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A cupcake sneak peek …

October 23, 2016

It starts with gourmet apples that are high in acidity.


Core, peel, and chop …


Cook down into applesauce with a dash of cinnamon …


Spoon apple sauce-infused batter into a lined muffin tin …


Bake for 20 – 25 minutes …


Add some honey to the butter and icing sugar …


And what do you get?

Find the recipe in my next monthly newsletter on November 1, 2016. Not signed up yet? Pop your email into this form to get my monthly missives directly in your inbox on the first Tuesday of every month.

Oracle 3: early reviews

October 13, 2016

I See Us (Oracle 3) has been available for a week and its release has been stellar (if I say so myself) with lots of lovely readers leaving a number of fantastic reviews on all platforms.

I’ve cobbled together a few of them below:

“Meghan’s amazing stories are amazing, intriguing and addictive. You can always count on experiencing a wide range of emotions throughout the story. When you start reading there’s no stopping! In this book we learn so much about Rochelle and her abilities. I was on the edge of my seat with each chapter and revelation about her and even a few unexpected tidbits about other Adepts. I highly highly recommend this series to anyone who loves the Dowser series or just a good read with magic, laughs and the ability to make you care deeply about its characters.” – Amazon USA review

“Loved the series. I was really attached to the character as she grew up, matured and found her destiny. Very sorry that the series is complete but enjoyed every minute. I gave 5 stars not for this book alone but for the entire series and the way the author masterfully made me care what happened to this anti-social, rough kid who needed to find a capacity to love. This series has a bit of magic itself in the way that it is really much more than the sum of its parts. The series should be read in order. I look forward to reading more from this author.” – Goodreads review

“I love this series! Sad it was only a trilogy but it just made sense once I finished the book. Very well written and I LOVE all the characters. Even the characters you hate you still love because she wrote them so well. It feels like I almost know these characters. I can picture them at the store or passing me when I walk. From the first page I am drawn into the book. The story is richly told and I find myself transported into their world. I cannot emphasize how much I love this book!” – Kobo review

“I laughed, sobbed and fretted. It keeps on getting better. Read them all, devoured and need more! Strongly recommend you add this to your collection!” – Amazon UK review

“Another masterful piece of writing from Meghan Ciana Doidge! Action packed, extremely funny, and poignant love and family messages. Sad that it was over too soon. A must read (along with all of the Oracle series.)” – Amazon USA review


Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed so far. The first 30 days in a release are very important. Sales (of course) and honest reviews trigger the algorithms of the various retailers, then the book actually gets more ‘screen’ time (at least, that’s the current urban myth).

Your reviews are welcomed and appreciated.



MCD’s Birthday Giveaway 2016

October 11, 2016


It’s my 43rd birthday today! Every year I like to share my birthday abundance with someone else. In Vancouver I’d often buy a homeless person lunch, but last year – since I was on SSI – I decided to collect a few favourite things into a box and share them on my blog. I liked doing so, so I’ve done it again!

Warning: the giveaway is open for exactly TWENTY-FOUR HOURS. Yep, just the day of my birth.

An overview of this year’s box:


This year’s box is a mixture of new favourites – Chocolate Arts seasonal caramels (right now, pumpkin), the award winning Hummingbird Chocolate, and a David Lebovitz cookbook – and older (or daily) favourites – three fantastic novels, Manjari by Valhrona, and L’Occitane.

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Honourable mentions (things I fell in love with this year, but can’t really put in a box): 

Rodan & Fields – I’m using Unblemish paired with Soothe and I can’t believe how much better my skin looks after six months (really after a month). My consultant is Anita, and I’m sure she’d be happy to answer any questions you have (No. I don’t get kickbacks for the referral – LOL)

Jamberry’s Trushine gel system – if you follow me on Facebook you might see my occasional ‘nailfie.’ I’m still learning how to apply it, but I’m a pretty big fan of Jamberry’s home gel system. My consultant is Heather. Again, I receive no kickback for this, or any other endorsement, I’m just a fan.


Would you like to collect this box of favourites for your very own?

You would?

Okay then!

To enter my birthday giveaway all you need to do is:

  1. Comment below and tell me your favourite thing from 2016 (so far).

Notes/Rules: OPEN INTERNATIONALLY. Each comment will be assigned an entry number. ONE winning entry will then be selected via random number generator. One entry per person. Please make sure to fill out a valid email address in the comment form. Email addresses are not collected for any purpose other than notifying the contest winner.

If you haven’t commented on the blog before, or you comment from a different IP address, the comments are moderated. So don’t worry if you don’t see your entry right away. I will approve it, then assign it an entry number.

Giveaway closes TUESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. PDT.


Oracle 3: paperback and postcard giveaway

October 3, 2016

GIVEAWAY CLOSED. LUCKY #44 has been emailed.

I’m giving away eight paperbacks today to help celebrate the release of I See Us (Oracle 3) on October 6, 2016.

I See Us (Oracle 3) is currently available for preorder.



Win all these pretties, all at once! Eight autographed paperbacks, six recipe cards, four meme postcards, and six butterfly tattoos!

To enter all you need to do is comment below and let me know:

  1. What is your favourite quote from the Oracle Series? [This must be an actual quote from one of the books 😉 ]

Notes/Rules: OPEN INTERNATIONALLY. Each comment will be assigned an entry number. ONE winning entry will then be selected via random number generator. One entry per person. Please make sure to fill out a valid email address in the comment form. Email addresses are not collected for any purpose other than notifying the contest winner.

If you haven’t commented on the blog before, or you comment from a different IP address, the comments are moderated. So don’t worry if you don’t see your entry right away. I will approve it, then assign it an entry number.

No purchase necessary. Want to play along but haven’t read the series yet? The first three chapters of book one are available here for free.

Contest closes FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2016 at 8 p.m. PDT.

I See Me (Oracle 1): Chapter 3, Part 3 & 4

October 2, 2016

For those of you who haven’t had a moment to read I See Me (Oracle 1) I’m sharing a few chapters as a lead up to the release of the final book in the trilogy, I See Us (Oracle 3) on October 6, 2016.

Begin reading here: Chapter 1, Part 1

Reading order for the Adept Universe.



I See Me (Oracle 1)

Chapter Three

Part Three & Four

Driving in Vancouver in a twenty-one foot RV was way different from testing it out on the grid-straight roads of Richmond. Navigating to the highway and then heading downtown was totally fine, since it was four lanes wide. I stayed in the far right with the slow traffic. Rush hour had eased off, and technically had been going in the other direction anyway.

The downtown of Vancouver, even in the Downtown Eastside, was filled with alternating one-way streets as well as cars parked on either side of the road. I clutched the massive wheel in my lap — yes, it was one of those, like a bus — and just went slow and steady in as straight a line as I could manage. Driving an RV was a big step up for someone who was more accustomed to helping out busing the other kids around in the Residence’s minivan.

I managed to park the Brave in the alley behind the group home without any issue. Thankfully, I wouldn’t have to back up when I pulled out. The homeless people who drifted in and out of the area — and who sometimes slept in the alley — were currently spread out among the soup kitchens and church dinners. The garbage and delivery trucks were long gone for the evening. So I shouldn’t be bothering anyone. I also wasn’t planning on sticking around long.

I’d already said all the goodbyes I was planning to say, which were pretty much none at all. I didn’t want to rile anyone up when I wasn’t sure where I was going to be in a week — or even a month — from now. We only ever communicated via text message or online anyway. This wouldn’t be much different.

I might be back. Though I doubted it.

I had a key to the alley delivery door, and I used it. I’d tucked my portfolio, suitcases, and a couple of boxes behind the supervisor’s desk in her office, just off the communal kitchen. Trudy, who’d been the supervisor since the Residence opened, had been away this afternoon at a conference. She hadn’t planned on coming back tonight. That worked out just fine for me.

