Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Title Reveal!

     I'm not sure if "title reveal" is even a thing, but I guess I'm making it a thing. I might've mentioned once or twice that I'm getting ready to release my YA dark fantasy in serial format. It's about three seventeen year old girls living in a small town called Caribou Canyon. I've been calling the story Caribou Canyon mainly because that was the easiest thing to call it, but I never really liked it as a title. It doesn't have enough pop. It lacks pizzazz. 

     I'm not that great with titles, or at least that's what I tell myself. Really, my issue is that I don't spend a lot of time sitting down and thinking of titles. I just write the stories and hope the titles will eventually come to me, which they sometimes do. I was hoping that would happen with Caribou Canyon, but no such luck. I realized I better hurry up and think of something, or else I'll be stuck with a title that tells nothing about the story. 

     The other night I couldn't sleep, so I decided there was no time like the present to sit down and tackle my title problem. I thought back to my elementary school days when I learned how to brainstorm. The idea was that you were supposed to write down every thought that came to you, no matter how much it sucked (although those were not the words the teacher used). So I did. I wrote down every noun, verb, and adjective I could think of that had anything to do with my story. Then I started putting them together into titles. 

     
     To my great relief, I actually came up with one I like. Before I tell you what it is, I'm going to share with you some of my rejected ideas. Why? Because I love you guys. 

     Some things I will not be titling my book: The Trio, Let's Make a Deal, Triple Threat, Twisted Trades and Deadly Dreams, Caribou Canyon: Live Your Dreams, Just Ignore the Screams

     Yes, those were all things I actually wrote down. Okay, ready for the real title? Drumroll please.

     City of Secrets.

     But actually, that's not quite right. Since I am so awesome and clever I'm going to spell it "Sity of Secrets." 

     No. Just kidding. That would be dumb. 

     I'm spelling it "City of Cecrets." Now that's cool. Okay, I'm totally kidding again. When I was in high school I decided I was going to spell my name Becee. I did it for about 3 years. I wrote it that way on all my papers, assignments, tests, letters to relatives, and pretty much everything that required me to write my name. It drove my teachers and family crazy, but I insisted on it and got really mad whenever people said it should be pronounced Beesy and not Becky. 

     But, no need to worry. I now spell my name Becky, and I will be spelling my title "City of Secrets." So, one more problem has been conquered and I am one step closer. More exciting updates to come soon!
     

Friday, April 22, 2016

More Poetry

I began the week with a poem, so it might as well end with one. This one's a little on the whacky side, because sometimes I'm a little whacky. This would be a good spoken word poem. Imagine the slam poetry days: smoke-filled rooms, people dressed in black, and . . .  oh wait, those were my high school days.




