again? You know it won’t be easy if it gets started.”

“You know that never stopped me before.”

She nodded. He hadn’t had even a quarter of the control he did when he grabbed hold of her that day and stopped the fire that had taken his parents’ car and the lawn. Somehow, though, he’d managed to keep it from hitting the houses and taking them all. That might have been the first time he used the rain, but she wasn’t sure.

Flint cleared his throat. “Okay, if you’re sure you want to do this and you think you’re ready for it… We’ll do something real simple. I know it might sound frightening, but it’s fine. I’m here, I should be able to handle any fires we start, and if I can’t, your friend will make sure they’re out, okay?”


“All right. I’m going to start something small, and all I want you to do is make it bigger.”


Cress shifted his hands from her shoulders to her arms. “Don’t panic yet. I’m with Flint. Making it bigger would be easier than throwing something out there and telling you to put it out.”

They both had a point. She took a deep breath, signaling for Flint to try it. She watched the small flame, trying to reach it without touching it, but all that did was give her a headache. She sighed, stepping forward to put a hand near it. The flame rose up, and she jumped backward, trying to breathe herself calm.

“Did you do that?”

Flint shook his head as he looked at the fire, making it disappear. “That was you.”

She bit her lip, and then Cress’ arms were around her, and she didn’t want to think about anything. She didn’t know if that was a victory or not, and she didn’t want to know right now. She closed her eyes. “Am I a big coward for wanting to stop there?”

“No, Enya. You surprised me. Didn’t think you’d try touching it. I’m proud of you.”

“I didn’t really do anything.”

“That’s not true.”

Like a Song

I have to say, I seem to have a lot of songs for how Renatta feels at the beginning of The Monster in My Garden Shed.

I think that’s because there are such powerful emotions that go along with the situation, with loss, and that comes even more easily into lyrics and music because the music alone can evoke that feeling. Coupled with lyrics, a lot of them make you ready to cry.

“You left a light on inside me, my love…” That part, for me, evokes the flashback chapter for when it all fell apart. If this book was a movie, I think that chapter would have this as a soundtrack.

Not that the beginning wouldn’t have it, either. There’s a scene in the first chapter where this is Renatta, walking through her house.

I can’t forget you when you’re gone
You’re like a song that goes around in my head
And how I regret, it’s been so long
Oh, what went wrong? Could it be something I said?

Time, make it go faster or just rewind
To back when I’m wrapped in your arms

Kabobbles Sing Along is just what I think when I hear songs. I sometimes see images when I hear lyrics, pictures or movies in my head. Sometimes I relate it to stories. My interpretation of the songs and lyrics are probably nothing like their original intent.

The Story Before the Story Might Need Telling

A piece of my plot is… missing. It’s a conundrum.

It’s difficult to explain that without spoiling the entire plot of The Monster in My Garden Shed. I could try, but I think it’s better if I just work on figuring it out, and when I’ve got it fixed, people will know because I’ll finish the story. My brain processes better when I’m trying to sleep, so perhaps tonight, after having a long discussion about it, I will know what the deep dark secret is.

In the meantime, I distracted myself by writing more flashbacks–I could probably fill a whole novel with the relationship between two of the characters before the story starts, and I admit, it’s tempting to go to that story… only I think it would really only interest… me.  I can’t say that the earlier scenes I’ve written haven’t been enjoyed by at least one other person, but that’s a few scattered scenes, not a complete story of nothing but them.

Personally, I love the dynamics between characters, their interactions and especially their banter. Even if that was all a story was, I might just be okay with that. It doesn’t work for everyone, and even for me, as a writer, that pesky thing known as a plot comes in and intervenes. I do pretty well with plot. It’s not my enemy. It’s not necessarily my friend, though, either.

I think it’s safe to say we’re occasional allies, but mostly, it likes to ruin things for me.

The trick is in balancing plot with interaction and even introspection and dare I name my weakness? Description.

I think I have a fairly good system at this point. I write my banter and interaction, then I reread, I find the lack of description and introspection, and I add that in. It’s still unbalanced, but I do believe I’m getting better at it. I will probably never be one of those authors that paints an entire world with my words, but I know one thing for sure: you can hear the words my characters speak exactly as they say them. It’s something I’ve heard before, though for me, I do hear them as I write.

The voices are clear.

The plot? Maybe not so much.  This could be why summaries give me such fits to write.

There is a certain bitter sweetness to flashbacks and stories before the story. A prequel always has to end, and that ending is fixed and even known before the whole thing starts. That said, why would I go through the path and take it to the painful end that I know is coming?