Some other foster kid a year or two from aging out would be sleeping in my bed by the end of the week. The Residence had a long waiting list, and only twenty individual rooms. I think Trudy was actively looking for funding to add four more. It wasn’t just about the physical space — the building had lots of rooms — staff and maintenance were pricey.

I was lucky that Trudy had gone to bat for me when I applied. The fact that I ran a somewhat successful Etsy store had impressed her. She’d admired one of my sketches and I’d given it to her for her last birthday. She had it framed and hanging in her office. It depicted the left side profile of the dark-suited man who haunted my delusions. I’d sharply edged the charcoal and then smudged it to carve out his razor-edged cheekbone and his mercilessly straight nose. A section of his amulet could be glimpsed at the edge of his stiff open collar. I never could quite render the markings on the chain exactly as I saw them in my head. It was as if they kept changing every time the dark-suited man appeared to me.

Trudy had mentioned that someone had tried to buy the piece from her last week, and a month before that as well. I told her she should ask an outrageous price and then take a vacation with the proceeds. She hadn’t found the idea amusing, though.

I didn’t even glance at the sketch as I grabbed my portfolio and suitcases. Once the images were out of my head, I liked to keep them that way.

It only took me two trips to load my stuff into the Brave. I’d organize it later, when I wasn’t blocking an entire alley.

I locked everything up behind me. I’d mail the key if I decided to not come back.

I took five art tubes I’d set aside, crossed out of the alley at the east side of the Residence onto West Hastings, and headed down the street to the pharmacy. The post office outlet there was open until 8:00 p.m., so if I hurried, I’d just make it. The tubes contained the latest sales from my Etsy store, Rochelle’s Recollections. This series of pictures had been captured throughout last fall, after the hallucinations had really ramped up and practically incapacitated me for those few days in the psych ward. I’d drawn feverishly — perhaps the most I ever had — in an attempt to reorder my mind and dull the delusions.

Some of these sketches featured my dark-suited imaginary friend. They almost always did, which was good in a silver-lining sort of way — as my shrink would point out — because they always sold well. I occasionally caught glimpses of other people. A few times I’d seen and sketched a gorgeous, strawberry blond woman and a stern granny-type with a long braid.

In this current series of sketches, the dark-haired man was facing off with the blond woman in a castle, similar to the echo I’d caught in the bus this afternoon. Despite his formal, but modern dress, the guy apparently liked to hang around medieval-looking places. Outside of movies and kid’s books, I’d never actually seen a castle. And I had no idea why I hallucinated that particular setting. I’d actually walked out of the first Lord of the Rings movie halfway through. I wasn’t a fantasy fan in general, but something about seeing castles on screen like that had made me seriously queasy.

In my mind — over the series of days that the images had held me captive — the blond with her flashing green knife had seemed to gain the upper hand over the dark-suited man. But then she’d walked away. It didn’t make much sense at the time, and still didn’t in the series I’d produced as a result. I simply deconstructed the scene into simple sketches — bite-sized pieces that I drew to get the pictures out of my head.

My hallucinations never did make any sense. If they hadn’t become so incapacitating as I grew older, my shrinks and doctors might have continued to brush them off as an overactive imagination. Early on, they’d encouraged my foster families to keep me active, signing me up for soccer and such.

Then came the pills.

Speaking of which, I had a double prescription to fill. I did pretty well on the clozapine, which I’d started when the hallucinations had ramped up so badly last fall. Once my system had gotten used to it, things really smoothed out. It had taken about three weeks to normalize. I hadn’t experienced any of the heavier-duty side effects — like seizures or dizziness — but the meds made me drowsy. That was cool, though, because if I took it before bed it helped me sleep. I also had to get my white blood count checked every week, but that was what medical clinics were there for — especially on a road trip.

Medical insurance was the second reason I’d gotten a BCAA membership — for the year’s worth of medical coverage in the States that I could buy through them. The first reason, rather obviously, was I’d just bought an RV more than two decades older than I was. Too bad BCAA didn’t do vehicle inspections on Class A motorhomes, but I trusted Gary’s mechanic. His checklist was really thorough, and Gary had been obsessive about the Brave’s upkeep. The engine certainly looked clean, and was a straightforward design when compared to the minivan. Not that I could identify a spark plug in either case, but I could check the oil.

The clozapine was an antipsychotic, meant to block certain receptors in my brain. I was in a maintenance phase now rather than acute — as I had been last fall — so I took only one of the orally disintegrating pills a day. Before today, it had been months since I’d had a spell like the one that hit me on the bus. I’d sort of tricked my doctor into writing an early refill — on the basis that I’d misplaced my current supply — so I had extra for my trip. Since I’d never lost a bottle before, he readily believed me and hadn’t bothered calling Carol. Again, I really wasn’t a huge fan of lying, but sometimes it was just the easier route. I wasn’t looking forward to filling an antipsychotic prescription in the middle of nowhere, so I figured I’d avoid that as much as possible.

The pharmacist didn’t bother to engage me in small talk, and neither did the post office clerk. They knew me and my routine well. The prescription just had to be paid for, and I already had the ‘Fragile’ stickers on the art tubes.

I still had to figure out how to fill orders from my Etsy shop on the road, but I was certain it wouldn’t be an issue. A prepaid cellphone paired with my second-hand laptop would make it easy enough to list new sketches and answer emails.

I was still refining a second grouping of sketches that had been part of my bad stretch last fall. Those hallucinations had been even heavier and more taxing than the first. This series featured — again inexplicably — the curly-haired blond with a samurai sword on a beach somewhere, but she definitely wasn’t on vacation.

Unless she found it restful to hang with demons.

Yeah, the beings that appeared in my last round of sketches — the ones the blond was fighting off with her sword — looked a hell of a lot like demons … big, doglike demons with five-inch claws.

Demons created by my broken brain, destroyed by a golden-haired girl in red leather pants with a deadly sharp katana, then revived in charcoal and paper. Of course, the pants were rendered in shades of black in my sketches, but I’d always remember the blur of red as the blond danced across the gray beach in the moonlight. I’d always remember the demon claws at her throat. The shock of blood on the dark, wet sand. Her falling, the demons swarming, and the pain in my chest when I thought she wouldn’t get up.

I’d thankfully only gotten glimpses of the demons, because that was more than enough.

I’d stopped questioning a long time ago why my mind showed me what it did, but I found the series difficult to work on … draining, dark, and edgy. They would sell like crazy if I ever finished them. And I had to finish soon, if only for grocery money. Plus, once they were sold, the hallucinations shouldn’t haunt my thoughts so much. But I could only handle working on refining the images for short periods of time.

I’d never seen anything as terrifying as what I saw in my mind those few days last fall. My broken brain had suddenly become adept at weaving complex, dark tales of demons, blood, and chaos. The hallucinations had never been as strong, before or since. Maybe I was wrong about my usual methods of exorcism being good enough to get me through the residual hauntings of the hallucinations. But the pills and the sketching were my only defenses, so they would have to do.

All of this, including the Brave and the new life I was seeking, would have to be enough, because I wasn’t letting anything hurt me any more than it already did.

I could handle this much.

I was in and out of the pharmacy in fifteen minutes. Doing errands at night had always been a comfortable routine for me. It meant that fewer people were around, so I could move through the mundane bits of life quickly and efficiently. My tinted glasses still garnered stares from those who didn’t know me, though.

What’s-his-name Hoyt was hanging outside the front entrance of the Residence. I actually stopped in my tracks at the northeast corner of Hastings and Carrall Street, though the walk light was urging me forward. The streets weren’t empty, but they were quiet. It was a Monday night, and Welfare Wednesday was over a week away. I stepped into the doorway of the empty store on the corner, careful to not disturb the nest of blankets and garbage there, and watched Hoyt across the street for a moment.

