“Leave the Window Open” — A Wesley Ayer’s Story

[To celebrate the paperback release of THE UNBOUND–out today!!!–I wrote a short story. It takes place about four hours after the end of THE UNBOUND, and it’s told from Wesley’s POV. Enjoy!]


Hospitals make horrible music.

I don’t mean the literal kind they pipe into elevators or play at background levels in waiting rooms (with the TVs and the magazines and all the other stimuli because apparently if you give people any actual quiet they’ll think about the fact they’re in a hospital). No, I mean the hum and buzz and beep, the ringing phones and squeaking stretcher wheels and distant coughs that layer together to make up a hospital’s soundtrack, the way slivers of thought and memory make up a person’s noise. It sets my teeth on edge, which sends a dull pain through my head, which reminds me of the pain flickering in my shoulder and ribs, and it’s a slippery slope from calm to pain to panic so I stop myself right there.

I hate hospitals.

I don’t even have a good reason, like I spent too much time in them as a kid because my grandma was sick (she was already dead) or my dad worked on the ER—if anyone needed medical attention it was me, and nobody noticed. I just hate the way they sound. They’re everything the Archive isn’t. Well, everything it wasn’t, when I still thought it was everything.

But I’m here, and I’m staring at the x-rays the doctor’s left tacked up on the light board. The screen’s dark now but the image is still ghosted behind my eyes. Strange thing, to see your body from the inside out. People are made of so many fragile pieces.

I tick past the trouble in my mind. A few broken ribs. A cracked shoulder. A little internal bleeding (nothing serious). And behind those things, the older scars. Hairline fractures and fused bones. Only so much you can blame on a collapsing tent in a festival fire. And yet, no burns. Because I wasn’t really trapped beneath a tent in a festival fire. I was fighting for my life. For Mackenzie’s.

But I can’t say that, of course, just like I can’t say that those old wounds came from fighting Histories—an old man with a hunting knife, a kid with sharp teeth, Owen Chris Clarke—so they bring in a social worker, to make sure I’m not being hurt at home. And for a moment I’m pretty tempted to say yeah, yeah I am being hurt, because my father’s a prick and my stepmother—shudder—is an evil money-grubbing bitch, but in the end I just shrug and say it must have been soccer because dad may be a horrible person but the marks he’s left are more absences than injuries, and Izzy is only an evil money-grubbing bitch in context. I probably wouldn’t hate her if she was gold-digging someone else’s family.

I don’t think the doctors really believed me in the end, but then Dallas showed up and said something and they let the matter drop, which I owe her for, but lying here surrounding by hospital music I’m almost wishing I’d drawn it out, let them take the fall so someone else could suffer. Maybe I’m just mad because I told them to go home and they listened. Didn’t even put up a fight. They were dressed like I’d pulled them away from some important function—that’s what they call it when you’re too rich and important for words like dinner or party. Everything becomes a function, an event, a gala.

So here I am. Alone. Which is fine, it’s fine, it’s fine, but it’s not.

An IV drips cloudy fluid into a tube running into a needle running into the back of my hand. I hate needles, almost as much as hospitals. Mac would probably make fun of me if she knew, which means I’ll probably end up telling her. That’s a form of masochism, I’m sure, but if it will make her smile, she’s worth the bruised ego. She’s worth the real bruises, too. She’s even worth the needles.

I picture telling her, and in my mind I’m still on my back but I’m no longer in this hospital bed. No, I’m lying with my head in her lap, looking up through her waves of auburn hair. It’s just getting dark, and we’re stretched on the worn stone steps of the Court at Hyde. No fire. No explosions. No Owen. Just us.

Just Mackenzie, really, and that small, hard-won smile.

“Honestly, Wes?” she’ll tease, brushing her fingers across my forehead so she can see my eyes. “Not monsters or serial killers or the dark?”

I reach up and tuck a strand of copper behind her ears. No IV. No bruises. Just my hand on her skin.

“Hey look,” I’ll say. “There are rational and irrational fears in this world, and last time I checked, it’s not irrational to be afraid of sharp, pointy things.” Especially not after being stabbed, I’ll think, but I won’t say that, because I’m not supposed to remember that day. It would be easier not to remember that day.

