Behind the Scenes: In Lieu of Underwear Through the Macro Lens AKA: What the Hell Is the Genre??

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.

Look at this masterpiece of graphic design, y’all.

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.

Genre Five Leaf Clover from

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.

Thanks for sticking around. Check out D.B. Graves at their site and @dbgravesauthor on Twitter where they write delicious snippets of beautiful fiction.

He Who Knocks

I was trying to write a different blog post, but instead, I wrote this creepy nanofic instead. Spooky season is here, folks. Enjoy.

He Who Knocks

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.

She shrieks.

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.

Want more writing? Get a vampire-filled free sample chapter from my upcoming series Destroying Eden.

In Lieu of Underwear, a Vampire Story: Chapter 5

Contents: Marijuana use, cigarette use, nudity, explicit sexual language/imagery, gun mention.

This story is updated monthly. You can be the first one to know when new chapters have been published.

Chapter 5

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. 

Fucking 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.

In Lieu of Underwear, a Vampire Story: Chapter 4

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

This story is updated monthly. You can be the first one to know when new chapters have been published.

Chapter 4

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.

Behind the Scenes: Unruly WIPs

I couldn’t possibly describe how difficult writing a book has been for me. What makes this especially hard is that I have officially decided to TRY to write my one novel… as three novels. Destroying Eden, as I have been calling my historical dark fantasy novel-in-progress, has been an ambitious project since I decided to lengthen it from a novelette into a novel. Now, I am leaning toward making it three novels.

I have had this inclination in the past, and I have decided against it before. My original intention for Destroying Eden was to tell bits of story from various characters’ first-person points-of-view, in a strategic, non-linear order, and have it all add up to one big conclusion. With this plan in mind, I created the free sample chapter that I offer on my website. Dimitri is not a main character, but the chapter (which I pulled from somewhere in the middle of the book), is important in connecting some dots in the main story-line. This is a chapter I love, and it feels particularly “vampirey” which is why I chose it to promote my book with.

But trying to write my story in a way that is compelling and easy to follow along with is something that I need to keep in mind. I believe the mixing of POVs and chronology is a bit more literary than a fantasy novel deserves. There is a part of me that wants to pull it off, but trying to tell such a story is not only complex, but after talking with an agent about POV and then thinking more on the nature of readers, I believe it will be hard to follow and that it will be so derivative from normal storytelling that readers might become frustrated with having to wait to find out what happens next, or might never know what happens next if the chapter was about a character who may not appear again. I’ve written many chapters that I love with this approach in mind, so it is a shame to feel like I’m tossing it out.

However! I recently had the epiphany of a lifetime, and I intend to spend the month of August planning my new structure to get some idea of whether it’s as feasible as it feels like it is right now.

The agent I had spoken to made a very good point about the fact that switching POVs in the same book can make all of the characters sound the same, even if the author doesn’t necessarily notice it. I would hate to kill my story with this, but I can see it happening to me, and I don’t want it to. I have no interest in delivering a story that confuses or bores.

So I’ve decided to narrow down the POVs… to ONE per book.

There will be three books total. And each will be a prequel to the previous book(s). I believe that this will satisfy the feelings that caused me to want to tell a non-linear story to begin with, while still being compelling and not confusing. This is how I tell three stories that add up to one, big, exciting conclusion. This is how I travel from ancient Greece to (possibly) modern times. This is what this story deserved all along: organization, strong voice, compelling linear progression in a non-linear arrangement. Three. Books.

The working title of the series will remain Destroying Eden. The books will be titled as followed:

  1. Witch Queen
  2. Vampire Prince
  3. Nephilim King

The Dimitri chapter will no longer be from the middle of book one, but will now be the first chapter of book two.

I still don’t know that I can pull ANY of this off, but I believe that I can, and this all may change again. Have some patience with me while I update the website to match my new plan. I also have ideas for smaller stories from some of my side/favorite characters.

I hope to update you in a month with new progress. For now, keep checking in, and hang out with me for things like Vampire Book Club and watching a different vampire movie every weekend (I usually talk about this on twitter).

If you want to know how I’m doing on my Vampire Fiction Aficionado journey, you can always check in on my progress page.

In Lieu of Underwear, a Vampire Story: Chapter 3

Contents: Sexual imagery, porn mention.

