Unleash the Sexy Beasts!

It’s time. No, we’re not here to celebrate the incoming season. Sorry, fellow Fall Lovers. We’ll have that party later. When it isn’t 100* F on my back porch. In the shade. On an overcast day. I’m sooo not exaggerating. That’s been my week and it SUCKS when paired with smoke from the half-dozen fires ringing the Central Valley. But enough whining about weather.

We’re here  to reunite with those drop-dead-gorgeous demigods, the incubi.

Deryck, Wolfrik, Garik, and the gang have been on hiatus for far too long. It took me a while to establish a plan of attack to get them back out in the world. Since the vampires worked so well as a serial, I’ve decided to move forward to do as promised, and every book which was previously published has been given another hefty edit to prepare it for its Patreon debut. Two weeks ago, Meghan’s story wrapped on the site. Now it’s Deryck’s turn.

Chapters one through four are live on Patreon as of 9/5. The first two chapters are Public and free to read—they’ll remain free indefinitely, so if you want a peek, go for it. Patron Only posts cost just $1 a month to access. Funds raised via the site will go toward making work more accessible with my physical disabilities.

As the bastard child of the Egyptian god Min, Deryck’s inheritance is great, vast powers . . . which frightened the gods so much, they rounded up the half-breeds like him, stripped 90% of their power, and forced them to become incubi. Yes, we’re talking about hunky dream gods here. But enslavement isn’t sexy and Deryck wants out.

 

The Vampires are Back in Town

Things on my end haven’t been exactly smooth lately. Numerous problems arose, putting pretty much all of my books on the back burner. Except the shitty one. Of course. Because that’s how my life has rolled from the get-go.

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Life is like a murderous not-clown-thing.

Starting last week, that’s changing. I’m in the process of re-editing In Too Deep. As I go, I’ll drop a couple chapters over on my Patreon page. Chapters one through four are already live on the website, with the next two chapters scheduled to drop on Tuesday (June 20th). Currently the release day is floating, based on when I steal editing time, but I’ll do my best to make weekly updates.

The catch? It’s gonna cost you. A whole whopping  . . . dollar.

I don’t want to rip off readers who took a chance and bought the first edition of the book. But I do need to pay bills, so I’ve set the serial at the lowest payment option for patrons. If this works out, I will work on the other books once ITD wraps up.

Step back into the 1990’s with Meghan, a CIA operative stuck in Fresno, CA on the off-chance there really are former Russian spies working to destroy the farmland. Land which feeds most of the USA, and beyond. Once she’s on the right track, nothing will stop her from ending the terrorist plot before it hatches. That is, until the local vampires take offense to her accidental prying.

Yes, folks. It’s a vampire spy novel set just after the Cold War. Get your anti-Russia feels right here.

Oh, What the Hell

There’s something bizarre in having someone tell you point-blank that your personal choices means you’re morally corrupt and unable to perform a job. A job which you’ve done countless times before without incident.

It’s no secret that I’m a writer and editor. My writing is, well, bloody. There’s sex. There’s profanity. There’s a shit ton of questionable behavior from fictional people on my page. The key word there is fictional. I’m certainly not traipsing around the globe impregnating women with demon babies.

But today, after waiting half a week to receive a manuscript I’d already billed for, I was told my personal writing is problematic and I didn’t have the job. Great. That means I’m out an entire month’s pay. Because someone wanted to foist their shoddy morals on my shoulders.

Since I’m all about rubbing noses in messes this week, here’s a letter to that writing team:

Yeah, no I can’t let this one go on that note. I’m not Christian. I severed ties with them ages ago because of backhanded comments like your, “…leaving the judging to Christ.” I’ve read the bible and I’m pretty sure if it were real, Jesus wouldn’t bat an eyelash at my life—except when interacting with people determined to judge my entire worth from one website.

My personal writing style doesn’t mean I’ll force a client to add blood, sex, or profanity to their manuscript. My personal life doesn’t mean I’ll force fragile Christians to come out as bisexuals in their books. I have a child I adopted, does that mean I’ll force a weepy adoption story into client’s books? No.

My personal *anything* has nothing to do with the way I conduct editing business. Several clients are friends, and I’m harder on them than I am anyone else when it comes to making a manuscript shipshape before publishing. Once I negotiate a job, it’s exactly that, a job, no matter the client. So why do you all—and [name redacted] doesn’t get a pass after that judging dig—get to decide I’m morally corrupt for writing what I do?