Mac will give me that skeptical look. “You sure have a lot of piercings for a guy with a needle phobia.”

“I am the master of my fears,” I’ll say. Even though the truth is I made Cash go with me every time, and you know he’s a good friend because he never gave me hell, never did anything but turn through the tattoo catalogs along the wall and wonder which design would piss his father off the most.

Fake/future/alternate world Mackenzie bends down and kisses my forehead. My head spins.

They’ve got me pumped full of god-knows-what, and it’s dulling the world in all the wrong places. It’s like standing at the very edge of a dream and you can’t seem to wake up but you can’t forget you’re dreaming either.

And then, just as panic starts to really dig its fingers in, my cell starts buzzing on the side table. When I reach for it, pain blossoms across my stomach, but it’s worth the trek. It’s Mac.

I left the window open, she says.

And just like that, the world pulls back into focus. I stop spinning and something in me cracks—not something literal like bones, thank god, but something just as deep—and I’m so ready for this damn night to end, but I don’t want it to end here.

I take a bracing breath, knowing this is going to hurt, then sit up, and sure enough the pain makes light dance behind my eyes. I didn’t feel it during the fight–I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t even feel it after, when Mac and I were back on campus. It wasn’t until the EMTs pulled us apart that the pain hit me in a wave.

I perch on the edge of the hospital bed, waiting for the room to stop spinning. It hurts to breathe, but I have this trick, where I try and focus on the good, so I remind myself that things only hurt because I’m still alive to feel them. Silver linings, kids. I’m full of them.

Getting dressed takes a painful—and painfully long—time and I alternate between cursing and holding my breath in case a nurse chooses this moment—trying to balance with one leg in my pants—to come in.

But no one does.

I find a mirror in the cubicle of a bathroom, and my reflection stares back. I’ve looked better. My face has found a way to look pale and bruised at the same time, my eyeliner smudged into a messy shadow; my father assured the doctors it must be smoke, or face paint from the festival. Because the idea of me wearing makeup bothered him more than seeing me in a hospital bed.

I run a hand through my hair, trying to smooth away the hospital bed head, which is even worse than normal bedhead, but I give up. There’s a cut above my eyebrow held closed by two strips of white tape, and I wonder if it will leave a scar, because scars are rather dashing, and then I hear Mac in my head again.

“Get over yourself, Wes,” she says and I smile and it hurts.


It’s late, and hospital wings really do get quiet at night, so it’s easy enough to slip out. I find my key in the front pocket of my jeans, but I don’t know where the nearest Narrows door is, and the grim fact is I’m in no shape for handling Histories, so I take a cab across town.

I’ve never been so glad to see the Coronado’s creepy face, the gargoyles perched like ravens on the roof. I never told Mac but I have names for them all. Governor. Socrates. Headless. Malcolm…

I stand on the curb, staring up at the three floors that stand between me and Mac’s room. Or more accurately, I stare at the fourth floor window above Mac’s room, the one I used to climb down through her window, and realize there’s no way I can make that descent tonight.

And then, the universe takes pity on my predicament. My phone buzzes again. Another note from Mac.

I left the door open, too.

My heart skips a little as I head into the lobby, and think about taking the stairs but decide it won’t be very charming if I pass out halfway up and someone finds my body in the morning, so I take the death trap of an elevator to the third floor.

3F is waiting at the end. I could kiss it.

I press my ear to the wood, and then turn the handle as softly as I can manage and step inside. The apartment’s dark and I find my way by feel and memory through the living room and down the hall to Mackenzie’s bedroom.

Inside, it’s cloaked in moonlight and shadow. At first I think she’s asleep, but as I slide the door shut behind me, she rolls over.

“You came,” she whispers, her voice as tight as my chest.

“No place I’d rather be,” I say softly. “I wish the entrance had been grander. The door doesn’t have nearly as much style as the window and—” but I don’t get any farther because she’s on her feet, crossing the space between us, and then her mouth on mine, her noise thundering through my head where she grips me.