Because I Didn't Have the Grades for Disney Land 

But I had to go somewhere, I had to get away.
So I grabbed my girl and we took a trip of our own…
Two blue-eyed blondes who looked like the results
Of one helluva night between a flower child and a metal head.
But there’s no blue in our eyes this night as we hop the bus to nowhere.
We’re all pupils: yawning black depths promising all the magic of Disney Land.
Where an old friend we know from somewhere catches our eye:
Orange Jacket, fireworks, strobe lights, sirens, crime scenes
They call ‘im Fish. Fish? Who is he kidding?
Who cares? I just need what he has:
Identification, legality, rights, eighteen, smokes.
Fantasias for fun, they light my fire, tickle my fancy
Red, purple, yellow, green, blue, and all of gold.
Trout brings me what I need and says lets hit the road Jills.
We follow Grouper through the city, alleys, dumpsters, corners, cribs
On the bus with him we go and for the first time
Us two little girls know how far from home we are.
Worlds away from the safety of our Synesthetic Suburbia.
Surrounded by Psychos and Sickos, Schizos and Slobs
Satan’s stunning slaves stare at us salaciously
Seeing the fear buried somewhere deep inside
Until the scene changes, and off behind Snapper we go again.
He knocks on windows, lurks in corners, creeps, crawls, peeks, sneaks.
Screams are heard and Pike is scared stiff.
He orders us to run, so run we do.
Will it ever end?
And then we see Him:
Greasy dark hair and tie-dyed shirt
We grab, touch, feel, pinch, pull
Hair, nose, eyes, lips, arms, chest, solid, real.
One look at our black depths brings enlightenment
"Chill soul sisters, come on in."
So in we go; somehow Mackerel’s still with us
Turned around, found us, came back for us
Mad, angry, "run he says, don’t you witches know?"
Who is this fool? Doesn’t HE know?
We saved his butt. We his angels.
He’d be in a police car, handcuffs, bars, the clink.
Now he’s here where we all have somethin’ to share
Laughter echoing the sounds of sirens
And even Tuna mellows out
Till it’s time again
Turns out Guppy’s got a house where he
Leave’s us his bed, and off to the couch
Hey, chivalry’s not dead
But we ain’t sleepin’ in this stinky scrap hole
Not with living walls screaming of
Morbid Skinny Angels and Cannibal Puppy Corpses
So out the window we go and its tastes we’re thinking of
(Flour, wheat, dough, sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni)
As we walk into bright lights and aisles where a friendly face delivers
Death, devastation, ruins, nuclear missiles
Dominos, Abos, Black Jack, Fatty J’s, Little Caesars
All mere steps, stone’s throw, hop, skip, jump away
None of which open till noon. 
But the inventions of freezers and ovens saves us.
A sweet old lady in the deli cooks cardboard wonders
And looks at us with pity, fear, wonder, shame, love.
Taking us for runaways, delinquents, addicts, streetwalkers
Seeing in us a friend, sister, daughter, herself.
She won’t take our money.
Munch, crunch, consume, devour
Lick, nibble, bite, suck, smack fingers clean
Full daylight now and our vacation’s over
One more bus ride and my girl and I part for home,
But we're already planning our next trip. 




Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ideas, Anxiety, and Flukes

     I was a daydreamer long before I was writer. I didn't think I had what it would take to actually finish an entire novel, so I decided just to be content with letting my stories play out in my head. None of these story seeds ever fully solidified into something workable anyway, and most of them were heavily based on television shows and books, just all mixed up and jumbled together.

     When the idea for New Year's Revolution finally started coming together, I just had to write it. I only spent a few weeks being afraid that I wouldn't finish it. Once I started writing I couldn't stop, and it wasn't long before I realized it was going to be a trilogy. I went from "I'm never going to write a novel" to I'm going to write a trilogy.

     In the beginning I thought: this may be the only thing I ever write. I wasn't entirely sure where the idea came from or what made it different from the other seedlings that had been in my mind my entire life. At first I was okay with the Vampiric Vanguard Trilogy being the only thing I ever wrote, but the more I wrote the more I enjoyed it, and I realized I wanted to keep doing it, I just didn't know how to get more ideas.

     I think it was about a year after I started writing that the idea for Caribou Canyon came to me. I was at The Robin with my boyfriend at the time, talking about how my two best friends and I had lived in a haunted house. (Yes, I'm about 90% certain of this. For the record, I don't believe in vampires. But, ghosts? Definitely a possibility. No, I'm not willing to put money on it, mostly because I don't have any.) All of a sudden, there was Caribou Canyon: haunted town, three completely different teenage girls who become the best of friends, ghosts, corruption, curses. . . . The stuff that makes a great story. Hopefully. (I'm releasing it on a serial site in the next couple of months. I hope you're all as excited as I am. It's going to be epic, depending on your definition of the word.)

     I was still working on New Year's Revolution and at the time I was very strongly against starting a new project before finishing the old one. My thinking was: how will anything ever get finished this way? So I sat on the idea, but I'd think about it from time to time and new ideas for it would come to me. Lucky for me, I have some kind of alien uncanny memory (but only for certain things) and didn't need to write very much of these ideas down.

     As time passed I again began to worry if I was going to have any stories to write after I finished the New Year's Revolution (and the entire Vampire Vanguard Trilogy) and Caribou Canyon (which needs a more exciting title). Worrying is my thing.