I’m tempted to charge a nuisance fee. You not only demanded I send an invoice, but then waited five days to tell me you weren’t going to use my service based on this flimsy moral high-ground. This is after I’d set aside an entire weekend waiting for your manuscript so I could work quickly since you said there was an eight day deadline.
I cared about your project. I wanted to see you succeed in the publishing world. I gave you a larger discount than I give friends who use my service. You shot back with accusations that I’m somehow less because my personal writing offends you. Gee, thanks.
I’m not going to win friends or new clients with that letter. That’s not the point, here. The point is, I’m tired of defending my life to others. Christians love to pretend they’re a caring bunch, but all they do is weigh your perceived sins against their own. It’s a rigged game, though. That Christian will never believe they’re less than perfect because Christ gave his life and yadda, yadda, yadda. But me, the outspoken bisexual with a beef against judgmental people, I’m obviously super evil since I don’t think a book—written and translated so many times no one knows what the original texts actually said—is the end all, be all of moral compasses.
Yeah. Real evil with my fluffy dog and collection of stuffed cows. The next step is obviously overthrowing Satan so I can rule Hell. Only the cool kids are invited to my crowning ceremony.
Folks, if you need a book to tell you how not to be shitty, seek therapy to deal with your underlying mental issues. If a threat from some higher being is the only reason you’re not out stealing and raping, you’re the problem in the world, not me. So what if I ditched the hypocritical teachings of the Christian church? I didn’t turn around and MURDER anyone the next day. Instead I wept because my father pretty much disowned me. He died before his Christian teachings would allow him to forgive me. What kind of god is okay with a father dying without telling his eldest daughter he loved her, and all because I didn’t like grown men telling 14 year old me that I was evil for being attracted to women. I didn’t feel evil then. I don’t feel evil now.
The evil is in the White House. It’s the Freedom Caucus making near-daily threats to women’s rights on the basis of the same Christian teachings which robbed me of the final two years in Dad’s life. They want to literally kill women with lack of health care.
But I’m the problem in the world because I took my depression and used the nightmares to write horror stories. Sure. That makes perfect sense.

Kicking My Ass In Gear

Life’s been shit. Anyone within the bubble of my reality has known this for a few years now. For me, the depth of the excrement around me wasn’t truly clear until Christmas vacation. And my extended vacation. And then the extra week I took off because there was no point attempting anything creative when the family wouldn’t allow me to focus. Not to mention the world losing Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds—women who’ve been life-long compass points when it comes to realigning my fucked up world. The news put me in bed, marathoning Trollhunters on Netflix to escape all the sadness.

I’ve marathoned a lot of television this last three weeks.

Then I looked at my paycheck.

Fuck.

I had two options this week: Mentally trudge through my workload, bitter and burnt out from the anger simmering in my frustrated, broken mind. Or I could fix my shit, at least pretend I want to have a life again, and find my happy in a way which would allow me to do paying work again.

It started with a schedule. We all know how much I love schedules. When my head is at its worst, looking at a set time frame to Get Shit Done is the only way to make it click that the hours my brain had set aside for regret, or some other unhealthy thing to dwell on, is actually allotted for productive activities. A lot of them. So much so, if I were to just work through this motivation without setting a schedule, I’d burn out on the workload in a month and fall back into depression. Baby steps. Tackling the list in bite-sizes works so much better. Spreading the tasks out over the work week help, too. Monday: focus on Task A, with minor time on Task C. Tuesday: prep for Task B, focus on Task E, and schedule a post for Task D. You get the point. It’s not an eight-hour binge to get Task A done so I can move onto the next, but Task A hits a mental wall and I’m left forcing myself to get it done in a way which while productive doesn’t ensure my best effort.

If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s to get your shit done right the first time because the repercussions down the road will only be exponentially harder to overcome.

That leads me to the Patreon page.

waitwhat

Yeah, I had the same reaction when I realized that, yes, I was indeed following through with the whim to make an account. At this point, I have literally nothing to lose and everything to gain.

What do you gain? Finally, a set home for the podcast, Professional Bitching, along with the backlog of previous podcasts—both of which will remain free to the public. With a secure home, the podcast can finally reach a better production level because I’m not scrambling to constantly reinvent its production process to fit whatever web host happens to work that week. Patrons will eventually have access to special podcast episodes featuring my stories, as well. The Patreon page allows me to control information better, which means more chances to see sneak peaks into upcoming novels for patrons and possibly even the chance to help me do things like name characters/locations for works-in-progress.