This story is updated monthly. You can be the first one to know when new chapters have been published.

Chapter 3

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.”

My Writing Ritual and Process

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:

  • Mental distance
  • Music
  • Notebook and pen nearby
  • Drink at the ready
  • Mechanical keyboard
  • Google docs open (draft and notes/outlines)
  • Discord on Do Not Disturb
  • Chain wars


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

Camp NaNoWriMo: How to Write MORE by Lowering Your Word Count Goal

Hey, it’s July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, and I’ve been participating! Mostly.

I feel like after the first week of Camp NaNo, the excitement of the new endeavor to write words tends to die down, and this month has been no different. I feel it both in the writing community, in the cabin of people I’m hosting, and in myself. It really is a shame that the motivation to GO GO GO splutters and halts within 7-10 days like it’s standard shipping.

So take this post as a few things:

  1. An update on my Camp NaNo progress.
  2. An attempt at holding myself accountable to my own goals.
  3. Motivation for YOU to keep going, if you’re participating.


We are still under the half-way point today as far as progress, but my word count is far below that. My goal for the month is 50,000 words by July 31, and I still intend to get there. That means that to be on-track, I should be at 20,967 words by the end of today. I can tell you now that, with a current word count of 14,474, that’s not going to happen.

I could be discouraged by that, and my first instinct is to see the disparity between those numbers, consider how much WORK that would be, and to consider giving up because there’s no way to catch up. My goal word count and my actual word count are now fare enough apart that giving up has become a tempting option to me.

So let’s address this emotional response. I feel certain that I’m not alone in the “all-or-nothing” mentality that comes along with perfectionism, so let’s take a close look at this response together.

First of all, this is very much an emotional response to my situation. That means all I’ve done about it so far is feel, and aside from choosing to write a blog post about it instead of working on my word count, I haven’t really acted on it either. Decision-making is done based on emotions, and guess what. If you always do only what you feel like doing, there’s probably a lot of things that you need to do even when you don’t feel like it that are falling through the cracks. For me, this creates a cycle of feeling worthless because I’ve accomplished nothing I need to do, and not changing anything about it because I’m making decisions based on how I feel right now, and not on how I’ll feel after I’ve accomplished them. This is the kind of decision-making that can get you into trouble. Making decisions based on your emotional response to something is the way you get into fist fights or arguments, or that causes you to insult someone who didn’t really deserve it. They might feel nice to act on in the moment, but they are usually paired with bad consequences that you’ll have to deal with later. In the case of giving up because I’m not meeting my own word count goal, I might gain the relief of removing a responsibility from my own shoulders, but since that doesn’t actually change the fact that I want to write a novel, I’m still going to have to do this eventually, or have a mindset change later and give up on my dream. I’d argue a mindset change now is the better option.

So it’s time to employ logic and reason! Huzzah! The heroes have arrived! …Or have they?

So now that I’ve recognized that the instinct to give up is misguided because there’s just a part of me afraid of hard work, I can look for a solution. The obvious other choice is to make it to my goal word count today even though there’s still a part of me that feels like giving up.

Okay, so let’s take a look at that for a second. I have over six thousand words to write. Which is a lot, but I’ve done it before. In fact, I did it the first day of Camp NaNo this month! The logic stands that I can accomplish six-thousand words again.

But now that we’re focusing on logic, it’s easy to forget the emotional component to this. Sure, we just faced our emotional response, recognized it’s hindering us, and we moved on, but until something changes, that emotional response is going to be the first thing that happens when we think of this problem (which if you remember is “I feel like I can’t catch up in time”) therefore, the solution cannot be to do the thing that we’re afraid of and not also confront the fact that emotions are a part of us and we can’t go through this experience without them. Writing 6,000 word on Day 1 was a LOT easier when I had a few extra hours on the clock, and the motivation to write as much as I could. AND that 6,000 was supposed to be 10,000! Which was a goal I had set with the expectation that I would not reach it (and so falling short of it was not something that elicited the same emotional response as my current predicament does).

