In conversation with… Clint Chico!

The author of the incredible Marcia’s series bares it all, from personal life to his plans for the future.

Clint! What a journey it was to read Marcia’s story! It was quite emotional to be honest, especially the last book. As Marcia herself said, ‘this is the last time for real!’ and we all became melancholic about it – but it was impossible not to! After all that happened during those high school years… tell us: how did you come up with the idea?

Great question! This one is the one I get asked the most when talking about my books – where do your ideas come from? For most of my books, it starts with the characters and a basic idea for a plot.
What if a young teenager was forced to come out publicly as gay before she was ready? (My Name is Marcia) What if two girls fell in love for the first time, but events around them pulled them apart? (Art School Blues) What if a bunch of teenagers signed up for a reality show that turned out to be a total lie? (Island Games) What if everything you thought you knew about your world was wrong? (Wayward Magic).
In the case of my first book, My Name is Marcia, I was working on something completely unrelated during July of 2020, the pandemic summer, and I had a vision of a girl lying in the middle of a football field. She turns to her friend and says, “I think I might be gay.” That ended up being the very first scene in My Name is Marcia. I’d toyed with the idea of writing a book before that, but I’d never had an idea this strong or so fully formed. But I also knew that writing a book would be a MAJOR undertaking, it was easily the hardest creative thing I’d ever done, so I decided that if I was going to do it, I didn’t want to read another book about guys like me (straight, white, older, male). Which is how I ended up creating Marcia Torres, a Hispanic lesbian teenager, but someone who, like me, gets overly excited about things and has tons of empathy for the people and world around her.

Why is it so important for you to portray the teen LGBT community?

The short answer here is that my own kids are LGBTQ and that I teach in an inner city
performing arts high school, so many of my students are also LGBTQ and African-American.
The longer answer is that, when I first started the Marcia books I didn’t have a plan beyond just finishing the first book. But once I had, and once I saw the positive response I’d gotten from my readers – teens or adults, gay or straight, everyone was loving the books and the characters. I could tell how important this kind of representation was going to be, especially to my LGBTQ readers, and ESPECIALLY to my teen students who were LGBTQ. I’ve been told, “I wish this book had been around when I was younger and struggling with coming out.” I’ve gotten thank-you’s from parents of LGBTQ students who have read the books and given it to their parents. A few months ago, at a career fair at my school, a teenage girl came up to my display of books and very quietly asked, “Sorry if this sounds rude, but are your books gay?” I smiled, nodded and replied, “They’re very gay.” She nearly squealed with delight.
I know focusing on LGBTQ characters, as well as non-white characters, might turns away some potential readers, and it certainly makes the writing harder for someone like me who is not directly part of that community, but I feel it’s absolutely the
right call, especially with an increase in book bans in some parts of the US, and a concerted effort from some political groups to bury stories about the kinds of characters I like to write about.

Across the four Marcia’s books you portray a wide array of homophobic and racist characters, and all of them are not of legal age yet. Tell us non-Americans more about it, because it looks like such a distant and almost impossible-to-still-exist world.

First, I want to mention that I think of the world of my Marcia and Katrina series to be a slightly exaggerated version of the world we live in. The good kids are a little nicer, a little smarter, and little more empathetic than your average teen, but that’s because I’ve seen kids like that. I’ve taught kids like that. I’ve taught a Marcia, a Patience, a Charlie, a Katrina, an Anna. They aren’t your typical teenager, but they’re out there. And so, the antagonists of the stories are also slightly exaggerated but also based on real-life examples I’ve seen. I’m not going to say ‘bad’ kids because in some cases ‘misunderstood’ or ‘misguided’ is more accurate. The simple fact is that during our pre-teen years, we still accept most of what our parents show us about the world, and it’s not until our teenage years that we begin to question it. Sometimes, you rebel against your parents’ way of life. Sometimes, you embrace it. I grew up in the American South in the 1970s and 80s – no longer the Civil Rights-era world of MLK and the 60s, but still filled with under-the-surface racism and not-so-under-the-surface anger and mistrust. I saw a lot of people who, like me, pushed back against the history of violence and hatred of our ancestors and instead embraced inclusion and diversity. But I also saw a lot of people who didn’t.
Just remember that every adult KKK member, every Neo Nazi, every ultra right-wing politician who uses ‘them vs us’ as an excuse for the nation’s problems was once a teenager who had to decide which direction to go in. Racism and homophobia doesn’t spout during adulthood. It’s grown and cultivated in kids by their racist and homophobic parents.
Sometimes, the kids fight against it, like my character Ashley Harwood. But a lot of them don’t. I write about kids like that because they’re out there in the real world, spray painting swastikas on synagogues, or tearing down their neighbour’s pride flags, or carrying AR-15s and firing into a crowd of Black Lives Matter protestors. Like a famous author once said, “Fiction is finding the truth in the lie.” My characters may not be real, but they’re all based on the world we live in, the good and the bad.

You said that after “Marcia says goodbye” there will not be anymore Marcia books.
However, “Kathrina’s theory of Starting over” features as main protagonists two girls
who were in the same high school as Marcia. Can we hope for a spin-off?

After completing my first book, I knew a few things.
The first was that I was going to keep writing – the rush of seeing your ideas becoming something real and tangible is simply too great for me to stop. Second was I wanted to keep writing about Marcia and her friends, and that each Marcia book would be one year of her high school life. In America that’s 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade. And I also knew I didn’t have much interest in writing “Marcia and Patience Go to College”. I knew that after they graduated, it would be time to move on to new characters and new stories. But, what I didn’t expect was how much fun it is to write those characters, especially after several years of them living in my head. So, the Katrina books, which pick up right after Marcia and her friends graduate, will continue to feature cameos
from the old bunch as they drop back into town for the holidays and such.
One last thing I knew as well was that I love taking on books that are slightly outside my norm, and I’ve always wanted to write a book that feels like the fun, goofy Christmas movies you see on cable during the holidays. So, keep an eye out for A Very Marcia Christmas. Not sure when it’s coming, maybe next year, maybe after, but I have a feeling it’ll all come together one day. In the meantime, fans of Marcia, Charlie, and Patience can see them interacting with the main characters of the Katrina series, which I’m two books into, with two more to come over the next few years.

You have written 9 books so far and, exclusively for us, a short story, but how did you
start writing and why?

If you’d asked me when I was younger, I wouldn’t have said, “I want to be an author
when I grow up.” But I was always creative and artistic. I would write, draw, and create little stories with my toys and action figures. Like all kids of the 80s, I watched a lot of TV shows and movies, but I was always more interested in the stories in my head than the ones I saw on the screens around me.
I’d never really thought of myself as a writer because writing was always difficult for me as a kid. As my teachers and parents would tell you, my penmanship was horrible and I was a terrible speller. Besides, what I really wanted to do was make movies. Well, I found ways as an adult to fulfil that dream – first working as a news videographer and editor, then becoming a teacher and turning teenagers into writers, producers and directors, as well as making short films with my own kids as they got older.
What I hadn’t really realised through my twenties and thirties is that writing had always been there waiting in the background as a creative outlet for me. My mom still keeps essays and stories I wrote in elementary school. I still have my journals and notebooks from my high school creative writing classes, including one story that was typed on an actual typewriter. I like to take that out every now and then to show my students when they complain about having to use Google Docs or Microsoft Word. But back to my point – it wasn’t until the past five years or so, as my own kids got older and my life slowed down a bit, that I thought seriously about writing again. Every now and then, my wonderfully supportive wife would say, “You should write a book. I bet it’d be really good.” But she’d never pressure me because we both understood the difference between writing a short story or a five-page script and trying to bang out an entire novel. Taking on an endeavor that large is scary. What if you start and you just can’t find your way to the end? What if you spend months and months working on this thing only to lose the threads that hold it together, so you let it fall apart and
leave it sitting unfinished with nothing to show for it? Or worse, what if you finish your
book… and no one likes it? Your first book is absolutely terrifying.
What I never expected was how absolutely thrilling it is when it goes right. When the
pieces all fall together, when characters come to life, when your readers respond not just positively but in ways you never expected: “I’m OBSESSED with this book.” (Island Games); “I adore your book but I can’t stop crying.” (Art School Blues); “Every high school needs a copy of this book.” (My Name is Marcia). Getting there, though, isn’t magic. It doesn’t just happen. It’s work. Work, work, work. And a little bit of faith.
And okay, yeah, some magic, too. Or, at least, that’s how it feels to me.

You are a self-published author: have you ever tried to go the traditional way? If so, can you tell us anything about your experience?