The Residence was housed in a revitalized section of the Downtown Eastside. An entire block of old brick buildings had been stripped back — only the facades were salvageable — and renovated into a bunch of expensive lofts and shops. The developer had been forced by the city to provide some lower-income housing, and had opted to lease this twenty-four-room apartment building to the ministry to help house older kids. I gathered it was a massive tax write-off. Or something like that. I didn’t know or care about all the particulars.

Anyway, the point was, this was not really a neighborhood where people casually hung out smoking cigarettes with kids five or more years younger than them. Not that Hoyt appeared to be smoking anything, and the kids weren’t just smoking cigarettes. Like I said, it was the supervisor’s day off. But still, coming in smelling like pot was just asking to get kicked out. Most of us worked our asses off to get a room in the Residence. It seriously pissed me off that Jack, Elise, and Tim were risking their placements.

I quashed the impulse to stride across the street and tell them so, just as I always did. Keeping my mouth shut was my best defense against life.

A couple of twenty-somethings crossed by me, Starbucks coffees in hand and massive gray Gap knit cowls coiled around their necks.

Simon Fraser University housed its downtown campus two blocks west on the north side of West Hastings. The campus had been a part of the new development of the old Woodward’s building a few years ago. The university ran a ton of night classes. I’d looked at the brochures more than once but had no idea what I should take after high school. I’d opted for the Brave instead.

Hoyt might be a university student, though he looked a bit old for it. That would totally explain him being here now and at the pizza place two days ago. Seeing him on West Broadway was probably just a weird coincidence. Maybe he worked around there. I was just being all weird and paranoid.

Still, ignoring the flashing red ‘Don’t Walk’ signal, I jogged across the street and ducked into the alley without him noticing. Maybe the guy liked hanging out with underprivileged kids for some reason. He wouldn’t be the first. He hadn’t tried to preach to me about anything, but he might just have a long warm up.

I climbed into the Brave and locked the door behind me. I paused to push my boxes and suitcases farther back, until they were all tucked underneath the lime-green table of the dinette. I slid my portfolio on a slight angle between the table and the bench seat, though I wasn’t too worried about anything moving around. I wasn’t exactly a speed demon in this rig.

I climbed into the driver’s seat and reached down to start the engine.

Someone rapped at my window.

I shrieked, and then bit my tongue attempting to tamp down on my extreme reaction.

Hoyt was standing next to the driver’s-side window.

He smiled, chagrined. “Sorry about that.” His voice was muffled by the window. “Didn’t mean to scare you. Just wanted to say hi … again.”

He made a rolling motion with his hand, indicating that I should lower the window.

I didn’t.

I could taste blood. Not taking my eyes off Hoyt, I lifted my hand to my mouth. My fingers came away clean, so I hadn’t bitten my lip badly enough to bleed. Just my tongue.

“Nice rig,” Hoyt said, as if we were having a conversation and he hadn’t just freaked me out in an empty dark alley. Well, I guess the delivery door of the Residence and its windows were well lit.

Even with the window and the entire metal-and-plastic side of the Brave technically between us, he was standing way, way too close to me. Gary had stood closer. He’d leaned right into the window, gestured past me toward the muffins in the passenger seat, and I hadn’t even noticed his proximity.

There was something off about Hoyt, though.

“Thanks,” I said. My heart was hammering in my chest, but I hoped it wasn’t noticeable in my voice or face as I turned the key in the ignition.

“Going camping?” Hoyt asked over the sound of the engine.

“Nope,” I answered.

I put the Brave in drive and rolled forward. I didn’t want to run over his toes, but I wasn’t interested in whatever he had going on.

He backed off, called something like “Have fun” after me, and thumped on the side of the RV as I pulled away.

As I paused to turn onto the street, I looked back at him through my sideview mirror.

Hoyt had moved to the center of the alley. He was holding his phone up as if he might be checking it for signal or texting … or like he was taking a picture of the back of the Brave.

I looked away, turned onto the street, and headed south for the border.

The jerk could try to recruit me long distance. Most likely he’d just focus on the easier targets at the Residence. He was probably some religious fanatic collecting brownie points for every soul he converted for his God.

Not that I had a problem with religion. Many people found comfort in it. I just had the feeling that most seriously religious people would stay far, far away if they knew I had two bottles of antipsychotics in my bag and another in my suitcase.

I shook off the residual creeps over Hoyt’s alley ambush and forced my eyes to focus on the street ahead. The city was quiet as I cut through it back the way I’d already come. Only one more bridge, a tunnel, and an hour long stretch of highway and I’d be at the border.-



– Shares welcomed and appreciated –


I See Me (Oracle 1): Chapter Three, Part 1 & 2

October 1, 2016

For those of you who haven’t had a moment to read I See Me (Oracle 1) I’m sharing a few chapters as a lead up to the release of the final book in the trilogy, I See Us (Oracle 3) on October 6, 2016.

Begin reading here: Chapter 1, Part 1

Reading order for the Adept Universe.



I See Me (Oracle 1)

Chapter Three

Part One & Two

“I’ll give you six thousand for it,” I said.

“Seven thousand, firm,” he answered.

“That’s way too much, old man.” I grinned, just so he knew I was teasing about the ‘old man’ part.

He chuckled, his belly actually jiggling to accompany this mirth.

I liked Gary. He was nice for an old guy. His buzz-cut hair was gray and his big, gnarled hands had seen hard use — the hard use that had probably bought him this mausoleum of a house in Richmond. And, upon his retirement, the upgraded, insanely expensive RV that currently filled the entire driveway.

We were negotiating for the much less upgraded 1975 Brave Winnebago he had parked on a cement pad at the side of the house. His wife wanted a hot tub there. I figured she’d just be happy to not be staring at the Brave out of her living room windows anymore.

Not that I thought the older RV was an eyesore. To me, it looked like freedom.

The kind of freedom I’d been looking for since I turned sixteen, and started scouring Craigslist and AutoTrader to figure out what kind of RV to save up for. I’d gotten my driver’s license pretty much the moment I was eligible. The license had taken some wrangling on my part, and I was seriously lucky my shrink and doctor hadn’t pulled it after my last visit to the psych ward. Of course, I’d been rather circumspect about the blinding side effects of hallucinations.

Despite the blip this afternoon, I was certain I had the delusions under control. At the very least, I knew the warning signs and could react quickly — say, pull off the road or park the RV, if needed.

This was my second trip out into middle-of-nowhere Richmond. It had taken a SkyTrain and two buses to get here the first time, but I’d figured out a way to skip the second bus on this trip. I didn’t mind walking, and I could cut diagonally using the side streets where the bus had to drive in straight lines. The buildings weren’t particularly tall around here, so the residential sprawl was massive. The house lots were easily double the size of those closer to downtown Vancouver, though.

It was full dark, around six o’clock when I’d arrived. The sun set early this time of year. I was late, but Gary hadn’t cared. The delicious, spicy dinner smells coming from the house behind him when he opened the front door had made my tummy rumble.

I settled my feet. I’d been bouncing around a bit in anticipation. It was a struggle to compose my face. I really, really wanted him to sell this RV to me. He’d kept it in mint condition, with the original orange-striped curtains, brownish-orange carpet, and lime-green countertops. Even the dashboard was burnt orange. You’d think the colors would be completely faded and the fabric threadbare, but they weren’t. It was absolutely hideous. I loved every inch of it.

“Six thousand five hundred. That’s all I’ve got.”

Gary narrowed his eyes at me and frowned deeply. “I’m not sure. Can your feet reach the pedals?”

I laughed. “You saw me test drive it last time.”

“Yup. Nearly shaved ten years off my life watching you pull out in it.”

He thrust his hand forward and I eagerly shook it.

I dug into my bag and pulled out the envelope of cash I’d been carrying all day. I opened the stack of hundred-dollar bills and removed five hundreds from it.