So I can’t give up, but I also don’t actually have a hope of catching up today. So then… maybe I don’t catch up today, but I can split up the extra work over today and tomorrow, or even a few extra days. It’s not ideal, but I have tomorrow off work, and it’s possible. But what if doing EXTRA work doesn’t work out for me tonight, and then I’m just as out-of-sync tomorrow as I was today, and I get to have this entire conversation with myself again. Ugh! I’m not actually interested in doing that. But 50,000 words by July 31 is looking like it will just become more and more difficult day-by-day. So if I don’t split up this work over a few days, or I don’t catch up RIGHT NOW, then I really am going to fail as the burden of missing out on writing days just increases as time goes on.

The Camp NaNo status software does a cool thing where it will recalculate how many words you need to put out every day for the rest of the month in order to reach your end goal. This is nice, and I’m sure that for some people, this would be an acceptable solution to their problem. But here is my problem with that: As someone who is VERY motivated by the graphs that Camp NaNo displays to show you a visual representation of your progress vs. where you should be if you’ve written every day so far, if my bars are below the par line, I have anxiety about it. This is actually motivational if I’m close to my goal, but once it can’t be solved by an extra ten or twenty minutes of writing, it starts becoming the reason, as we’ve discussed, I consider giving up.

But here is the GLORY of Camp NaNoWriMo (with no offense to November’s NaNoWriMo, but really this is the GAME CHANGER for July and April):


I would say that for most of us, getting to 50,000 or whatever goal we’ve set for the month, is arbitrary. You don’t actually know how many words it’s going to take to finish your novel, even if you can guess closely, so 50K is an ambitious goal without being entirely unreasonable. If you’ve won NaNo in November before, as I have done twice, then you know you can accomplish 50K in one month. This knowledge can be empowering, but it also can enforce your expectation that now you MUST do 50K in one month, even when you don’t have to set your goal that high and is likely to do to you what it has done to me and make you worried that you won’t live up to your own expectation, so you should just quit now.

I guess if you have someone waiting for you to turn in 50K at the end of the month, then you really do have to find a way to get it done. But if you’ve set this goal for your own personal progress, you’re not going to lose a job or a friend or piss off your editor if you don’t hit your goal by the end of July. And that goal that you set earlier? It doesn’t even have to be your goal.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to go take a look at that graph and the stats that accompany it, and see how many words I need to write every day in order to reach 50K. Then I’ll write that down.

Then, I’m going to go into my word count goal and change it so that the word count that I have RIGHT NOW is on par.

After that, I’m going to write my words for today based on the 50K catch-up daily word amount I wrote down a minute ago.

And I am going to blow my new goal OUT OF THE WATER.

And THE SECOND this becomes too easy and stops motivating me to write more because now my graph is showing I have words to spare and so I don’t have to write today… then I’m going to bump that goal up and make it a challenge again.

So the lesson today is: It’s okay to fall short of your expectations. You might be scared to push forward, but being aware of your own shortcomings or obstacles is going to give you the power to work with those things to reach your goal, instead of pushing and pushing against them and grinding your gears instead of making ground.

If you’re doing Camp NaNoWriMo, good luck to you. Don’t let fear win; Follow your dreams. <3

Review: Interview with the Vampire

In Vampire Book Club for June, we read Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, and I’m here to give you my opinion on it.

You can purchase the book here, and if you do, as an affiliate, I receive a commission for your purchase.

As we’ve discussed before, I have not yet read very deeply into the world of vampire fiction. My love for vampires has been primarily spurred by television and movies, and I won’t deny that I was an obsessed teen reader of the Twilight series when it came out.

But the point of my Vampire Book Club is to expand on my vampire fiction reading history and really get a feel for what’s out there. So we’re starting with what people are telling me are the best vampire books, and the ones that seem to me to be the most foundational reads of the vampire subgenre.

Interview with the Vampire is technically about a journalist known only as The Boy who is interviewing The Vampire to potentially write about The Vampire’s story in whatever publication The Boy is affiliated with. The actual narrative of the story however is made up in bulk of the protagonist Louis de Pointe du Lac’s side of the dialogue detailing his life from just before he became a vampire all the way to a time when he has finally achieved the emotional freedom he’s struggled to secure all along.

