This story is updated monthly. You can be the first one to know when new chapters have been published.
“Fuck, man, don’t shoot.” I put my trembling hands up in surrender and a futile attempt to Force Push Johnny and his stupid gun out of my face. I’d been shot enough lately.
Johnny’s gun hand trembled, and he fidgeted like he might explode if he stood still for too long.
“You think you’re fucking special!” he shouted, his voice tight and strained like he was crying, and realizing he was red in the face, I thought maybe he was. “You come in here and fuck my girl like you own the place. Like you have a right?”
He pushed the nose of the gun to my already sore cheek, and I turned my head, pulling back into the pillows as though half an inch of distance could save me from a bullet.
“Fuck you,” he growled. “I’ll blow your head off right here.”
I knew two things in that moment: 1) Jess wasn’t “Johnny’s girl,” and 2) I absolutely should not say that.
“Shit. You’re right. You’re right.” Give him what he wants, I thought. But what the fuck could I give him now? I
Maybe I could stumble my way into it. I said, “I came in uninvited, and I disrespected you. I get it. You want me to leave? You want me to put in a good word with Jess?” With my head turned, I couldn’t see him or his face, but I could hear him sniffling. Yeah. He was crying.
When he didn’t answer right away, I got scared the pot wasn’t sweet enough. I thought of what I could do that he clearly couldn’t; I should have kept my mouth shut.
“I can tell you how to blow her mind in the sack,” I said. It was a genuine offer, but Johnny’s battered and bruised ego couldn’t handle it, and to top it off, I’m a big fucknig idiot.
The gun lifted off my face, and then I felt a flash of cold steel in the middle of my dick.
“How about I shoot your dick off first?”
“No!” I scrambled away across the bed, only managing a few inches of distance with Johnny on my case. “Look. I just meant—” I tried to hold my hand up between my dick and the gun. I wanted to bolt, but I also wasn’t interested in finding out if a vampire could grow his dick back. I’d rather be shot in the head. “I just meant you could—like, I’m trying to give you all the tools you can get to win her back.”
“Sex tips ain’t gonna win her over.”
“Oh, it’s gonna hurt.” He cocked the gun.
“Ah!” I shouted at him with a wagging finger, the way you berate a dog for trying to sneak food off the counter.
Somehow it worked, at least momentarily, and I scrambled my lucky, bare ass the rest of the way to my feet, backing toward the door, just praying I wouldn’t trip over half a Big Mac or whatever other garbage was between me and the exit. I glanced at the curtains for signs of sunlight around the windows. It seemed dark enough. Jess must have been at work. I knew she’d be in there going gorilla on Johnny if she was around to witness this bullshit.
Johnny advanced with the gun pointed at my chest again, rounding the bed while I continued to back my way out. He closed the distance quickly until I bumped my ass into the couch, and he pressed the barrel to my bandage.
“I oughta kill you. I want to. I’ve always wanted to. Mr. High and Mighty.”
I stood silently. He could just kill me if that’s what he really wanted. He didn’t have to wake me up. He didn’t have to villain speech me. If he wanted me dead, I would be already. Right?
My breath shook, and my heart raced to deliver that much needed adrenaline.
His wet eyes stared at the place where the gun met my gauze, and I ignored the deep pain in my nearly-healed wound while I watched him debating on shooting me.
I had to guess there wasn’t a voice in his head on my side of all this. “You really think shooting me is gonna get her to want you?” I waited a second to see if I was helping or hurting myself.
His lip bulged as his tongue ran over his fangs.
I continued. “Why don’t you start with throwing away a taco wrapper? Hell, I’d blow you if you did that. I can’t imagine how excited Jess would be to know you vacuumed for once in your fucking life.”
He lifted his chin, finished sucking on his teeth and stepped back. He lifted the gun with one hand and brought up the other hand to support it, taking serious aim with a look of resolve—still, calm, quiet, finger on the trigger, frightening. “You have three seconds to get out of here, and then I shoot.”
I stepped away from the couch, taking an entire valuable second to compute what he’d just said. I was off?
Fuck. I turned and found the keys to Jackie’s Porsche on the counter where I’d left them…right next to the cigarette I couldn’t find last night.
I snatched them both, aiming my naked ass for the door. The cigarette dropped to the ground. I stopped to go back for it.
I realized I’m a fucking idiot and made for the door again. But goddamn did I need a fucking cigarette.
I slammed the door behind myself, and that didn’t stop Johnny from firing the gun at the door four times in a row. I ran for the stairs, down two flights and shoved my way through the door to the apartment building—out into the sunlight.
I screamed at the instant burning sensation, eyes squeezing shut, and knowing I couldn’t go back in, I kept on, hoping to find a dumpster or some other cover before I… exploded or whatever. I didn’t actually know what would happen to a vampire in the sunlight. It wasn’t like they went into it often.
The brightness subsided almost right away, and when I opened my eyes, I found that the sun was setting, and the buildings on the other side of the lot were what was blocking the sun from me now. It was brighter than my eyes were used to, but I quickly located Jackie’s Porsche and the stripe of sun on the driver’s side. I got in through the passenger seat. I huffed and puffed with sore lungs, a huge dose of adrenaline and a burning and itching left arm and left side of my torso. Carefully, I tested out with the same arm whether it would burn in the sunlight leaking through to the driver’s seat. The tinted windows must have been doing their job. Glancing out the windshield back at the building for signs of Johnny, I repeated the fuck word under my breath repeatedly until I was positioned behind the wheel and throwing the car in gear.
After some reckless driving, poor attempts at using the clutch, and a little bit of deliberation, I drove to Ras’s. I knew he’d help me, and Jackie lived with him, so it was a good way to return the Porsche, not that I wanted to. By the time I pulled in the driveway, it was twilight, but not any more painful or dangerous to be outside than it would have been in true darkness.
I stopped on the porch. I wasn’t ready to talk to Ras after finding out he’d been lying to me for over a decade. I didn’t want to beg him for help. I just wanted to go home. I just wanted to forget the last few days had happened and go back to smoking and fucking and drinking like I was doing a few days ago, like I’d been doing for years. Before I was shot. Before Jess destroyed my living room. Before Seth got killed…
I stood still for a moment, allowing that thought to truly sink in for the first time since I’d heard he was dead.
But I cut myself off. I didn’t have time to think about it. He didn’t matter. He didn’t mean anything to me. Nobody did.
I put my mind back on the task at hand, scratching at my side and arm where it was swollen. What was I gonna say to Ras? I had to confront him about him coming between me and Matthew. Should I bust in there and shout him down? The silent treatment? Punch him in his goddamned face?
I could hear muffled voices through the door. They weren’t that close, but if I listened hard, I could make out Jackie’s voice and Ras’s, and another one on speakerphone that was harder to distinguish.
“That’s why I want your help,” Ras said. “Lai can’t stick around here, and you know that.”
I stepped closer to the door and pressed my ear to it to get the next line.
“I don’t see why it’s my problem,” said the phone voice. After a few seconds, I put together that it was Micah.
“Come on, Micaiah,” Jackie purred. “I know you’re not Lai’s sire, but would you keep him safe for me?”
I had to admire Jackie’s seductive prowess. And just everything about Jackie, really. I had to stop scratching my swollen, itchy arm for a second to hear the voice coming through on the speakerphone.
“I don’t see why it’s your problem either,” Micah said.
“Please, Mr. Castagnier,” Ras said, his voice wracked with desperation. “You know how dangerous Matthew is. You helped him before. This is just to make sure all the work you did wasn’t for nothing.”
My arm had swollen up so much, the hospital bracelet now pressed into my skin, and every part of my left arm from elbow to wrist was red and in pain. The rash on my body was following suit. I think it was spreading.
I let myself in through the front door, scratching heavily at my arm and chest and hip and leg and fuck it was terrible everywhere.
Ras and Jackie both turned to face me as I stood scratching, and I could hear Micah sigh on the phone between them. “I can arrange any travel arrangements he needs,” he said, “but I can’t keep the state police force off his case. I’ve tried.”
“Lai,” Ras said, standing up from his stool and hobbling a few steps in my direction. It was weird these days to see him without his cane.
“It’s a long story,” I said.
“Get him some clothes,” Ras said to Jackie.
“Micah, he’s here,” Jackie said, her eyes on me while she leaned toward the phone. She looked Ras over, and with a nod, she left the room.
Micah’s voice chimed in again. “Is he all right?” He sounded exasperated, but not angry, which was unusual for him as far as I knew.
“Why are you scratching?” Ras finally came to my side and guided me to the couch, offering a seat with a bit of reluctance.
“I got a little dose of sun. No big deal probably,” I said. I hissed as I broke the skin on my forearm from scratching so hard. The hospital bracelet was tight now. I didn’t want to sit down.
“Jackie. Benadryl,” Ras called out. His eyebrows dipped in as he took my arm from me. “How long were you in the sun?” His eyes skimmed over the rash on my hip and leg and then to the other side of me, searching for more rash.
“A few seconds.”
Jackie came out with a pair of gray sweatpants and a white t-shirt. She shoved them into my hands and then started pouring benadryl tablets into her hand. “Take these. They’ll keep it from spreading.”
I had hardly unfolded the pants before she was trying to put the tablets straight into my mouth. I grabbed her by the wrist to stop her. “I got it, I got it.” I let her pour the handful of pills into my palm, maybe a dozen of them, and then I swallowed them two at a time. “This seems like a lot.”
Ras brought me a glass of water. “Better than not enough. You might get drowsy, but at least you won’t be dead.” Funny coming from the one who told everyone I died.
“Is he going to be all right?” Micah asked with more force than before.
“He’s gonna be fine,” Jackie said. I was glad she sounded confident about it.
I finished my pills and pulled on my clothes. The medicine didn’t help instantly, but since they seemed to know what they were talking about, I felt slightly better just for taking something. Very slightly.
“Laisellus,” Micah said, once things calmed down. “I’ve been discussing your situation with your brother, and we’ve decided—”
I scoffed. “You’re deciding things about my situation now? Oh wait. Not now. Since forever. Since I’m apparently dead and all.” I turned to Ras. “Is that why Mom never called me? Does she think I’m dead too?”