     Two years after the lightbulb of Caribou Canyon lit up, the idea for my mystery novel formed during some morning bus rides while drinking coffee and listening to loud music. That idea was based on a really brief but powerful friendship during a really screwed up time in my life and also a separate weird and confusing experience during that same screwed up time in my life. These two experiences merged to make very interesting characters and an interesting (hopefully) story. I was STILL working on NYR, and next in line was CC so I knew it would be a while before I got to this story. But I was excited. I had another idea. There was hope for me after all.

     If you've been following my awesome, fun, and exciting blog then you know that all three of these stories have now been written and are in various stages of revisions or in-waiting. So guess what I've been worrying about while I'm working on revisions? Yep. I've been worried that I'm all out of ideas. Sure, I still have to finish NYR and write the two sequels, serialize CC and revise the mystery novel (still un-named) so it'll be a long time before I should think about starting something new, but still, because I'm me, I worry. What if this is it? What if there are no new ideas ever?

     Well, what I've learned is: you can't force ideas. They just come. They come at the most random times from the most random mix of things. It was through a variety of things, some of which I'm not even entirely sure of, that I've finally had my fourth idea. Yay! This one didn't come suddenly like the others. It percolated for a while and finally came together one night when I couldn't sleep. It will be another series, a paranormal/urban fantasy and it will take place over two separate periods of time that I'm going to weave together. That's all I'm saying. And there will be lots of creatures. So far I've kept my creatures segregated. Vampires in one story. Ghosts in another. This time I think I will be mixing them all up. Fun. Now, it's going to be a very, very long time before any of this gets written, but it's here in my head and its time will come. I started CC about two and a half to three years after I initially had the idea. It took around the same period of time before I started my mystery novel. So maybe two to three years is the magic gestation period for my ideas.

     So now that I've had four ideas for novels I think it's fairly safe to say that these are not flukes. I'm a writer. I'm still not entirely sure how these ideas are forming, but as long as they keep coming, I'm happy. It's time to stop worrying and just focus on the writing.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Silent Song--A Poem

This is a poem I wrote a few years ago about the importance of talking about traumatic experiences, rather than remaining silent and letting things fester.
This isn't a pretty poem. I'm of the mind that poetry should equally be a raw bleeding wound that's as dark and gritty as it should be about the wind delicately kissing a flower--before it tears the flower apart petal by petal. Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and share the poem before I wind up writing another one.


A Silent Song

To vanquish all evils, of them they do not speak. 
Of that which brings pain: if they don’t speak, they don’t think.
But it’s the dragon they feed when they turn their cheek.

A male caller’s vile charm taken for mystique.
A spouse’s thoughtless actions while under the drink.
To vanquish these evils, of them they do not speak. 

Hatred turns inward; it’s her own death she will seek.
Distance grows icy; papers are signed in bloodied ink.
And it’s the dragon they feed when they turn their cheek.

A sitter’s misuse of trust and his strong physique.
A child’s box of breathless friends under the sink.
To vanquish these evils, of them they do not speak. 

Full grown, it’s the night she works to stop feeling a freak. 
The bodies are now human; he doesn’t mind the stink.
They always feed the dragon when they turn their cheek.

I speak out; my voice is swallowed by the crowd’s shriek. 
It’s only our own destruction that is on the brink. 
Cowering from evils is why they do not speak.
And the dragon will devour the silent—the weak. 


 --------------------------

(No flowers were harmed in the writing of this poem.)

( I have nothing against pretty, happy poems. Everything has its place.)

 









Thursday, April 14, 2016

Memories

     When I was in my late teens and early twenties I spent a lot of time at my best friend Charla's house, which meant I spent a lot of time around her dad, Alan. Alan passed away about six years ago. I've found myself thinking about him a lot recently. There's a reason for this, which I will get to later.

     Since I've been thinking about him, I figured it would be a good idea to share of these thoughts. Writing is my favorite way to process things. Go figure. I like to share thoughts on people I've lost on public forums because it keeps them alive. It lets other people who them know that their loved ones aren't forgotten. These are the things that make us immortal.

