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    WolfM
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Embers - 7. Embers 7

“We all ready, Bossman?” Lucas did a final check of the trucks as Joe returned from the command tent.

“Looks like it.” Joe glanced at their rigs. “There’s a fuel tender waiting for us in Broke.”

“That’s the opposite direction we need to go. We’ve all got enough diesel to make it to the Caltex in Bunkerville.”

“It’s the correct way when we’re taking Putty Road.” Joe did not look pleased. “We’ll top off all the rigs. No place to fill up until we hit Colo Heights. Provided it hasn’t burned down.”

“Why aren’t we taking the M1? We’d make better time and could find fuel anywhere.”

“I already made that argument. Someone higher up the food chain thought it was a good idea to have us check the road. But we’re not supposed to stop for fires unless we have to.” The growl in Joe’s voice was noticeable. “Oh, and while doing the grand tour, we’ve gotta keep the water tanks full in case we run into problems.”

“That should slow us down big time and burn through a hell of a lot more diesel.” Lucas walked off shaking his head. “So the mountain road it is.”

“Alright, let’s get this parade on the road.” Joe headed for Zeus.

“Where’s this place we’re heading?” Brandon settled into his seat in Brutus.

“We’re going to Katoomba.” Lucas toyed with his phone and scowled. “I know there isn’t gonna be any service, but it still bugs me I can’t call or text anyone.” He finally gave up and put the device down. “Straight line it’s a bit under 140 kilometers. By road it’s almost 250. Should take us around three hours to get there provided we don’t run into any trouble. They’re sending us on the scenic route.”

“There’s incredible trails for hiking around Katoomba, and it has some of the most beautiful sights in the area.” Jaxon settled into Noah’s regular seat as the truck rumbled to life. “Wentworth Falls and the Three Sisters are a must see.” With a blast of the horn and a slight shudder, he pulled Brutus away from other parked vehicles.

“Sounds nice. Ouch.” Brandon rubbed his head as he resecured his helmet, glaring at the protective equipment that had fallen on him.

“That’ll teach you to make sure you check your gear’s stowed right.” Lucas chuckled.

“It’s a stunning place.” Noah was driving the truck. “At least it was the last time I saw it. Bloody fires are destroying everything.”

“Well, that’s why we’re going. Hopefully we can keep the beast from devouring another victim.” Lucas picked up his phone one more time before giving a sigh.

“I’ve wanted to visit Australia and sightsee ever since I saw pictures of it. Plus the guys on the beach.” Brandon watched the vineyard fade into the lingering smoke. “I never thought it would happen or expected it would be like this.”

After a stop in the village of Broke, to make sure all the diesel tanks were full, the convoy lumbered up Putty Road into the mountains. The burned carcasses of eucalyptus trees lined the road. Occasionally, the air would clear enough to see a short distance, though the vistas were depressing. Rocky outcrops lined the two-lane road, and wisps of smoke rose from still smoldering trees.

“My husband and I used to love this drive. Gonna be a while ‘til there’s any green to see.” Lucas wiped his eyes. “Damn it. I swore I wouldn’t let myself cry over this. We’re coming into Howes Valley,” he announced after nearly forty minutes.

“Wow. It’s surprising how quick the landscape changes. Great to see someplace that hasn’t burned.” Brandon wished his mate was with him. “Bet this road would be fun on a motorcycle.”

“The Maloo’s always a blast in places like this. It had finally recovered from the 2013 fire.”

The breeze was light through the different valleys. Even with the ever present smoke hanging in the air, the signs that not everything had burned gave some hope.

“Mate, you ride?” Jaxon’s interest piqued at the mention of something mechanical.

“Yeah. I’ve got a Yamaha R4 and my mate has a Kawasaki Ninja. A buddy always teases us with friends don’t let friends ride rice burners.”

“And your feet can touch the ground when you’re on it?” Jaxon dodged to avoid the hand aimed at him.

“Asshole. I’ve got special boots that let me reach the pavement. We’ve talked about getting cruisers. I found a short Harley I like.”

“Bet if you tell him about the car you drive, you’ll give him a stiffy.” Lucas chuckled.