I think everyone who’s written a book the past few years is aware of a few things.
They know that every year there are more and more self-published books to compete against. I think there’s something like a million new books a year dropped on Amazon,
which is staggering to think about. They also know that life would be so much easier if we had a legitimate publishing house, not a vanity press, backing your book and helping with promotion and sales. And regardless of what some authors say about the ‘freedom’ of independent publishing, which I’m all for, the fact remains that we would all absolutely die with validation if some major publisher like Random House or HarperCollins said, “We like your book SO MUCH that we’d like to pay you for the rights to publish it. How’s a hundred thousand dollars sound? Also, we’d like to talk long-term contracts and movie rights.”
Well, I mean, to be able to make a living off your writing is just the dream, right? So very, very hard to do as an indie writer. Unfortunately, getting picked up by a publisher has about the same odds as becoming a pro athlete when there are a half-million other writers out there putting out books. But yes, I have tried to seek representation. And will continue to try. Last year I spent the summer querying agents and shopping around my standalone romance Art School Blues. I spent months getting the “We love your book, but it’s not for us” email or receiving the “Your book is not what we’re looking for at this time” message. I have several former students who are now actors, local and in LA and NY, and I’ve always told them I admire their ability to put themselves out there auditioning just to be told ‘no’ over and over again. Trying to get into acting means hearing at least ten to twenty no’s for every yes. Often more. Submitting to publishers or querying agents is like that. Imagine asking a girl out and hearing, “You’re very cute, but you’re not my type.” Then imagine hearing that thirty more times in a row. After a while, you stop asking. But yeah, I figure that, eventually, when I hit on the right book, I’ll start the process back up again. I often think of the author Colleen Hoover, now a household name with books like ‘Verity’ and ‘It Ends With Us’. A little research shows that she’d been writing and self-publishing book after book for almost a decade before ‘hitting it big’. But it takes patience and perseverance. And really, really thick skin.

What are the main challenges you find as a self-published author? And what
would you like to do/gave you done about it?

I think almost every self-published author will tell you the same thing. All we want to do is find time to keep writing. But, instead, we have to figure out how to edit and format and upload. We need pretty solid computer skills and knowledge of graphic design for our covers. Even if we pay someone else to do all that, we still need to know how it’s all done so we can make sure it’s done right. And that’s all before the book comes out. We still need to make sure people read our book. Because what good is a book if no one reads it? So we learn to promote, promote, promote. We become experts in social media, building websites, or running promotions, or making ads and book trailers. Speaking engagements and online interviews and podcasts, and all that is if we’re lucky and people liked the book to begin with. And, oh, wouldn’t it be grand if someone would handle all that for us so we could get back to writing? But, alas, that’s not to be unless you have unlimited funds to throw around to pay people to do it for you, and most of us do not.
The upside is that there are so many indie authors now that there is a very supportive
community online (this website is an example) where authors can support each other, find each other’s books, share ideas, ask questions, and uplift each other’s spirits when things get hard. Yes, there are scammers, and companies out there trying to take your money, and occasional professional jealousy from other authors, but my online interactions with other authors are almost always positive.

We know you are a writer but also a teacher, so we presume that you are also a great
reader: what’s are you reading currently and what are the books that most influenced

I read about 20 to 30 books a year, which is either considered a ton or very little, depending on how busy your life is. When my kids were younger, it was closer to maybe a book a month. Now my kids are older (my youngest are in high school) and my life has slowed down a little. I balance reading with writing my own books, keeping up with TV shows and movies, and playing the occasional video game. I am a teacher, as you’ve mentioned, and so I’ll often seek out good YA books, not only to help me as a YA writer but to find books that my students might be into. Recently I read ‘I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter’ by Erika Sanchez and the graphic novel ‘Nimona’ by ND Stevenson. Both were phenomenal five-star reads. I’m currently reading Jimmy Buffett’s memoir ‘A Pirate Looks at Fifty’ in honour of the recent passing of the singer-songwriter (I’ve been a huge fan of his for decades). Then I’m planning to read ‘Local Woman Missing’ by Mary Kubica for a book club, and then I hope to get back to Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series, which I’m hoping to finish sometime before I die. (I’m currently on book #13.) Also, I recently purchased ‘I Just Can’t Say I Love You’ by fellow indie author Debby Meltzer Quick. I highly recommend her books for anyone who’s into sweet romance and the 1980s.
As to books and authors that influenced me, I’m going to say Stephen King, which probably sounds odd since he writes supernatural horror that shines a light on the worst parts of society, and I write sweet YA books about gay kids fighting to make the world a better place. But I discovered the work of ‘Uncle Stevie’ back in college many, many years ago, and since then I’ve read nearly everything he’s written. And while our content may be very, very different, there are a few things our writing has in common.
First, we both love playing with language and structure. Anyone who’s read King’s work
knows that he loves using unconventional storytelling devices and occasionally playing fast and loose with grammar and syntax. He sometimes invents words and phrases for stuff there’s no word for, which I’ve also done from time to time. He never gets too crazy with his formatting, but he isn’t afraid to throw in some weird indenting to get a point across, or he’ll start and stop a scene in an odd place as a way to help the audience feel what the characters feel. And he’ll hop, skip and jump around plot-wise in ways that an author normally won’t. It was through reading King that I learned that you don’t always have to follow the ‘rules’ of writing, but if you are going to break the rules, you’d better have a darn good reason.
And speaking of characters, King knows how to make ‘em. It’s not just that he creates
horrifying situations – anyone can do that – it’s that he makes characters that you really care about, ones that feel like real people, and then he throws them into horrifying situations. A big part of that is through dialogue, which is a major focus of King’s, and that’s a major focus of mine as well. King is sort of like scriptwriters like Quinton Tarantino or Aaron Sorkin in that the dialogue isn’t always a hundred percent true-to-life, but it always feels authentic, and every character speaks with a different voice. That’s what I strive for. My readers always say that I create teenage characters that feel real and authentic, and, yes, part of that is being a teacher and a parent (and being observant and listening to how young people speak), but a bigger part is thinking of your characters as real people with real thoughts, feelings, and lives
outside of the pages, and that’s something I picked up from reading King.

What are your goals for the future?

Well, my current goal is to keep writing. I’m writing and publishing at a pace of about
two books a year. A friend of mine says that I release books faster than she can read them, but the truth is I don’t know how to slow down. Nor do I really want to. Since I’m a teacher, I do the majority of my intense writing during summer breaks and winter/holiday breaks, and I edit and rewrite throughout the year. I started my first book in the summer of 2020, and I’m currently working on book #10, a fantasy novel called ‘Wayward Magic’. It’s my first foray into fantasy. Like all of my other books, it’s lighthearted and funny at times, serious and somber at other times, and, of course, features LGBTQ main characters. I’d told myself that I’d only ever take a stab at fantasy if I had a really good, really original idea before I started.
To do fantasy right, you need to create an original world that feels real and authentic but also isn’t a copy of Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, Game of Thrones, A Court of Thorns and Roses, or one of the dozens of dragon books that are out there. But you also can’t create anything too different or it won’t feel like fantasy. The basic starting premise for ‘Wayward Magic’ was to create a world where the reader thinks everything is one way, and then hit them with an OMG WHAT? twist midway through the book that changes everything. When ‘Wayward Magic’ comes out early next year, readers will be able to decide if I pulled it off or not.
In October, I’ll start working on the third Katrina book, ‘Katrina’s Theory of Infinite
Possibilities’. Then, next spring, I’ll start work on another stand-alone book, but I’m not sure which one. I have lots of ideas floating around. I want to try a cozy mystery set in a high school (working title: The Princess and the Quarterback) but mysteries take a lot of planning and I’m more of a seat-of-the-pants writer.
I also want to write a novel that deals with father-daughter relationships (working title: Anchor Points) since I was told by a coworker that YA doesn’t do that often enough. You have tons of mom-and-kids stories, but not a lot showing healthy dad-and-kid relationships. So yeah, that’s my plan for next year – release ‘Wayward
Magic’ in the spring of 2024, and the third Katrina book in the fall, and then find my way forward from there.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s been lovely talking with you, but I have to get back to my writing.

And we are happy to let you go! Reading Marcia’s series has been an incredible experience, and having a glimpse of Wayward Magic just left us thirsty for more. We can only hope the wait won’t be long, but giving his speed, we think it will be short and sweet. Until then, you can have a look at Clint Chico author’s page on Amazon and follow his progresses on his social media account (Facebook: Clint Chico and Clint Chico YA Author, Instagram: booksbychico).

short stories

Girls of Wayward


“Brielle! No running through the garden!”

I pause mid-step, one foot in the air just about to trample a thin weedy-looking vegetable. “No, Mama!” I call out loudly behind me. “I won’t!” I sidestep the vegetable patch and prepare to take off again.

Mama’s voice calls out from the house a second time, just as loudly. “And where are you going, Brielle?”

I sigh. “To Aundrea’s farm, Mama. As always.” 

I take one more small step before Mama calls out again. “Be good, Brielle! And remember the rules!” 

I groan quietly, and recite to myself in an almost silent singsong the rules that Mama has beaten into my head every day since I was born, sixteen long years ago. “Be polite, Brielle.”

“Be polite, Brielle!”

“Listen to your elders, Brielle.” I quietly sigh and toss my head from side to side.

“Listen to your elders!” my mama calls out. “And don’t get your dress dirty!”

I give the skirt of my dress a playful little swish. “No, Mama. Never, Mama,” I whisper, knowing full well that the other girls and I will be sprinting through fields and climbing into haylofts as soon as we’re beyond the oppressive stares of our parents.

“And remember, Brielle, be good!” my mother calls out. But I know what she actually means. What she says without saying. 

“And remember, Brielle,” I murmur to myself, “no using magic!” Something I would never say out loud in public, even here. Even in this village. Even in this village there is danger in that word. 


In some villages, just the hint of being able to use magic is enough to get a girl arrested. Snatched up by the Emperor’s Guard, or perhaps even turned in by her own friends and family members. Such things have happened. Because magic is not allowed by the authorities in Paranda. Magic is forbidden beyond all things.

Magic is wayward.

And so I keep my words and thoughts to myself and simply call out, “Goodbye, Mama! I’ll be back soon!” I walk away, slow and polite and ladylike, until I’m far enough from the house that Mama can’t see.

And then I smile and take off running, dust upon my dress be damned.