What I loved

Anne Rice’s story was full of immediate action and active descriptions, and while on occasion Louis would go off on a descriptive tangent or would repeat himself, I enjoyed the straightforward language and approach to writing. With most of the story in first-person POV, I enjoyed getting in Louis’s head and witnessing the struggle between his desires as a vampire and his religious guilt that weighed on him throughout the entire story. The story was atmospherically dark, and I liked the details about New Orleans and the attention to other small details that kept the story grounded in the time periods it intended to portray such as The Boy having to flip the tape in the tape recorder. There were such details that might have been insignificant if considered alone, but were done excellently and when considered as part of the overall experience, really help to round it out and make the story seem full.

The not-so-much

I feel like this book was really talked up to me before I read it, and I don’t know if it gave me inflated ideas of what to expect, or if it simply did not cut it for me when it comes to story. I have a few problems with this story:

  1. While I appreciate the meta-story aspect of telling a story-within-a-story, and the format does ultimately lend to the story of the character of The Boy setting up the sequel, I found it distracting because I didn’t know the point. I don’t know that the boy’s interest at the end in finding Lestat is enough of a payoff for me to forgive the clunkiness of the device throughout the story. I like the premise in theory, but not its execution.
  2. The character Armand. Or what I should say, is not that I had a problem with his character, just that I don’t understand Louis’s “love” for him or his “love” for Louis. It is possible that I didn’t appropriately understand just how much time passed during the part of the story Louis and Claudia spent in Paris, but my experience was that it was a little out-of-left-field for me. It made the last major portion of the book disconnect from the rest of the story for me. Armand hadn’t really earned any special love from Louis, in my opinion, and I kept wondering what I must have missed.
  3. I was underwhelmed. It delivered what I expected a vampire story to deliver, so it didn’t necessarily fall into “bad” territory, but I think my expectations were of being wowed, and it never truly happened. I’m going to blame the hype for that one.


Love. The word “love” is tossed around a lot in this book, and I don’t know how to feel about it. I understand that love is pretty abstract, that there are different types of love, and that every person Louis “loves” is its own unique type of love. But Louis says that what humans experience as a desire for sex, for vampires, is the desire to feed on a human. So with this equivalency put into place, it shines an interesting light on the view that perhaps sexual desire or acting upon sexual desires is destructive. I then find it unsettling that Louis’s first real taste of human blood was a child, after repressing the urge for so long, and that he speaks of her later that she is like his wife or lover, but that it is also explicitly not a physical attraction to either Claudia or later Armand. I think this is a good time to point out that not only is this first-person narration, but it’s also told in dialogue, and that the likelihood that a vampire wracked with Catholic guilt is being 100% honest in his own self-assessment is not likely, and we should probably treat Louis as an unreliable narrator.

Despite this weird creepy vibe I’m not getting from Louis since I’ve started analyzing him, he really is the most complex and likable character in the story for me. I know that many people are fans of Lestat, but judging on the way Louis portrays Lestat throughout the story, I would wager I would have to read on to later books in the series in order to unbury the parts that actually make Lestat a character to fangirl about.

Final thoughts

While I had some qualms with this book that ultimately kept it from being a favorite for me, I did still enjoy it, and I think I would enjoy a closer, more analytical reading of it if I read it again. Since it remains a favorite of vampire readers everywhere, I would recommend it to someone looking for a vampire book who has somehow managed to pass this up. Also, since I am curious to find out what everyone loves so much about Lestat, and I am intrigued to find out if he is what Louis said he is, I would read the next book.

You can purchase Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice here, and if you do, as an affiliate, I receive a commission for your purchase.

In Lieu of Underwear, A Vampire Story: Chapter 2

Contents: Blood drinking, bullet wound, rape mention.

This story is updated monthly. You can be the first one to know when new chapters have been published.

Chapter 2

I thought drinking a vampire’s blood would be more intimate, but Matthew had made the whole thing transactional. I stood on the other side of the island from him while I watched him ooze his own blood into a glass from a slice on his palm.

Watching him fill the glass had become a normal thing at that point. I wasn’t a vampire—yet—but I was well on my way after drinking Matthew’s blood before every meal for a month. 

I spaced out on the bloody knife nearby until Matthew handed the glass to me. After a deep breath and a sigh, I closed my eyes and chugged the entire thing. It stung all the way down to my stomach where it churned with a sickening bubbly feeling. It only lasted for a few seconds, but it happened every time. 

When I set my glass down and opened my eyes again, he smiled at me. I licked my lips and my teeth while he turned to the sink to wash up, taking the knife with him. 