The monetary perks are small, for now. Mostly to encourage focus on, A) Reviving the podcast, and B) Completing the final vampire novel—I’m within 30k words and the end is so close, I can taste the bloodbath. Later, I may host a larger campaign to do things like, oh, finally commission the cover art envision for the Inbetween novels or purchase a laptop so I may work more efficiently from bed when my disability flares. That’s the dream. For now the focus is the podcast and vampires, the side effect of the latter being ample blog posts for patrons with frank discussions about how I write. I’ve already posted one discussing lesbian vampire sex.

I honestly hate talking money, but it makes everything happen, so here we are. Trading money for greater access into my writing process feels really odd. However, I’m dedicated to the cause. Let’s go make weird shit together, guys.

It’s Not Just in My Head

This was originally going to be an episode for Professional Bitching, but seeing as Santa hasn’t brought my new microphone yet, and this is bound to be incredibly painful emotionally, I’ve opted to scribble until my fingers cramp. Because, maybe then I’ll feel vindicated in some tiny, insignificant way.

Something’s gotta give before I check myself into a mental care facility, and it’s getting to that point.

First, a little history. When I was 20, I met this guy who seemed weird, but he paid attention to me and I’d been antsy as a single gal since being unceremoniously dumped by a guy who was also strange yet attentive enough to pander to my overwhelming personal image issues. We met because he really enjoyed a torture-porn story I’d written for shits-n-giggles, and he asked me to a poetry reading. Yes, his interest in the story threw up red flags. No, I didn’t heed them. That one decision cost me dearly. I’ve never been completely happy since this guy, we’ll call him JA, came into my life.

For six years, JA controlled my life. He picked what we ate, where we lived, how I dressed, who I associated with, he even went so far as to constantly deprive me of sleep by playing video games at full volume from 9 PM until 9AM—while I had a toddler to care for. JA was physically abusive to my child. He manipulated my mother to get money and whatever items he wanted without ever stepping outside to find a job once he lived under my roof—while at his home, I paid for half the groceries, held a job as best as possible, and dealt with the Hoarders-like nightmare his family seemed content to wallow in.

But that wasn’t even the worst of it. No, every time he opened his mouth, that was the real nightmare. JA couldn’t stand that I have strong notions about sexual consent and activities. He relished in telling me daily about his ex girlfriend who was into public sex, graphically laying out his exploits like I should be impressed instead of mortified. It took me years to realize the repetitive stories were training me to give in when he wanted to finger me at the dinner table or make a scene at a party which ended with him loudly fucking me in the guest room for everyone to enjoy. But I didn’t enjoy it.

Whenever I fought his manipulation games, JA brought in his wingmen. These mutual friends were molded for once specific purpose: To embarrass me as often as possible, and to ensure my humility around JA’s obvious sexual prowess. There was a routine to every gathering of friends. We’d sit down, grab a drink, and off JA would go, making some off-hand comment about anal sex—or whatever sexual favor I denied him most recently. The guys joined in, after all everyone loves pounding Brownietown, right? Then they’d turn on me, the person dumb enough to not like anal sex, and spend an hour or more convincing me to perform a sexual act I don’t enjoy in any way, shape, or form. I always said no. But after each night spent with the guys, JA would try to force the issue in bed. Often, it resulted in a physical altercation, ending only when I gave him at least a blowjob in order to escape him forcefully fucking my asshole.

But it was just jokes with friends hours before, how can that turn into rape? Because that’s what abusers do. Why didn’t my friends stop it when they saw how uncomfortable I was? Because they didn’t care. Not really. It took him less than a year to win over all of my friends. After I finally kicked him out, JA clung to my friends for support. I clung to my cats because my friends had spent so long enabling my abuser, I didn’t know who to trust.

I still don’t know who to trust.