Ras frowned, and took too long to finally open his mouth to speak.
I waved my swollen hand at him and shook my head, turning to look back at the phone on the island. “So tell me, Micah. What did you decide for me this time? Do I get to come back from the dead? That sounds pretty fucking sweet.”
Micah sighed. “Your faked death was for your own good.”
“Any reason I couldn’t be in on that good thing I didn’t know anything about for twelve years?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Micah said. “It happened, and now you know. There are more important things to concern yourself with right now. The state police have managed to connect your case with an incident you’re suspect in from Northern California a few years ago. I have full control of how vampire crimes are handled in the City of Los Angeles, but only if the county and the state don’t claim jurisdiction. Even the county can be dealt with, but…”
“Micah hasn’t exactly rubbed the California State Police the right way,” Jackie filled in.
Micah fell quiet.
Ras sucked in a breath, and I spun to look at him. “No. You don’t get to say anything.” I waited to make sure he was going to stay silent, and then I looked at the phone one last time. “I’m not sure why they’d be after me. I’m the victim. I was the one who got shot. Jess—” I shut up, not wanting to incriminate her, though I worried I’d already said too much. “Look. It wasn’t me, and I haven’t done anything in North Cal anyway. They’ve got the wrong guy.”
“You partied in the Bay area. Probably someone you fed on?” Ras asked, his voice soft.
I scowled at him. “Whatever. I’m innocent, and the cops can eat my ass.” I hung up the phone on Micah. I faced Ras. “I don’t know why you think you can take over my life, but you’re done. Matthew left me because of you—”
“Exactly!” Ras stepped forward to interrupt, desperation once again in his voice and now in his pleading eyes. “If you want to talk about someone taking over your life, just look at Matthew. All that shit he did to you, and you worshipped the ground he walked on—”
“Because I loved him!” I screamed it so loud, the silence that came after hurt. All I could hear was my own ragged breathing and my heart still pumping furiously in my chest.
The phone rang. Probably Micah calling back. Nobody moved to answer it.
“He would have killed you,” Ras said. “Don’t think he won’t still try.”
I lifted my chin, fixing him with an incredulous half-smile. “He’s not the one who gave me a headstone.”
I did my best to blame my watery eyes on the reaction I was having to the sun or on the benadryl. I wiped my face on my good arm and checked out my bad one. Was I gonna die from sun exposure? Maybe it was a shame I hadn’t stood out there longer.
I stormed past Ras to the door and stopped after it was open to look at him. “Stop trying to help me.”
I slammed the door shut on my way out. The phone kept ringing.
It’s November aka National Novel Writing Month. So guess what I’m doing!
Youuu guessed it (probably)! I’m working on In Lieu of Underwear, a Vampire Story this month. I’ve been posting chapters monthly and therefore writing them monthly…And that’s a long time in between story bits for me so I can only imagine how frustrating it might be for the readers like you to have to wait! If I’m forgetting what I want to write next before I actually write it, then you’re probably at least forgetting what happened a month ago. I committed to one chapter a month because I knew I could manage that much writing, but I didn’t think about the complications so much time in between would cause. Not only is there a lot of forgetting going on, but it’s interfering with my other writing projects!
I thought by only writing/releasing one chapter per month, I would have plenty of time the rest of each month to commit to working on Destroying Eden. While this effort hasn’t been entirely fruitless, I do know that wanting to work on one when I feel I should be working on the other has the ultimate effect of allowing me to wind up working on neither! Yay perfectionsim! Yay anxiety! Yay the crippling pressure of no one but my own brain! 😀
So I’m committing myself to writing the rest of ILU in one month. I had never intended a story about Lai to be my first novel, but it looks like it’s going to be. I’m a little scared, but I am so so so excited!
If you haven’t seen it yet, I posted the newest chapter (Chapter 6!) of ILU on Halloween!
I’m a little undecided on what will happen after NaNoWriMo. I will need to revise the novel, perhaps more than usual because I won’t have been revising each chapter as I go the way that I do when releasing monthly. I don’t want to be too ambitious in my promises to you, but I also firmly believe that having written the entire novel should result in one of the following:
Ideally, I will continue to release chapters on a regular basis, but will release a complete book so those who want to finish it off can do so in a more binge-like fashion. We’ll see how revisions go.
Speaking of releasing new chapters, Chapter 7 is on deck, and I’m only going to make you wait until NEXT SATURDAY for it! It’s written, it needs a little more revision, but then it’s ready to go. Keep an eye out.
For now, I’ll leave you one ILU tidbit – Lai’s theme song.
He’s my…most precious baby, and he’s existed for a long time, for more than just this story. This song is just so fitting, and I hope one day you’ll be able to share in all of the reasons why.
Anything else you want to know about Lai? I’ve got a post coming up that could potentially fit some more bonus info about him into it, so if you have any questions I can answer, especially without spoiling things, let me know! Thanks for reading!
This story is updated monthly. You can be the first one to know when new chapters have been published.
“The best way to get what you want out of someone is to do whatever they want,” Matthew whispered to me. I didn’t realize at the time that Matthew was bestowing upon me his biggest secret.
It was 1990, and he stood behind me while I stared at the frat house door. What he said was some sort of last-minute, good luck wisdom for rushing Rho Theta Nu. I had put on a stupid, boxy suit my dad owned from the 80s, and I was not looking forward to trying to get guys way cooler than me to like me, even with Matthew, the president of the fraternity, on my side.
“I’m doing this for you, you know,” I said.
“And later you can have anything you want,” he purred softly. He kissed the back of my neck, and I flinched away, glancing around for onlookers. I didn’t want to let anyone know I was like that.
“Congrats, bro. You’re a Rho Theta Asshole now,” my brother said at the dinner table after a successful rush. He sat across from me while his girlfriend Alexis sat to my left, quietly eating from her bowl while maintaining a polite level of interest in our conversation.
I rolled my eyes at Ras and glanced at Alexis and her pretty blonde hair and tight fucking body, sitting next to me while I poked a spoon at my chili—the only thing Ras knew how to cook that tasted any good, and dinner that night was the last bits of a batch that had lasted a week.
“Your brother’s the one that nominated me. Or voted me in or whatever,” I said to Alexis.
“Just further proof the house is full of assholes,” Ras interjected. He shoveled three hefty spoonfuls of chili into his mouth in a row.
He was the cool guy back then. The one who was successful and smart and had luck in relationships. He was athletic and handsome and a fucking asshole.
“He’s not always an asshole,” Alexis defended, though with little conviction. She wiped her mouth with her napkin and then smiled at me. “I’m happy for you. When do you move out?”
:”I guess soon.” I hadn’t actually expected to make it in, but I suppose I’d committed myself already to Rho Theta Nu.
I pushed my glasses up my nose with a finger to the corner of the frames. They were thick and out-of-fashion, but I didn’t really care. I couldn’t see much without them. Ras got all the eyesight too. Son of a bitch.
Speaking of said bitch, she trudged into the room in her annoyingly small, rapid steps. Yet somehow every one seemed heavier than the last. Her light brown hair was pulled tight to her head with a tiny bun held in place in the back by black bobby pins. Her eyes were brown and bright despite the scowl on her face.
“Which one of you boys told your father you’d bring him orange juice? He’s been waiting 20 minutes.”
Ras jumped up. “Oh shit. Sorry, Mom.”
The way she visibly relaxed when she saw it was Ras who’d been the one to fuck up made me roll my eyes again. I dug back into my food, forcing myself to eat because if my mouth was full, I had an excuse not to answer when she inevitably turned her attention on me.
When Ras took off down the hall with Dad’s OJ, that’s when she struck. She tossed a dish towel over her shoulder, and even though I couldn’t see it, I could feel her looking me over with sharp eyes from her place across the kitchen.
“Your father’s lighter went missing. Have you seen it?”
I took my time, slurping chili off my spoon and taking a bite, slowly chewing, and then finally swallowing and wiping my mouth. “Nope.”
She stood quietly for a moment. “I thought you had a friend coming for dinner. What’s his name? Michael?”
“Matthew. And he didn’t want to eat chili. He’s a vegetarian.”
“I bet he’s skinny as a rail too,” she said in a huff. She turned to the sink and started on the dishes. “What does he like to eat? I’ll—”
The doorbell rang. I dropped my spoon into my bowl with a clank and jumped up to get the door, happy to put a wall between myself and my mother. Not much put a spring in my step back then. But Matthew did.
I opened the door with a smile, and Matthew, seeing my face, smiled back. Something inside me perforated, and I quickly filled up with the dopamine that poured out. It was all I could do to keep from telling him to smile at me forever. It was the only thing I wanted.
Matthew’s eyes found my unbuttoned collar. “Oh,” he said. “You took off your tie. After all that hard work I put into getting it on you.” The amused creases by his eyes let me know he was joking. He reached out and touched the collar. His face became a little more serious. “And you have a stain.”
“What?” I pulled my chin back as far as I could while he pulled the collar out in an attempt to show me the spot of chili on my white shirt. “Great.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He dragged his finger down to my first fastened shirt button and fiddled with it until it was undone. His eyes shimmered with mischief and he looked up at me from under his gorgeous lashes. He spoke softly, above a whisper. “It’s a good excuse to see you without a shirt.”
A lopsided smile plastered itself to my face. “Yeah?”
“So can I come in?”
I stepped aside quickly. “Yeah, yeah. Come on in.”
The living room was over-decorated with chickens, plaid, and white wicker in the form of various baskets full of ceramic eggs and the most uncomfortable matching set of sofas and tables that existed. The pendulum of the clock ticked in a pleasant rhythm over the entertainment center my mom had made me paint white last summer, insisting I needed to get “out of the house” after a girl had broken up with me.
“Somebody likes cocks,” Matthew said, poking the beak of a rooster statue on top of the stereo speaker.
I scoffed. “Don’t be gross. Come on. My room is this way.”
We had to walk through the kitchen to get to the hall that led back to my room. My mother shut off the sink when we stepped in. Ras was in the middle of clearing the table. He opened his mouth to speak, but his eyes fell on Matthew.