     Alan is on my list of most quirky, fun, unique,I'm-glad-to-have-had-the-pleasure-of-having-known people. This is not a tangible list with a finite number of people on it or anything. I suppose that would be weird. There are just people who I think of that fall into that category. Alan is one of them. He might even be at the top, but I suppose who is at the top changes based on what criteria I'm using at a certain time.

     Alan had an interesting life. To say the least. He liked to talk. A lot. That may have been in part because--at least when I knew him--he wasn't working and didn't always have someone to talk to, except for the pets. Sometimes I listened when he talked and sometimes I didn't. In retrospect I feel bad about this, but I was a teenager and selfish (to put it bluntly). He liked to read a lot--the good stuff, mostly science fiction. He had an imagination and was a lot smarter than he came across, especially when he got older because a lot of his issues made him seem more out of it than he actually was. And he liked coffee, which is something I appreciate. He smoked a lot, which I can't blame him for, because I used to do that too.

     He had lots of quirks, but the one I remember the most had to do with food. As he got older and got in more pain his appetite got more sporadic, so he went through phases where he liked only a few things at a time. One day Charla and I were at the store and we decided to buy a black forest cake--these are the chocolate ones with the cherry filling and some sort of vanilla cream frosting. Alan liked the cake but not the cherry part. He liked it so much that he had to order more. And more, and more. They only made the black forest, so he had to special order it without the cherry filling--I think he had them replace it with cream filling. He would get several at a time. Now, you would think it would be great to have cake in the house all the time, but it really wasn't. We couldn't just eat it whenever we wanted to, because the cake was all Alan was eating, so we had to make sure he had enough for every meal. There was so much of it that it was taking up space in the refrigerator and freezer (yeah, the freezer). If he was too tired to go to the store, we'd have to run out on a whim to pick up the cake. In retrospect though, taking the 5-10 minute drive to pick up a cake for a man who was giving me a roof over my head doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but did I mention that I was young and my life revolved around myself?

      The cake thing went on for several months. Either before or after the cake (I can't remember the order of these phases) came the grape cool-aid popsicles. Yep, that's right. At first he just liked to drink the grape kool-aid, but then he decided he liked it frozen better. I can't remember why, maybe it was summer? So he would make it and freeze it into water bottles. This isn't too weird, right? We all did this when we were kids. Except, just like the cake, he had to do it excessively. There were so many bottles in the freezer at one time that we'd open it and they'd come falling on our heads.

     The weirdest "food" phase was cherry fun dip powder. You all remember fun dip, right? The little packets of flavored sugar powder with the sticks? I loved that stuff. (My mom wouldn't let us eat it in the house.) Alan didn't want the dipping sticks or even the other flavors. Just the cherry powder. He found other brands too, like pixie sticks and stuff. I don't even know where he found this stuff. I think he just drove around to random gas stations to see what they had.

     Also in the food phases were corn flakes (probably the most normal) and Arby's roast beef sandwiches. And there might be some others in there that I just don't remember.

     The reason that Alan no longer worked when I knew him was because he'd hurt his back at work, had a surgery that went badly, and then wound up having six subsequent surgeries after that, which resulted in really horrible chronic back pain. I always knew it was bad, because he said it was bad, and it looked bad, and just the thought of back pain is bad. But I guess I didn't really know how bad it was, probably because I didn't have a whole lot of empathy in that time of my life and because that magnitude of pain is just simply hard to imagine. I do remember one particular day when he was talking about the monster. That's what he called it, at least sometimes. It was kind of terrifying, because it seemed to have such a hold on so many aspects of his life. I think he drew a picture, but I'm not sure if he actually drew a picture or if he just talked about it so vividly that I remember a picture. He talked about the monster of pain and how it was sitting on his back and taking over. I think it was black and red and very ugly and I think that was the only thing that let me know how real and how horrible it was. I remember thinking, "how does he deal with this?"