I gasp under her touch, and she pulls back, but that’s the last thing I want, so I pull her close again and let my body scream. She tangles her fingers with mine and leads me to the bed, and when we get there she climbs onto the covers and makes a Wesley-size space for me beside her, and suddenly the pain means nothing because this moment it perfect.

We lie there for a few minutes, staring up at the ceiling instead of each other, only our hands tangled together. And then I her turn toward me, her storm eyes narrowed on my wrist.

“What’s this?” she asks, fingering the hospital bracelet. I’d forgotten all about it, and now she’s looking at it way too hard, as if it’s the most fascinating thing in the world and not an infernal piece of plastic. And then I see what she sees, and I can feel the blood drain out of my face. Can feel my stomach sink through my feet.

She squints at the writing on the bracelet, at my legal name printed on the label, and I cover it with my fingers but it’s too late. I can tell she’s read the name. My first name.


Templeton Wesley Ayers the II, also known as reason #45 why I hate my father. Because what kind of sadistic asshole passes on a name like that?

“Mac,” I start, but it’s too late. She doesn’t just smile, she starts laughing, and I want to be angry but god, it’s the most beautiful sound in the world, even better than that storm going inside her head. I would slay monsters and run through fire and jump off cliffs just to hear that sound. Which is why it takes all my strength to stifle it, and press my hand over her mouth. The laugh becomes a muffled chuckle in her chest. And then her fingers drift up to mine, and pry them gently free.

“Don’t say it,” I hiss, as her lips form the word. “Don’t mouth it. Don’t even think about it.”

“Okay,” she whispers. “…Templeton.”

I groan, but she cuts off the sound with a kiss. We’re gentler now, moving carefully over each other’s bruised and broken bodies, the crackle of pain swallowed up by the fact that Mackenzie Bishop is letting me kiss her. Mackenzie Bishop is kissing me.

“I’m glad you told me,” she says, breathlessly.

“I didn’t tell you,” I point out.

“Well I’m glad I found out.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because now I won’t laugh when we become Crew.”

I go still. Not because I don’t want to hear those words. But because I do. I want them to be true.

“Do you mean it?” I ask, rolling gingerly to face her.

She mirrors me, rolling onto her side so I’m looking straight into her eyes. “Yes,” she says.

I can tell I’m smiling like an idiot. I don’t care. “I don’t suppose you have any hidden and mortifying names? Habits? Secrets?”

“Only one.”

“And what’s that?”

“I’m in love with a boy named Templeton.”

Happy New Year! or WTF DO YOU MEAN IT’S 2015?


Apparently it is now 2015?!


I tend to think about things in terms of months, not years, but aside from breaking out a brand new blank calendar…


…but my resolutions for the year include:

–Read 100 books (I managed 89 in 2014)
–Post “Leave the Windows Open” on Jan 6th
–Survive second semester of grad school
–Survive dissertation
–Turn in ADSOM2
–Turn in MONSTER
–Turn in Secret Vicious Project
–Turn in Secret OTHER Project
–Meditate every day for at least 10 minutes
–Be a better pagan
–Do something I thought was impossible

I’m wishing you all an AMAZING January, and a wonderful 2015. <333

*dives back into the writing cave*

My Holiday Book Recommendations!

Hi lovelies!

With the holidays upon us, and books a perfect present, I wanted to take a moment to share a list of the best books I read this year. Not all of them are new releases, but they’re all WONDERFUL in their own way.

For those who like their fiction dark and disturbing: HORNS by Joe Hill.


For those who love contemporaries with gorgeous writing: I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson.


For those wanting a beautiful, heartfelt book: THE HUMANS by Matt Haig.


For those who want to be consumed by a story: MISTBORN by Brandon Sanderson.


For lovers of psychology: THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD by Elyn R. Saks.


For the gamers and geeks: READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline.


For those who love the smell of old books: MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE by Robin Sloan.


For the lovers of YA magic and fantasy: THE RAVEN BOYS series by Maggie Stiefvater.


For those who want a zombie fix with a twist: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by Mr. Carey.