The old barn on my friend Aundrea’s farm is dark and dusty, but it’s the one place in the entire area where we can gather without fear of being discovered. There are five of us in our little group, myself included, all girls. Veela and I are sitting on wooden stools. Leesa and Aundrea are jumping down from the loft into the giant piles of soft hay below. And Hanna, of course, is floating in the air, nearly touching the roof of the barn as she flies in slow, looping circles.

Veela sighs and looks up. “Hanna, must you? You’re bound to get hurt. Or found out.”

Hanna stops circling and simply floats in one spot looking down. “That is silly.” She nods over toward the younger girls, Leesa and Aundrea. “They are more likely to get hurt than I am. And as far as getting caught, should Aundrea’s parents, or anyone else for that matter, come walking over here unexpectedly, then Leesa would hear them coming long before they even crossed the farmyard.”

Leesa, currently sitting down in the piles of hay, looks up and smiles at the mention of her name. She smiles but says nothing. Because Leesa never says anything. Leesa is ten, and we don’t know if her ability to touch magic and her inability to speak are connected, but they are both there. In Leesa, the ability to touch magic has manifested itself in an ability to hear sounds and feel vibrations that the rest of us cannot. The actual strength of her ability is hard to judge since communicating with Leesa is difficult. But we do know that she’s able to hear whispered conversations from further away than most people can throw a rock, and she can feel the vibrations of someone walking across the dirt from even further away.

Magic is odd in that it can affect girls in many different ways. Being able to touch magic is rare enough as it is, since it only shows up in girls and usually between the ages of twelve and twenty. (Young Leesa is what my mother calls an anomaly.) And many of the girls blessed to touch magic don’t end up reaching child-bearing age because they’ve been found out and captured by the Guard. Our village is unique, Da says. Here they protect girls like me and Hanna. Veela and Aundrea. Little Leesa. Five girls in one village, all born around the same time, all able to touch magic. No one can ever remember hearing of such a thing. 

“Well, still,” Veela replies, “as the oldest here, it is my responsibility to remind you that you shouldn’t use your magic for frivolous or simple pleasures. Whether you believe our gifts are wayward or not, they should be respected and not abused.”

Hanna scoffs loudly, but she folds her arms and lowers herself slowly to the dirt floor. “You only say this because you cannot do anything as fun and interesting as flying. If you could, you would use your gift at every opportunity.” 

Veela scowls. “I don’t use my gift because it is dangerous, as you well know. All our gifts are dangerous if the wrong person sees! Yes, we are mostly safe. We know that our parents are not going to hand us over to the Guard. But there are strangers passing through town all the time. There are three at the inn right now as we speak. One of them, an odd young woman as short as little Leesa! When I saw her come in, she was wearing black pants and a tunic with a pitch-black cloak! Can you imagine? A woman wearing pants and a cloak? And Darva Parrish said she even saw the woman carrying a sword!”

Hanna rolls her eyes. “Darva Parrish is a liar. Women do not wield swords. That is a foolishness.”

“Well, regardless,” Veela says, “they are not to be trusted. And even some of the townspeople I don’t fully trust. And nor should you.”

Hanna sighs. “I do not fully trust them, as you well know. It is why I am stuck flying around in a smelly barn instead of out in the fresh, open air.” She uses one hand to brush down her thick curls, then waves a hand absently in the air. “But very well. To appease Veela the Wise, I shall promise to ground myself forever to the dirt and grass. And Veela shall keep her hands to herself.”

Veela frowns hard at this.

“Leesa,” Hanna continues, “cover your ears. Veela has decided that your gift is too dangerous.”

Leesa gives Hanna a confused look as Veela groans softly. “That is not what -”

“And Aundrea?” Hanna says, but then she simply looks at Aundrea and stays silent. Hanna doesn’t need to say the next part out loud. We all know that Aundrea can pick thoughts out of your brain when she wishes. It’s how non-verbal Leesa does most of her communicating. She thinks something, directing the thought at Aundrea. Aundrea receives it and tells us.

Hanna turns toward me, then her expression changes into a smirk. “Well. I was going to tell Brielle not to run, but from the look at the dust on her sandals and dress, I’d say I’m too late.”

Veela gasps audibly. “Brielle, no! Tell me you didn’t!”

Now I’m sighing, loud and hard. “Relax, Veela! It’s not as if anyone saw me! It was just for a bit, outside of town on my way here to the farm. The roads were empty of travelers. And even if someone was there, what would they say they’ve seen?” I grab my skirt and give it a shake. “A light blue blur that vaguely resembles a girl in a dress sprinting faster than an arrow in flight? But there was no one there, I made sure! So who should I fear will tell on me? The birds? Should I fear that crows and pigeons are going to -”

“Hold,” Aundrea says softly. “Brielle, hold!” Her expression shifts to fear and worry as she turns to Leesa, a silent conversation happening between the two. Aundrea turns to us, takes a breath, and says, “Someone is coming. Many people. A dozen or more. Leesa feels the vibrations of them marching.”

Veela wrinkles her forehead. “Coming here to the barn?”

Aundrea shakes her head. “No. On the road. Headed into town. Soldiers. Soldiers and horses. Leesa says there’s a lot of them.”


Thankfully, we know the area better than the soldiers. We were raised here, after all. Born here, raised here, lived here all our lives. We know a dozen ways to sneak the half mile or so from Aundrea’s family farm back to town without using the main road. I have to physically resist the urge to sprint ahead. It does feel so good to run – the wind on my skin, blowing back my hair. The slight burn in my muscles as my legs push faster and harder than anything living. It is exhilarating each and every time. But now is not the time for that. The girls and I must stay together, and we must stay safe.

We move swiftly through the narrow paths in the woods, a shortcut back to town, and we come out into a clearing behind the stables and the general store. But as we peek out from behind the buildings, we can see that the soldiers are already there.

The men are standing a good distance away, all clumped together. There are soldiers on foot and a few on horseback. It is difficult to see exactly how many there are, but Leesa’s earlier estimation of somewhere between a dozen and twenty feels accurate. What we can see from this distance is that all the soldiers are wearing dark blue cloth and leather over shining chainmail. All uniformly dressed. The Emperor’s Guard. I don’t need Aundrea’s gifts to know that the fear that I’m feeling is coursing through my friends as well. We can hear them shout out, but the words are hard to make out from this distance.

“What are they saying?” Veela asks. 

Aundrea looks to Leesa, then back to Veela. “She says that they’re announcing themselves as the Emperor’s Guard. As if there’s any mistaking that uniform. They say they’ve gotten word of criminals in the area, and they’re asking every member of the town to come out for inspection. To see if they match the description.”

Asking.” Hanna spits out the word like a curse. “They are not asking anything. They will rip people bodily from their houses if they choose to.”

Already we could see people coming out of their homes and heading into the town common to meet with the Guardsmen.

“We should stay hidden,” Veela decides. “We’ll stay tucked away. Or we’ll slip back into the woods. Or -”

“No,” I interrupt. “We don’t want to be discovered scurrying away. Hiding would be the absolute wrong thing to do. They are obviously here looking for teenage girls, no matter what they say about hunting criminals. If we are not out there, then it will be all the more obvious that the town is trying to hide something. We could end up endangering the others. No, we stay calm. We walk out, we answer their questions. We give nothing away, and then they leave and move on to the next town. It is the only way to quell their suspicions.”

“Besides,” Aundrea says, “if I get close enough, I can read their minds and see what their real intentions are.”

Veela’s eyes look ready to pop from her head. “You plan to use magic right in front of the Guard? Are you insane?

Aundrea simply shrugs. “They’ll never know. It’s not like I glow or anything when I touch magic. I read yourmind all the time, and you never notice.”

Veela blinks. “You what?”

But it is young Leesa who moves first. She comes out from around the building and walks out, calmly and confidently toward the crowd in the town square. We have no choice now but to follow. 

The crowd is growing larger as we approach. The other girls and I scan the townsfolk for familiar faces. I see many, including Hanna’s parents, and Veela’s. Aundrea’s parents are still back at their farm, of course, and there is no sight of Leesa’s mother anywhere. I spot my own mother and father far in the back of the crowd. My father spots me and gives me a tiny nod. My mother gives me a look that tells me that she expects me to stand there quietly and do nothing that draws attention to myself.

The mayor of our little town makes his way to the front of the crowd and gives his best smile. “Good sirs! Perhaps if you let us know your purpose here -”

A tall Guardsman sitting on a horse gives Mayor Tamash a dismissive frown. “We have told you our purpose. We search for those who have violated the Emperor’s law.”

“Well,” Mayor Tamash says, “we are all righteous, upstanding folk here, I can guarantee that. Perhaps if -”

The Guardsman scans the crowd and pauses, looking down at little Leesa, who is right up front, staring defiantly up at him. The Guardsman makes a face like he has tasted something sour. “You. Child. What is your name?”

Veela is there in a heartbeat, putting one hand on Leesa’s shoulder and pulling the strong-willed child back an inch or two. “Her name is Leesa Messager, sir,” Veela says softly. “She is a bright child, but cannot speak.”

The Guardsman scowls. “Cannot or will not?”

Veela shakes her head. “She cannot speak, not since birth, sir.”

The Guardsman sniffs. “Such strangeness…” He pauses long enough to draw his sword and point it down at Leesa. “… is often indicative of being magic-cursed.