This week, I was determined to get my shit together. Being mentally ill in the current political climate in the USA has been awful, leaving me too anxious to do more than furiously clean and reorganize the house—like a sparkling toilet will banish the Orange Overlord. I wasn’t thinking of past trauma. Didn’t even occur to me to be mindful of my current friends and what they post online because I’ve spent years culling those most entwined with JA’s life. Then someone who has also suffered serious domestic abuse posts an obscene video featuring JA in the nude. It’s like she wasn’t there for the last ten-plus years of bullshit I’ve dealt with—which she was, often in the room to see it first-hand. Or she didn’t know he’s still gaslighting me by sending junk magazines to my house—I get at least five a week—though I made it very public that I needed a middle man to tell him to knock it the fuck off. Why would anyone go into a room as an abuse survivor with a known abuser? Why when they’re nude? It’s JA’s game starting anew. He posts that he wants to do a weird, vaguely sexual thing (it’s the torture-porn story thing all over again, really) and out comes a woman he knows he can manipulate because she’s already “broken.”

The minute I realized he’d found a new victim, I was in her shoes. The panic attacks started again. I can’t focus long enough to remember something in the living room, walk twenty feet, and write it down at my desk. Every time my mind vomits up footage from the video, I shake and cannot get warm. I haven’t done paying work in a week. Sitting at my desk is a test of will. I never stay still long enough to think of what to write and instead zip off to fix something, anything, because I can’t clean the past out of my head but I can sure make the stove top shine.

Bottling up the reaction to my abuser being flung in my face wasn’t working. I tried to talk to a friend, but this is such an overwhelming issue for one person to deal with unless they’re a professional. I’m known for being outspoken about a few things. It’s about time I did the same for my abuse. I’ve held it in for so long, downplaying the damage done by one pathetic man who feels so insignificant, he has to lord over a woman, embarrass her into submission in order to get an erection.

Let’s be honest, he’s earned my ire. I’ll never have a functional relationship again. I can’t stand being touched in public unless I am in complete control. If someone grabs me, I come unhinged and flight-or-fight turns into a sobbing mess—I fought every day for six years, I’m done fighting for autonomy of my own body. Thanks to the job he’s done on my head, I cut off three feet of hair so I wouldn’t be terrified of someone coming up from behind and touching it without permission—that was a daily anxiety-maker. I literally cannot tell anyone no in the bedroom for fear they’ll hit me and do it anyway. I perform sexual acts I still don’t totally enjoy, just because someone asked. And when I do want to say something about what’s happening in bed, I choke on the words and continue on not having fun. I can’t even masturbate without his bullshit abuse wriggling its way into my fantasies half the time. I’ve tried to move on, only to realize I’m subconsciously seeking another JA. No more. I can’t do it.

This isn’t JA winning because he broke me. This is me saying I want full control of my body, no matter what that entails. If that means flicking my bean solo until I die, so be it. I cannot become a victim again. No one should go through life in an endless cycle of abusive relationships. JA wasn’t the only bad seed, just the worst, and I wish more people would see his schemes for what they are instead of helping him entrap more victims.

This was a rambling mess that doesn’t make sense, but I had to say it. Do with the information what you will. I just can’t keep it in my head anymore.

Misery-Obsessed Nation

We’re a bunch of miserable motherfuckers. How much of our day is spent fuming because of politics, religion, he/she said bullshit, etc.? How much of that shit actually impacts the progress of your day? Will that politician’s tweet mean you can’t log into your work computer this morning? Does your friend’s failing relationship keep you from taking your daughter to karate class? So what if a C-list actress got Botox? Can you still put on your shoes? Good! Go on with your day, pal. Not every thing you disagree with will be the end of your world as you know it.

“Yeah, yeah. We want proof.”

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Americans are notorious for hanging onto national tragedies like an old favorite blanket. When something goes bad, they drag it out, wrap up in the pain, and wallow like it’s the day it happened instead of letting people move on. There’s nothing wrong with being happy, even if other people are hurting. Emotional self-flagellation pleases no one. I’m not saying we forget the dead or bulldoze memorials. But maybe, perhaps, stop to do an empathy check more often. Do you want someone breathing down your neck twenty-four-seven, talking about the night your child was murdered? How about pop art featuring your rapist’s face? I could not fathom walking down the street and a shop window has the face from my nightmares duplicated dozens of times. Could you? Then why do we feed a media which sustains itself solely on the misery of others? Why the meme chains with garishly nationalistic overtones memorializing the day millions of people’s lives changed for the worse? I’m honestly asking here. My mind does not function in a way which allows me to justify making a buck when someone, somewhere, is jolted from their sleep because they’re dreaming yet again about the blood-drenched bar echoing with ringing phones—loved ones searching for those who’ll never answer the call.