Gary sputtered, though probably more over me carrying that much cash than how I’d talked him down five hundred dollars that I’d been completely prepared to pay. I actually had a couple hundred dollars tucked inside my bag in American currency as well.

“I have to buy gas,” I said as I handed him six thousand five hundred dollars of my hard-earned, scraped-together-over-the-last-two-years savings. I’d never been so completely excited to part with money in any amount before, let alone this much of it. I’d have to get some new sketches listed quickly if I wanted to eat next week. Thankfully, I wasn’t a big eater.

Gary laughed. “You’re taking her tonight, then?”

“I’d like to.”

“Course, course,” he said. “Well … I should show you how to empty the storage tanks and charge the battery.”

“I read the owner’s manual and the driver’s guide last time.”

“Ah, yes. You did.”

I held my hand out for the keys. He smiled sadly as he dropped them into my open palm.

“There’s an Autoplan place over on Number 3 Road,” Gary said. “But I’m not sure they’ll still be open.”

“They are. Until seven,” I said. “The insurance guy is kind of expecting us. If you’re cool to come with me?”

“Of course he is.” Gary chuckled again. “I’ll follow you in my car.”

I practically stumbled over my feet to the side door of the RV. The Brave had a single exterior door — right behind the cockpit passenger seat — that opened to the entire interior. There was one bed in the tail section, and the bright lime-green kitchen table could be converted as well. The kitchen and the tiny bathroom occupied the middle of the vehicle. This model didn’t come with the drop-down bed over the cockpit, though that had been an option back when it was new.

All I had to do to be exactly where I’d been dreaming of being for the last three years was climb a couple of orange-carpeted steps up into the cockpit between the driver and passenger seats. From there, I could slide in behind the wheel and be off.

Well, right after I got insurance.

I hustled out of the Autoplan place, even more impoverished than I’d been thirty minutes ago, but with my insurance papers safely tucked inside my bag.

The mall parking lot was empty, and the insurance broker’s lights winked out behind me as I hustled over to where Gary was tightening the new license plates onto the Brave.

I was glad that Gary had come with me, because it had really smoothed out the transfer of ownership process. He’d slipped out before the insurance guy seriously depleted my savings account further. Apparently, it took four years — not three — to build up a safe driving record and nineteen-year-old’s dished out a crazy amount for insurance. I paid for six months upfront without even blinking.

Gary grinned at me as I approached. But then, I was grinning at him like a maniac and practically skipping instead of walking, so I wasn’t surprised. He snapped something closed on his Leatherman multi-tool and pocketed the knife. A screwdriver, I guessed.

“All set then?” he asked.

“Just one last thing.” I pulled the back off the date sticker the insurance guy had given me and applied it to the blank spot on the license plate. It read July 14. And for me, that spelled six months of freedom. Yes, please, and thank you.

I straightened and offered Gary my hand. I didn’t like to touch people, but Gary had been amazing. “Thank you, sir,” I said.

He shook my hand and then nodded me toward the Brave without a word.

I crossed between his big Jeep and the RV to climb in the side door.

As I settled into the driver’s seat, Gary crossed around to the driver’s-side window. I put the keys in the ignition and obligingly hand-cranked the window down when Gary knocked on it.

“I filled her for you,” he said, leaning in with his arm on the window ledge. “Tess baked you muffins.” He gestured across me toward a basket on the passenger seat. “I’d already figured you’d take the Brave tonight.”

“Thank Tess for me?”

“I will. I also put a note in the basket, with our cellphone number, our CB handles, and other things I thought you should know. But, ah, we don’t use the CB very much anymore.”

“Right.” I let him off the uncomfortable hook he was wiggling on. “Because lots of working girls use them at truck stops to solicit customers. I’m good with Google.”

Gary cleared his throat and bobbed his head in a nod. “Okay, then. Well, it’s still good in case of a traffic jam. The trucks and RVs ahead of you will let you know what lane to get into or what bypass to take. I also left instructions on how to change the password for the personal safe, which I’m sure you already saw.”

“It’s bolted into the floor in one of the lower storage cabinets.”

“It isn’t foolproof, of course, but you might want to use it for your passport and any valuables you aren’t wearing. The sheets are clean, and there’s an extra set for the second bed. Tess bought all the plates, glasses, and utensils especially for the Brave. But, well, you know all that already.”

“Thank you … again and again.” I couldn’t stop smiling, even though my face was hurting from it.

“The tires are going to need replacing next year. Sooner if you drive her a lot. Try to get her under cover in the winter, especially in the snow. Don’t invite any leaks.”

I nodded, though Gary had told me all of this already. I had a good memory but I didn’t mind him fussing over me — even if it was really just him fussing over letting go of his Brave.

“Tess and I are going to take a spin down the coast tomorrow, see where we get. It’ll be wet, of course, and not all the campgrounds are open.”

“That’s where I’m headed.”

“I thought you might be. Better to do BC in the spring, after the snow has melted in all the pretty places you’ll want to see.”


He nodded, then did so a second time more deliberately. Finally, he let go of the window and stepped back. “Start her up.”

I turned the key in the ignition. The engine tried to turn over a few times and then caught.

“Call the cell if you need us,” Gary called.

“Texting seems easier. You need an international data plan. I just bought one myself.”

He laughed, thumped the side of the Brave, and turned to walk around to his Jeep without looking back.

I’m not sure why, but as I pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street, I watched in the passenger sideview mirror as he drove off in the opposite direction. I imagined him going home to Tess and their tasty dinner with sixty-five hundred dollars in his pocket that he really didn’t want, or maybe even need. I had no idea why it mattered to me, but I really hoped some part of him was pleased he’d sold the Brave to me.

I had to force myself to turn left and wind my way back to the highway and into Vancouver, instead of heading straight for the border. I had a couple of suitcases and boxes waiting for me at the Residence. I might toy with the idea of just taking off, but I really wasn’t going anywhere without my drawing stuff or an extra supply of pills.

The impulse to just walk away from everything was strong. It felt empowering. And I was still grinning.

Plus, I was going to eventually need food. I always hated the fact I couldn’t get away with not eating.


Continue Reading:

Chapter 3, part 2 & 3 (Oct 2)

– Shares welcomed and appreciated –


I See Me (Oracle 1): Chapter 2, Part 2

September 30, 2016

For those of you who haven’t had a moment to read I See Me (Oracle 1) I’m sharing a few chapters as a lead up to the release of the final book in the trilogy, I See Us (Oracle 3) on October 6, 2016.

Begin reading here: Chapter 1, Part 1

Reading order for the Adept Universe.



I See Me (Oracle 1)

Chapter Two

Part Two

A bus got me back to Cambie Street within a dozen or so minutes, but then I had to wait for the next SkyTrain to get to my ultimate destination. I actually had enough time that I considered dropping by the Starbucks up the hill on West Broadway to see if a friend of mine was working. Then I spotted the jewelry store just a couple of blocks up.

This neighborhood was undergoing gentrification … you know, a cleansing. A bunch of the single-level storefronts had been torn down and replaced with big-brand big-boxes disguised in brick, steel beams, and smooth concrete with upscale apartments above. However, a few holdouts remained to sully the block. The jewelry store was one of them. I’d never actually noticed it before. But then, I hadn’t owned a piece of jewelry that had any real worth before.

Even if the stone were only quartz, it would be cool to get the chain fixed. I might be able to mend it myself by squeezing the broken link back around the eyelet that was drilled into the stone with needle-nose pliers. I wasn’t sure I had the strength, though. Gold was supposed to be soft, but the links of the necklace were really thick. A jeweler could probably do it properly, and it would hold better.

The dirty windows and door of the place were covered in security bars. The twenty-percent sale sign taped to the inside of the window was seriously sun bleached. The display case was half full of watches. Who wore watches anymore? The other half was filled with what appeared to be hundreds of different wedding bands. I never knew there were so many choices. But then, I’d never even fantasied about getting married.

I had to buzz to be let in, so I did.