“Thought all you Yanks drive that plastic crap they keep making. Come to think of it, most of us do too. Alright now, tell me what you got.” Jaxon’s smirk indicated there was another comment on the way. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

“Jax, you’ve been hanging out with Oli and Lachlan too much.” Lucas grinned at the finger directed at him.

“So I’m a Yank now instead of a Seppo? When’d that happen?”

“Yeah, well,” Jaxon rubbed his chin, “worked with you enough to know you’re not full of shit.”

Noah hissed. “Wait a minute. We’ve been calling you Yank for the past week and you didn’t even notice? Bloody Seppo.”

Brandon smirked and pulled out his phone, opening the gallery. He turned it towards Jaxon. “I’ve got a 1966 Datsun 1600 Sport Roadster.”

“Fuck me. I’d love to get my hands on that engine.” He swiped through several pictures of the car. “Damn she’s sweet. Fairlady, right? Only ever seen one.”

“What’s it with you straight guys wanting to get fucked? Not that I’d turn down a nice ass.” Brandon smirked. “Any Datsuns here would probably be Fairladys, but only the ’65 was called that in the U.S. Not a manly enough name outside Japan for something used as a race car. Ya know, it only got the name because the head of Nissan in Japan had just seen My Fair Lady.” Brandon proudly showed pictures of it. “I do most of the work on it myself. It still needs to be stripped and repainted, but I’m happy driving it as is. I’m not about to try wrenching on something like Brutus, but a Datsun’s pretty easy.”

“Well, fair’s fair. You showed me yours.” Jax reached for his zipper, but shifted his hand at the last moment to grab his phone. “Got me a 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO. The HO is for the high output bent-eight.” He proudly scrolled through the pictures of the red and black beauty.

“I hope I get a chance to see it. Maybe even go for a ride. If the backseat’s big enough, might even give you that fuck you were asking for.” Brandon chuckled.

“Wanker. If anyone’s getting’ laid in the back, it’ll be my dick sliding into someone.” Jaxon shoved his phone back into his pocket.

“Hear that, Lucas? He said someone, not woman.” The two chatted for a while about the car until a road sign caught Brandon’s eye. “Hey, did that say something about a national park? Didn’t I see a couple listed on the maps of the area?”

“Yeah, to our right is what’s left of Wollemi National Park and to the left is Yengo National Park.” Lucas waved his hand to each side. There was sadness in his voice. “Both had incredible trails. Great place to go wolf and run your heart out. Hopefully there’s something left.”

“You’re in the middle of a world heritage site, my American friend.” Jax reached across to pat Brandon on the arm. “I wish we could do more to protect it.”

About two hours after the convoy entered the mountains, they rolled back into civilization, as houses started popping up along the road.

Lucas picked up the radio’s microphone. “Brutus one. Zeus, wanna stop at Maccas in Richmond or South Windsor? Could probably use a piss break and food wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

We’ll stop at South Windsor.”

“Copy that, Joe.”

“McDonalds? I don’t remember the last time I ate at one of those.” Brandon sounded leery of the suggested stop.

“Wait, you know what Maccas is?” Jaxon and Lucas both looked surprised.

“It was in a travel blog I read on the flight. I did do some research before I got here.”

******

Images began filling the screen as more people logged into the video conference. Lycan representatives from every Australian state, as well as the Aussie lunar and solar councils, were present. As one of the three overall leaders of were-creatures in the country, Brody Sampson got the meeting started.

“Ladies and gentlemen. It’s been a hard few months for us as fires have ravaged the country. What we’ve seen in Victoria, with the navy evacuating people by ship, is unprecedented. I understand they’re burning everywhere, but we need to keep our resources where we can protect the most life.”

“With respect, Brody, I know the South East has it bad, but they’re burning here in the Queensland too. You’re from New South Wales, so we expect you to put your state first, and I personally don’t fault you for that. I need firefighters, equipment, and supplies though.”

“I understand. We’re started the new year and are already exhausted from how long this has gone on. I’m sorry it’s turning into a numbers game, but we need to focus on where the population is most in danger. As a group, it was agreed to pull together all lycan firefighters to battle this. Compared to the humans, we don’t have as many to deploy. We will help all the states as we’re able. Mason, as RFS brigade commander for NSW, what can we spare?”