For those who want to find a new classic: SABRIEL by Garth Nix.


Have you read anything this year you absolutely LOVE? Let me know in the comments!!


In which I can finally share my YA BOOK DEAL NEWS!!

Hi there, lovelies!

Life has been madness lately, between deadlines and grad school, but I come bearing NEWS! Of the book deal variety!

No, it’s not THE ARCHIVED, though I DO have something to share on that front in a couple months. And no, it’s not VICIOUS, though once again, irons in the fire, something in the works. What it IS, is a brand new YA deal.




So, MONSTER. I describe this project as Sin City + Romeo and Juliet + well, monsters.

It is strange and dark and existential and violent and a little bit like VICIOUS.

And wait till you meet Kate and August. The only thing I’ve ever teased about this book is that it opens with Kate burning down a church. So safe to say, this is not your standard paranormal boy-rescues-girl story.

Ahhhhhhh I’m so excited to tell you more, as we get closer to release!!! And if 2016 feels like a long time away, just remember I have more books hitting shelves before then! First up, A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC in just over 4 months.


(P.S. Now you understand why I need that calendar system!!)

Five Years in Publishing!!!

Hi, lovelies!

So, yesterday was actually a massive milestone, so of course I didn’t remember it until today. Blame the draft that’s currently eating sleep and sanity.

Anyway, yesterday was my five year anniversary in publishing. It’s hard to believe.

Since the sale of my first book, The Near Witch, in 2009, my amazing agent has sold 10 more, ranging from MG to adult. It’s been, at times, an treacherously rocky road–I had a publisher ask me to write a sequel, only to change their minds when it was finished, I had another series cancelled despite solid reader support, I’ve had my heart broken multiple times by publishing, and been painfully reminded of the things out of my control–but it’s also been an incredible adventure.

I wrote a book I never thought would sell, and it not only found an incredible home at Tor, but went on to get major industry accolades and sell film rights.

I’ve watched the love for Mackenzie Bishop and Wesley Ayers grow.

Every day I get fan letters from 5th and 6th grade girls reading my Scholastic series.

I’ve found champions and fans and friends.

And at the five-year-mark, for the first time in my career, I feel stable. Not financially, of course, not even creatively–in both respects, I am always looking to the next book–but for the first time, I feel…capable. My doubts have less to do with my own ability, and more to do with the industry, and since there’s little I can do about the latter, I’m focusing on the former.

On writing. On readers.

And while I’m so grateful for what’s behind me, I’m even more excited for what’s ahead.

So on this anniversary, as I work on the first draft of my NINTH to-be-published novel, I just want to say thank you. Thank you to my agent, Holly, and to my editors, both past and present, and to my family and friends for putting up with my rants and rambles, but more than anything, thank you, readers.

Thank you for keeping me afloat. Thank you for helping me do what I love so very much.

The Road So Far

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a week and a half since I took this photo:


Toothless and I set out for London and the adventures of WorldCon.


And we made it! But alas, our luggage did not.

Two days later we were reunited…


…thank goodness, because then I got to meet Scott Lynch, and it would have been really unfortunate if I smelled like dirty laundry.


While in London, my amazing editor Miriam and I went to the Harry Potter studio tour! And it was pretty much a religious experience.


After many long days and late nights and wonderful people, it was time to set out for Edinburgh, my home for the next year. Mum flew in to help with the move (isn’t she the best?) and we set out on the magical train ride north.



We got to the flat, which is in an adorable area of New Town (in the first day I made friends with a very old lady while taking out trash, a rescued greyhound in an art shop, and the woman who sold me a piece of chocolate cake, and all of them welcomed me to the neighborhood).

But as welcoming as everyone was, my room itself needed some serious work…


And mum and I had only three days to turn the above into a homey nest of zen and creativity. So we set to work. And after trips to IKEA, H+M, Marks and Spencers, Jenner’s, BHS, a dozen small shops and a LOT of tea, the Edinburgh bedroom was born!

I’m planning to do an actual vlog in the next few days with a little tour of the flat and the neighborhood, as I’ve promised to keep my friends, family, and about half the internet appraised ;)

In the meantime, my new room…


On anxiety, upheaval, and embracing change.

front porch

I’m sitting here on my front porch with a cup of tea and the beginnings of a book.