Then I waited.

I waited so long that I glanced around for the security camera that I was pretty sure would accompany the buzzer and the bars. It was in the upper right corner of the doorframe.

I removed my tinted glasses and depressed the intercom next to the buzzer button.

“Hi.” I spoke into the black box while looking up at the camera. I’m sure I looked ridiculous doing so. “I have a gold necklace that needs to be fixed … and the money to pay for it.”

I didn’t mind that most adults found me a little off-putting. That was the point, after all. I couldn’t blend in — I know, because I’d tried for years — so I didn’t bother. However, most old people could be made to feel really stupid about their prejudice with a simple friendly smile. Though I only bothered smiling in that way when I wanted something, which wasn’t often.

The door buzzed, and I grabbed the handle quickly before it could lock on me again.

The store was divided by three rows of waist-high glass cases, with more ringing the walls. It was less dusty inside than I’d imagined it would be. The cash register was at the back, next to a short Formica countertop.

Not bothering to look at anything, I headed back to the counter as the jeweler wandered out of the back office. He wasn’t that old. Old enough that he was graying at the temples, but I had friends going gray, so sometimes that didn’t mean much. Still, he was old enough to be my father, if he’d been Asian rather than East Indian. Not that I knew for sure my biological dad was full Asian, but I looked to be at least a quarter by my size and the shape of my face. This was why my white blond hair and big, pale eyes — supposedly inherited from my mother — were weird if I didn’t keep them covered.

He was young enough that my appearance shouldn’t have bothered him.

“Sorry,” he said. “I was in the can.”

Great. “Okay,” I said as I fished the necklace out of the inner pocket of my bag.

“Cool bag,” he said. “Did you get that on Etsy?”

“No,” I answered — again lying, though I really hated doing so — because I really wasn’t into the chatting part of human interaction. “My necklace is broken.”

I placed my mother’s necklace on the counter, stone first. The heavy linked chain pooled to one side. It was long enough that it would probably fall almost halfway to my belly button if I wore it. By that, I gathered my mother had been tall. I hadn’t known that before.

“What’s this?” the jeweler asked. But he was speaking to himself, not me, so I didn’t bother answering.

He lifted the chain. “Yes, broken, I see, but …” He stared at the stone, then looked at me. He was acting weird. Concerned, maybe. But then also freaked out around the edges.

He picked up a magnifying glass — one of those ones that jewelers somehow wore in their eye — and looked at the broken link, then closer at the stone.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked. His tone was weirdly harsh, but also excited.

“Quartz?” I said with a shrug. “Can you fix it?”

“Can I fix it …”

He looked at me instead of the necklace, sizing me up for some reason.

The back of my neck started to itch. I was really aware of the locked door behind me. Could I get out of the store without him letting me out? I hadn’t thought of that before coming in. Why would I? I wanted to glance back to check to see if there was a release lever on the door, but I held the guy’s gaze instead.

“Where did you get this?”

“It was just handed to me by my social worker. It was my mother’s. My dead mother’s. But I’m not sure how that’s your business.”

“You didn’t steal it?”

“What? No. Why would I be stupid enough to bring it in here if I ripped it off?”

“To sell it.”

“I just want it fixed. Can you fix it or not?”

The guy stared at me for a moment longer. His eyes were really dark brown. Wet seal-pelt brown, but not warm and fuzzy like that image would imply. Slick and nimble seal brown. Tricky … maybe not to be trusted.

“It’s not a quartz,” he finally said, returning his gaze to the necklace. “The chain is rose gold, eighteen karat. I’d have to weigh it to be sure, but this is thousands of dollars’ worth of gold in this market.”

He looked at me for a reaction, so I shrugged. He looked at the rough-cut milky stone through the magnifying glass again, turning it in his fingers. “I don’t know what idiot just drills gold eyelets into a diamond this size and simply hangs it from a chain.”


He looked at me. The stone was now hidden in the palm of his hand, which he was practically clutching to his chest.

“Do you know what this is worth? The gold or stone alone? I could sell it —”

“No,” I blurted. “Not interested. It was my mother’s.”

“The stone is almost the size of a nickel,” he continued, as if I hadn’t spoken. “Depending on clarity, the depth of the damage from the eyelets, and estimating on the low end, it’s worth easily fifty grand. And the gold —”

“I don’t want to sell it,” I said. I was on the verge of yelling. I placed the palms of my hands on the counter to stop myself from snatching the necklace away from him. I didn’t like the way he was holding it. I didn’t like him holding it at all.

“It was my mother’s,” I repeated, carefully articulating my words.

“Yes, what a great gift —”

“It isn’t a gift. It’s an inheritance. Give it back please.”

“Yes, exactly —”

“My mother died in a car crash before I was born,” I said, getting angry as I heard the suppressed tears in my own voice. I didn’t cry, not ever. I wasn’t going to cry for this jerk. “Do you get it? She died. Before I was born.”

He nodded slowly, like he was just starting to hear me.

“Give it back to me, please.”

He passed the necklace back to me. I snatched it from his hand. Not even bothering to put it in my bag, I immediately turned away to cross to the door.

“Wait,” he said. “I can fix it for you. And clean it.”

“Never mind,” I answered without turning back. “Just let me out.”

I reached the door and wrapped my right hand around the handle. I was still clutching the necklace in my left.

“You really should wear it,” he said, almost pleading now, though he stayed behind the counter. “You don’t want to lose it.”

“Just let me out. Please.” I rattled the door, though I would have preferred not to. I didn’t like freaking out in front of anyone. “Please.”

He buzzed the door and it unlocked. I yanked it open and leaped out onto the street.

The cool air hit me like a breath of freedom. I bent my head down and hustled back down the hill to the SkyTrain station as fast as I could without running.

Only once I was there — seated in the fast-moving train with the houses and buildings along Cambie Street blurring past outside — only then did I carefully coil the necklace into the inner pocket of my bag.

I zipped the pocket closed.

I tucked the bag securely underneath my arm.

I didn’t care what the guy said about the necklace. Didn’t care about that money, if he was even telling the truth. But other people would.

I didn’t like people wanting things from me. Obviously, I didn’t mind selling my sketches, but that was a fair exchange — money for my art. I was an adult. Adults worked to pay for their lives.

I had been lucky that I wasn’t an obvious target. I kept my head down, didn’t own much in the way of valuables, and people generally left me alone. I wasn’t interested in changing that dynamic in any way.

If I minded my own business, other people should as well, but nothing in life tended to be that fair.


Continue Reading:

Chapter 3, part 1 & 2 (Oct 1)

Chapter 3, part 2 & 3 (Oct 2)

– Shares welcomed and appreciated –


Oracle 3: Three eARCs – giveaway

September 29, 2016

GIVEAWAY CLOSED. LUCKY #12, #27, and #39 have been emailed

I’m giving away three eARCs (electronic advanced reader copies) of Oracle 3 today! This is the second of three giveaways to help celebrate the release of Oracle 3 on October 6, 2016.


– I SEE US (ORACLE 3) now available for preorder –


So … would you like to win an eARC of Oracle 3?

To enter all you need to do is comment below and let me know:

  1. What character are you most looking forward to seeing and/or learning more about (hopefully) in Oracle 3?

Notes/Rules: OPEN INTERNATIONALLY. Each comment will be assigned an entry number. THREE winning entries will then be selected via random number generator. One entry per person. Please make sure to fill out a valid email address in the comment form. Email addresses are not collected for any purpose other than notifying the contest winner.

If you haven’t commented on the blog before, or you comment from a different IP address, the comments are moderated. So don’t worry if you don’t see your entry right away. I will approve it, then assign it an entry number.

Contest closes SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016 at 8 p.m. PDT


I See Me (Oracle 1): Chapter 2, Part 1

September 29, 2016

For those of you who haven’t had a moment to read I See Me (Oracle 1) I’m sharing a few chapters as a lead up to the release of the final book in the trilogy, I See Us (Oracle 3) on October 6, 2016.