And that’s when I see – really see – the weapons the soldiers are carrying. And, yes, just this one sword has been drawn, but every Guard member here has a sword on his hip, or a spear at his back, or a bow in his hand. 

Aundrea is by my side, her voice soft and low. “He means to take us all. All the girls. And the women, perhaps. He will find a reason. Take us, or kill us. He will be happy either way.”

Hanna somehow has made her way to the front, and she is right there next to Veela and Leesa. “I find that an inability to speak,” Hanna says, “is often indicative of an inability to speak. And nothing more.”

And suddenly the Guard with the sword stiffens, and his expression shifts from derisive anger to actual hatred. He looks out at the crowd, not at Hanna, as he says, “I do not know which of you people this darkskin bitch belongs to, but you had best come teach it some manners.” He shifts the sword, pointing it at Hanna now, but she manages not to flinch at all. “And you need to learn to guard your tongue before I cut it straight from your bastardly little mouth.”

That’s when a new voice calls out from behind us. “How about I pull you straight off that horse and shove your sword straight up your -”


We all turn to see the three strange women from the inn walking up toward us. Every step is confident and guided directly toward the Guardsmen. There is absolutely no fear in their eyes. They have the look of someone here to handle business. Although all three are female, they are all very different in appearance. Two seem to be no older than myself, perhaps even younger, and they are both wearing simple village dresses. But one has pale skin and yellow hair cut so short that, if you ignore the dress and curves, you might think her a boy. The other is brown-skinned like Hanna, with a mass of beautiful, dark curly hair. The third is no taller than the other two – she may, in fact, be an inch or two shorter – but she looks to be older by ten years or so. She is also the only one of the three not wearing a dress. Instead, she is dressed in a black tunic and pants, with a somehow even darker cloak draped over her shoulders. Her skin is pale like the blonde girl’s, but her hair is as dark as her clothing and pulled into a long braid that rests across her shoulder.

The blonde with short hair turns to the other girl and says, “Yes, Tam, I know. A lady does not swear. But you heard the bullshit – sorry, Tam, my love – but you heard the filth spewing forth from this idiot’s lips. Are you telling me that doesn’t warrant at least a little swearing?” 

The girl with the darker skin and hair simply rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “Cressa, you continue to vex me beyond all understanding.”

They’ve got the attention of the Guard now. He’s moved the sword away from Hanna, Leesa, and Veela, and his eyes are focused on the newcomers. Perhaps that was their intent all along. Also, if the Guard was angry before, now he’s frothing like a rabid dog.  “Filth? You blasphemous whore! When I am done with you, they will -”           

 “You are done,” the woman in black says. “You are all done. The Guard is done. Your Emperor is done. Either dead or gone, either way, and honestly I don’t give a rat’s ass which.” She glances toward the girl with brown skin. “Sorry, Tam.”

The one called Tam simply sighs. “Honestly, I do not know how to deal with you two.”

The Guard with the sword narrows his eyes. “A woman in black. Rumors have swirled about a woman in black. They say she has killed numerous members of the Emperor’s Guard.”

“Okay, yeah, but all in self-defense,” the woman clarifies.

“And they say she travels with a pair of witches!” At that word, the rest of the Guards begin drawing swords and spears and loading arrows onto their bows, or however it is said. Either way, things instantly become much more tense. “The bitch in black is under arrest!” the first Guard declares. “And her witch companions as well!”

“First off,” the woman in black counters, “Only my friends get to call me the bitch in black. You, dickface, can call me Raven, Knight of Krells.” She throws back the sides of her cloak, revealing that she is, indeed, carrying a short sword at her hip. 

Tam, the brown-skinned girl next to her, simply tisks quietly. “Language please, Raven. Honestly.” 

 The woman in black turns back to the guard. “Sorry. I meant Mister dickface. Or is it Captain?” 

  “You…” The Guardsman seems to be at a loss for words. Finally, he snarls, “A woman carrying a sword is forbidden! It is wayward!

The short-haired blonde smirks. “Your face is wayward.”

Tam turns to her and sighs again.

Cressa shrugs. “What? At least I didn’t swear!

The two seem so distracted by their own bickering that they don’t seem to notice what I do. One Guardsman further back, on horseback, slowly drawing back a riding bow.

“You have no authority to arrest anyone,” Raven calls out. “You hold no sway here. So you and your bitch ass crew pack it up before things have to get ugly.”

Things happen suddenly. The guard with the riding bow fires his arrow at the woman in black. And I move without thinking. 

I run.

Funny thing about when I touch magic. When I channel it into me, when I feel it igniting, use it to fuel my movements, it’s not just that I move faster. I react faster, think faster, see faster. It’s how I can blur across the broken ground without tripping and stumbling on every rock or tree stump. And so, in less than a second, I travel across the distance between where I was standing and the area in front of Raven, the woman in black. I track the arrow in flight. I see it moving, a slight quaver to it as it flies. And I know the exact moment to reach up and pull it down out of the air. 

In a heartbeat’s time, everyone sees as I flash halfway across the town common and catch the arrow out of the air.

There are a few muted gasps from the crowd. The two girls, Tam and Cressa, simply turn and look at each other. The blonde one, Cressa, simply raises an eyebrow and nods approvingly. 

Raven simply shrugs. “Well, kid, I did see that coming. I was going to dodge it, but thanks anyway.” She points a finger accusingly at the Guard with the bow. “And you! You shot at me! I swear to everlasting Christ that if you do that again -” 

The first guard, the one who pointed a sword at Hanna and Leesa, is screaming now. “Witches! They harbor witches! You have seen for yourself! Arrest them all!”

Cressa puts her hands out to the side, palms up, and suddenly she is holding fire. “Really wish you’d stop using that word,” she snarls. “We prefer magic-using badas-” She glances over at Tam. “Magic-using heroes! And like my friend Raven said, you ain’t arresting nobody!”

“Enough of this.” Tam puts her own arms out, and suddenly we’re all pushed back by strong winds. I had thought that Raven, the lady in black, would prove to be the most powerful one. But here was this child Tam, easily a year or two younger than myself, using the wind to lift herself up off the ground. And all around us, a cloudless sky crackles with thunder and lightning. She is not flying with ease and grace the way Hanna does. She does not use magic to make herself run faster, or hear better, or read minds. She is bending the very elements around her. It is magic beyond my very comprehension. And it is amazing. 

 Once again things happen in a blur, and I see it all. The Guardsman with the riding bow reaches down for another arrow, and Raven’s hand moves faster than it has any right to. Down toward her waist, then up in a flash, extended out. A throwing knife flies out and embeds it in the guard’s throat before his fingers even brush the new arrow. He gasps breathlessly and begins to tumble from his horse. A second knife flies out, this one directed toward the guard with the sword. It catches him in the wrist and sticks there in the tiny gap between his chainmail sleeves and the leather gloves he has on. His eyes go wide with shock as the sword falls out of his now-useless hand. 

Cressa throws out a ball of fire roughly the size of a fist, and the sleeve of one guard’s tunic is suddenly covered in flames. He screams, drops his sword, and runs.

All of that happens in the span of a second or two. And a moment later, all of the hells break loose.

The townsfolk run, screaming in fear. Most knew of the existence of girls who could touch magic, but almost none had ever seen us use our gifts. And none of them were prepared for anything like Tam and Cressa. But it’s good that they’re running. They’re moving away from the Guardsmen and away from the fight. Much safer for them that way. I spin around, looking for my friends, in time to see two soldiers crowding in toward Leesa and Aundrea with swords raised. But Veela moves fast, pulling Leesa back with her left hand and slamming an open palm against one of the soldiers with her right hand. There’s a low hum as what looks like lightning surges from Veela’s hand and courses over the guard, dropping him instantly to the ground. The second guard stands there and stares, so he doesn’t notice as Hanna launches herself high in the air, then spins in midair and dives down fast. She drops her shoulder and slams into the second guard from behind, knocking him to the ground. Two more members of the Guard are approaching, but they suddenly stop suddenly as their swords are all pulled up and out of their grasp as if taken by unseen hands. The swords somehow fly themselves up over the crowd, across the square… and into the waiting grasp of the blonde girl, Cressa. 

Cressa, the same girl who moments before had thrown fire that she had created by her own hands. I catch myself staring because this girl Cressa is somehow able to use multiple kinds of magic! In all my life, in all the stories I’ve heard about girls in villages and towns far and wide, I have never heard of such a thing! And the other girl, Tam. She is currently floating high in the air as winds whip around her. She launches lightning out from her hand toward one guard on horseback, and with her other hand, she stops an arrow in mid-flight and sends it falling back to the ground. How many different types of magic is this girl using? 

“Brielle! Brielle, we’re coming!” I snap out of my stupor and spin around. My parents are coming my way. They are running, but they are not running away. They are running toward me. Toward the fighting. Toward danger.   I open my mouth to tell them to stop, to scream no. 

And that’s when I see him. A Guard, his bow pulled back, and I see the moment he lets go and the arrow flies. And I take off running.

And for once, for maybe the first time in my life, I am too late. I am not fast enough.

I get to my mother just in time to catch her body as the arrow drives into her shoulder from behind. She gasps hard, eyes wide, as I carefully lower her to her knees. 

“Brielle,” is all she can manage to whisper. And she sees the tears in my eyes. Yes, the arrow has missed her heart, her stomach, and all the vital things in between. But it has struck. It has pierced through muscles and flesh. If I leave the arrow in, she will die of infection. But if I remove it, then she will bleed out before any meaningful help can come. And all I can do is sit and hold her, and watch as she dies.