“What’s he doing here?” he asked.
Alexis stepped around the table and rescued my unfinished bowl from him. “Ras, they’re friends,” she said gently. She smiled at us both, and I melted all over again. I wasn’t crazy about everyone, but somehow I was in the room with the two people my body went craziest for.
“Hi, Matthew,” Alexis said. “How was Rush?”
“Fantastic. We have the best new edition so far,” he replied, clapping his hand on my shoulder.
“New addition? Lai, did you join a fraternity?” Mom stepped closer, and her voice wavered on the edge of hysterical. She looked him over with appraising eyes. With acid in her tone, she greeted him. “Hello, Matthew.”
“Mrs. Martire,” he said, sounding delighted as though it was a surprise to see her in her own kitchen. “It’s lovely to finally meet you. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it for dinner. It does smell delicious.”
“Apparently you wouldn’t have liked it anyhow,” she muttered.
She hadn’t always been that way. There was a time before Dad had cancer that she was all smiles, mostly fake ones, but that bitterness for the world stayed hidden behind them instead of on display. I liked her scowling better. I could respect the honesty even if we fought like rabid animals more often than not.
“Let me help you with the dishes,” Matthew said.
She shook her head. “Lai will do them. I’m going to go lie down and watch my programs with your father. Don’t be loud.” She said it to me and to Ras.
I stayed quiet until she was gone. But she came back. “It was nice to meet you, Matthew. Let Laisellus know what you like, and I’ll make it next week.” She said it more gently than she’d ever said anything to me. I stepped away to take my bowl back from Alexis and I took it to clean it up in the sink.
Ras and Alexis finished cleaning up and went back to the living room. Matthew stepped up next to me at the sink.
“You’re learning,” he said. He reached to take the bowl from me.
I pulled it away. “I’ll do it.”
He quietly appraised me for a few seconds, and I glanced over to look at his face. He was three inches shorter than me, and there was something electric in his gaze that made me need to look at his eyes, dark and beautiful, magnetic and daring. Confident. Sexy. Dangerous.
“You’re the reason I made it in,” I said, referring to the event earlier. “You told Adam to bid on me, didn’t you?”
He put on an easy grin. One that made me feel silly for doubting him. “I promised you it would be as genuine a process as possible, didn’t I? I’m not sure why you don’t want the help I can give, but this win was all on you. I swear it.” He took the bowl from me, this time successfully.
I let my mouth hang open, having trouble objecting to his help. “My mom told me to do it. She wouldn’t like me letting you help.”
He pressed a finger to my lips. My heart thumped in my throat like maybe it could bust out and kiss him the way I wanted to when he stood so close.
“Then she won’t find out,” he said. Matthew turned to the sink and helped me wash the rest of the dishes, and when we finished, I showed him to my room.
I hadn’t shown him sooner because I was embarrassed. My room was full of all the tell-tale signs of a nerd, Star Wars paraphernalia pretty much anywhere you looked, most of it vintage from seeing it and being obsessed with it when it first came out. The one thing Ras and I could really bond over, even to that day.
My other nerdy hobby was on display on my bedside table: an erotic novel with a very typical cover and a “Happy 20th Birthday” card signed “Mom and Dad” from that summer wedged into it to save my page. It was the only thing out of place, if you could call it that, as I maintained an immaculate living space, things put where they belonged, carpet vacuumed every other day, shelves and blinds dusted just as often, bed made, laundry cleaned and ironed and put away, and decor routinely rotated when I got tired of it (not that I could ever get tired of Star Wars).
I stepped into the middle of the room and did a slow spin with my arm out to show Matthew that… this was it. I had a full-size bed pressed into the corner, with the door and my dresser on the opposite long wall, and the closet on the opposite short wall, the window lining up with the center of my bed where I sometimes woke up from kicking it in my sleep.
Matthew shut the door on his way in and his face showed nothing but delight as he took in everything.
“Big room,” he said.
“Really? I always thought I could use a bigger one.” I had a lot of stuff.
“It’s twice the size of the room I grew up in. Though I did tend to have the whole house to myself, so I suppose it never bothered me.”
I took a seat on the edge of the bed, watching him as he wandered the room, carefully picking up Star Wars nick-nacks and examining them while he spoke. “So your mom and dad were never home?”
He glanced at me. “I never knew my father, and I’d wager my mother didn’t either.” He shrugged and set the X-wing back in its place, adjusting it until it sat in just the same position it had been in to begin with. “My mother regularly left me alone for a week at a time. She had more important things to do, I guess. I didn’t mind.”
“I’d love it if my mom left me alone for a whole week.”
He chuckled, and putting his hands into his pants pockets, he meandered toward me. Once he got to my side, Matthew sat on the bed next to me.
“So what do you want from me?” he asked, and when he saw my confusion he took my hand and continued. “I mean from earlier? When I said you could have anything. Have you thought about it?”
“Oh,” I said. I thought about it, looking at his face. “Not really.”
“Not at all?” Matthew tilted his head, and his eyes glanced over my lips. “I can make a few suggestions.”
He leaned toward me, and I thought he would stop to say something in a raspy, sultry voice, but instead, he kept going until his soft mouth caressed mine, slow like he always was until I finally got the courage to kiss him back. But this time, my parents were in the next room watching L.A. Law, and my heart beat my ribcage like a frantic marimba solo.
Matthew eased me onto my back, and climbed over me, legs on either side of my hips, to bend down and kiss me more. When my hands didn’t know where to go, he put them on his waist or his hips or his arms. When my glasses got in the way, he plucked them gently from my face and carefully set them on the table. When my shirt was in his way, he unbuttoned it and pushed it off my shoulders.
He unfastened my belt and reached his hand into my pants to caress the bulge in my underwear, and when I whimpered, he sat back with a huge smile. “Any ideas yet?”
“Maybe a few,” I said, my hands pushing up from his knees, across his thighs, to his hips.
“I’ll do all of them,” he said. “Anything you want. Even some of the things in this book.” He lifted my novel from the table, and I blushed.
“Shh. You’re not supposed to know I read that.”
“That bad, huh?”
He licked his lips, and with that cat-like smile, he slithered down to kiss me again, once, nipping at my lower lip. “If it makes you feel better, I can forget you read those novels. I can forget you can read at all.”
I snorted. “I’ll settle for…” It was hard to get myself to just say it, but I gathered up the courage. “A blowjob.”
“Predictable,” Matthew said. “Just one?”
“You can really only do one at a time, right?”
He laughed. “We’ll just play it by ear then.”
And that’s what we did. He let me blow my load in his mouth while I laid on the bed, and then a while later, I shushed him incessantly while I fucked him on his back. I froze when I heard people in the hall, but eventually, with some coaxing, I didn’t care anymore, at least not in that moment, and when we were done, we both faced the window, and I spooned him, unable to bring myself to request a reverse in cuddle positions.
In my hazy post-coital near-sleep, my thoughts wandered back to earlier that day, and what Matthew had said to me before Rush, and I found myself thinking: what did Matthew really want from me?
I know this Satórday post is coming to you late, and it’s not a new chapter of In Lieu of Underwear. I had intended it to be, but I’m here to tell you why it’s not.
When I started In Lieu of Underwear, I made the impulsive decision to turn it into a novel that I would be posting a chapter of once a month or every few weeks—I hadn’t really decided on a frequency yet at the time. I even wrote Chapter 1 on a whim. You may have read the prequel chapter of ILU (and if you haven’t, download it now and read it!). This chapter was originally a self-aware story that I wrote for a survey writing course I took in grad school. I thought I would post it one Satórday for you all to read, so I revised it. And then I decided I didn’t want to post it, and I wrote what happened immediately afterward, which involved Lai (my most precious brain child that I have used for role playing for years), and Jess.
I posted Chapter 1 and decided I would update regularly and it would be an okay story.
But I’m a perfectionist, you see, and the reason I didn’t have a novel-in-progress with Lai in it was because I know early novels don’t tend to get as much success as second and third novels, and he deserved the recognition more than any other character (next in line is Nathaniel, who is the protagonist for Lost Blood which… is on the back burner). So I couldn’t just write whatever and have that be his legacy. I know where his story is going. I’ve already role played some very important experiences for him, and so he’s immediately intertwined with the characters of other writers. So I contacted author D.B. Graves, and I said, “You have to help me with this story because I can’t do it without you.”
This has resulted in at least one multi-hour in-depth voice chat per month regarding the story and where we want it to go and how we want it to get there. It gets better every time, and if you’ve paid attention to the blurb I’ve had posted for ILU, you’ll have noticed that it’s changed a few times as we carve out our plans what’s to come. I just printed a bunch of flyers with the newest blurb, and now that’s only mostly accurate to the plot we’ve got in store.
All that said, before Friday, when we had our last conversation about it, I had been listening to Story Grid Podcast, which is a podcast I’ve admired for years. Story Grid is a book written by Shawn Coyne who has over 25 years of experience as a big publishing editor and has found a way to take a left-brain view of a right-brained activity (writing) and put it into words for us. The podcast is primarily hosted by Tim Grahl who says he’s “a struggling writer, trying to figure out how to write a story that works.” He chats with Shawn throughout the podcast, and they even go through his story bit by bit, applying the Story Grid framework to it. This is something that I truly appreciate it. While Shawn, on the podcast, will explain an aspect of it, Tim will ask questions from the perspective of a new/struggling writer…because that’s what he is! It’s as close to being in the same room as Shawn Coyne to ask him your questions as most of us will get.
So one of the major tenets of the Story Grid “system” is that genre is one of the first things you should consider about your story. They get very in-depth, but basically there are many aspects to genre, but the one I became obsessed with last week was the content genre. I wanted to be able to say something like “This is a love story” or “This is an action story.” Nice and simple.
Of course, it was not simple. I read article after article on the Story Grid website trying to decipher what each genre even was before I could try to delineate which ones added up to make my particular story, and whether the ones that it leaned towards were even the kinds of story I wanted to tell. According to Story Grid, the genre is determined in large part by the spectrum of value that the story hinges on, though multiple genres share the same value spectrum. So action, horror, and thriller stories (and maybe more) all have similar value shifts that they must always be focused on, and that is Life/Unconsciousness/Death/Damnation (or a fate worse than death).