“That’s nothing compared to m—” I’m going to stop you right there. Misery contests are soul-sucking beasts which need to be sent to hell already. “I’m poorer than you.” “My father is sicker than yours!” Constantly one-upping one another beats the other person down, making their pain seem insignificant, though it may control their entire lives. Belittling another person won’t make your day any better. It only makes their day worse. Obviously they’re already in a bad place if all they can think about is the crap bogging down their life. There’s no need to heap more dino shit onto the five-foot tall pile of dino shit. It’s overkill and just plain awful to do to another living being. Would you deny a dehydrated dog half a cup of water because you’ve only had a quarter cup, yet there’s plenty of water to go around? Shit like this is a human trait I wish would vanish already. Cruelty for no other reason than your miserable ass wants company.

We’ve got to stop using pain to justify shitty behavior. The primary reason racism exists to the extent it does in 2016 is directly due to the false correlation some see—and perpetuate—between certain races/religions and terrorism/crime/drug-dealing/etc.. Go ahead. Stop and think for a gods damned minute. Look at the political circus, how the Republicans run almost entirely on a platform of, “They hurt us, we’ll hurt them back thrice as hard!” More often than not, the pain is entirely financial. So what’s that got to do with Jim in Nevada who rents an apartment with his little dog and goldfish? Ain’t his money at stake. Unless the winning party is keen to set new tax laws in place which would further extort money from a single man working a standard wage job in an unremarkable office building who is barely covering all the bills. Or what about Petunia, living in Florida on a work visa from (perceived enemy) country? How secure is her one chance to earn enough money to become a citizen and escape the family who wants to marry her to a man forty years her senior? She never did anything worse than jaywalk, but if these people win control of the government, they’ll call her a terrorist and send her to a life she will never consent to. Not every person of a race acts the same. Why hold them all accountable to the same degree as the extremists who bombed a public market? It makes no sense.

The Negativity Vortex of Social Media—occurs in high-tension times, such as mass murders, holidays memorializing tragedy, and political discussions. It’s not enough to simply say, “This thing is awful, quit fucking doing it,” and be done until a healthy discussion brews. The vortex demands evidence. Visual evidence is best. Those caught in the vortex willingly plaster images of murdered children, animals, horrifically injured individuals,  nude bodies you personally find grotesque, etc., all in the name of supporting a cause when in reality, they’re exploiting the victim in a vain attempt to ease their minds. I’d rather watch puppies playing in a ball pit. I’d rather my friends watch them play with me. Flinging something awful in their face isn’t how you show you care, about your friends or the subject you feel about so strongly. There is always a better option to express yourself. Use Your Words.

Negativity in the name of doing good never works. This is often used when two parties are pitted against each other—be it political, or a disagreement between friends. “Don’t listen to Suzie, she’s slept with half the fraternity next door. Emily has been in a relationship for years, her advice is better. Let her help you with your breakup.” Examples like this don’t seem to have a big impact, but it completely disregards Suzie as a person. Over what? Her perceived hyper-sexuality? Suddenly, Suzie’s vagina walks into the conversation in her stead, leaving her socially taxed without adequate representation. Maybe she’s been through this scenario before and just wants to help before the problem escalates. They don’t know because they chose to address her vagina instead of the woman herself.

“So we’re hateful, miserable shits. How do we fix it?” *ahem* “Talk less. Smile more.” Burr is kind of a shit in Hamilton, but he does have a point. To an extent. In context, this is a tact to manipulate others into trusting him without doing any actual work to climb the social ladder. Out of context, it becomes so much more. When it feels like shit won’t stop raining from the sky, stop. Just stop saying anything about it for a moment. Go find your happy place. Take five to laugh. It isn’t impossible. We all know what makes us happy. It’s not some great universal secret. I like eating peach cobbler and watching Casper on the first day of Autumn. Why? It makes me happy to have a little ritual to look forward to during my busiest season in the year. I need no other reason. Neither do you.

Nor do your friends and family. It’s perfectly okay to point out the misery cycle if someone you love is caught in a vicious one. Feel awkward talking about emotions? Then reach out and find their happy for them. Send a ridiculous gif. Ship their favorite snack to their house. Give them a fucking hug the next time you see them. Love has never required words. Sure, they help when action alone isn’t enough to convey everything, but I’ve grown to love someone more sitting on the couch watching a movie in silence than after a day-long date spent telling each other everything about ourselves. I may be simple when it comes to matters of the heart; I don’t know. It just seems like so many forget that it can be shared. Even in the most unexpected ways. Like friends spending what would be one of their last days together picking out a dog for one of them. And that dog turns out to be a total spazz, but so, so smart, always reminding the one who stayed of the one who’s gone. All their times together come back. It’s wonderful. They’re never apart, though they may never speak again.