“Alpha Sampson, we’ve got more personnel flying in from all over the world, and we still don’t have enough bodies and equipment to protect the population if the heat and winds keep up. I won’t speak for South Australia or Victoria, so I’ll ask my counterparts from there to respond. Chloe or Mick?”

A tired looking woman rubbed her face as she focused on the camera. “Kangaroo Island’s going to be a total loss. We can’t do much more than continued water drops to slow the fire’s pace. People are trying to save what animals they can, but bleak doesn’t quite sum up the situation.”

“On the south coast it isn’t much better. We had every available person, both human and lycan, trying to hold the flames off the beaches long enough for the navy to do their job. Just like in NSW, if there’s no population to protect, we’re letting the fire burn until we have to deal with it.”

“I’ve been following one of the lycan only teams as they get moved around. They’ve been sent to the Blue Mountains, heading to Katoomba as we speak. I know that’s not a major population center, but the fire’s near Sydney’s main water supply, so that makes it a major priority. The Mutts, as they call themselves, are working up to seventy-two hour shifts. All the other crews, both lycan and human, are working just as hard. There simply aren’t enough bodies on the ground, or aircraft in the sky, to fight this many fires.” Mason leaned back in his chair. “Anytime we even think we’re catching a break, the winds pick back up, or we get dry lightning setting off more fires. This has been going on since September, and I don’t see it stopping for months. I worry at some point our personnel are going to be too exhausted to continue fighting.”

Brody scanned the different boxes on the screen, settling on the last one, whose occupants had not spoken. “I have an unorthodox proposal, and I don’t know if it’s even possible for it to work. We have visitors to this meeting from the USA. Ethan and Aiden Jacobs-Tucker, Alphas of the Pit River Pack and Alpha Designates to the Parker Valley Pack.”

“They’re the Elementals, right?”

“Yes, they are. Ethan can control water and fire. Actually he can control all the base elements. Aiden apparently can control fire too. They might be able to use their gifts to assist in getting control of the situation. Maybe Ethan can give us the rain we so desperately need.” Brody raised his hand towards the camera. “I’ll let you two take over now.”

Ethan was becoming more comfortable addressing lycan groups, but it was rarely about his unique abilities. “When Brody first suggested this I wasn’t sure what to say. Neither Aiden nor I have ever tried something like this. In theory, we might be able to bring down the intensity of the fires, or put them out. I don’t know if there would be any side effects to doing this. As far as making it rain, I’ve affected the weather for maybe a mile around me. It’s been a couple years since that happened. I haven’t had reason to do more than make it snow around our house during the winter.” He glanced at Aiden for a moment. “It could work, or it could screw something up. I just don’t know. But we’re willing to do whatever we can to help.”

“My mate and I want to assist in any way we can, and like he said, this will be all new to us.” Aiden paused to let his words sink in. “We’ve become friends with many people in Australia since our first visit. Our gifts are at your disposal.”

“I heard all kinds of fantastic things about those two when they had their big wedding.” The tag under the man’s picture indicated he was from Perth. “I’m not sure I believe any of it, but a lot do. Maybe try something in a small area and work up from there. If it goes bad, at least it’ll be on the opposite coast from my pack.”

There was an animated back and forth between the various participants as they discussed possible risks.

Brody finally retook control of the conference. “I’d like a vote from everyone who’s part of this meeting. Do we ask my friends to come here and see what they can do?”

“I say yes. We need to use every possible resource available to us.” Mason moved close to the camera. “Don’t debate the issue, just do it. What do you say, Mick?”

“Mason’s right. Go for it. To me it would be devastating not to try. But maybe see what you can do in NSW before you try in Victoria. Just to be safe.”

Out of those gathered, only a small number didn’t think something unknown should be attempted.

“When can you guys be on a flight? And how many will be traveling with you?” Brody looked to his husband who was already checking flights. “Thorin appears ready to book your tickets.”