On top of that, each story has not just an external content genre (such as love or action), but also an internal content genre (e.g. status, morality, or worldview). Do you need to know all of this? Maybe not. But these are the layers of complication I was wading through on Friday night when I went to work on my story.
So D.B. and I struggled for hours to narrow down the genre, reworked the entire plot, and then we had to disconnect, and I did hours more of genre research afterward.
So what did I determine the genre is? I think we have three genres, but the global genre that determines the course of the story is Worldview. This breaks down into subgenres, and I’m sure it’s one of them, but they all sounded like the same thing worded in different ways to me, so I decided to split those hairs later. The next genre is Love, and that is followed by Action. I don’t know if you’re supposed to order them by importance, but that’s what I’ve done here.
Now with that in mind, I have some things to change about my plans for Chapter 6, and that (along with having a busy day of driving an hour to promote at the event Hearses of Hades in Greenville, IL on Saturday and napping for five hours after driving the hour back), is why there’s not a new chapter this weekend. Rest assured, however, that I’m not going to give my boy Lai a bad story, and this kind of delay is in service of his story. I’ll spend this week making sure what comes next is worth reading and gets us to the juicier stuff that comes later.
If this doesn’t solidify my status as a Plantser, I don’t know what does.
I was trying to write a different blog post, but instead, I wrote this creepy nanofic instead. Spooky season is here, folks. Enjoy.
Sometimes I forget things. She doesn’t like that. She says I should remember everything, and I should prepare for anything. She says I must do nothing. She says I must not try. She says if I try, he will come. He will knock. He will bring his little dark box. He will unleash its shadows on me, and I will die, or worse. She says I am the reason he comes. It is my fault. It is my fault she is so afraid.
I must feel ashamed for summoning him.
I must never answer the door.
I must no longer try.
I must either do, or do nothing.
She prefers I do nothing. He will not—perhaps he cannot—knock if I do nothing. I do not know. Sometimes, I forget things.
He only comes when no one wants him. He doesn’t come all the time. But sometimes I forget that. Sometimes, when I’m not sure I can do, and I know that I cannot do nothing, I try. Sometimes I try, and he knocks. Sometimes I try, and he does not knock. Sometimes I do, and still he knocks. Sometimes I do nothing. When I do nothing, he does not knock.
I think about him while I cry in my room.
I do not like to cry. It means I am weak. If I am weak, then when I try, he will knock.
That is what happens today. I try. She wails. I cry. I do not want to cry. I always cry. Today, I rush to the window to see him, tears stroking my face.
He comes. I see him. I dry my face with my knuckles. I have not met him before—although, sometimes I forget things—but I see him now. I see his little box. It fits nicely in his hands. He does not look how I expect. He has kind, but weary eyes.
He sees me too.
I see him. He is holding his box. He does not look scary. I tell her this.
She says things don’t always look how they are. She says he will kill me. He will use his box on me. I should never look at him again. We will hide forever.
…But I do not want to hide forever.
I open the door. He is gone. His box sits on the porch. I stoop down, and I lift it. It fits nicely in my hands. She lingers close, looking at the box with my eyes, but she stays quiet.
I open the lid.
Sometimes, I forget things. I know that. I decide I will remember this. I tuck the box close to my heart. I close the door. She stays quiet—I like it when she stays quiet—and then, she wilts into a bulb. Small. Manageable.
I take the box to my room. I look at it. I no longer want to cry. I learn from it, I think. The fear has shrank away, now a tulip bulb in my palm. I place her in the box. Maybe this is what being whole feels like.
All I had to do was open the door and look in the box.
Sometimes, I forget things. But I will remember this.
Or at least—I will try.
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Contents: Marijuana use, cigarette use, nudity, explicit sexual language/imagery, gun mention.
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On a new mission, I tucked the cigarette behind my ear and found Jackie’s car in the Red Tech Donor Station parking lot. The Porsche was silver and filled with a dark gray leather interior. She must have been serious about me leaving if she was volunteering her car for my bare ass and nutsack to sit on. I had to adjust the seat, pushing its base backward and leaning the seat back some, though less than I had expected. I’d never seen Jackie wearing any shoes other than high heels, and they made her taller than both Micah and Ras, neither of which were particularly short men.
I shut the door and felt the tug of the gown getting trapped in it. With a frustrated sigh, I opened the door again and pulled the gown into the car. This must have been what women had to deal with when they wore dresses. I adjusted the mirrors and started my search for a lighter, discovering quickly from the puffy leather around the gear shift that Jackie knew how to drive stick, which was also something I knew how to do, only I’d never actually done it before.
I dug my fingers into every storage space I could find, short of climbing into the back seat which was nearly non-existent anyway, and finally I gave up finding something to light my cigarette with. I assured myself I could just smoke when I got home, and like a dumbass, that’s where I went. Only to find crime scene tape across my door.
I knew Micah’s cops weren’t going to arrest me, but I didn’t know if maybe they’d try to drag me back to Micah’s, and again: like fuck was I going to Micah’s.
I parked Jackie’s shiny silver Porsche in the lot of Jess’s apartment building between a Civic with dull red paint and bright red duct tape strapping the passenger side mirror to the car, and an old Buick with a dent in the driver’s side door and a trash bag for a window. When I got to Jess’s apartment, I knocked on the door, throwing a nod to a dude who’d come out of the apartment down the hall and given me and my hospital gown a dirty look. Honestly, it wasn’t quite the fashion statement I wanted to make, but I could’ve gotten used to all the attention my ass was getting. When the door opened, it was Johnny.
I sighed and took a step back to look at his punk ass—literally, that tattered punk rock aesthetic. Fuzzy shaved head, arms and hands covered in edgelord tats, dirty high-tops, and his studded white belt that didn’t hold up shit or his sagging black skinny jeans.
“Where’s Jess?” I asked. I tried to look past him into the apartment. He closed the door a little bit more.
“Out,” he said. “What the fuck are you wearing?”
“Been playing Doctor with your mom. Guess we got carried away.” I pushed my way into the apartment, but Johnny didn’t put up much resistance. “Don’t mind me. My ass is just cold.”
Rolling his eyes, he walked back to the couch and dropped into the dent his flat ass had carved out over a few months of overstaying his welcome. The apartment was a fucking mess, covered in old fast food bags and cups and laundry that couldn’t possibly be clean, but I was sure Johnny would have argued the pile on the arm of the couch was ready to wear. The couch had ceased to belong to Jess and now was Johnny’s bed, which I heard about during Jess’s frequent complaints about him. She’d talked a few times about finally kicking him out, but she never did, and I just didn’t fucking get the attachment she had to the prick.
The clutter extended from the couch to the walls which were over-decorated—completely the opposite of my taste, which was pretty minimal and not to mention clean. The centerpiece of the art, if you could call it that, was a collection of masks hanging in the middle of the wall above the couch. They were full-face, hard masks with different designs painted on. Some had animal-like ears or noses, and others extended even more into the realm of weird with exaggerated noses or eyebrows or other features, but they all had the common theme of complete cover, including screens over the eyes. I’d seen the masks before, and when I asked about them, Jess didn’t want to talk about it. Sometimes I’d seen Johnny take one off the wall and bring it with him when he left to go out. Between Johnny and the pigsty, I tried my best to get Jess to hang out literally anywhere else.
“So you bust out of the mental ward or what?” Johnny asked, picking up the purple bong from its home between an empty Starbucks cup and a Taco Bell bag stuffed with the trash from other fast food restaurants and sprinkled with ashes that told me it was now also home to the contents of an ashtray. He lit the bowl with a cheap, decorative lighter that Jess had probably picked out, and he took a bong rip without offering me a pull.
Which reminded me I could smoke.
“Hey, let me see that,” I said, demanding the lighter while I felt behind my ear for the cigarette, but before I could secure the transaction, Jess came in.
“Oh my God, J-Rad,” she said excitedly while she focused on shutting and locking the door with her arms full. “Someone has to be hooking here because there’s a fucking Porsche outside.” She shoved the door shut with her hip, and leaned awkwardly to use one finger to turn the deadbolt, her arms full of more Taco Bell bags and cups. When she turned, she nearly dropped all of it. “Lai!”
I grinned. “I guess you finally got those tacos.”
She practically threw the food at Johnny and knocked some stuff off the coffee table so she could fit the new cups on there.
“You know you could just throw all that stuff away instead of living in it,” I said.
She threw her arms around me, pinning my arms to my sides. “Shut up! I thought you weren’t going to be able to run your fucking mouth for at least another week! So tell me what’s up. Are the cops after you? Are they after me?” She looked up at me with big glassy eyes, and this time I knew it was weed.
I shrugged. “I honestly have no fucking clue.”
Jess stepped back, plucking at the part of the gown that covered my stomach. “So you escaped?”
“Something like that.”
“Bro, fuckin’ put some pants on.” Johnny’s voice came from somewhere behind me.
I turned around to find that Johnny had a prime view of my ass and not much else. He’d grabbed a pair of basketball shorts—were those mine?—from the dubious pile of clothing nearby and held them out to me.
I studied his earnest attempt to get me dressed, and then I looked him in the eye while I reached back to untie the gown straps behind my neck. As soon as the knot was undone, I yanked off the gown, added it to the laundry pile, and sat my naked ass down right next to Johnny on his nasty couch. I scratched around the edges of my bandage and settled in like I owned the place.
He stared at Jess and dropped his hand and the shorts into his lap with a long, nasal sigh. “Tripp, your boyfriend’s on thin ice.”
“Looks like you two have something in common,” Jess said while reclaiming the bag of tacos from him.
“Two things in common,” I said. I leaned toward Johnny to explain. “I’m not her boyfriend either.”
Johnny fixed me with a tight scowl, but I smirked at him, practically daring him to try and kick my ass. I knew he wouldn’t try, knowing he was a punk coward, and smaller than me in probably every regard.
Jess shoved a half-wrapped taco into Johnny’s mouth and then dropped five more tacos in his lap.
“Pity tacos for the man in the friend zone,” she said with a teasing smirk.