Begin reading here: Chapter 1, Part 1

Reading order for the Adept Universe.

I See Me (Oracle 1) paperback


I See Me (Oracle 1)

Chapter Two

Part One

“It was your mother’s,” Carol said as she handed me a ratty royal-blue-velvet jewelry box. It was about the length of a sunglass case, but thinner.

“What?” I asked, because I wasn’t really listening. I’d signed some papers, retrieved my passport, and was now ready to walk out of this part of my life.

“Held in trust by the ministry.”

“Sorry?” I asked. “You kept something of my mother’s for nineteen years?”

“It would have been … if you had been adopted …” Carol took off her wire-rimmed glasses and rubbed her eyes. She was a series of shades of brown. Brown eyes, hair, and freckles. Even her sweater, belt, and shoes were brown today, but none of the shades matched. Too much yellow in one, too much orange in the other. Her hair was dull, devoid of shine. Her eyes needed a day off, even though — since it was Monday afternoon now — she’d just had two.

Carol had only been assigned to my file for about a year and a half. Sharon, the social worker who’d given me the mittens, hadn’t returned from maternity leave. I’d already forgotten the name of the temp worker who’d been assigned to me in between. Carol didn’t really know how to talk to me, about anything. She saw my thick file and it made her sad.

Early on, she’d talked about the possibility of teen adoption. I’d had my name taken off the list the day I turned twelve and was legally able to express my opinion on the matter. I’d had to miss a couple of meetings with Carol, and suffer from a hallucination in front of her, before she let the subject drop.

It was nice that she cared, though. I’d just had more than enough of nice in my life. I wanted more than nice, but I didn’t believe that more existed. So I’d take nothing — and no one — on my own terms every day, starting today. Nice just didn’t work for me anymore.

“You kept this because you thought I’d lose it?” I asked.

“The ministry —”

I waved off Carol’s explanation and snapped open the box to see a gold necklace attached to an antique white rock. The quartz, or whatever it was, was about the size of a nickel and roughly hewn. The chain’s links were wide — almost industrial looking — and tarnished. The necklace was attached by gold eyelets that appeared to be drilled right into the stone, but one of them was broken. The metal of it was oddly stretched out, as if some force had pulled the chain apart.

“Did they rip it off her?” I was whispering as I stared at the broken necklace, but I wasn’t sure why.

“Excuse me?”

“The paramedics,” I said. “Did they rip the necklace off her when they pulled her from the car? Or later at the hospital when she was dying and I was born?”

“I … I …” Carol replaced her glasses and turned back to the thick file on her desk. She always kept my file closed but in sight when we visited. Occasionally, she placed her hand on it when she was discussing something she deemed very important. When she’d taken over the office, she turned the desk so it was against the far wall. That way she could sit facing the guest chairs without the desk as a physical barrier. The framed inspirational quotes and the fleece throw on the third chair were also meant to add a cozy feeling to the room. Unfortunately for Carol, the item that probably got the most use in her office was the Kleenex box.

She opened my file at the very beginning and began to scan the pages.

“It’s not in there,” I said. “I’ve read all that. I’d already know about the necklace if it was in there. There’s a note about belongings, but I assumed it meant clothing that had probably been burned after she died, since I hadn’t been given anything.” I weighted that last part with every ounce of disdain that I could muster over something I’d only learned about moments before — so not much, but more than usual.

“Oh … I … you’ve read this?”

“Yep,” I answered. “More than once. It’s a bonding exercise. I guess you hadn’t gotten around to offering yet.”

“Well, I … that is unorthodox —”

I picked up the necklace. It was as heavy as it looked. “It’s broken,” I repeated.

“Yes, I saw. I thought about getting it repaired, and cleaned.”

For some reason, it incensed me that this woman had seen this piece of me, this piece of my history — maybe even touched it — when I hadn’t even known it existed.

“Is the box hers?”

“What? Oh. No, I don’t think —”

I stood up and tossed the velvet box on Carol’s desk behind her.

She flinched back in her comfy black desk chair. She gripped one of the vinyl arms, then deliberately relaxed her hand when I noticed. Her light coral fingernails were chipped at the very tips. I knew she had a panic button underneath her desk. She’d used it when I was hit with the hallucination that I’d had in her office about a year ago. If she had just let me leave, let me get some fresh air and sketch as I’d requested when I felt it coming on, then she wouldn’t have had to use the button. Then I wouldn’t have had to suffer the touch of strangers and the questions of the paramedics. I should have left without permission, but I knew that usually resulted in reprimands and restrictions. Also, they kept the front doors barred — literally gated. I had to be buzzed through both the exterior exit and the door between the reception area and the offices if I wanted to leave.

I really hadn’t wanted Carol to see me in the grip of a hallucination. Part of me hated her for having seen me so vulnerable. She’d talked about it as a bonding experience afterward. I’d kept my mouth shut.

I coiled the necklace in my palm, then tucked it in the inner zippered pocket of my bag, along with my passport and the big wad of cash I was more than ready to unload. I turned to leave.

“Wait,” Carol cried. “What about … will you be staying at the Residence tonight?”

“Doubt it,” I answered as I sauntered out through the door. Social workers always kept their doors open during client meetings to thwart any accusations of abuse. And, of course, so they could call for help. Though as previously noted, they also had a panic button for that. I didn’t think any of us foster kids were supposed to know about the panic buttons.

“You need to check in,” Carol said as she jumped up from her seat to follow me into the hall. “You need to be careful about stress and … and … everything.”

I quickly crossed by the other open office doorways. It was almost four o’clock, so most of the offices were empty for the day. At the top of the stairs, the room to my immediate right was painted in what was supposed to be cheerful colors. Kid colors. Egg yolk yellow, deep sky blue, and grass green. The room was filled with a tidy array of toys, low plastic chairs, and a navy blue cushy couch that had seen many better years than this one.

I looked away. I’d always hated that room. I’d met two of three sets of prospective adoptive parents in there. I’d also spent an entire day captive in there — three times — after I’d been voluntarily surrendered to the ministry, but before I’d been assigned my next foster placement. Everyone here was overworked and underpaid, including the foster homes. The rest of us were stuck in the nowhere that was between the two.

But not anymore — not me, not now, or ever again.

“Check in with me,” Carol continued. “With your doctor, with your —”

“Shrink,” I said. “Yeah, I know. How about we leave the counseling to the experts?”

“I’m a certified —”

“I know to get my white blood count levels checked once a week,” I said as I trotted down the stairs with Carol at my heels. “I also know that there will always be a room for me … if I give you enough notice. I get that you aren’t tossing me onto the streets.”

I got stalled at the locked glass door inside the front waiting area. This door could only be opened by code, or by remote if the receptionist was around. She wasn’t.

Unfortunately, this meant that Carol caught up to me and managed to drag me in for a hug. Being all of five-foot-three had its disadvantages, and overly emotional hugs from chesty people was one of them.

“Right,” I said, as I withstood the unwanted human contact without screaming. “Great.”

I patted Carol’s back.

She didn’t let go. “I just loved that picture you drew for me. I’ll always cherish it.”

“Okay, then.”

Carol finally drew back from the hug, but she didn’t let go of me. “Oh, no! I bought you something. Special pencil crayons.”

Great. I didn’t draw in color. “I’ll grab them from you later.”

“Oh? Okay.” The loose promise of a visit got me a smile. She was teary, but not crying.

“Is this your first aging out?”

Carol nodded.

“You’re doing great.” I really hated to lie, but I really had somewhere to be.

“Really? I was so worried when you were late —”

“Buses, you know.”

“I’ll miss our monthlies.”

I hated it when she called our meetings ‘monthlies,’ like we menstruated together or something. “Okay, sure, but I’ve got to go now.”