“TAM!” The voice is loud and I turn involuntarily to see Raven fighting off two guards at once with her sword. Raven moves fast and sure, blade spinning in her hands. In seconds one guard is disarmed and taken down with a slash across the chest. She spins, and her sword strikes the other guard in his face and arm before driving her sword into his stomach. She knocks the sword from the stunned guard’s hand and pulls her own sword free. “Tam!” she calls again. “We’ve got wounded! Time to wrap things up!”

I watch as Tam turns herself in mid-air and spots the archer who shot my mother. With a flick of her hand, Tam pulls the archer up off his feet and hurls him physically through the air, slamming him into a building on the other side of the square. Then Tam raises both hands high and five of the remaining Guards are all lifted into the air. Ten feet. Twenty feet. Thirty. Then she drops her hands, and the men all fall screaming. They hit the dirt and stay there. 

Tam lowers herself to the ground and immediately starts walking my way. From the side, one of the townspeople – Tarvis Jaffson, the fool who runs the local tavern – calls out, “If you could just pick them up and throw them, why didn’t you do that to begin with?”

Raven comes up behind Tam and pushes Tarvis roughly out of the way. “Because, dipshit, it takes nearly all of her energy. And because we were trying to be careful. We didn’t want to hurt any of you bystanders, either with the picking up or the dropping.”

Cressa comes running up beside Tam. “How are you feeling, Tam?”

Tam gives a tiny nod. “Tired. But I can still do what is needed.” Then she closes her eyes for a moment, and the damnedest thing happens.  Tam’s voice is suddenly inside my head. 

People of Tarrentown. All who hear my voice. Come out. The fight is over. 

I look to my mother and father, to my friends who have gathered around us, and I realize from their expressions that we are all hearing Tam’s voice in our heads. 

Restrain the men who attacked your town. Take their weapons. Find rope and bind them. But do not kill them. They will receive their justice in due time. 

Tam opens her eyes and places a hand on my shoulder. “And now, I must attend to this.” To my mother, she says, “Lorran, your name is? Yes?”

My mother’s eyes flutter open, and she manages a nod. 

Tam gives me a reassuring smile. “Your mother will be alright. I can see that the wound is straight and clean. Cressa? Assistance, please?”

The blonde girl is by her side in an instant. She takes a knee in the dirt and she places a hand on my mother’s head. Cressa turns to my father and me and says, “Tam needs to work quickly, and for your mother, the pain will be great. I’m going to help Lorran stay calm, okay?” Without waiting for a reply, Cressa closes her eyes and says, “Find peace, Lorran. All will be well.” My mother’s eyes close as if in a light slumber. Cressa whispers, “Now, Tam. Do it.”

Tam’s hands move in a series of quick, smooth motions, but she never actually touches the arrow. The arrow snaps just short of the barbed tip, and then it’s pulled out through Mother’s back. But again, Tam never actually touches the arrow. Then there is blood, a lot of blood, but only for an instant. Tam covers my mother’s wounds with both hands and almost instantly, tiny wafts of smoke appear between Tam’s fingers. Then more smoke, and a second later, the shoulder of my mother’s dress bursts into flame. My mother’s eyes shoot open, she gasps sharp and hard. Then her eyes flutter closed. I see my father reach out to stop Tam, but the Lady Raven places a hand on his shoulder, restraining him. I can only stare in shock. The flames burn off, taking tiny fragments of the dress away like crisp black snowflakes.

When Tam moves her hands away, there is no blood. No open wound. Instead, there is red and blotchy skin. Part of my mother’s dress has been burned away, but she somehow appears uninjured from the flames. Her eyes are closed, and she doesn’t move at all as I carefully set her down on her back. But she is breathing, and she is alive. 

I stare at Tam, and all I can think to say is, “You set my mother on fire.”

“I had to stop the bleeding quickly, so I mixed healing magic with fire to close the wound. Cauterize, Raven calls it. Powerful, but dangerous. Because of this, your mother will be very weak. Even with Cressa’s help, she passed out from the pain. She will need clean bandages and lots of rest. But she will live.”

I swallow back tears. She will live. “Thank you.”

Someone calls out, “What kind of people are you?”

We turn and see Tarvis Jaffson standing there, staring, pointing at Tam and Cressa. 

“You two are witches! You’re… you’re wayward!”

The girl Cressa stands up with a sigh. “Listen, you mother-” She glances over at Tam, then clears her throat. “Listen, you. Maybe you didn’t notice, but we just saved your little village here -”

“Town,” Raven amends.

“Whatever. We just saved you clowns from a group of really bad guys who were ready to kill any and everyone here. You’re welcome, by the way.”

Tarvis looks ready to object again, but Hanna’s father steps in front of him. Quietly, he says, “These two girls, and that nice lady there, protected my Hanna. My Hanna can touch magic, too, as you well know, and we all know what those men would have done to her if given the chance.”

Tarvis sniffs. “Those men came here because of girls like your Hanna.”

I move without thinking. I run full speed, grab Tarvis by the front of his shirt, and slam him against the nearest building. The momentum created by my speed also makes me quite strong, apparently. “Hanna is my friend,” I snarl. “And the only reason those men even exist is because assholes like you still feel the need to look down your noses at girls like me. Girls like Tam and Cressa here, who just saved my mother’s life! So if you utter one more word, I am going to have one of those girls pick you up and fling you up into the sky!”

“And we’ll do it, too, “ Cressa adds. “Happily.”

Tarvis puts his hands up in surrender and I let him go.

“Still,” Mayor Tamash says quietly, “You must admit that what these two girls can do is…dangerous.”

It’s Raven who answers now. She shrugs and says, “It’s no more or less dangerous than what I can do with this sword.” She casually twirls her blade around as she speaks. “I’m very skilled, you know. I could kill you with it. Could kill this entire town with it, if I chose.” She stopped spinning the sword and slammed it point-first into the dirt. “A skill is neither good nor evil. It simply is. These girls are not dangerous. A sword in the wrong hands, in untrained hands, is dangerous. An untrained swordsman will do nothing but get themselves killed, and probably the person they’re trying to protect as well. Likewise, magic in the wrong hands can be dangerous. In untrained hands. But Tam and Cressa aretrained.  Notice that we only killed the men who gave us no choice.” Raven pauses and shrugs. “Well, I did kill that one douchebag who shot an arrow at me. But I did warn him, right? Anyway, tell me which makes more sense – asking these girls to hide away their magic and go on untrained? Or to allow girls like Tam and Cressa to show these girls how to better control their magic?”

“You can do that?” my father asks. “You can train them?”

“We can,” Tam answers.

“You…” I take a breath and say, “You also know how to use multiple kinds of magic. I could tell. I have never heard of or seen such a thing. Were you born that way, or was that something you learned to do? Can you teach us?”

“We were shown,” Tam says. “Some can be shown. Others cannot. There is a friend of ours. Her name is Daal Fray. She would very much like to meet with you. With all of you.”

  “And what are we supposed to do with them?” Mayor Tamash nods to the Emperor’s Guards, bleeding and unconscious, who are being tied up by other members of the town.  

“They will be stripped of their armor and weapons,” Raven says. “Their steel is your do with as you wish. The men themselves will be sent out into exile. We try not to kill unless we have to. Their tale will serve as a warning to others that the girls of Wayward are no longer under their thumb.”

“And if they return?” the mayor asks. “Or if other men like them come back?”

“Any town that protects girls who can touch magic is likewise protected by the Knights of Krell. If they come back, we’ll know, and we’ll come back. And we won’t be so friendly next time.”

 “So that’s it?” I ask. “They leave, and so you leave. That’s it?”

The girl Tam smiles at me. “No, Brielle,” she says, although I’m very certain I didn’t tell her my name. “That is not quite it.” From her pouch, Raven pulls out a rectangle, shiny and black, small enough to fit in one hand. She gives it to Tam. “We have something to show you first,” Tam says.

Nodding to the rectangle, I ask, “What is that?”

“This,” Tam says softly, “is hope. This is the future.” 


Books by… Clint Chico

Our first ‘Author of the month’ feature is coming to an end, and we want to offer you a recap of all his works and where to find them!

My Name is Marcia” (Marcia Book 1) published 2020

Coming out is only the beginning.

High school freshman Marcia Torres finds her life flipped upside down when she’s forced to come out as gay in front of her entire 9th grade class. Suddenly she’s the most well-known lesbian in her conservative little Indiana town. She falls for her high school crush (and has her heart shredded), she works with her best friend Charlie (Charlotte) Parker to start her school’s first Gay/Straight Alliance, and she finds true love in the form of a sweet little genius named Patience Lancaster. Now Marcia, Patience, and Charlie have to figure out how to stop a conservative parent group dead-set on making life miserable for same-sex couples in the school.

Marcia’s Sophomore Slump” (Marcia Book 2) published 2020

10th grade – It’s the best of times, and the worst of times. But mostly the worst.

Marcia Torres is back, along with Charlie and Patience, for their 10th grade year of high school. And things look great, at first: Charlie’s got a newfound passion for art, Marcia’s widowed mom gets proposed to by her long-time boyfriend, and things between Marcia and Patience are going great. But then Marcia loses her student council election, gets badly injured on the soccer field, and has to spend Christmas without her girlfriend Patience. And that’s before things get really bad. What looks at first like a string of unfortunate coincidences turns out to be the work of someone doing their best to give Marcia the worst year ever. Is her freshman-year nemesis Ashley Harwood seeking revenge, or is there a new villain in town?