Johnny frowned and stared up at her while he took the taco in his hand and broke off a huge bite.
I grimaced and sat back in my seat, watching Johnny tear through his chicken taco like it would disappear if he didn’t eat it fast enough.
“Is that actually any good?” I asked. “Real food makes me puke just from the taste.”
“What? Can’t ya eat?” Johnny asked with an overflowing mouth of lettuce and sour cream, only able to pronounce the Ts by using the crunch of the taco shell as a replacement consonant.
“I can drink blood. I can drink booze. And I can eat food. But only one of those tastes any good or makes me less hungry. Guess which.”
“That sucks,” announced Jess from her new perch on the arm of the couch. She put her feet in my lap, and while I didn’t mind it, I did lean away from her a bit just waiting for a tortilla crumb to break off and torpedo straight at my face.
Johnny crumpled up the wrapper to his first taco and dropped it on the floor.
Lifting a hand as though I was going to say something about it, I screamed internally. It took a lot of willpower not to grab a trash bag and clean their apartment for them. Not my problem, though. Nope.
“I just can’t have any garlic,” Johnny said. “Even smells bad. Like it still smells the same…but bad.” He nodded sagely to himself as though that made sense.
But as nonsense as it sounded out of context, it did actually resonate with me. Probably the first time Johnny had ever said anything I’d been on board with.
“That’s how food and stuff is for me now,” I said. “Like an apple still tastes how I remember it. I just hate apple taste now. It’s like my brain just filtered it into the Bad Flavors file. Protein-rich foods are better, but still terrible.” I shook my head.
Johnny seemed to get excited I could relate and turned to face me, but the second his eyes saw my dick, which I still hadn’t bothered to cover, he dropped the thought of talking at all and continued with his tacos in silence while facing the poster-covered wall and the television in front of it again.
I tried to catch Jess up on what had happened without getting into too many details about Matthew. Only the people who needed to know about my past with him knew anything about it. Even Ras didn’t know everything.
So Jess got the abridged version—and Johnny too, though I tried to speak to him as little as possible. We put on a movie and spent the rest of the night passing the bong while I tried to find the one cigarette I owned. I finally gave up and for a little while the cravings subsided, but then Johnny lit up one of his own, and with only one left after that, he refused to share. If I hadn’t been so irritable, I wouldn’t have blamed him. I wouldn’t have done any different. But I was jonesing, and I’d never wanted to punch Johnny in the face enough to actually consider doing it before.
“It’s just a fucking cigarette, dude,” I said, two seconds from getting on my knees to beg. Smoking weed had helped keep the cravings and the headaches and the irritability at bay for a while, but it still wasn’t nicotine. “As soon as I get back to my cash, I’ll buy you a whole pack. I just need one. That’s it.”
“Pay me now, and you can have it.”
I laughed once. Loudly. “And when I’m done extracting my magical treasure chest from my asshole, you can suck my dick.”
Johnny’s ass lifted from his seat, and sensing he was ready to take a swing, I started to do the same, but Jess inserted herself between us.
“Boooooyysss,” she said, drawn out and sleepy sounding, her eyes heavy with excessive smoking, not unlike Johnny’s eyes at the time and probably the same for mine. With her feet on the cushions, she slid down into a seated position. She took Johnny’s face between her hands and he immediately sat back down, looking her in the eyes. “Let’s not fight, okay? It’s peace time.”
I got up and took another look through the cushions for my cigarette—my only cigarette!—finally ripping the one I had been sitting on off the couch and sending it bowling through the cups on the coffee table. I reached down and shoved my fingers through the crumbs and loose hair in the disgusting cracks and crevices, and still had no luck. I’d had it behind my ear. For about the eightieth time I checked there again. I’d even asked Jess a few times to make sure I hadn’t left it there. It was gone.
“Can you send him home?” Johnny asked. When I glanced over at them, he had his hands on her face too, closing in the space between them quickly.
“He’s gotta stay here tonight,” she replied. Jess kissed Johnny quickly on the forehead and let him go.
“Home sweet crime scene,” I said dryly.
When Jess turned around, her gaze went straight to my dick. “And you can sleep in my bed.”
I snorted and glanced down at myself. “Are you talking to me or my—”
“Shhh…” Jess smiled up at me with one finger over her puckered lips. She winked.
“Put some fucking pants on!” Johnny yelled. The basketball shorts hit me in the face and slid down onto the floor.
I grinned at Jess, ignoring Johnny completely. “I’m ready for bed when you are.”
Jess’s bedroom wasn’t much less cluttered than the living room, or the overflowing kitchen sink, or the bathroom that smelled like piss and mildewed towels. The bedroom smelled better than that, at least, and while it was cluttered, it was mostly bulky stuff like laundry, though I knew from being there before that Jess’s clean clothes made it into the closet or the dresser in a timely fashion.
Her style was distinctly grunge, preferring clothes and fabrics that had tatters and holes built in, or distressing and tearing them up herself just to patch them back together with a different interesting fabric. She wasn’t a seamstress, but I knew she liked to do crafty things when she had the time. She had a job as a waitress at a diner where part of her uniform involved adopting a completely different face and hairstyle. The benefit of being a shapeshifter. All I knew about it was what Jess told me, and that was just the basics.
Despite her edgy outward appearance and posters surrounding her bed and fixed to the mirror on her dresser, her covers and pillows were purple and pink, and there was one dingy, orange cat plushie that lived among the pillows and their mismatched pillowcases. The bed was big enough for two people who liked each other enough to spoon, though I suspected my feet would hang over the bottom edge.
Jess shut the door while I pulled back the cover and slid into bed.
“Why didn’t you just put the shorts on. They’re yours, you know. The ones I wore to look like your brother.”
“And miss Johnny checking me out? Never.”
Jess giggled and climbed into bed next to me, though she stayed sitting up. I picked up the stuffed cat to look at it for a minute, setting it on my belly while still holding its paws when Jess looked down at me.
“He wouldn’t check you out. He’s straight.”
“You’re the one who told me about him blowing that guy—”
She hit my side sharply with the back of her hand, fingernails stinging the skin over my ribs. “You’re not supposed to know about that!” she whisper-shouted at me. With a firm grasp, she yanked the cat plushie off of me. “And quit playing with my pussy without asking.” She gave the cat a quick hug and then set it aside.
With a sly smile, I turned onto my side and propped my head on my hand. “I haven’t had a chance to ask.”
I walked my fingers over to her knee and rubbed my hand in one slow, appreciative circle on her thigh before squeezing. She wore a pair of denim shorts and a tank top, which left a lot of her smooth skin exposed. I rubbed my thumb on her leg while I watched her face.
“You’ve been here all night,” she said. With her own mouth slightly open, Jess reached over and poked my bottom lip with her fingertip.
I captured her hand lightly before she could withdraw it, and I looked up at her with just my eyes while I brought her finger back to my mouth. I kissed her fingertip and unfurled her hand to press my lips to her palm and then her wrist. “Can I play with your pussy?” I asked softly.
Tilting her head to the side, she pushed her free hand into my hair: my weakness. I groaned quietly, edging closer to her without even thinking about it.
“‘Can I play with your pussy’ what?” she asked.
I froze with my mouth open on my way to kiss her thigh. “Can I play with your pussy…with my mouth?”
I finished my kiss to the skin just below the hem of her shorts and lightly grazed my teeth there.
She snorted unexpectedly and then laughed loudly at herself, head thrown back. “I was looking for a ‘please‘.”
I pulled back when she snorted, surprised, but I relaxed when she explained herself. “That’s not something I say.”
“Come on, Lai. It’s not that hard.”
“Jess, you played with my hair. It’s so hard right now.” I took her hand and pushed it down my front, letting go once her hand got to the cover so she could choose to see for herself just how hard I was.
She retracted her hand before it could make it all the way down there. “You didn’t say please.”
I moved to my knees, leaning over her, slowly guiding her to lie back using only my body’s proximity to hers. I wet my lips. “Please grind your pussy on my face.” I pushed my lips gently to hers, tongue flickering out to grab one quick taste of her lower lip.
“Much better,” she purred with a grin. She pushed both splayed hands into my hair, raking through it one direction and dragging her nails over my scalp on the way down to the back of my neck. “Make me good and wet, and you can do whatever you want with my pussy.”
I moved my whole body forward just to get the friction of her soft thigh against the side of my cock while I kissed her mouth again. I relocated my mouth to her neck to kiss and suck, first under her jaw and then farther down over her throat. I paused to feel her pulse against my lips. So preoccupied by the cravings of cigarettes and getting laid, I hadn’t realized how much I wanted blood—how much I needed it.
I opened my mouth and let my sharp, ever-present fangs sit gently against her skin while my tongue swiped in circles beneath it. It took a lot of willpower not to clamp down, but I needed this much, just that sensation that I was about to do it, though I had wound up only teasing myself. The thought of drinking blood was agonizing and sexy at the same time: painful because I couldn’t, and sexy because I shouldn’t. The temptation made my cock twitch.
I blindly found the button on her shorts and undid them and then the zipper with one hand, immediately following up by plunging my hand between her shorts and her cotton panties. I used my middle finger to trace the inviting split that led to her pussy, and I added pressure over her clit before going back to teasing, feeling around lightly.
Jess’s breath quickened near my ear just as her heart beat became more rapid in my ears and under my tongue. I could bite her right now, I thought. And I spent a moment fantasizing about the pull of blood from her veins if only I could sink my teeth in.
“Fuck,” I said, withdrawing from her suddenly. I sat back on my feet and covered my mouth with my forearm.
“What happened?” Jess sat up.
I held a hand up and leaned away from her. “Got a bit of a fang boner. Hold on.”
“Do they get bigger when you’re hungry?”
I scoffed. “That’s not how teeth work.”
“Do they pop out like they’re spring-loaded?”
“Also not how teeth work, genius.” I laughed and shook my head, letting my arm drop. I gave it a few seconds while I made sure the urge had subsided enough to continue. “Better now. I should probably stay away from the neck.”
“I’m not sure I’d rather have you bite my pussy.”
I leaned over, and in a few quick tugs I had removed her shorts and her underwear, tossing them to the floor haphazardly. “I wouldn’t dare damage the goods.”