“You look especially handsome without your glasses,” he said. 

“That’s because I am.” I swallowed a few more times to try and wash the rest of the blood away. “I’ve never been able to see this clear before. Are you sure I’m not already a vampire?”

He grabbed the glass from the island, examining me with his dark brown eyes. “You still survive in the sunlight just fine. How about your sense of taste? Does food taste normal?” Matthew’s gaze lingered on my face while he turned around to wash the glass.

I bent at the waist and leaned my palms on top of the island. “Same as always.” 

Matthew shut off the sink and dried his hands. One glance at them, and I could see that the cut across his palm had already closed up, though it still left a pink line in its place. He stepped around to take my hand and pull me to him.

“What’s it like to crave blood?” I asked.

He smiled his gorgeous white grin, glancing at my lips, causing me to self-consciously lick them to make sure no blood was left over. “Not much different from craving salad.”

I snorted. “Has anyone ever actually craved a salad?”

Matthew laughed and reached up to pull my face down and kiss my mouth. 

My hands came to rest on his waist, only to slide around to his back and hold him close as he made the kiss deeper. My heart thumped in my throat, slow at first, but quickening. I heard it in my ears, and it pounded faster and faster and louder until it became all that I could hear. A tingle shot down my throat and spread out across my chest, morphing into a tightness that wrapped me up like a boa constrictor. I stopped breathing. I couldn’t breathe.

Intense pain erupted in my chest, a sting and a deep ache all at once, only made even worse each time I attempted again to breathe in. I stepped back from Matthew, clutching my chest. When I looked at him, he screamed in slow motion, shrieking at me or at nothing, not sure. Despite the panic of the moment, I thought how odd it was to see his face contorted into anything other than a smile. 

I opened my mouth again to gasp for air, but instead it filled up with blood, overflowing my lips and chin, pouring out like a spring. 

A slap across the face brought me back to my apartment in LA. 

“Don’t you die on me, you motherfucker!” Jess screamed at me from above, hoarse and baring her teeth. 

I tried to take a breath in to ask what the fuck, but my lungs wouldn’t work. I laid on my side, face to the floor where blood poured from my mouth for real. My blood. Not the stinging shitty blood Matthew had. 

Jess pushed me onto my back. I tried to cough, but I couldn’t do that either. Everything was dim, blurry, speckled. I lifted my head just to drop it on the floor and pass out again.

When I woke up a second time, I still couldn’t breathe. I heard sirens outside. I didn’t know what was happening. I think Jess was crying. I gasped over and over even though it hurt like fuck. I’m not even sure I had to breathe being a vampire, but my instincts told me I needed air if I didn’t want to die. And at that point in my life, I didn’t. 

EMTs came to take me away, and it wasn’t until I was up on the gurney that I saw Seth on the floor, surrounded by medics. I couldn’t make any more sense out of the situation than that. I realized for the first time that the back of my head throbbed. 

Jess came to my side, her three-toned hair—brown then blonde then fruit-punch—almost as much of a wreck as my apartment. “I didn’t mean to. I’m so sorry!” 

The medics pushed her aside and walked me out of the apartment to the ambulance, leaving Jess and her distant, echoing voice in the apartment with Seth.

At the hospital, the lack of oxygen fucked me up. My entire body cramped up like one big charlie horse, and the drugs they gave me for surgery kept wearing off too quick. They told me I shouldn’t even be alive, but since—if the pain had anything to say about it—I was very, very alive, they kept going. While surgeons removed the bullet, I nearly removed my own tongue from biting down so hard. 

Once the bullet had been dug out of my lung, my body took over the healing process, now able to fix the damage from the gunshot. The stitches helped, but the vampire magic bullshit that made me heal stupid fast was already doing its thing. It would still take time to recover, but I had to guesss not anywhere near as long as it would take a normal human. Who apparently would have been fucking dead. 

“Oh my fucking god, Lai!”

I opened my eyes from my recovery nap, complete with an excellent dose of morphine, to see Ras, my brother, enter the hospital room. He looked wrong, though. More put together, since, you know, he’d been missing his right ear for years. His face and hand were scarred up. He walked with a limp and a cane. Or at least he was supposed to. This Ras looked brand new, like how he did when we were in college, fresh out of 1989. But wearing my clothes for some reason.