I’m pleading with you. For your sanity’s sake, go find your happy. Quit perpetuating the misery cycle. Take a break from berating those you think are in the wrong and just let them be for a day. Smile more. Your face won’t shatter, I promise.

Professional Bitching Suffers Zombie Attack

So . . . I take it you guys noticed there’s no new podcast this week. To put it simply, I ran out of time. This week I’ve been with Hobb’s Grove working at a haunted attraction inside a baseball stadium. Weird concept, right? We scare while they play. The fans are the real winners. But after prep days to build a new (read: cleaner) costume, an early-morning news appearance, and the two-day event, there was not much brain matter left to speak about anything coherently. But, I can steal a little time to type.

I planned to discuss Damien and it’s first season. I’ll be honest, if it gets a second season, I’ll be surprised. It’s okay horror. There’s some striking moments and character choices. However, it’s utterly frustrating for them to have the lead character more or less a pawn, even in his defining moment during the finale. Damien makes no coherent decisions. Everything’s manipulated or coerced. Pair that with their insistence in trotting out the over-used selective amnesia crap and I switched from watching the story to waiting for the next death gag. The show needs to take a step back and look at the big picture—one producer swears they wrote it to tie every moment to Damien’s ultimate decision in the finale, but that’s not what I’m seeing. I see the writer’s hands too much. Good television makes you forget it was written, though may the gods help you if you just dismiss those writers who did a Very Hard Job and made it look easy.

And we won’t go too deep into how flat and uninspiring the women on the show have been. One is there to be dragged around with no real purpose. Another is CrazyPants Sycophant. We have Religious Nutjob, played by one of my favorite actors and given such bullcrap motivation, I just wanted her to die so they’d quit beating that dead horse. One was there just to be blonde, cute, and then die. Any other woman on the show is background, silent, or slated for death. We can do better nowadays.

That’s Professional Bitching Lite for this week. To make up for it, click this link for the news footage where I played zombie at an ungodly hour in the morning.

Just Another Day

It’s been a while since I dropped a random story. Here’s the catch: I don’t have a lot of time today. So what I’m going to do is scribble for an hour and see what comes of it.

And here we go….

The pigeon outside Hank’s window wouldn’t shut up. The bastard settled there at sunrise, cooing until the alarm clock played static-garbled oldies. It paused long enough to turn around and resumed chatting away to it’s reflection, or whatever the hell birds talk to when they’re all alone.

Better than talking to yourself all the time.

Touché, self.

Hank grabbed the book on his nightstand. His fingers slipped off the slick cover. He settled for dumping the hardcover on the wood floor. Thump. The pigeon scurried to the ledge and flew off.

“Coo, coo, motherfucker.” Peace at last.

His neighbor turned on their radio, gifting him with the nerve-grating top forty hits playing in every club, bar, and department store in the United States. Original thought and creativity flew out the window with the digital age. What happened to bands like Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Judas Priest? Hank cringed. His taste in music was as old as his favorite jeans. No wonder he was stuck dating online. One look at his dated clothes, one peek into his CD collection, and women wrote him off as daddy material. Not the sugar kind. He couldn’t afford an extra large coffee by the end of the month, let alone buy a hot young thing whatever she desired.

Rolling out of bed took way too much effort. Monday morning blahs threatened to send him diving under the covers for just another hour. Rhianna sang about work from the neighbor’s. What a great idea. Go to work and get away from the incessant hip-hop droning.

“Next time I move, I’ll make sure a wannabe go-go dancer isn’t in the building.”

Shit. Shower. Shave. Suit-up. Same routine he followed every work day.

Hank dropped a spare shirt and tie in his messenger bag. A date after work on a Monday. He was insane to accept the request. Who in their right mind wanted to do anything except kill a bottle of bourbon after eight mind and ass numbing hours at a desk job? Karen was gorgeous. That was motivation enough. Hank never lied to himself when it came to dating. She was hot. He was as handsome as a canker sore. The date probably came from pity or the vain hope that his personality was better than his face and soft gut.