Marcia Marches On” (Marcia Book 3) published 2021

Stand for something, even if you stand alone.

Marcia, Charlie, and Patience enter their 11th grade year with a new high school principal, which would be fine if he wasn’t also a racist and a homophobe (and an idiot). The student council elections are rigged to keep out anyone who isn’t straight and white, and things go south from there. With racists and bullies in charge of the school, Marcia, Patience and Charlie have to find sneaky and subversive ways to fight back. Along the way, they help old friends, attend marches and help organise rallies. They quickly discover that their new principal isn’t just a bigot, but also a criminal. Now, with the help of a brilliant rules-breaking freshman student named “Tiny” Tina Hampton, the girls take on their biggest challenge yet – fighting an entire system designed to work against them. 

“Marcia’s Song of Dice and Fire” (A Marcia Side Story) published 2021

They came. They saw. They burned the castle to the ground.

During the summer between their junior and senior years, Marcia, Charlie, and Patience agree to play a tabletop role-playing game with sisters “Tiny” Tina Hampton and her older sister “Mouse”. The story switches back and forth between the ‘real world’ story of the girls getting together, and the ‘fantasy world’ story of Marcia the Fighter, Patience the Wizard, and Charlie the Cookie Elf. Just like in real life, the fantasy version of the girls take down bad guys and protect the innocent by bending and breaking every rule in the books. And they just might destroy a castle or two along the way. 

Marcia Says Goodbye” (Marcia Book 4) published 2021

Life is a blur.

Marcia Torres starts her final year of high school with a slight touch of existential dread. After all, she knows the school year will end with her saying goodbye to her mom, to her stepdad, to her best friend of a decade, Charlie Parker and, unless she can find a way to get into Princeton, to her genius girlfriend, Patience. But first things first – Marcia has to take care of the here-and-now. She gets elected Student Council President, she gets a job tutoring a snarky nine-year-old, she manages to secure her future with Patience, and she befriends new students Katrina Jimenez and Anna DeTollo. But tragedy befalls Charlie at the same time that a new group of hateful bullies pops up, and suddenly making it to graduation becomes the least of Marcia’s problems.

Katrina’s Theory of Starting Over” (Katrina Book 1) published 2022

Sometimes life gives you the chance to start over.

High School freshman Katrina Jimenez has a theory – sometimes life gives you the chance to start over. So, she decides to take advantage of her first year of high school by resetting and redefining herself. “New Katrina” joins the soccer team alongside her best friend Anna DeTollo even though she’s never played before. She somehow wins election to the student council even though she wasn’t officially running. She ends up on stage doing Shakespeare even though she’s never acted before in her life. And she ends up coming out as gay, falling in love, and having her heart broken. Not necessarily in that order. She and Anna also end up taking on a group of racist school bullies with the help of fellow students Tina Hampton, Marcia Torres, Patience Lancaster, and Charlie Parker. After all, what’s a little anarchy and rebellion among friends?

Island Games” (stand-alone adventure novel) published 2022

Lies. Cameras. Factions.

A group of twelve teenagers sign up for a new reality survival show called “Island Games”. They’re flown out to a small, unnamed island and stranded with only one female producer, a hapless show host and an army of small robotic drone cameras. When teenage skate punk Anika Bright is voted out the game, she thinks her adventure is over until she finds a cryptic note that reads EVERYTHING YOU’VE BEEN TOLD IS A LIE. Now Anika has to work alongside her former competitors, including a numbers-obsessed girl, a preteen genius, and a giant football player with the personality of a teddy bear. They have to figure out why exactly someone would decide to fake an entire TV show, and what kinds of secrets are worth killing for.

Art School Blues” (stand-alone romance novel) published 2023

Roses are red, two girls are blue. First love and heartbreak often travel by two.

Dora Roberts is a sophomore transfer to the famous Crestwood School of the Performing Arts. She happens to arrive at the same time as a film crew there to shoot a documentary on the school and its students. Besides Dora, the producers of the documentary focus their sights on former child star Solace Abernathy and musical prodigy Benji Carmichael, a strange girl with a strange name and strange, short blue hair. Benji and Dora form a quick friendship before Benji admits that she has a crush on Dora. Dora, who has never had a crush on anyone, is unsure of how she feels. But just when Dora is finally, finally honest about her love for Benji, tragedy befalls the girls, and they find themselves with only a few weeks left together before they’ll be pulled apart for good. This is the story of two girls finding themselves, finding each other, falling in love, and falling apart. This is love and loss and everything life can be. This is Art School Blues.

Katrina’s Theory of Broken Things”  (Katrina Book 2)published 2023

There’s a reason they call it “heartbreak”.

Losing someone you love can leave you feeling shattered inside. Like a piece of you is missing. Chipped. Cracked. Broken. High school sophomore Katrina Jimenez has a theory about that. She believes that, sometimes, broken can be beautiful.

  • Coming Spring 2024 – “Wayward Magic” (stand-alone fantasy novel)
  • Coming Fall 2024 – “Katrina’s Theory of Infinite Possibilities” (Katrina Book 3)

Clint Chico is an inner city high school media teacher, and the parent of LGBTQ+ kids. He’s the author of nine YA novels that feature diverse characters and focus on LGBTQ themes.

He says about himself

I love to write stories that are fun and funny while still hitting on themes and topics that are important and timely. I specialize in bright, colorful characters and sharp, clever dialogue. I’ve been told that my books will make you laugh and cry, often in the same chapter. But most of all, I hope my books will make you smile.

You can find him on Facebook as Clint Chico and Clint Chico YA Author, and on Instagram at booksbychico, send him an email or buy his books on Amazon.

You can listen to his podcast interview at “Tell Me About My Book” where he talked about “My Name is Marcia” and watch his “Stay Woke” Book Club interview for “Island Games”.

And definitely you can drop us a comment too, letting us know what you liked about his books!


Marcia Says Goodbye

Marcia Says Goodbye. Kindle Direct Publishing, 2021.

And here we are… The moment teenage students dream of but us readers dread! It’s Marcia&Co. senior year and it will be their goodbye to high school and what it meant, good or bad.

The last Waltz begins with Marcia and Charlie on the football field, the fifty-yard line.

“One day we’re gonna say it, and one day we’re gonna be right.” She turned to look at Charlie. “One time’s gonna be the last time. The last time that we hang out on the field together. The last time we go to Frosty’s for ice cream. The last time we get hot chocolate and donuts from Cup O’ Joe’s.”

Charlie sat up, blinking. “Oh my God, Torres,” she said softly, “You’re right! One day it will be the last time.” She shook her head and sighed sadly. “I guess all I can do is help speed things along a little.”

Marcia frowned. “Wha?”

Charlie nodded. “By killing you right now.”

But, as bittersweet as the moment can be, the big question is looming: what after? Yes, the end of high school and its rules and weird customs might seem exciting and well-deserved, but what’s going to happen next? Choose university? If so, which one? And how are we all gonna be friends when we won’t see each other everyday anymore and live in opposite sides of the country? It’s all so scary and confusing, but at least there is a whole year ahead to think about it. For now, let’s focus on the here and now, which specifically is a new Headmaster – or better, Headmistress, Dr Shaw. The first thing she does is calling Marcia, Patience and Charlie in her office.

On the first day, or as soon as you have a spare minute, call to the office three girls – Patience Lancaster, Charlie Parker, and Marcia Torres. They’re the answer to your question. When they come in, say nothing. Just wait. Give it a minute and it will all make sense. Parker is the sarcastic one. Lancaster is the observant one. The one who won’t stop talking is Torres. Once you’re satisfied, please show them this letter, and hand them the note I’d left for them.

This is Mr Anderson’s (a former teacher) message to the new principal. The message ends with a plea for the three girls: “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do under any other principal”. It’s a sweet and powerful presentation of these three incredible young people to the new Principal and a way to get them out from the dog’s house from the very first minute. Because let’s face it: it’s Marcia&Co. we are talking about: as much as they’ll try to avoid it, they will end up in one mess or another for sure. But it’s also the answer to Dr Shaw’s request to have an insight into the social climate of the school and have the names of students she could trust.
While in the office, the girls are also told that Mr Miller will be back as coach of the soccer team, on two conditions:

One, that Ms. Levelle would become his first assistant coach. And the other condition was that his second assistant coach would be…” Dr. Shaw pretended to check her notebook. “Patience Lancaster.”

Patience’s surprise is understandable, but not so justified: since she did such a great job in guiding the team from the bleachers using sign language, what can se actually do from the bench?