“There’ll be six of us. Normally, the Council wants us to use additional security since we have a pack of our own now, but the extras will just be in the way. We’re still having problems with a troublesome family known for assassinations.” Aiden rolled his eyes. “We need two days at minimum to make sure everything’s covered on our end.”

“Are you coming from Pennsylvania or California?” Thorin continued tapping away at his computer.

“We’re in PA now. There’s a pack meeting in California scheduled for next week, but we’ll either delay it, or have our betas there handle it.” Aiden tipped his head towards his mate. “I can already tell Ethan wants to get in the air as soon as we can.”

“Okay, I’ve tentatively got six seats reserved on a flight from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles. From there, you’ll get your plane to Sydney.” Thorin was in full administrator mode. “I’m guessing it’s the same guys you normally travel with?”

“Yeah, Trevor and Darius will get with you as soon as this meeting breaks up.” Aiden glanced over his shoulder to see the lion and his best friend nodding. Casey and Cody will be the other two.”

“Ethan, Aiden, thank you for agreeing to this. I’m going to embed you with a lycan team who calls themselves the Mutts.” For the first time in a while there was hope in Brody’s eyes.

“We’ll see you soon. From our last visit, I know Thorin’s as meticulous as Darius, so we have no doubt our rushed arrival will go smoothly.” Aiden sat back in his chair. “You two can coordinate to finalize the flight arrangements when everything on our end is handled.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, if there’s nothing further, that concludes this meeting.”

Screen windows dropped off as the video conference ended.

******

Brandon listened to the radio chatter as they traveled west on the Great Western Highway towards their destination. He watched the others, as the names of places were called out, along with requests for additional support.

“We’ll be to the staging area soon.” Lucas focused on Noah. “We’re going to Katoomba High School.” He turned so he could see the two in the back seat. “Not sure how long after we arrive they’ll send us out. This will be more hand work over hose.” He looked out the window before returning his attention to his crew mates. “If it’s down in the valley, there’s gonna be a lot of steep climbs. Make sure your gear’s balanced.”

“Too bad we can’t load what we need in saddle bags and turn wolf for the descent.” Jax and Lucas stared at the American in shock. “What? It might be easier.”

“Think you’re back to Sappo, mate.” Noah laughed.

“This from the guy who doesn’t like getting furry?” Lucas shook his head.

“Shut up. My wolf suggested it, so I passed it on. I mean, I know it’s not realistic, but it sounded good.”

“I guess we would be more surefooted on fours.” Luc pointed to the left where he wanted Noah to turn. “If there weren’t so many humans around it would be worth exploring that idea. I think when you see the cliff, you might decide two legs are better.”

“I don’t care what you guys call me as long as we get the fire out. The sooner we finish, the more time I’ll have to surf before going home. Maybe being a lycan can be useful at times. At least we can work longer than the humans.” Brandon’s huff caused grins from the other. “Leave me alone before I piss on someone’s leg. My wolf and I are trying to work things out.”

Copyright © 2021 WolfM; All Rights Reserved.
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Can't wait for the arrival of Ethan and Aiden. It will be great to see some familiar faces and see the guys back in action. They will do good joining up with the Mutts. Interesting times ahead.

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Great chapter, a small break while they relocate, having the gang there is going to be a godsend, I think that when Ethan and the gang get there, the gods will be helping in a big way, 

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I've really enjoyed your descriptions of where Brandon goes. The fires last year were horrendous, and now they have more water than they know what to do with. Bloody Mother Nature's not being kind to Oz.

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8 hours ago, Geemeedee said:

Trevor finished school? Hurray! Let’s see how he interacts with the rest of the guys.

 

I was wondering where you were going with this story. Awesome!

Thank you, Gee. For being one of the original characters, Trevor is the one I've had the hardest time with. He never seemed to speak to me the way the others do. I'm not willing to give up on him though. :)

I'm just kind of winging it with where the story's going. Or that's all I will admit to so far. ;)

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8 hours ago, Wesley8890 said:

Woo familiar faces!!!

Who? Where? Oh, you mean those two. :)

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8 hours ago, Kitt said:

Guess I'm going to read about some background!