I went down on her with her fingers tangled in my hair, careful to let my tongue do the work and not my teeth, and aside from managing to help Jess reach a leg-shaking orgasm, I kept my mouth to myself for the rest of the encounter. I was happy to put my dick to use anyway.
I managed to get her off a second time through a combination of tenacity, a big cock, and letting Jess ride me so she could do it how she liked while I thumbed her clit. It was a good recipe for a loud, creaking bed and unbridled moaning from Jess. She slowed down for a minute after she came, but she focused on me a moment later, leaning her hands heavily on my chest, careful of my bandage, while she bounced her ass on my cock. I would have helped, but I didn’t want to interrupt. She squeezed my face in her hand after she let me come inside of her.
Jess kissed me once on the mouth as she dismounted, and after we both caught our breath—which was still painful for me, by the way—she got up to get ready for bed. Waiting for her to get back in bed, I rolled over and fell asleep, assured by my tired brain that cleanup could wait until tomorrow night.
I had always been a morning person as a human, and as a vampire, that had translated into being an evening person who normally woke up before the sun could set. But this time was different. Instead of waking up naturally and starting my day with a shower and some chores, I woke up to being cracked in the eye socket by something hard. I let out a surprised shout, one hand raising to block whatever it was from happening again, while the other hand went to my eye. I blinked repeatedly, trying to make out the shape of the person who stood over me and to wake up my brain enough to understand what was happening.
Finally, my vision cleared and my brain powered up, and I recognized Johnny with his hand outstretched and trembling, the barrel of a handgun inches from my nose.
Note: In this chapter, I’ve finally decided that this story takes place in 2008. I intend to make changes to previous chapters so that my math adds up. This change was made with many future plans in mind. Believe me, no one is more devastated that I had to delete my Harambe joke than I am. Thanks for reading.
Contents: Adult language, nicotine use, murder mention, bullet wound mention
My eyes fell to Matthew’s fingers pressing in the lock. I had never heard the tumblers of a lock fall into place with such clarity before, but this time, while Matthew stood between me and the only way out, it happened in slow motion, louder than anything I had ever heard.
When I finally looked at his face again, his eyes moved over the sleeves of my hospital gown. I didn’t offer an explanation.
After several seconds of saying nothing, he took five quiet steps past me to the sofa to sit on the far end. It opened up a path to the door for me, and I wondered if I could outrun him in bare feet. But run from what? Ras had made it sound like Matthew wanted to kill me. But why? I could imagine Matthew was petty enough to hold a grudge for years before acting on it, but why now? It made the idea that Matthew wanted to kill me hard to actually believe. The real fear, the one that tied my stomach in a knot and made me fantasize about sprinting out into the night, was confronting Matthew and my past. And with Matthew, I had a lot of past.
He leisurely crossed his legs and leaned on the arm rest, taking a suspiciously nonchalant position just a few feet from me. Even so, he radiated the same confidence vampires like Micah and Jackie had. I thought of how meager and shy my brother came off these days or else I would have thought all vampires looked like they owned every room they entered.
Matthew looked me over one last time and then faced the wall across from us. I stared at it too, inspecting a NO SMOKING sign with an ache in my lungs. God I was fucking dying for a smoke. Whose fucking bright idea was it to put a picture of a cigarette on the sign when I was drooling over the thought of one? I bounced my knee rapidly to stave off the craving and the growing rage in my chest that Matthew still hadn’t said anything.
Finally, I broke, shaking my head in frustration.
“I guess I have to ask: what the fuck are you doing here?” I scowled at the side of his head while his eyes stayed fixed on the wall.
His lips twisted in an infuriating smirk. “I apologize. It’s just that suddenly so many things make sense.”
I waited for him to continue, but he didn’t. “And I still have no fucking clue what you’re doing here.”
His eyes met mine. “Were you attacked?”
I straightened up in my seat, chewing on my tongue while I fought down the anger from him evading my question. I must have looked uneasy. I certainly felt it. I put my eyes on the sign again.
Matthew chuckled. “You’re at a vampire feeding station of all places, and no one could bother to put clothes on you first. You’ve lost blood, and you couldn’t heal well enough to avoid the hospital. So where did you get shot?” He sounded so sure of himself.
I glanced at the door with a quick calculation of whether I actually should run now. I knew Matthew was probably the most intelligent person I’d ever met, but he’d figured out a lot just from me sitting there and saying nothing. I didn’t know what Matthew wanted, or why he wanted it now. What was that he said about Micah hiding me?
“You’re in the right place,” he said, a comforting tone to his voice. I felt him pivot a little in his seat without moving any closer to me. When I looked at him he was smiling just a bit, his head cocked to the side while he examined me from where he sat. “Have you healed? I could take a look if you’d like.”
I appraised him with a once over, remembering how the doctor in the hospital had been confounded by my speedy recovery. I’d always thought that as a vampire, I was some level of invincible, and while the fact that I had survived and was already walking and talking with minimal pain did something to confirm that, the fact that a bullet could put me out of commission for any length of time had shaken me.
“I’m fine,” I said, with absolutely no conviction.
Matthew folded his hands in his lap and smiled politely. “I’m the only doctor in the area qualified and equipped to operate on vampires. Would you let me take a look?”
He sat up straight, searching me over with his dark eyes as though he might see my bullet wound if only he scanned me enough.
With a sigh, I peeled the nearest sleeve off my arm and folded the gown over to expose the large bandage on my chest.
Matthew’s eyes widened, and so did his smile. “Not what I expected.”
With one look at my unimpressed face, he became serious very quickly and scooted closer to me on the sofa. Not sure what he was doing, I took the initiative to pry the bandage away and expose the wound to him, not wanting to let him do it.
“It missed your heart,” he said, matter-of-fact while he leaned in close. “They definitely got a lung. How long was the surgery?”
I didn’t answer him, but I didn’t stop him either. I stared at his face, breathing too quickly to pretend I was calm. I wanted to look at the door again. I wanted to run. But I felt frozen. I felt incomplete and scared to find out if a simple conversation with Matthew would make me whole again, or break me further.
With gentle, practiced hands, he felt around the entrance wound. I swallowed hard and brought the bunched up hospital gown in my lap a little higher. I had never felt uncomfortable with no clothes on, but I’d never felt more vulnerable than I did sitting next to Matthew in only a hospital gown while he touched my chest. If he wanted to kill me, this certainly was a good chance to do it.
The locked door rattled from someone trying to open it. I jumped. They knocked.
Matthew shushed me quietly.
“Don’t worry about the door,” he said softly. They knocked again after no answer, and I could hear her—the donor intended to feed me, I guess—trying to get my attention through the door.
Finally, Matthew placed the bandage down again. “Does it hurt to breathe?”
I swallowed while the door bounced in its shut position and became still. She must have left.
I took in a deep breath. It hurt, and I winced, just a little. “I couldn’t breathe at all yesterday.”
“The oxygen deprivation must have been excruciating,” Matthew said. “Whole body cramps. Delirium, most likely.” Glancing at me for an answer, he picked up my arm and turned my palm up, his fingers edging along the hospital band on my wrist.
I eased my arm away. “Sounds like you know a lot about it.”
Hands retreating, he put space between us again. “Vampires can live without oxygen, but there are consequences. Muscles still need oxygen to function properly. The diaphragm and lungs serve them and your brain.”
I cuffed my hand over the hospital bracelet, looking down at my hands while I slid the plastic back and forth. I remembered the pain, and the part right before it when everything felt wonderful, so I had thought I must have been dead already. I didn’t have anything else to say to Matthew.
He leaned on his armrest. “Your wound looks fine. If your breathing returns to normal within a day or so, I think you’re in the clear. I’d tell you to follow up with your regular doctor, but I suspect, as a vampire, you didn’t bother to get one of those.” He gave me a small smile.
“‘In the clear’ better fucking mean I can have a cigarette,” I muttered.
Matthew laughed. “Do you want one?” He shifted to take a pack of Reds out of his pocket.
I held my hand out, and he took his precious time. He smirked at my outstretched hand and shook his head, chuckling.
“You know, I legitimately thought I killed you in 1996,” he said, opening the pack and taking a second to count the cigarettes before pulling one out. He looked at my face for a reaction and placed the first cigarette between his lips.
“Yeah right,” I said with a disbelieving laugh. “Don’t fucking pretend like you wanted me around. Twelve years of silence really gets the goddamned point across.” Hand still held out, I lifted it and placed it in position firmly again to get him to hurry the fuck up. My knee bounced faster than before, my heel tapping the icy tiled floor on repeat.
“You really think that?” Matthew said quietly. When I looked in his eyes, I saw pain as though I’d wounded him with my words. It looked honest. Matthew always looked honest. He placed the cigarette in my palm. “You made a mistake, and I was willing to forgive it. I’m not a monster.”
Closing my hand, I lowered it slowly, searching his eyes for any indication that was a lie. There was a time when Matthew could convince me of anything. I didn’t know why I had always tried to believe there was something inside him that was good. Why did I want to believe him so badly? Wouldn’t it be easier to call him the villain and leave it at that?
Keys jingled in the hall, and I heard Jackie and someone else talking on the other side of the door, but I wasn’t listening.
“So why didn’t you reach out?” I asked. “I thought you’d say something to me.”
“Lai,” Matthew said, slow and serious, looking me in the eyes. “I’ve thought you were dead since that night. I’ve visited your grave for God’s sake. You can ask your brother.”
The door opened, and Jackie’s heels clacked into the room, bringing the sensation of cool and liberating air in with them.
Jackie stepped into my view with a hand on her hip. “Aren’t you supposed to be with Micah?” she said to Matthew. She didn’t give him a chance to answer before turning to face me. “Lai, change of plan. Let’s go.”
I felt Jackie’s easy grip on my bicep, and I silently got to my feet, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Matthew.
Did Ras know Matthew had thought I was dead the whole time? For twelve years? Ask your brother. It was easily a lie. But Matthew’s ability to manipulate came from his use of the truth. I didn’t know that he was telling the truth, but I knew that Ras had been hiding something from me.