Once the dust of the first day settles down and the school begins for real, the girls realise that it’s their senior year and they all have more classes of their majors, but they don’t even have classes together for core subjects like English or Maths. Marcia turns the whole thing into massive drama, already talking about separation and a future without Patience. But soon the argument takes a different direction and becomes more general. It is not just a matter of sitting in the same class, it’s a matter of being single units living in the world: of course there will be people asking me out, or asking you out, Patience explains patiently, but it doesn’t mean we are bad people. We turn them down, kindly but firmly, because neither of us is the type of person who would cheat, she says to Marcia. And that is because we are nice and reasonable people, with good qualities and a positive attitude and once again Patience shifts the focus of the conversation. It’s their last year and so much happened already, and Patience really believes that Marcia should run for Student Council President. Marcia replies that she will only if Patience will run as V.P. It’s clearly impossible: no one will vote for them both. Marcia is not convinced, though. ‘Prove me I would be a better President than you, then’ she tells Patience. ‘But be loyal: prepare your campaign as you would do if you were going to actually run for it, not just to prove a point.’
Patience does it, but during her speech she subtly keeps saying how Marcia is great and kind and smart and pushes Patience to become a better person, driving the vote the way she wants. Marcia realises what her girlfriend actually did one second before launching into her speech, and pays her back, saying how great of a President Patience would be, concluding with ‘I will vote for her’. What she couldn’t predict was that her fantastic-for-the-position girlfriend sent an email to the whole school before their speeches took place, predicting exactly what Marcia was going to do and re-enforcing the need to vote for her.
It comes as a shock to Marcia when the new President is announced and her name comes out of the speakers. But it’s an amazing surprise, and she won’t bear it alone: Mark, Charlie’s boyfriend, is her V.P. His candidature was a last mine one, so much last minute that no one actually knew. But since the other candidate was Kevin Frisk, Mark had to do something.

“Now, to the question of why I am running against Kevin Frisk. Do I have a problem with Kevin?” […] “Yes. Yes, I do.” […] “Kevin Frisk is a bully. I know this from firsthand experience. Many of you do, too. He is a racist and a homophobe. I know this from statements that he’s made, and from the way he treats other people. Of course, some of you already know this. That’s why you’re planning on voting for him. Because you’re racist too.”

It comes as a surprise, but definitely a good one, since the Student Council is divided: gay and gay supporters on one side, homophobe bullies on the other, both elected in almost even numbers, so any future vote on any proposal will become a ferocious arm wrestling exercise, where the matter in question won’t be as important as who proposed it and who is actually going to win the motion. But Homecoming is looming and there is no homophobia, bully or student council election that will be able to ruin it. It’s their last one, after all.

Life goes on, and so do all their activities: Marcia is playing in a jazz band she joined at the beginning of the school year, they are all studying hard for their SATs, scrambling around to allocate enough time for university applications, soccer practice and part time jobs. It’s a chaotic but good time for all of them. One day, Marcia is on the phone with Charlie while her friend is driving back from her part-time job, when the line goes suddenly dead. When Marcia tries her friend’s number again, the call goes straight to voicemail. She doesn’t have a good feeling about it, and unfortunately she is right: Charlie had a nasty collision with a truck, that left her with a temporary spinal injury. It might be gone in a few days or it might be permanent. Mark decides to drop his V.P. position and take care of Charlie, firm in his conviction that it doesn’t matter if he has to help her to go to the toilet for the rest of their life: she is the one and she is worth anything.

And while Charlie lives her last school year in a more or less normal way, the rest of them keeps going through ‘the usual’: the Art Fair, the school play, the jazz band concert, a Code Blue that it’s not a drill [for non-US readers: a Code Blue means danger outside of the school or in the immediate vicinity, so all students must stay put and all doors locked], the Prom, the Prom Queens, graduation and two life-commitment surprises that will squeeze out hearts one last time.

This last instalment of Marcia’s story is a whirlwind of everything! We have an insight of what being queer today might means for teenagers, we are reminded that, yes, high school never ends, nor its cliques and politics, we are guided through first loves and big commitments, we are presented with themes already dealt with in the previous three books (Homecoming, Art exhibition, school play) that feel a little predictable at this point, but as Marcia herself says, this is the last time. And it is for real! Like, no more of her, or Charlie, no more Proms or Patience’s witty remarks, no more big confessions on the fifty-yard line.

As much as I think that there is space for improvement on the quality of the narration, I am actually shedding a tear now that Marcia’s adventures are coming to an end. I followed them for less than the 4 years it took them to complete their personal story arc, but I will miss them just the same.

Do not despair though… Chico has not finished to delight us with his wonderful stories! We have 2 more to present to you, so dry your tears and stay tuned!


Marcia marches on

Marcia Marches On. Kindle Direct Publishing, 2021.

The new school year hasn’t started yet, and Marcia and bestie Charlie are taking it easy in Marcia’s bedroom, where she is playing to her friend some new tunes she learnt with the guitar.

Their first day in school, the students are in for a treat. They are getting a new principal this year, his name is Mr Baumgardner and his first impression is not great:

“The absolute worst!” agreed Charlie. “He was all like…” Charlie stood ramrod straight with one hand behind her back. “Rah rah rah rah, discipline! Grah rah grah rah, temperament!” She let out a low groan. “God, he was like… like George C. Scott in Patton!”

But that’s not the only news. Patience introduces them a friend of hers, Ontario Hammond, who comes from London and has ‘a funny accent’, Saria ‘Coppertop’ shaved her hair and dyed it a fiery red, Marcia is taking driving lessons, there is a new soccer team coach, Coach Levelle, and a new student counsellor too, Ms Wahmer.  And, contrary to the previous years, things are not really running smoothly. To start with, Coach Levelle is clueless about soccer or its rules, she expects all players to wear the same uniform (meaning that Faiza is not allowed her hijab) and the new student counsellor is not as available as Mrs Williams was – when Marcia asks her for an intent-to-run form, she replies that other teachers have them too. 

The soccer club changes don’t go down well with Marcia and her teammates, but they decide to abide by them: one day, they all show up for practice dressed in the same uniform, meaning the whole team is wearing a hijab. As if karma itself was listening, this social justice display bites Marcia in the back: she is ineligible to run for Student Council, because of a Class C violation on her records for kicking a girl in the face and breaking her nose two years prior.

Patience remains their only hope.

But when the winners are announced, not only Patience hasn’t won, it becomes immediately clear that not a single person of colour, may them be Black, Hispanic o Pakistani, won a single position in the student council.

“You’re saying Baumgardner… what? Rigged the entire Student Council election? How?”

Levelle said softly, “Apparently, he took charge of who counted the votes. He hand-picked the students that he trusted to… well, they said they counted the votes, but, obviously, I think they just chose the people that they wanted. That he wanted.”

Marcia, following her artistic inclinations, and badly in need to redirect her energy, tries Drama Club. But once again there is a catch:

Mr. Offerman frowned a little. “Oh, did I forget to mention that part? Um, well, yes, Principal Baumgardner said the only way he’d approve a Drama Club is if we put on a play before Thanksgiving.”

And then there is the canteen food. It’s never been Michelin Star quality, fair enough, but, if possible, it’s even worse than the previous year. After a brief research, Marcia finds out that the food provider has different tiers of service: the more you are willing to pay, the better the quality. It’s no CIA job, because it’s clearly stated on their website. With a bit of tampering from Patience’s side, all of a sudden the school is raised to a better level of service and Principal Baumgardner’s emails are re-directed to Patience’s account, so that he can’t reverse it again.

Something smells fishy, but all this is only circumstantial proof.

In the meantime, terrible news break: Jamie, a Black guy not much older than Patience, has been killed by the police. In time, he got in with wrong crowd and allegedly became a drug dealer. Still, killing a young man just because he’s dealing doesn’t seem an appropriate response, even more because he’s Black, and American police appears to be biased against the community. A rally is quickly organised, and Patience wants to take part, while Charlie is against it. She has her reasons – it will be full of people who hate the police, but not all cops are bad; ‘look at my father’, she points out. Marcia is caught between a rock and a hard place: which decision is going to hurt less? A big argument explodes between the three girls and it seems to be a deal-breaker. Eventually, Marcia goes to the rally, protesters are charged by the police and Marcia herself is injured, arrested and brought to the hospital.

When Marcia goes back to school, with her ribs still cracked, Charlie tries to apologise to her, but she ends up saying:

Charlie looked away. “God, Marcia, you shouldn’t have gone.”

Marcia frowned. “What?”

“You shouldn’t have gone to that rally! If you’d stayed home…”

Not the best way to make up.

Meanwhile, at Drama club the final rehearsal of Juliet and Romeo is taking place, a revisitation of the original Shakespeare’s play where Romeo and Juliet roles are reversed. Charlie and Patience, who are not on speaking terms, have the two leading roles of, respectively, Tybalt and Juliet. And in typical Patience’s style, the two girls manage to say to each other how sorry they are, in front of an oblivious audience, who believes it’s all part of the play. But Marcia, who knows better, is deeply touched.

So, when it’s time for the Homecoming dance, they will go all together, but Marcia’s presence is cut short by Shannon’s text: ‘can you please meet me at my aunt’s place?’

Marcia instinctively knows something’s very wrong. And it is. April, Shannon’s cousin now in college, has been raped by her date. When she told her ultra-religious father, he kicked her out of his home, accusing her of lying to cover up for her promiscuous behaviour. This is simply unacceptable and in no time another rally is organised.

The Protest Against Sexual Violence and Rally for Justice For April Springer.  In coordination with Indiana University, the rally attendees would meet at the main parking lot and march together from there, across campus, to a small staging area set up in Dunn Meadow, a grassy field across from the school’s LGBTQ+ Culture Center. One group, a local organization known as Women Rising, was taking care of having a small stage erected with mics and sound. All the girls had to do was get the people there.

This time it’s a big thing, big enough to have national coverage. And it’s all because of Marcia. It’s not all, though. Because, as many students already suspected but couldn’t prove, Principal Baumgardner is actually guilty of gross misconduct, and will be incriminated by one of his students.

It’s the second last chapter of Marcia’s saga, and once again the themes touched are many and very complex: rooted homophobia and racism in the mind of the educators, the eternal fight against police brutality and preconceptions, the difficulties of choosing the right thing to do but then having to deal with the consequences, all superbly intertwined with simple and, for us adults, seemingly meaningless problems like the Homecoming close to Thanksgiving and the SAT tests. Once again, a brilliant book that make us long for and dread the conclusion, which we will review next week!