I can pass you notes after class if you like. :)

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8 hours ago, mikedup said:

Great chapter, a small break while they relocate, having the gang there is going to be a godsend, I think that when Ethan and the gang get there, the gods will be helping in a big way, 

Thank you, Mike. :)  Those small breaks are a wonderful thing. And they never last long enough to recharge.

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7 hours ago, Carlos Hazday said:

LMAO

All the way to Australia so he could share his experience fighting bush fires. To be honest, that would have been enough for me. Throwing in a bunch of wolves was icing.

Hey, no picking on my readers. lol. Gee always has fun comments. I'm still grateful you for pushing me to write about this and my husband for agreeing with you.

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7 hours ago, Carlos Hazday said:

I've really enjoyed your descriptions of where Brandon goes. The fires last year were horrendous, and now they have more water than they know what to do with. Bloody Mother Nature's not being kind to Oz.

CJ and his travels kept coming to mind while I was there. I'd see something and remember you wrote about it. I at least got to see the beauty of some of these places though writing since they were a flaming or smoldering mess when I saw it. Fire, flood, mice, snakes, and spiders. Mother nature is most definitely not pleased.

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16 minutes ago, WolfM said:

Thank you, Centex. :)  I don't normally comment on things that could possibly come up later in the story, but in this case I can. Brandon is from a California pack, but it has no ties at all to the Pit River Pack, Aiden and Ethan control. That one is in the upper end of Northern California. Brandon's from So Cal.

Well, I thought since he had been abandoned; that maybe whomever left him had something to do with the back in northern California.  It was just a thought to tie him to some of those that we already know...  🤠

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31 minutes ago, centexhairysub said:

Well, I thought since he had been abandoned; that maybe whomever left him had something to do with the back in northern California.  It was just a thought to tie him to some of those that we already know...  🤠

It's actually a cool thought and I kind of wish I'd incorporated that into the story. :)  Brandon had been slowly traveling west since he turned wolf. When the alpha pair of current pack found him, they were traveling through the Rocky Mountains and brought him back to California with them. It would have been a nice tie in. You always make me smile with your comments.

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12 hours ago, WolfM said:

I can pass you notes after class if you like. :)

Please do! I find getting to know an author greatly enhances my enjoyment of a story. 

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5 hours ago, Nightlit said:

Hmm... I'm gonna have to state a (probably) unpopular opinion. I'm not sure I'm happy Ethan and Aidan are showing up.

While it does make sense to call them, so I can't say it's a logistical problem? But I don't really want them to show up the protagonists.

They are powerful established characters who are more than capable of making the story all about them. Especially since, thus far, not much has happened with Brandon. I was hoping to get more of a story with him.

I already found it a bit strange that his husband was NOT killed, since there was a cliffhanger regarding that which ended up being anti-climactic and (perhaps more importantly) until that happens, he can't develop a relationship outside of friendship with anyone here. Which I suppose, might be the point, but thus far his becoming part of the group has been too easy to really qualify as a story and so it makes me wonder what the story actually is. Because fighting fires makes more a great backdrop, but just them fighting fires over and over again is going to get old fairly quickly. And while Brandon has started accepting himself? It'd be difficult for that alone to keep the story compelling since he seems to be adjusting to that rather quickly too.

So while I have enjoyed the other stories you've written thus far, and like where this story is starting? I'm a bit iffy on this decision, especially since the story of the current protagonist has barely started.

Here's hoping Aidan and Ethan don't steal the spotlight. They already had their own tale! I think it's time to let others hold the reins!

Where books one through three were something completely out of my imagination, this one is based on real life events I experienced. Just like anything I write, it's an exercise in trying improving my hobby. I stalled several times writing this as I tried to work out how much of my experience during the bushfires to include vs how to build a story around the MC and the people he met. One thing with working fires, when you get assigned to a crew, you have to integrate fast. You get to know the people if you stick with the same people for a while. Otherwise it's the basics on conversation during those precious moments you get a break. Brandon's husband didn't die because my husband, who was stationed in Iraq while I was fighting the fires, didn't die. In fact, no Marines at the embassy when it was attacked were killed, so I wasn't going to give them a body count here. 