I blinked at him, taking a slow, painful breath through my oxygen mask. I grabbed the bottom of his shirt and pointed at the athletic shorts he wore. 

“Yeah, they’re yours. I didn’t exactly have any lady clothes when I monkeyed out at your place.”

I stared for a long time, attempting to figure out what he meant. 

He rose an eyebrow at me, then rolled his eyes. 

I didn’t get it, but my eyes went straight to his hair as it went from dark brown to a familiar tri-color brown, blonde, and Kool-Aid. 

Ah. Jess. Fucking shapeshifter. I forgot she did more than just animals.

I closed my eyes to enjoy my morphine drip again. 

“Seth’s dead,” she said, still with my brother Ras’s voice. 

I lifted my hand, flapped it once and dropped it again before half-shrugging. 

“He shot you then he tried to shoot me,” she said. “Do you remember any of it at all?”

I opened my eyes and found her—or I guess his—face. I thought for a moment about what I could remember. It wasn’t much. 

I shook my head. All I could really think about at that moment was how weird it was to know I’d fucked this person—the one who looked just like my brother right now. Goddamn, that was fucked up. And kinda funny. 

“So you don’t care at all?” She frowned at me. With my brother’s frown. That disapproving one. Ugh. 

I reached for the table by my bedside where a pad of paper and a pen sat. Jess understood what I wanted and passed them to me. I wrote a messy note on the top page: You’re much hotter as a chick.

Jess took the notepad and read the message. She handed it back, stony-faced. “Have the cops come by yet?”

I shook my head. 

“I’m sure they’ll be here soon.”

I shrugged. I had no fucking clue.

Without me being able to say much, and falling asleep anyway, Jess let me rest until the next day. She came back, this time dressed as Ras with scars down his face, missing an ear, carrying a cane. 

The best part was that I could finally fucking breathe. I sat up.

“Wow, babe,” I said. “You really went all out on the Ras disguise this time.” It hurt a little to speak, but I didn’t intend to write any more notes. I grimaced as the sewed up hole in my chest ached with the motion. 

“I am Ras.”

I spent a minute looking him over. Jess could have been anyone. She might have been fucking with me, but I knew this wasn’t her.

“Fucking shit,” I said, dropping my head back against the pillow and staring up at the ceiling. “What are you doing here, Ras?”

“You need to get out of town,” he said. He hobbled over to the armchair next to my bed and plopped into it with a groan. “They should have taken you to the Red Tech hospital. You’re lucky they didn’t.”

I rolled my head to the side to look at him. Red Tech was that place that did the membership service for vampires. The one that cleaned up dead bodies after you fed on them. “They have a fucking hospital?”

“It’s called a donor station, so not really. But there is an occasional vampire surgery when things like this happen.” He gestured to my chest. 

My breathing in and out sounded sort of wheezy, and I took a moment before trying to talk again. “So why am I at a regular hospital?”

“Most likely you didn’t use the Red Tech number to call for help. It’s for the best, really.”

“You keep saying that.”

The door opened again, and a man in a lab coat walked in. He picked up the clipboard from a place near the door and came forward smiling, pulling a pen from his coat pocket. After a moment of reading the chart, his smile faded and he looked at me again. “You’re Lai Martire, right?”

“Why? Does it say something else?” I asked. 

“No. No…” He looked down at the clipboard, puzzled, flipping it over multiple times before scratching his beard. I could tell he must have been promising himself to stop drinking before work. He set down the clipboard on my bed, and I stayed quiet while he came to examine me. It was the first time I’d really looked at the bandages, let alone the bullet wound when he peeled the bandage away.

I watched the amazement on his face, his mouth dropping open as he moved a gloved hand over the area where there had been a wound before, and now just a silvery pink, sensitive scar. He looked at me and swallowed. Then he backed away. 

I cleared my throat. “Hey, I’m in a lot of pain. Think you can up my dosage on the morphine?”

Ras groaned, and I could basically hear his eyes roll. 

“Sure,” the doctor stammered. “I’ll send a nurse right in.” He clumsily tried a few times to put the clipboard back in its holder and then left.

I grinned at Ras. “Is that why I should have been at the other hospital?”