“All right. Be safe, Rochelle,” Carol said. “I’ll always be here for you. I care about you.”

I nodded. This motion caused the migraine I’d just fought off to ping-pong through my head. Carol wasn’t being false or anything, but I just needed to go. I needed to think about the necklace, and I had more errands to run. Errands I’d been planning for months. I didn’t want to get derailed.

My entire life had been dictated by other people’s tragedies and shortcomings, but now I had a future that was just mine. A hallucination, a mushy social worker, and a dead mother’s necklace weren’t going to slow me down.

“Thanks for everything, Carol.” Then I said what I needed to say to get clear of the door, of the building, and of all the many caring-but-overworked-and-underfunded social workers that Carol represented. “I’ll call you next week.”

“Perfect,” Carol said with a teary smile. “Happy birthday, Rochelle.”

She even managed to say that — to wish me well on the day of my ill-fated birth — without a hint of irony.

She buzzed me through the door, then through the exterior door with one last wave.

I wasn’t going to call Carol next week. I might check in later, just so she didn’t send the police looking for me. Though I might be brain-damaged, I was polite. Some might say I was well trained by the system that had raised me.

I thumbed the automatic lock on the secondary security gate that stood two steps in front of the exterior, then slipped through it onto the sidewalk. The ministry was serious about protecting its workers. And with some of the loopy, estranged parents I’d seen raging around here, that wasn’t surprising.

The gate clanged closed behind me. The sound made me smile.

I was never going to hear that again.


Continue Reading:

Chapter 2, part 2 (Sept 30)

Chapter 3, part 1 & 2 (Oct 1)

Chapter 3, part 2 & 3 (Oct 2)

– Shares welcomed and appreciated –


I See Me (Oracle 1): Chapter 1, part 2

September 28, 2016

For those of you who haven’t had a moment to read I See Me (Oracle 1) I started sharing a few chapters yesterday as a lead up to the release of the final book in the trilogy, I See Us (Oracle 3) on October 6, 2016.

Begin reading here: Chapter 1, Part 1

Reading order for the Adept Universe.



I See Me (Oracle 1)

Chapter One

Part Two

Tyler gave me the peony tattoo as a birthday gift. He was cool like that, though he could easily get a hundred and sixty an hour for his tattoo work. I was pleased with the results. I’d drawn a section of the peony’s petals like they were pierced by the barbed wire, so it looked as if the flower was hanging over my shoulder blade by that precarious attachment alone. I could extrapolate that the placement reflected life, or could read something boring and tenuous into it like I was the black peony and the barbed wire was life, but that was hokey as hell. I wanted it to look that way, end of story. Though obviously I wouldn’t be flashing the new tattoo to my shrink or social worker.

And it wouldn’t be any of their business in a few more hours anyway.

Cue stupid grin plastered across my face. I was riding high on life today. Again, I wouldn’t be mentioning that to anyone who took notes in a thick file folder. Like, never.

I slipped out the back door of Get Inked into the alley to avoid the guy out front, though I hadn’t seen him there for over an hour. It wasn’t raining yet. The sky was still a light, overall cloud gray as I skirted the metal recycling and garbage bins. Alleys in Kitsilano were cleaner than any alley I’d ever seen east of here. Even the alley behind the Residence, where I’d lived for the last two years in the Downtown Eastside, had to be cleaned every day, and that block had been updated only a couple of years ago. Part of the revitalization of the parts of Vancouver that freaked the tourists out. Picking up garbage was one of the crappy lottery chores a resident could pull as part of their room and board at the Residence every month. I’d been there two years and only gotten stuck with it once, though.

Anyway, the buildings in this part of Kitsilano were a big mixture of old and new. The tattoo parlor occupied an older two-storey block of concrete, but it was freshly painted, clean concrete. Some trendy coffee shop, a florist, and an interior design place filled the brand spanking new multistorey building next door. I couldn’t believe the money people blew on things like that. Crap that they just consumed or threw out after a couple of years. Though I secretly lusted after the white orchids in the front window of the florist.

The brilliant snow-white blooms were as big as my hand. The plants were planted in pots that looked like they were made out of ash-gray concrete. Little smooth black and white rocks nestled among the moss on top. I hadn’t even bothered to check the prices. They probably cost as much as my tattoo would have if Tyler had charged me, and the blooms lasted like all of three weeks or something.

I had to take two buses from the tattoo parlor to get to my next appointment — the much-anticipated social worker appointment of my year — and I was going to be late now. But there was no way I was going to waste any money on a taxi. I had a plan for every cent in my pockets today.

I pulled my mittens out of my bag. I never went anywhere without my hand-painted satchel. I wore it slung across my chest, against my left hip, and filled with my art supplies. The mittens were hand knit in ivory-white cashmere and worn to hell. They’d been a gift from my last social worker three years ago. A gift given when she’d told me she was going on maternity leave and had to transfer my file … again. No biggie, really. I’d had so many social workers and caregivers — their term — that I didn’t bother to count anymore. They were all genuinely nice people who couldn’t do more for me than they already did. Guilt gift or not, the mittens rocked, especially because it was actually cold in Vancouver today. It got chilly this time of year when it wasn’t raining.

I crossed out of the alley onto West Broadway a couple of blocks away from Get Inked. I didn’t think the guy from out front was following me or anything. He was just annoyingly chatty.

And now he was standing next to the bus stop on the corner of Arbutus Street.


“Hey,” he called, lifting his paper coffee cup to greet me. Geez, either that was the same coffee he’d been drinking hours ago or the guy was seriously caffeinated.

I forced myself to continue walking toward him. Obnoxious guy or not, I really needed to catch the next 99 B-Line.

“I was just thinking about you,” he said. His accent was full-on American, though I didn’t know the difference between the States.

“Yeah?” Ignoring his cheesy attempt at a pick-up — if that was what was actually going on — I looked over my shoulder for the bus. I wasn’t religious, but I’d been having a good birthday so far and I’d pray for it to continue without this guy chatting me up to whatever God would have me.

“Rochelle, right?” he said. “I’m Hoyt, remember? You heading downtown?”

“Sure,” I answered, completely lying.

“Maybe we could grab that slice?”

“Nah, thanks. I’m not big on pizza.”

The 14 bus pulled to a stop in front of us, and the other bus stop occupants shuffled into line around Hoyt and me. I went along with the crowd, making a show of digging into my bag for my bus pass.

“Pasta then, or Mexican?” Hoyt was glancing around like he was worried about someone seeing him talking to me.

We shuffled along to the front door. Hoyt stepped up on the first stair and I took the opportunity to peel away from the line.


“Sorry,” I called as I jogged to the back of the bus. “I just remembered I’ve got somewhere to be.”

The 99 B-Line pulled up, and I cut to the front of the line that was forming for it so quickly no one really noticed.

“Cool,” Hoyt called after me. “I’ll catch up with you later.”

I didn’t answer. I flashed my pass and made my way to the back of the bus, pushing through the annoying people blocking the aisle.

I noticed that Hoyt hadn’t gotten on the 14. He was standing to the far side of the bus stop, texting. He looked up to scan the windows of the 99 as it pulled past him, and I turned my back. I really wasn’t interested in exchanging waves — again, if that was what was going on. What someone like Hoyt wanted with me, I had no idea. Nor was I interested in finding out.

My day was unfolding perfectly, as planned. And that never happened.

Even though it was one of those double-length accordion buses, I had to stand because the bus was crazy-full of school kids. Standing was cool. I preferred not to sit by anyone anyway, but the kids were annoying. Sure, they were only a couple of years younger than me, but still. School didn’t make them any less oblivious. Predictably, most of them got off one stop later at Granville Street, either to shop or transfer to downtown.

I still didn’t sit down. Honestly, I liked the way I had to counter the pull and push of the bus’s momentum. With my feet solidly planted, I hung, swaying from one arm. My right hand gripped the chrome bar overhead. I was actually left-hand dominant, but I never used my left hand for such menial tasks. I reserved it for art.