I'm always a little anxious as I post more chapters to see if the story meets my expectations in the final product. As with all books, it won't please everyone, but all views help me improve and hone my skills. Hopefully by the last chapter it will be considered a success.

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3 hours ago, Clancy59 said:

Yay!  Ethan and Aiden and Company!

Although I understand his misgivings, I don’t think there is anything for @Nightlit to be concerned about with their arrival.  Ethan has already indicated his powers have never shown any effect beyond a mile distant, at best.  I see them acting more as mitigators.  They can help keep things under control, rather than extinguish the flames.  I think these fires were too big even for Ethan’s incredible powers.  Even if they get an area extinguished, there are surrounding fires which could still overtake the area again, despite all their efforts.  Their arrival will, however, relieve some of the stress being placed on The Mutts with their 72-hour shifts.  I don’t care that lycans have substantially stronger constitutions than humans, they are still being stressed to their max and will pay for this at some point.  Whether it is before, or at the end, of their firefighting duties is yet to be determined for each of them.  So far, they have been the support system for each other, but they are like a house of cards.  If one falls, they could all fall.

The good news is that Ethan will definitely be an asset in the land’s recovery from all this devastation.
🌱🌿🌳🌷🌸🌺🌼🌻🥀💐🍄🍃🌲

Thank you, Clancy. :)  Anything to relieve that stress is a good thing. Exhaustion, even for a lycan, is an ever present danger. And when the entire country seems to be ablaze, firefighters will take any help they can get. You're right about them being each others support system. And still there are many times that house of cards collapses soon after you get a break. People curl up and cry themselves to sleep and hope they can pull it together by the time the next duty shift starts.

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2 hours ago, Kitt said:

Please do! I find getting to know an author greatly enhances my enjoyment of a story. 

:)

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5 hours ago, WolfM said:

Where books one through three were something completely out of my imagination, this one is based on real life events I experienced. Just like anything I write, it's an exercise in trying improving my hobby. I stalled several times writing this as I tried to work out how much of my experience during the bushfires to include vs how to build a story around the MC and the people he met. One thing with working fires, when you get assigned to a crew, you have to integrate fast. You get to know the people if you stick with the same people for a while. Otherwise it's the basics on conversation during those precious moments you get a break. Brandon's husband didn't die because my husband, who was stationed in Iraq while I was fighting the fires, didn't die. In fact, no Marines at the embassy when it was attacked were killed, so I wasn't going to give them a body count here. 

I'm always a little anxious as I post more chapters to see if the story meets my expectations in the final product. As with all books, it won't please everyone, but all views help me improve and hone my skills. Hopefully by the last chapter it will be considered a success.

That's perfectly understandable! And the fire stuff clearly shows you have experience in the matter, which is awesome and interesting.

But none of that changes my comments really. And Aidan and Ethan aren't part of your real experience unless you have the most awesome life ever, so you are already veering into the world of fantasy.

It makes perfect sense that fire fighters would integrate quickly. It's not a social call, ultimately you are all there to do a job, and one of immediate importance. But for that reason internal conflicts don't make for a good story (or, I should say, a good long story).

And similarly, bringing in old characters who A: Are established characters who have taken part a lot of previous stories, and B: Have supernatural powers that can potentially render the existing conflict between the firefighters and nature less relevant makes the fires even more of a backdrop than a story, at least potentially, and if that potentiality occurs it becomes even more important for another story to occur.

I actually have no issues with any of the stuff about the fires or with Brandon. I was surprised that his husband didn't die but I didn't think that was necessarily a bad development. I just wonder where the story is going now that it's not going to be about him losing his husband and finding solace with one of the other fire fighters there, but that wonder is more curiosity than worry. My only REAL worry is, as stated above, Aidan and Ethan stealing the spotlight from the new characters and rendering the conflict with the fire less significant.

That said? All of these are worries, not as of yet problems. There are plenty of ways the narrative could move forward, even with Ethan and Aidan in it, that are great! There are just a few pitfalls that, in my opinion anyway, should be avoided. I wanted to offer the critique BECAUSE I think you are a brilliant writer, and deserve to be made aware of potential missteps so that you can at least consider them as you move forward.

Edited by Nightlit
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