It is one of those impossible summer days made of July sky and October air. It is a perfect morning. And for the first time in months, I feel like I can breathe.

In two weeks, I will no longer be sitting on my front porch in Nashville. I’ll be in a conference center in London. A week later, I’ll be moving into my apartment in Edinburgh, wandering the streets of Old Town in search of tea and balance.

The last few months have been trying, to say the least. A plunge into the depths of anxiety rendered me unable to focus, to write, to live my life to the standard that I’ve always demanded of myself. I have always had one rule: to never let fear stop me from embracing change. And for the past few months, it has. I’ve wanted to shrink away from life, into safety, into the known. I looked at this move with dread, and if I’m being honest, there is still a measure of it there. But I’m not going to let that dread stop me. And that’s a sign that I’m finding my way back to myself. My stubborn, challenge-loving side is showing up again, and I’ve never been so happy to see it.

There is a line that shows up in most of my books. Said by Mackenzie Bishop’s father, or Aria Blue, or Delilah Bard (you will meet her soon).

It will be an adventure, they say. I say.

People keep asking me, “Are you ready?” and the answer is no. Of course not. I’m not sure how someone truly makes themselves ready for change. Change is something that happens to us, and even when we invite it, we are the reactive force, the recoil, the reverberation.

For the first time in my life, I’m not suffering from wanderlust. I’m not restless, eager to get away. I’d be perfectly happy to sit here on this front porch and write and breathe and be still. But change is coming. And I’m going to meet it with my chin up.

Because it’s going to be an adventure.

And if we didn’t have those, what would we have to write about?

My LonCon Schedule!

Hey lovelies! I just hit send on the DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC final pass pages *and* a revision of the third EVERYDAY ANGEL book, so feeling equal parts like nap and win.

Anyway, as many of you know, I’m moving to Scotland in less than a month for a grad school program*, but on the way in, I’m passing through London to participate in LonCon! If you’re on that side of the ocean, here’s where you can find me:

Titan Books signing at Forbidden Planet!

Wednesday 13th August, 6-7pm, details to come!

Fresh Beasts in YA

Thursday 15:00 – 16:30, Capital Suite 13 (ExCeL)

YA writers seem particularly keen on supernatural monsters. Have we mined out the traditional ones — the Vampires, demons and zombies? What fresh angles would breathe new afterlife into them? Or do we need a whole slew of fresh beasts to keep the reader’s interest?

Panelists: Oisin McGann, Tom Pollock, Sarah Rees Brennan, V. E. Schwab, Catherynne M. Valente

Doctor Who: Fandom for the Whole Family

Thursday 16:30 – 18:00, Capital Suite 10 (ExCeL)

Doctor Who is an international cult hit phenomenon that began when the First Doctor landed the TARDIS on British soil in the 1960s and captured the hearts and minds of a generation. The Doctor’s companions, from Susan to Adric, from Zoe to Amy, have often been teenagers or children, a surrogate ‘family’ that brings the family together as our Doctors regenerate into our children’s Doctors—generation after generation. What is it about Doctor Who that attracts younger fans? Why do they identify with a thousand year old Time Lord? What was the Doctor like when he was a teenager? Panelists discuss the ageless and timeless appeal of Doctor Who, especially among younger fans and their families.

Panelists: Jody Lynn Nye, S. J. Groenewegen, V. E. Schwab, Kathryn Sullivan, Simon Guerrier.

Reading: V. E. Schwab

Thursday 22:30 – 23:00, Capital Suite 13 (ExCeL)

Autographing 3 – V. E. Schwab

Saturday 16:30 – 18:00, Autographing Space (ExCeL)

*I am not panicking. I am not panicking. I am not panicking.

27! Some Birthday Thoughts.

Hello, lovelies!

So, today’s my 27th birthday, and as I’ve been remiss in posting I thought it was time to check in.