Apartment door secured, he took a moment to flip the bird at apartment 412. Her music swapped to some house mix with a rhythm to make people shake their ass. He’d seen his neighbor three times in the year he lived there. She had plenty of ass to shake.

Outside, he hailed a cab. It took three frantic arm-waving sessions to catch a cabbie’s eye. Climb in. Hold on. Pray the guy didn’t rear end a school bus or hit a nun in the crosswalk.

The office building was at the north edge of town. Everyone and their ailing granny swore the big money migration would take everyone from downtown to just inside the north-most border in the city. So far it was the one building, a Starbucks, and three mediocre Chinese restaurants. The building was home to six small businesses, each with their own floor. Though only three years old, it had plumbing problems. Toilets ran dry, leaving crap in the bowl. Sinks leaked—they should just run hoses from one to the other, that’d fix the problem. Then there was the elevator only the brave used.

Hank huffed and puffed to the sixth floor. “Eight hours and I’ll see you again, nemesis,” he grumbled as he left the stairwell.

It was more like eight hours and fifteen minutes. There was always that one last caller who couldn’t decide if she wanted to cruise to the Bahamas or one of the trendy Alaskan treks and asked every imaginable question about both. If he had to talk about snow or sand again that night, he’d jump off the roof.

Down, down, down he clomped.

In the lobby, Hank stepped into a corner near the front doors and pulled out his phone. Karen texted while he finished with the last caller.

See you soon. I’m wearing the green dress. 😉

Hank’s hands trembled. His phone slipped. He caught it and jammed it into his coat pocket. She sent a photo of the dress the night before. The front plunged so low, half of each breast showed. He didn’t anticipate her wearing it, thought the picture was to entice him into actually showing up.

He checked the clean shirt and tie in the shiny metal around the support beam to his left. His outfit was nowhere near as enticing.

At least I’ve got a somewhat tolerable personality. If he didn’t hate himself after fifty years, it had to be a sign he wasn’t a bridge troll.

Outside the building, it took another three attempts to flag a cab. Most of the time he swore they didn’t think he really wanted a ride and waved his arms for shits and giggles.

“Seventh and Hamilton, please.”

The driver’s left brow rose, but he put the car in gear and off they drove, leaving the north side in favor of the slowly dwindling downtown area.

Of course the driver took the longest route. Of course he took his sweet time counting out the change. Of course he parked near a damn puddle. Hank still tipped the guy. It would’ve been another ten minutes before he got a car to stop. He didn’t have the patience to wait another ten minutes. Karen was in the dress. That thought alone obliterated his ability to wait for anything.

Mother’s Kitchen sat on one corner at the intersection with a Walgreens, Taco Bell, and Vons. White folk heaven, he called it. They could get good steak, rubbers, food that’ll make you shit water for a week, and overpriced produce. The nearest Starbucks was one block east. Three more were within a mile radius. Everyone under thirty who passed clutched a Frappichino.

Hank played Frogger to cross the busy sidewalk, bumping a teenage guy who couldn’t walk right with his saggy pants around his knees. “Sorry,” Hank said.

“Whatever.”

Orange is not your color, man. Don’t smack the kid for trying to be a badass. The pep talk didn’t slow his heart rate.

Neither did the blonde woman waving at him through the restaurant’s front window. She beat him to the door, opening it.

“I’m so glad you came.” Karen didn’t waste a moment. She wrapped him in a hug the second she released the door. Her breasts pushed against his chest. He was afraid when they parted, the risqué gown would slip and show nipple. To his surprise, it stayed in place.

They followed the host to their table. Karen ordered drinks. Hank hadn’t found his voice after convincing his dick to calm the fuck down.

“So, uh, you come here a lot?” He draped the napkin on his lap. That’s what people did on dates, right? Pretended they had table manners? At home he ate wherever he happened to be in the apartment when hunger struck.

Karen laughed. “Yes, I do.” She paused and chewed her bottom lip. Miraculously her lipstick didn’t end up on her teeth. The woman was pure magic.

“What’s on your mind?” The way she watched him shifted. He had a feeling their night would end before they finished their salads.

“I don’t want to be rude.”

Hank reached across the table and clasped her hand. “I’m a hard guy to offend. Go for it.”

She chewed her lip again. Deep breath. “Okay. I have to ask . . . Why does that bearded guy have a hand in your back?”