Jackie guided me toward the door.
“What do you mean?” I asked finally, eyes still fixed on Matthew. I broke my arm out of Jackie’s grasp and took a few steps into the room again, focused only on knowing what else Matthew had to say while the rage I’d felt earlier welled up in my chest again.
He weighed his lighter in his palm, and opened his mouth to speak.
“You shouldn’t be talking to him.” Jackie planted herself between me and Matthew.
“Fuck you. I’ll talk to who I want.”
“Are you forgetting what he did to you?” She pushed her keys into my hand, pushing me back a step or two in the process. “Go to Micah’s. Take my car. It’s the Porsche.”
I tried to process Jackie’s words, not expecting her concern, but her lips turned down in a slight frown and her eyebrows tilted inward softly while she stared back at me.
I looked down at the keys in my hand. Of course I hadn’t forgotten what Matthew had done to me. The pain of betrayal didn’t just ride off into the sunset and let you live in happiness. It burrowed into your heart and fought off anything that came close. It fortified your vulnerable core by cutting it off from trust and joy because it knew what it meant to have lost them and what it would do to you if you lost them again. It was why you fucked your way through a decade and a half of loneliness. It was why you didn’t remember what it was like to feel loved. It was how you survived.
I frowned at the Porsche insignia on the car key, my thumb moving over it. Jackie was right.
I took a last look at Matthew. Talking to him was a mistake. He wanted to kill me, remember? If I let him hook his claws in, I’d be fucking toast.
That’s what I was supposed to think about him anyway. And I did. Deep down, I knew that’s what he would do. Matthew was sugar. A sweet menace. Something to avoid. Something to forget.
But I wasn’t going to just leave without some fucking answers. “Fuck that. Matthew, tell me—”
Jackie shoved me backward out of the room and shut the door, stopping with only her face peeking out. “Just go. Micah will explain.”
The door shut with the sound of the lock being pressed in again, and I stood staring at it for a minute while the officer Jackie had come with stepped up and tried to lead me away. I yanked my arm away from him.
Like fuck was I going to Micah’s.
Contents: Sexual imagery, porn mention.
I fell quiet for most of the ride in the car, my teeth clenched while I watched out the window for signs of where I was being taken. I was pissed. I was just trying to live my fucking life, and now here I was in a goddamn hospital gown in the backseat of a cop car with no clue where I was being taken. Oh, and the best part? Matthew wanted to kill me.
It didn’t make any sense, though. Matthew hadn’t even tried to contact me since 1996. I had always thought he’d forgotten about me as soon as he could. Why did he care now?
I grabbed onto the caged divider between me and the cop. “Are you really not going to tell me where the fuck we’re going?”
He glanced at me in the rearview, but put his eyes back on the road.
I growled and shook the cage. “Fucking answer me!”
All that got out of him was an ugly smirk. He made a smooth turn, and with a sigh, I released my grip on the partition and sunk back into my seat, taking up wedging my finger between my wrist and my hospital bracelet while I went back to pondering while I stared out the window. Shit, I could use a smoke.
I watched a brick building getting closer while the car slowed. It looked like it might have been an old school building, but it had no signs aside from an address on the front. It had to be the donor station, right?
“Wait, I can’t go here. Matthew’s here,” I said.
“Mr. Castagnier has assured me Mr. Solak will be out,” the officer said. Finally, some fucking words out of his fucking stupid mouth.
“So why couldn’t you tell me that shit before?”
He grinned at me in the mirror and parked the car. “You ever been to one of these places, Mr. Martire?”
I stared at him flatly.
He got out and then let me out of the back.
“You’re going to love it,” he said with a strong hand on my upper arm to pull me out of the car. He was not doing a good job of making me feel like this was some sort of buddy road trip.
I stood there in my hospital gown with my ass exposed to who-the-fuck-ever wanted to see it, I guess. I blinked at him. “Just tell me what I’m doing here, man.”
“It’s dinner time.” He took hold of my bicep again and led me into the building. Did he think I was gonna bolt? I tried not to seem like I wanted to resist so maybe he’d finally let go.
Once we were inside, he finally released me. I let myself fall a few steps behind just to spite him. To the left there was a congregation of chairs, some of them with people reading magazines or staring someplace else, most of them empty. A TV played a syndicated sitcom on a low volume. Straight ahead sat a receptionist behind a high desk. The cop led me all the way up there, and my ass drew attention from the people waiting nearby. When I noticed a man staring, I pulled the gown aside to purposefully show off an ass cheek and squeezed it while I winked at him. He frowned and shied away, grumbling something inaudible under his breath.
The cop, I still didn’t know his name, so let’s call him Fuckin’ Jim, leaned on the desk with crossed arms in an awkward, but flirty position to talk to the woman trying to check me in.
“Name,” she said, eyes bouncing between us.
Fuckin’ Jim patted me roughly on the back. “Anonymous.”
Her eyes glanced to me and back to him. “What account am I charging this to?”
Fuckin’ Jim rattled off a series of numbers I didn’t recognize and definitely wouldn’t remember. While he answered a few more of her questions, I took another look around. My guess was that the facility had to run as a blood bank. Blood donors must have gone there knowing they were going to donate blood, but without fully understanding what cause they were supporting. A man’s name was called, and he went back, and soon after, a different woman walked out with a large purse on her arm, but she paused to take something out of it—a sealed bag of blood—and she inspected it before putting it away and heading out the front door. I watched her until I couldn’t see her anymore, and then I found the sign over the hall she came from.
“STORED BLOOD” it said with an arrow indicating that you could get your stored blood down that hallway.
Fuckin’ Jim finished getting rejected by the receptionist and pushed me unexpectedly. I tripped over my feet a bit, taking a few steps back to regain my balance, and fixed him with a scowl. I got his hint, though, and I went to go sit in the waiting room area, taking a seat on the far wall so I could keep watch. For what? I wasn’t sure. Was I that paranoid of Matthew? What if he didn’t want to kill me?
I sprawled out in my seat, letting my feet stretch out in front of me, and my eyes scanned the selection of magazines on a low table in front of me. With a sigh, I decided against touching any of them, and then my gaze became fixed on the door directly across from the waiting room. It said “Donors Only” and an LAPD police officer stood outside of it like he was posted on guard. It made sense, I suppose, if you were going to allow a bunch of vampires in a building with people donating blood, maybe you didn’t want anyone just picking off the people willing to give. But I had to wonder why they didn’t just donate during the day.
Then the Donors Only door opened, and I could hear several people chatting inside, with a sweet melody of a woman’s laughter being cut off again by the door coming to a close. A young woman had stepped out.
The chick was skinny and white with long black hair and heavy eye makeup, smoky and black in contrast with her bright red lips, but I didn’t notice any of that until after I had spent a minute checking out the black and red lacy lingerie-looking shit she was wearing: garters, stockings to her thighs with little red bows. Cute and sexy. Petite. She smiled at me, and I smiled back, feeling the need to sit up straight.
“Hey, excuse me, but…”
Someone had sat next to me without me noticing. I slowly dragged my eye contact away from the flirty grin I was sharing with the lingerie chick and fixed the new dude with an unhappy scowl. I raised an eyebrow. “Excuse you but what?”
The guy looked to be in his early 30s but shy and fidgety. “You just look familiar, that’s all.”
I glanced him over. I had to assume he was a vampire, though his heartbeat might have tricked me with its pace, nearly that of a human—but really just that of an anxious vampire. I looked back for the little lady in the lingerie, but she was gone.
I sighed quietly through my nose and sank back into my previous posture. “That probably means you watch too much porn.”
He laughed, but it faltered when I didn’t laugh along with him. “You’re joking, aren’t you?”
I shrugged. “Look up Jack Asstronaut and tell me if I’m joking.”
Someone was coming. I could hear high heels clacking against the tiled floor for the whole journey from the receptionist’s desk to stand next to me.
“He’s not joking,” the woman said dryly.
I turned again to find her in a set of nice-fitting, tan dress pants, strappy gold heels, and a partially unbuttoned, collared powder pink dress shirt.
“Jacqueline,” I said, a smile growing. That was Ras’s girlfriend. I still didn’t know how the fuck he’d managed to bag that one. “You’re overdressed.”
She had her long brown hair in a high ponytail, and a clipboard rested across her forearm, a pen in her opposite hand. “Laisellus. Come with me.”
I rolled my eyes and hissed out a frustrated sigh. “Fuck, you’re not supposed to use the full name.” I stood up and took a step before spinning back around to Porn Dude. I leaned my hand onto the back of his chair and spoke lowly in his ear. “Cowboy Orgy 9. Look it up. Definitely the best one.”
When I pulled back, I winked at him. The guy’s nervousness turned into a cute blush. He waved me away and wouldn’t look at me anymore. Aww.
I followed behind Jackie down the hall, which was not a bad position to be in.
She twisted to see me over her shoulder. “Why are you wearing that?” Jackie asked.
“Costume party at the bingo hall later.”
Jackie scoffed. It took a minute to get to the room she led me to. Seeing the way the halls intersected and how big some of the rooms seemed, I confirmed my suspicion that this was once a school building. Jacqueline stopped with her hand on the door.
“I hope you’re hungry,” she said flatly. She opened the door and let me inside. This room had more of the hospital feel to it, with a computer and a loveseat. There were cotton balls and gauze and a bin for sharps.
“Don’t suppose you’ve got a cigarette?” I lifted the lid to the sharps disposal. “Ras said this wasn’t a hospital.”
Jackie smacked her hand down on top of the container—and my fingers—and hit me with the warning look. “It’s not.”
I took my hand back to rub it. “Okay, so what am I doing here?”
“Micah’s treating you to a fancy dinner.” Jackie’s tight smile told me she thought that was funny. A joke, I guessed. She nodded to the loveseat. “Take a seat. You’ll see soon.”
“Can’t you just give me a bag of blood and send me home?” I plopped my bare ass on the couch and sat back.
“Is the bagged blood your preference?” she asked, sounding distracted while she entered some info into the computer. “I can cancel the live donor then. But you’re not going home.”
“Hold the fuck up. What? So am I under arrest or what? And what do you mean by live donor?”