Instead of looking entertained–but really, when did he ever?–Ras stared at the door. His cheek bulged with the shape of his moving tongue underneath while he clearly considered how to break something to me. I just wasn’t sure what. 

“Matthew would have been your surgeon.”

My smile disappeared. I stared at Ras while he stared ahead, obviously unable to look at me. 

“So what? He wants to kill me now?” I asked. 

“Knowing Matthew? Far worse,” Ras said. 

I turned my face away and sucked on my teeth. I knew he was right. 

He stood up and faced me while I tried not to look at him. “You need to leave. Whatever happened at your house last night wasn’t Red Tech sanctioned. The cops are going to be involved. I can smooth that over, but your dead boyfriend’s friends and family…?” He tilted his head and shrugged. 

“They don’t know who I am.” Without thinking, I rubbed my chest where it hurt, which only lit up the recently healed wound with fresh pain. I hissed and squeezed my eyes shut. 

“Does that matter?” Ras asked. “You get someone killed, and someone is bound to come after you.”

I growled. “He got himself fucking killed!”

“With your gun.” 

The simple sentence shook me, and I didn’t understand why. I fixed my eyes on him, open-mouthed and bewildered. “How the fuck do you know all this? How did you even know I was here?”

“It’s my job, remember?”

“To stalk me?” It hurt to yell, but I had to.

“No, you fucking idiot! To investigate subscriber cases. Red Tech has to keep close tabs on this shit so it doesn’t cause widespread panic. Anything that has to do with a vampire that’s not an open-and-shut case has to go through me.”

“So you’re the cops.”

Ras sighed, taking a seat again. “It’s more complicated than that.”

We fell silent for a long time. 

“So when am I getting out of here? How am I fucking paying for this?”

“It’s covered.”

“So Red Tech is vampire health insurance now too?”

“I wouldn’t say—”

Someone screamed outside the room, and it sounded like some sort of supply cart had been knocked over. The door flew open letting the sound of chaos flood in, and a nurse tumbled in after, catching herself on the ground. Behind her marched a familiar three-piece, gray suit with a hot pink tie, a platinum blond undercut, and the stone-cut jaw of a constipated angel. Micah Castagnier, Red Tech President.

Two uniformed LAPD officers followed him in, one carting a wheelchair to my bedside. 

The nurse got to her feet and her voice trembled. “Sir, you can’t—”

“Leave this one alone,” Ras said, quickly scooping her arm up before she could say more. He led her in a wide berth around Micah and out of the room. She seemed relieved to abandon her obligation to protect the patients of the establishment.

Micah trained his ever-intense green eyes on me. “Get him in the chair,” he growled to one of the officers, and before I could object, I was being lifted into the wheelchair.

It hurt too much to struggle, so I went along with it. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to question anything. “What the fuck?”

Micah didn’t answer. He only led the way out while one of the cops ripped out my IV and took my oxygen mask. Way to ruin a dude’s good time, bro. 

I don’t think Micah was much more than maybe nineteen in appearance, but his presence had such command that just walking caused people to leap out of his way. Or maybe even humans were aware of his reputation for decapitating people with his bare hands over almost nothing. I’d never seen it myself, but it wasn’t something I would put past Micah. And the trail of destruction he’d wreaked on his way to my room was a pretty good indicator that no one was ready to fuck with him.

Micah’s goon patrol loaded me into a cop car.

“So am I under arrest?” I asked.

Still no answer. I watched him through the window while he stopped to talk to someone else. Another uniform. He lowered his voice, and a lot of it was jargon or unrelated. A different officer got in the driver seat. 

“Hello? What the fuck is happening? Where are you taking me?” 

This man didn’t say anything to me either.

I looked back out the window at Micah. He seemed to give a final order before he turned to get into a purple Camaro, only to be cut off by Ras stepping in the way. I tried my fucking hardest to catch any of what they were saying, but the most I could make out was the tone of their voices, which escalated. Then Micah backhanded Ras straight onto his ass and got in his car. He peeled out when he sped off with Ras yelling after him. I couldn’t make out much, but I did hear one thing: “He’ll be dead if Solak finds out about this!”

My heart dropped, and I stopped listening. I knew Solak. It was Matthew Solak. My sire. My ex. My abuser. My rapist.