Time’s up! Well, that went weird. How the hell does a puppet end up on a dating site?

You Want to do What?

First, let me preface this by saying my friends are lovable asshats. I ran out of time to think this week, so I asked them to drop blog topics for me to pick from. Two were viable. The rest made me wonder why I have so many oddballs in my life. The wonder lasted until I looked in the mirror and caught myself in an Avengers t-shirt and red scotty dog flannel pants with my hair sticking out in every direction. If I threw stones, my glass house would resemble Alderaan.

What topic did I pick? Christina B. gave me this gem:

Random acts of writing. Just when you think everything is okay, the story takes a drastic turn!

Plot shenanigans are ultra rare in my writing universe nowadays. I realized a couple years ago that it was far easier to plot my ass off before work began on a manuscript. I let it sit for a couple weeks, note any new ideas, then write like the wind. Having a solid outline doesn’t negate all surprises. I kinda wish it did. Usually these “What the hell do you mean it’s not happening this way?” moments require going back through the book to fix a plot point, or tweaking the outline to reflect the change so I don’t have to edit the damn thing in after the fact. As I write, I have a page of “Gods Damn It” notes to apply during editing round one. Sometimes these are plot hole patches, conversation changes, notes on wound locations, etc. Most often they’re reminders to put clothes on my characters because I never remember to dress them, but clothing is a huge part of self expression and needs to happen to fully flesh out my fictional friends. I did have a WTF moment recently when a character requested a latex dress. That was fun research.

With my characters—who are all far too real for my sanity’s sake—their suggested changes are never simple things. The Inbetween series is rife with changes I never saw coming. Garik in particular likes to go, “Oh, by the way, that thing you thought was this way? It’s actually this way.” If he were real, I’d punch him in the nose for each time I had to go back to fuss with minor things which were series-encompassing details. Sometimes the characters don’t get their way. I let my imagination run, give the people in my head a lot of leash to romp, but there are times I say no because the change is too much, too weird, or doesn’t make sense within the main story arc. Sorry, Garik, I don’t need a scene with you discovering organic bath balls.

Heh, I said balls.

For Sydnee’s long-overdue book, her drastic turn happened early in the game. What luck! I won’t say what it is (spoilers!) but her foot-down decision one afternoon while I wrote changed the entire book. Which was a good thing because that week I’d realized I had no clue how to end her story. Not only is Sydnee’s book her story, it’s the end of my vampire series. Her ending has to be their ending. I’ll tell you now, the vampires are going to a place I hadn’t predicted when I originally laid out the game plan going into this final story. Those kind of story-leading-the-writer moments are okay. Sometimes I can’t see the big picture and have to step aside to figure out where the characters would naturally lead the plot without me micromanaging every detail.

What if the characters can’t figure it out, either? That’s where my writing group comes in. I’ve got a couple people who’ve been on the writing path with me since day one, sentence one. Sandi and Quamaine are the reason why I kept writing, have remained a writer, and have every faith in my ability to do something meaningful in this career. They’re also in my life to call me on my shit when I send them a scene or dialog chunk giving me problems. Occasionally you just need another brain to assist. Talking things out with them, hearing what they think may be the snag or where they think the scene is heading, helps recalibrate the writing work. It may even spark a dreaded, but secretly hoped for, surprise change to the story. I do the same thing with my editing clients as necessary, and without charge, long before they send me a finished manuscript. Why? Writers cannot work in a vacuum. They need feedback at some point. I’d rather do it now than later when it may require extensive rewrites. Everyone needs a sounding board. That’s what managers at day jobs are for—a person to listen to your problems and help fix them so you provide the content you were hired to create. I am my own manager. I am a shitty manager, too. This is why I have my writing group, and I highly suggest other independent authors do the same. It gives you people to help long before paying an editor to fix the mistakes. Matter of fact, with a solid writing group, your editor may think you’re brilliant and their first pass won’t look like the manuscript is bleeding from ten-thousand paper cuts.

What about you? Do you look forward to the, “Whoa, wait. What,” moments while writing? Has a random idea sparked an entirely new direction for a story, causing you to scrap pages upon pages of work? If so, be honest and tell me how many Kleenex you went through while dumping* those pages in the circular filing cabinet.

(*Never actually toss scrapped story content. Shove it in a file to pilfer through later for bits to flesh out the rest of the story, or even start a new one.)