I won’t lie–26 was in many ways a rocky year. While I was fortunate enough to see both VICIOUS and THE UNBOUND hit shelves, I also dealt with setbacks, both professionally and personally. Some hurdles are now behind me, others I’m still fighting my way over.

And as happens with birthdays and major life changes, I’ve been thinking a lot lately, not only about where I’m going, but of how far I’ve come.

I’ve been in publishing for almost exactly 5 years now (I went on sub in May, and sold in September, so it depends which system of measurement you use). In those 5 years, I’ve been lucky enough to sell nearly a dozen books.

As an industry, we put so much expectation on debuts, but I have to say, I’m relieved to be on the other side of that particular hurdle. And, given publishing’s obsession with the new and shiny, I’m grateful to still be here, not only to my houses, but to my readers.

But it’s no surprise that I’m fighting burnout. These past couple of months have been particularly hard, and with an international move and graduate school looming, my batteries feel dangerously low. I feel like time is escaping through every crack, minutes from every hour and hours from every day. So any positive thoughts you can spare on that front would be appreciated. 

But as with all things, we press on. 27 is a new age, and a new year, and I’m hoping to make something of it. There are adventures to be had, stories to be written, books to be released into the world, Masters degrees to be pursued. And I promise to take you with me, wherever I go.

In the meantime, I go in search of cake and calm.

If you want to give me a birthday present, show THE ARCHIVED or VICIOUS some internet love today ;) And be kind to someone who might need it. 

VICIOUS movie news, ALA schedule, July signings, and a London meetup!

Hello, lovelies! I just got back from a couple weeks abroad, and have multiple books and a speech to write, so this is going to be brief, but I have things to share! * #1.


In case you missed the news, VICIOUS officially has its screenwriter!!! There are still many steps between here and the silver screen, but this is a vital one, and I’m SO excited to welcome rising star Alexander Felix to the VICIOUS team! Details HERE. * #2 I’m heading to ALA’s annual conference at the end of this month! I am so terrified excited! It’s my first time at ALA, and it’s going to be a doozy. I’m on an SFF panel with a legendary crew, doing signings for both VICIOUS and THE UNBOUND, and even giving a speech (!!!) at the Literary Tastes brunch hosted by RUSA, which named VICIOUS their best fantasy. If you’re coming to ALA, I hope you’ll track me down and say hello! My events: –In-booth signing of THE UNBOUND. Saturday, June 28th. 10:30AM–11:30AM. Disney*Hyperion Booth #0603. –SF panel. Saturday, June 28th. 4:30PM–5:30PM. Alongside Jo Walton, Douglas Preston, Terry Goodkind, Wen Spencer. –Literary Tastes brunch. Sunday, June 29th. 8:00AM–10:00AM. Alongside Tessa Dare, Daniel Brown, Christopher Buehlman. Room N258. –In-booth signing of VICIOUS. Sunday, June 29th. 11AM–11:30AM. Tor Booth #0532. * #3 I’m going to be doing a couple of group signings in July! One in St. Louis, and one in Memphis. These will be, as far as I know, the last events I do before heading overseas for a year, so if you’re in the vicinity, I hope you’ll come! Details: Thursday, July 17th. St. Louis, MO. Hosted by Left Bank Books. Time/Place TBA. The cast: Philip Siegel, Paula Stokes, Lindsay Cummings, Bethany Hagen, Heather Brewer, Cole Gibsen, Sarah Bromley, Lydia Kang, Victoria Schwab, Whitney Miller, Courtney Stevens. Friday, July 18th. Memphis, TN. The Booksellers at Laurelwood. 6pm. The cast: Philip Siegel, Paula Stokes, Lindsay Cummings, Robin Bridges, Victoria Schwab, Courtney Stevens, Lydia Kang, Whitney Miller. * #4 I’m going to be appearing at LonCon in London this August, and the lovely Daphne over at Winged Reviews thought it would be cool to put together a meet-up, since I’ve never done an event in the UK! The details are still being sorted, as I wait for my official con schedule, but if you’re interested in being part of the meet-up, contact Daphne (Twitter: @wingedreviews). * And now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go and write a scene in which a girl with a knife takes down an entire pirate ship.


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