I’m not sure. I faced this problem before with a story I set aside, and my only solution there was not to do it. This one is, of course, different, so I can’t say that I’d walk away from it entirely, and key points of the past have to be known to me, at the very least.

That reminds me. There is one moment I don’t think I’ve touched on for Garden Shed that I have to make sure I don’t forget about. I think I know where I’ll put it, though. I’m trying to keep these flashbacks relevant, and I know that this one would lead right into…

Oh, I can’t tell you that. I’d spoil the story.

After I’ve finished it, I might tell you what I mean by all these vague hints.

Sometimes a Story Creates a New Story…

Having finished Matched Set, which took me about a week, a fact that I’m still stunned and amazed by, I turned my attention back to my other projects.

I have many, many incomplete stories and projects lying around. Some of them aren’t really worth salvaging, and some of them deserve a hell of a lot better than this.

It was starting to look like The Monster in My Garden Shed was heading toward this inglorious fate, and I refused to let that happen. Not only have I been talking about it in a public forum, which makes the idea of abandoning it less than appealing for the fact of everyone knowing my defeat, the story is too good and the characters too deserving of having their story concluded to let that happen.

I’d edited the story before I put it aside three weeks ago, all the while unable to decide how to keep going.

The problem was wanting to tell two stories. The Monster in My Garden Shed is, in my opinion, a story with considerable depth and complexity and layers, a challenging world that continually draws me in (and thwarts me at every opportunity) and characters that I love spending time with. In the middle, though, the idea of a subplot entered the narrative, and that subplot was not something that helped the story reach a conclusion. It would have derailed the rest of it, to be perfectly honest.

I thought I’d given up on it back in chapter twenty-five, but in thirty-one, it was rearing its ugly head again. I wrote a couple of scenes that almost took it down that route, and the reader I torture with all my new fic told me they were over the top.

I admit, this put me in a bit of a funk. I couldn’t quite let go of that idea or those scenes, so even though I knew that wasn’t where The Monster in My Garden Shed should go.

After finishing The Memory Collector and Variety Store, I’d wanted to get The Monster in My Garden Shed back up to the top of the list. I couldn’t. Five and Ten was coming along, and The Not-So-Super Superhero faltered for a couple days but came back again, but instead of the garden shed, I went into Matched Set.

I don’t regret that. Wichita and Reece have a great story, and I love the explanation of the reason the killer does what he does.

After playing around with a few fun things, toying with the idea of another new story since Net almost stole the show in Matched Set like Spider did in Any Other Reality, and finishing my edits to hopefully release In the Family soon I finally figured out what I needed to do for The Monster in My Garden Shed.

I had to take that plotline out completely and give it to someone else, someone who shared enough traits with Ren to make the situation work, but one who didn’t have to worry about saving the world, either.

Now I get to keep the scenes I wrote (not exactly as they were, that didn’t work, but bits and pieces of them) and yet they’ll get cut from The Monster in My Garden Shed.

Verina Harvey now has that story, and it’s hard and painful, but it’s her story to tell, not Ren’s.

Just When I Thought It Was Done

So I had thought that The Memory Collector would end up the next book that ended up published. I thought it was done and just needed a few edits.

I was wrong. I can admit that.

Editing is a painful process, no denying that. It’s hard to get oneself to go back and look it over, though it can be helpful to get back into a story that’s been set down for a while. That part I do actually enjoy, getting back the feel of the world and the characters. Sometimes I see what I missed putting down before. Or sometimes I have to cut things that I liked. Rare, but it happens, as it did with the stuff I dealt with in The Monster in My Garden Shed today. I started back at the beginning, really enjoying the journey with Ren as she found her way through the world of the Ascanati and seeing her relationship with Kyran in the new flashbacks, but then I got to the end with what I needed to change because it didn’t fit, the part that became Verina’s story. It was hard to cut… But I eventually did it.

Now, I have new scenes for that story at last. This is good. It makes me happy. I even have plans for a side story from their universe later.

However, the really painful part was my discovery regarding The Memory Collector. It’s not done. Not by a long shot. I need to pull all the quotes and make them a coherent narrative and add more from the Collector’s childhood and more from when he’s in the memories in general. And more with Sanity, too.

So, with that in mind, The Memory Collector will not be the next book published. It’s now my hope to make that Nickel and Dime instead. It would be good to launch the series, and the third novel in it is coming along again now that Verina’s story (still unnamed) is done.

And, of course, I have a lot of edits to do to fix what I found wrong with The Memory Collector.

Did I mention I wanted to start a new story? When am I ever going to have time for all this?