Jackie sighed and took a frustratingly long, silent moment to finish using the computer. “All of the donor information should have been in your Welcome Package. The one you got when you signed up…” she clicked the computer mouse. “Twelve years ago?”
“Yeah, well your marketing team must fucking suck.”
“Or you’re just an idiot.” She smiled. “And you’re not under arrest. At least not in the way you would expect. Micah has a plan for you.”
“Am I being recruited to the CIA of Vampires right now?”
“We don’t recruit idiots to the CIA of Vampires.” She shook her head, but even though I was mostly behind her, I could still catch a hint of her smile.
“Would be nice to actually get to know what this plan is that I’m a part of,” I said.
“How did you feel about Lacy?” Jackie asked. “The one in the lingerie. I noticed you took interest in her in the waiting room.”
“I’d hit that.”
She looked at me over her shoulder, and her eyes bore straight through my face. “Keep it in your gown, asshole.” She typed a little bit more, smacked the enter button and then turned around on the chair to face me. “You’re not allowed to fuck the donors.”
I faced my palms to the ceiling and my hands froze in something akin to an indignant shrug. “So what’s with the lingerie?”
“Competition for the best clients is a bit stiff. Everyone around here does what they can to make sure they’re the most attractive candidate. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how sex sells.” Jackie stood up and shifted to fix me with an arched-brow piercing gaze, placing a hand on her hip. She was tall and gorgeous and her presence radiated confidence and her sharp face radiated all of the sass. She lifted her chin, and I felt compelled to do the same while I drank her in.
“What do you see in my brother?” I asked.
Her lips tightened and turned down at the corners, just slightly, but enough for the sass to morph into full-on bitch.
“What does he see in you?” she asked. Her hand slipped off her hip as she headed for the door. She grabbed her clipboard on the way. “Lacy will be here soon.”
I watched her go, not feeling very apologetic as she stormed off. A police officer met her when she stepped out. The door shut behind them and their voices faded down the hall after a few seconds.
I dropped my head back against the couch and sighed, taking a moment to rub my face and figure out what the fuck I was even doing at this place. What could Micah have wanted with me? I was a little afraid to find out. But since I didn’t have any fucking answers to any of that, I wondered what Lacy would be like instead.
I was hard and halfway through a fantasy of rubbing her clit while she rode my dick in that pretty lingerie, when a polite knock came at the door and it finally opened. I hadn’t meant to lose touch with reality for any amount of time, but I hadn’t even realized I was jacking off until the opening door jolted me back to life. Hopefully Lacy wouldn’t be put off. Hopefully Lacy would be so excited to see my hard dick she’d tear off the hospital gown and blow me before she said a word to me. But that wasn’t what happened.
Because it wasn’t Lacy.
I gathered up the hospital gown in front of my dick, not because I really cared if anyone saw, but because I knew that if Micah got wind of literally anything, he’d blow his fucking stack, and I wasn’t interested in getting beheaded next.
The door had already shut by the time I realized the person who had walked in was a man, but while watching him make sure the door had latched, my stomach dropped. I recognized the way he moved, with graceful precision, and the angle of his jaw, now highlighted neatly with a narrow line of beard hair. He styled his hair differently now, but it was distinctly modern, the type with the shaved sides and the meticulously messy length of black hair on the top. He was like a more golden-brown version of Micah. Like if Micah was a biscuit and you baked him for the perfect amount of time and then told him he wasn’t allowed to wear pink.
He turned back to me with a bright, beautiful grin and dark, gorgeous eyes.
I swallowed hard. “Matthew,” I said.
With his hand still on the door knob behind himself, he locked the door. “So you’re what Micah’s been hiding from me.”
Anyone who writes has a ritual and a process, or is in the middle of finding a ritual and process that works for them. Your writing process is how you go about writing, such as whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, where you start writing a story, how you make decisions regarding the methods of your writing. The ritual is everything that surrounds your writing process and the things you need and conditions that must be met before you can allow yourself to write. Your ritual includes atmosphere, location, tools, and maybe more.
So here is some insight into how these things work for me.
My ritual isn’t extensive. I don’t say any prayers or do any dances. I don’t even necessarily have to be in any certain location, but here’s what I do need: mental distance from my surroundings. I have to be off in my own world, completely unanchored and free-floating. This is best accomplished by listening to music, especially with headphones that cover my entire ear and/or block out background noise. The music that I use has to move me emotionally, and I prefer it to have a decently upbeat tempo. Upbeat Melancholy is my preferred music in general. I’m not sure if that’s a real genre to anyone else, but it is to me.
In order to maintain my focus, I will either use a small playlist or, as I’ve been doing most recently, listen to one song on repeat. I added “Natural” by Imagine Dragons to my Google Play Music library the first week of NaNo, and when I wrote the first draft of this post five days later the play count became 254, as of this sentence. That’s how many plays this song had on my account from Wednesday to Sunday. And I’m still not tired of it. Let’s hope it stays that way.
So beyond just music, I have a few conditions that need to be met before I am my most comfortable. I prefer to use a mechanical keyboard. I like the click-clack; it feels productive just by being A Thing. I prefer my desk chair be raised to its maximum height to minimize pains in my wrists/forearms (though this does maximize ankle swelling if I remain in my chair for extended periods of time). I MUST have some form of handwritten notes in front of me. I might not even reference them. It’s just an important comfort to my brain to have them there, which usually just means plucking my notebook out of my purse and keeping it nearby on my desk just in case, along with a functioning pen that feels nice and smooth to write with.
I try to minimize the number of tabs I have open on my computer. I wouldn’t use my computer browser at all except that I use Google Docs to write in, and I probably will until either Google or I dies. If you’re not using Google Docs to write, I strongly encourage you to do so for the sake of not having to worry about backing up your story or even saving it (though I do occasionally download the file just in case). Anyway, I keep only the important tabs open (including my music), and I mute chatty Discord servers.
Before I actually start to write, I make sure to have a drink at my desk, just so I don’t have the excuse to get up and abandon my work later for a drink. It’s usually soda, or maybe water. Sometimes it’s a mocha frappe from McDonald’s. I don’t really drink coffee (except at work or in things like frappes where the coffee seems to be more of an afterthought than a main ingredient), or tea. I also usually get eating out of the way before I write, but that is not a necessity unless I’m starving.
The FINAL thing I do is set up a bot on Discord to run word wars. I realize there’s a bit of jargon in that sentence, so here’s some short definitions: Discord is a chat app where you can set up servers for different topics and servers can be divided into channels for further differentiation. There are a variety of bots that can be employed for various functions, but the one I like to use is called Winnie Bot, and it was developed for people participating in NaNoWriMo (50k word writing challenge every November), but it can be used at any time. It runs “word wars” where you set a timer and write as much as you can without making corrections during that time. Where this becomes particularly helpful in my writing process/ritual, is its ability to do “chain wars” where it will run the word war timers back-to-back for you (with breaks in between), and then will notify you when they are ending and beginning. Not only does this take the onus of watching the clock off of me while I’m trying to focus on writing, but it also keeps me engaged with my writing by counting down and forcing me to get back to writing. It’s really easy to “take a quick break” for a few hours without this feature.
So quick recap, my writing ritual is:
Once everything is set up with my ritual, I can get to the part that is the process. When it comes to getting some writing done, I will pick up where I left off, probably read a paragraph or two to get back into it, and then set up the word wars and be on my way. This sounds simple and easy, but in practice, it’s not really how it always works.
If I know what I’m intending to write next, I will have no problem jumping back in. And I type quickly, so I can get a good chunk done in my little 10-15 minute intervals (my rate during word wars is approx 200 words per 5 minutes of writing). However, if I am uncertain what’s coming next, I might stall for days, usually because of some degree of fear that I can’t go on because I don’t know what’s going to happen. So this requires some plotting.
When it comes to the plotter vs. pantser debate, I am quite firmly in the plantser camp. I have learned that it’s impossible for me to function without some type of outline, but also that outlining is too tedious for something that’s likely going to change anyway. More than that, I enjoy the sparks of GENIUS that sometimes happen because I’ve started a scene and allowed my creativity to do with it what it wants, even if that wasn’t the plan. Usually, I just need a good place to start and to know where I’m heading or what I need to make happen next that’s important to the plot.
When plotting, my most detailed outline is not particularly detailed. I try to structure my novel according to a prescribed beatsheet, usually applying some form of the Save the Cat! methodology. I will make version after version of this, sometimes making completely new ones as I finish portions of my novel. I tend to rewrite the beginning of my novel over and over, but not over small things. I only undergo full rewrites if something major HAS to change (for instance, my current WIP Destroying Eden, required a rewrite because I realized that my protagonist was more of a device than a character, so I had to go back and shape her story more…which changed almost the whole thing, but it was all for the best).
So to boil that down, my writing method is: 1. Outline –> 2. Write –> 3. Adjust Outline –> 4. Repeat 2 &3 forever.
I haven’t finished an entire draft of a novel yet, but when it comes to the chapters I post directly to my blog, the one I’m sorta pantsing, my full process involves a first draft of the chapter, coming back another day to go straight through and revise as I go, start at the top of the chapter and revise again, allow collaborators to read it, adjust anything based on feedback (assuming I agree), and then publish to blog. I’m hoping the process with my novel is that simple after I’ve finally finished a full draft.
Research does not really have a formal position in my process, though as a person who writes historical fantasy, research is a very important part. I think there is a lot I can get away without researching too deeply into because I have the fantasy part of things, but I do like to ground my fantasy in reality. I would say that most of my research takes place during my planning process though. I wouldn’t be able to just trust that an idea I have is historically accurate and then look it up later unless it was a small detail that wouldn’t change anything if I did find out it was anachronistic or wrong. Basically, I do research as I go. Sometimes I get caught in a rabbit hole, but typically it’s either relevant to what I need to know or inspirational in regard to connecting details or coming up with new systems of magic or characters or what-have-you.
So there you have it. This is what it looks like behind the scenes at Shailo’s house. If you don’t count all of the social media and YouTube distractions that popup frequently in the middle of everything I just described.
“Natural” count at the end of drafting this post: 268