Vancouver — or at least this part of it — sped by outside the wide bus windows but I didn’t bother to look. I knew this street and these people more than I wanted to know it or them already. I knew every part of Vancouver that I could get to by bus or SkyTrain. I’d never been anywhere else. Not even on school trips, because I never bothered to track down whoever was currently my official guardian to get permission slips signed. I would just camp out in the school library and read and draw on the days my classes went anywhere.

I should have put on my earphones, but I didn’t. So when the hallucination struck, I had nothing to disguise my reaction. Listening to music was a good cover for involuntary spasms. I hadn’t had an incident in months, though, so I’d relaxed.

Six years of ‘incidents’ and you’d think I’d be smarter. I wasn’t.

I could still feel the sway of my body as the bus driver tapped on the brakes, as well as my hand gripping the overhead bar far too tightly now. The bones of my hand pressed painfully into the metal. But as the familiar headache rolled up over the back of my head from the top of my spine, I couldn’t see anything but white … endless rolling mists of white. The pain settled across my forehead. I tensed every single muscle in my body even while willing myself to relax … even as I silently begged my mind to let it go. Just let it be. Please.

A dark-haired man appeared out of the mist, obscuring my sight.

He was tall. Maybe slightly over six feet. Pale-skinned and wearing a dark suit but no tie. His short black hair was neatly parted and combed. I had no idea who he was, but that didn’t stop me from seeing him in my broken mind. I’d been seeing him like this for years now.

I squeezed my eyes shut, though I knew it would do nothing to stop the hallucination as it threatened to overwhelm me. The delusions were always threatening to break me, just as they’d broken me last fall.

The dark aura that radiated from the man was what had first inspired me to favor simple charcoal on paper for my artwork. Each time I offered a new sketch of him for sale in my online Etsy shop, it was purchased within the hour.

Other people wanted to be haunted by my imaginary friends so much that they willingly paid hundreds of dollars per sketch. My shrink would point that out as a silver-lining, but I’d prefer working at McDonald’s over delusions, any day.

Today, the man’s hair gleamed with the moonlit inky blackness that surrounded him. He was standing by a pile of stones, or maybe by a stone wall? He wasn’t ugly, nor did I think he was evil, but he was blackness. Could I call a figment of my imagination evil? He turned his head to look at someone I couldn’t yet see.

Oh, God. I didn’t want to see.

As he raised his hand to touch the crimson stone amulet he always wore concealed underneath his crisp dress shirts, I dug blindly through my bag, frantically searching for a pencil or a piece of loose charcoal.

I reminded myself of what the world actually looked like right now. Of the chrome bar I was still gripping … of the aisle in which I was standing … of the bag I was digging into with my left hand, which was a gift from another Etsy seller — an online friend — who repurposed it out of an old army duffle and painted it with black ivy reminiscent of my arm tattoo. While I was still attempting to not appear frantic, my edging-on-desperate digging through the bag caused the new tattoo on my shoulder to sting.

If I could just hang on to my surroundings … if I could just ground myself here on the bus, I wouldn’t end up screaming on the floor and being dragged to the psych ward … again.

It had taken me three days to get released into the care of my social worker and my shrink last time. The hallucinations had come and gone for that entire time. They’d continued for a couple of weeks after, actually. I had just gotten very good at hiding them. When I wasn’t blindsided as I had been just now.

A woman laughed. The sound of it came from the hallucination, not from the occupants of the bus. Thankfully, I knew the difference now after so many years. That helped me hide my illness from everyone else.

A chill spiraled up my spine to follow the path the headache had taken. Not because the laugh was terrible — it was actually quite musical — but because I knew who was laughing even before the hallucination expanded to reveal her golden curls and jade-green knife. The knife looked like something out of a fantasy movie, but the blond woman almost always wore T-shirts and jeans when she appeared in my delusions … except for last fall. Now that he’d seen her, the dark-suited man’s gaze was glued to the blond, but whether he was enraptured or enraged, I didn’t know.

I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to see.

I closed my hand around a piece of charcoal. I felt the grit of it against the skin of my frantic fingers. And that was just enough to help me focus.

The hallucination faded, leaving only a residue of blurry, blank spots in its wake.

I’d headed it off before it could expand in my mind, before it could completely overwhelm me.

I was shaking, clinging to the bar like the lifeline it was so that I wouldn’t collapse to the floor. So I didn’t show my weakness to the press of people around me. So they wouldn’t know how broken I was. How utterly broken.

I’d taken my pill that morning, but just the regular dose. I should have accounted for stress. I never actually felt stressed, as far as I understood the sensation. Not until a second before a hallucination seized me. But my shrink, who was actually a psychologist, kept telling me I had to learn to anticipate the life moments that were stressful to everyone else.

To regular people, she meant.

And anyone else would find aging out of the foster care system that had raised them their entire life stressful.

Well, anyone else without an unknown psychotic disorder. Anyone else who wasn’t on meds to keep them focused and calm.

The bus rolled to a stop. I swayed forward and then back, but my feet were grounded. I wasn’t going to fall. I wasn’t going to falter further.

I looked up to see I was at the Commercial Drive bus stop, which was the best transfer point for the 20 bus. I could barely see through the hazy pain of the migraine that would still try to pull me under if I let it.

Just one more bus.

I was halfway to beginning my life.

I was going to make it the rest of the way today.

I shoved through the press of the crowd trying to enter the bus and stumbled onto the sidewalk.

I wasn’t sure how many years I’d been seeing the dark-suited man — at least six — but the blond girl, who was only a few years older than me, was new. Well, newish. I’d been hallucinating her for a little over a year now.

Her hair glowed golden, just as the wicked knife in her hand sparkled green, but I’d never drawn her or him in color.

Real life didn’t look like that. Real life was rendered in tints and blurs of gray all around me. The streets, the buildings, and car after car were gray, gray, and gray.

I pulled my charcoal-covered hand out of my bag. I was still gripping the piece that had rescued me from the clutches of the hallucination. I also grabbed the medium-sized sketchbook that I carried with me everywhere. Still trying to get my bearings, I stumbled over to the low cement wall that backed the bus stop. I sat down. I needed to catch a bus up Victoria Drive to get to my social worker’s office, but I couldn’t manage that right now.

I flipped open the sketchbook to a blank page, ignoring the pages and pages of other drawings it contained. Ignoring buses as they came and went. Ignoring the people staring at me.

Using the charcoal-covered fingers of my left hand, I began to shape the hallucination.

If I could just steal a bit of it … if I could tie this stolen bit to the page, it wouldn’t haunt me. The sketch would free me from the grip of the delusion.

I didn’t know why that was — why sketching worked to calm me. It just always had. I’d drawn for weeks after the terrible bout last fall … weeks and weeks recording and discharging the hallucinations. Weeks of acknowledging them, tying them to paper, and walking away. This is why I sold my work. I released the hallucinations from the confines of my mind into the world through charcoal and paper.

I concentrated on the knife — a jade-colored knife that looked to be hewn out of actual stone — and the way the blond woman held it.

If I could just get the knife right, I could capture the hallucination in the sketchbook, then walk the rest of the way to my appointment.

The walk would give the headache time to abate. My social workers had always made me remove my tinted glasses inside, whether or not I complained about the fluorescent lights in their offices. My eyes were always weird after a hallucination — even paler than usual — which typically made my social workers launch into questions about drugs and other garbage. I didn’t need that any day, but especially not today. Today was my birthday. Today I would be free … well, as free as my mind would let me be.

If I could just render the shading of the blade’s edge perfectly.


Continue Reading:

Chapter 2, part 1

Chapter 2, part 2

Chapter 3, part 1 & 2 (Oct 1)

Chapter 3, part 2 & 3 (Oct 2)

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