Self-promo 2023 (ep. 26): Dan Williams

A reckless murder changes the world forever. An angry ghost is trapped in a crystal prison and an unlucky few are doomed to an eternal torment of maddening shared 

Now it’s 2096, twelve thousand years later and there’s no magic and no ghosts; everyone knows! There are only little people forever scrambling to stay out of the way of big tech. Everyone knows humanity is beleaguered by drought, flooding and poverty. Everyone sees that society is shot through with corporate corruption. But no one has time to care.

Yet as Nate, Chen and Tina struggle to get by from day to day and pay to pay, hidden deep under the earth, the ancient ghost rages on in the Stone, and the chains of power that bind it weaken and begin to fray. Strange earthquakes gather force off the coast of Akarana Island and when an old house is demolished, something unbreakable is broken and everyone in the world will be drawn into the legacy of the curse of the ghost in the Stone whether they believe in such nonsense or not.

This book is an industrial grade magical realism, with an urban fantasy setting. Hard science fiction is seamlessly blended in a mature epic story with great golden characters in a plot that, for once, is NOT set in the northern hemisphere.

Dan Williams grew up in New Zealand before moving to the United Kingdom where he lived for over two decades, until moving to China months before the COVID 19 outbreak. Just as he planned! (Well, not really…). After a while, he moved back to the UK. Before Google was invented, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and well after punch-cards weren’t a thing anymore, Dan qualified and worked in information technology and, later, psychotherapy, which is like debugging people’s brains. Now he’s learning Mandarin and writing books. A lifelong avid reader of psychology, science fiction and fantasy, Dan looks forward to contributing many more of his works to the world’s store of fascinating and entertaining tomes in these genres.

You can find more about Williams and his works on his Facebook, Twitter/X, Instagram and website.


Marcia’s Sophomore Slump

Marcia’s Sophomore Slump. Kindle Direct Publishing, 2020.

Marcia is turning 15, and for any Latin American girl this is a big deal, a date that deserves celebrating in a special way. For this reason Charlie, her best friend since, well… forever, got her a personalised Puerto Rico national football team jersey, with Torres printed at the back and a big 15 at the front. Marcia is beyond excited for her present, to the point that she feels silly for giving Charlie an art set for her birthday. But Charlie brushes it off, more than happy with her present.

Marcia’s birthday is too soon followed by another, much less appreciated, big day: the first day back to school. 

Like it or hate, Marcia thought, there’s nothing like the first day of school. Patience would probably say that it was a new year, full of new possibilities. Charlie would probably complain about the end to the freedom of summer. Both fairly accurate. Marcia would add to that the opportunity to show off new clothes, which, for her, meant the personalized soccer jersey that Charlie got her. It hangs a little large, but who cares when it’s so cool?

This year, though, is not any first day back; it’s her sophomore year. All of a sudden, freshmen look so young…

Marcia looked around. “Boy, what a difference, right? Last year we were newbies. We didn’t know anyone. Now, look at all these freshmen! They look like little kids!”

As usual, Marcia gives her light and kind touch to things, and keeps scanning the corridors with Patience and Charlie, finding known faces, but also new ones. Two of those are Sana, a freshman Muslim boy, and his older sister’s Faiza, who also plays soccer with Marcia.

The buzz for the new beginning fades quite soon, and before long it’s time to go back to sport clubs and homework, but also the election of the new year Student Council members. Marcia takes part in a double-ticket campaign, presenting her nomination along with the one of her girlfriend Patience, who also doubles as the ‘black girl’. Together they represent different minorities and cliques, so their chances to win are high, at least on paper. Sana is running too, for the only representative position freshman year are allowed to have.

Once again, Charlie and Marcia, with the help of Patience, prepare for the election: they rally in the corridors, prepare posters and work on their speech. The day has come, all the candidates are ready to speak in front of the school. Marcia takes a deep breath, gets ready, fights the twitch of panic that’s arising, but being how she is, she realises that, when leaving home, she took her English Lit homework with her instead of her notes. Now she has to improvise. After a second of pure confusion, she simply follows her heart.

“But, as many of you may already know, last year, I screwed up. I did. I lost my spot on the council. And rightfully so. What I did was inexcusable. I hurt someone.” Marcia was quiet. “And for that, I’d like to apologize. To you, my fellow students. To the teachers and administration.” She turned. “And to you, Ashley. I’m sorry. I really am.” She turned back to the audience. “I want to tell you something else I learned from my time on the Student Council. Not everyone respects the underclassmen. When I was a freshman I was looked down upon by sophomores. Sophomores are looked down upon by juniors, and the seniors look down on everyone!” […] “If you put me back on the council, I promise to make your voices heard! I promise that every time they try to push us down, I will stand up and push back harder!”

Speeches done and dusted, it’s time for the students to vote. There is nothing left to do but wait for the results. And when the day comes, it’s not a happy ending for everyone. Sana has been elected, but that doesn’t come as a big surprise – almost the whole school backed up his candidature. When it comes to sophomore’s representatives, though, the names pronounced are Patience Lancaster and Ashley Harwood. It comes as a shock to Marcia, even more because she receives an anonymous threatening message right after.

Hi! Burn in Hell, you skank whore faggot. You thought you could beat me? Well guess who won? You’re first. Your little whore girlfriend is next. I hope you both die. A friend.

It’s obvious that Marcia’s first reaction is a long sequence of swearwords that she lets out despite being still in class. Of course the incident calls for disciplinary action. Once Marcia explains what happened and why, the message is thoroughly investigated, but with no result. It doesn’t appear to come from Ashley’s phone or any other mobile number connected to her. However, the swearing was real and, as a punishment, Marcia will not take part in the first soccer game of the season.

The fact that Marcia hasn’t been elected is not the only bad news for the council. The rest of it doesn’t look good either, since most of its members are homophobes. As a result, one of the first motions of the new student council is to shut down the Gay/Straight Alliance using a technicality: the student council has the power to shut down a student group on the spot within the first 12 months of its formation. The Alliance was founded in November, and it’s still October.

It’s unfair and sad, but nothing can be done. At least, Marcia’s suspension from the soccer team is over and she can go back to the field. They are midway through the match, when Marcia receives a terrible kick in the shin, that leaves her with a broken leg and a damaged knee. She will be out of the team for a long while. Not having her playing is a great loss, but given her experience, she’s offered to sit on the bench as a coach consultant and help. She is on crutches anyway, so there isn’t much she can do, but in that way she can still support her teammates.

In the meantime, Sana finds a way to go around the council homophobic restrictions and re-creates the Gay/Straight Alliance under a new name and with a new purpose. The group will simply be called ‘The Alliance’ and its main purpose will be to offer a safe space where students can talk freely, be it about being gay, being depressed, being anxious or being bullied. The student council cannot turn this down without looking bad, so the new group is born. 

Life moves on, until one day Sara Iverson, a girl who lives across the road from Faiza and Sana and goes to a different school, reveals to Marcia that she knows what happened, both with the election and the soccer accident. The injury wasn’t an accident at all, and actually Marcia didn’t really lose the elections, despite the official results, as it was rigged. Ashley still has friends at St. Mary’s – the rival team on the day of the accident – because they went to middle school together.  

It’s a lot of speculation and no concrete proof. They need something more to be believed. It’s only after Christmas that Carlie, another member of the student council, decided to come clean.

“Look. Like I explained to Mr. Anderson, I’m still Senior Class President. People look up to me. I need them to trust and respect me. And that can’t happen with this kind of… corruption. So, yes. When I found out, I decided – we decided, me and Maggie – that we needed to do something. Say something.”

Mr. Anderson nodded. “And the testimonies of everyone involved all seem to point to the same thing. Ms. Harwood broke school policy and guidelines by rigging the election and costing you a spot on the council.”

This is all that’s needed to point the finger at Ashley and remove her from the student council. This leaves the council with a vacancy, but it’s very clear that the replacement has to be someone neutral, or the whole body will suffer from it. The choice falls on Mitchell Keller, who is a sophomore too and part of The Alliance. 

It finally seems that the whole school can sit back and relax, at least for a minute, when a tragic news hits the corridors: Mrs Williams, the students counsellor, passed away overnight. It’s a great shock for everybody but especially for Marcia, who relied on Mrs Williams quite a lot during her first year to create the Gay/Straight Alliance. It’s even a greater shock to find out that Mrs Williams wanted Marcia to prepare a speech for her wake, and Marcia does it. In pure Marcia style.

But that’s not the last surprise before the end of school. The truth behind the rigged elections, the rise of the homophobic groups and other school anomalies (like Homecoming in December and the below-standards food served in the canteen) will surface in a last, unforeseen plot twist.

It’s a very good second chapter of the ‘Marcia&co.’ story, written by someone that clearly has a privileged point of view on high school dynamics and gay young adults. It’s a delicate read, perfect for struggling teenagers, that with some sharp editing would also become an amazing read for adults. Be prepared though, this book might leave a dent in your heart.


Introducing: Author of the month!

We are thrilled to introduce you to our lates feature! From this month, in addition to the usual reviews and authors self-promo/interviews, we will turn the spotlight on a new author each month, showcasing all their work so far. We are kicking things off with…


Stay tuned to read more about what he writes, his opinion on the meaning of writing and authorship, today’s society and much more!