     So now I've come full circle. The chronic pain is one of the reasons why he's popping into my head a lot more lately, and also that particular memory about the monster--since I've been dealing with chronic pain myself (also from a work injury), which I don't really talk about, because who really wants to talk about this stuff? I still don't know what he was feeling, but I guess I can understand it more. It sucks to be in pain all the time. It's a strange coincidence and I find myself wondering what he would think if he knew my situation and I suppose the short answer is he would be sad about it. I now understand the monster picture, and I understand why he thought of his pain that way. I'm not going to think of my pain as a monster, though it's bad enough that it could be. It's a horrible burning crushing pain that doesn't really go away or change, but it isn't a monster because that would make it its own entity and that kind of thinking is dangerous. I think it leads to making our problems bigger than ourselves and therefore unmanageable and I can't go there, not that I blame Alan for going there.

     I wish I'd visited Alan more after I'd moved out. I only visited him a few times in about five years. I wish I'd thanked him for the things he did for me, but I never did. I can't change the past, but I can learn from my mistakes. I can do look at my life now and make choices about the people in it and think about what I may or may not regret and that is what I've done. I've learned and grown and I can honestly say that I'm not nearly as stupid or as selfish as I used to be. So that's something.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Finding Positives

     As I continue to plug away at edit number ten of my first novel I find that it's once again taking much longer than I'd hoped it would take. I began in December, 2015 and had planned to have it finished by the end of March. Well, I've outlined 43 chapters and I'm currently on chapter 10. So, yeah. That didn't happen. My new goal is to finish by the end of the year, but I have no idea if that's actually going to happen.

     The problem is, I'm too hard on myself. I'm always saying, "I wish it wouldn't take so long." And I'm always asking, "Do other people take this long?" I find myself thinking back to when I first started and thinking of all the things I could've done to learn faster, like read more writing books. Part of the reason I didn't do this was because it would've gotten in the way of the actual writing. Yeah, I've since seen the flaw in that kind of thinking. And then there was that horrible period when I stopped reading fiction because I thought writers weren't allowed to read because of accidental plagiarism. Those were dark, dark days.

     So as I'm brooding (yeah, women can brood too, it's not just for attractive male leads in YA novels), thinking I'll never, ever finish and worrying that my friends and family are all thinking, "She's rewriting it AGAIN?" I've decided it's time for a reversal in thinking. The other day I suddenly realized that I've been writing seriously for six years. Six years isn't actually all that long. At first it seemed like a really long time, but when I really think about it, it isn't. I (like many new writers, I imagine) had no idea what writing a novel actually involved. I thought I could have it completely finished in about 3-4 months, published in another 3-4, the movie would be out in another couple, and then I could quit my job. Yeah, that's kind of embarrassing now. But, like every new writer, I learned the harsh reality and found myself with a choice to make. I chose to continue. (The harsh realities are for another post.)

     Instead of going, "Wow I'm never going to get done" I'm going to look at what I have accomplished in these wonderful six years of writing . My 9ish edits have come quite a long way. This new rewrite is not just me being a perfectionist. Real, necessary changes are happening, and I'm glad that I've had this epiphany. I'm very excited to get to the finished product. I have learned a lot from those 9 drafts. I now have a really polished draft and a detailed outline (I swear it really exists) to work from. I have rough drafts of two other novels that have beginnings, middles, and ends (never overlook the importance of a beginning, middle, and an end.) I have a huge collection of poetry, a few short stories, and a blog that I've kept going for nearly a year. I have a collection of rejection letters from agents, publishers, and magazines. Yes, this is an accomplishment. I put myself out there, got my feet wet, and learned about the publishing world. I know more about the industry and have learned to accept (to the extent that one can) rejection. I've also met lots of other awesome writers and improved my own critiquing skills, which helps improve writing. So, positives.

     I'm not saying I'm always going to be positive. I will always wish things could go faster. I'll probably still get down on myself from time to time. I think we all have these moments, but I'm going to try and remind myself that six years is not a very long time. Plus, now I have a nice little list of my accomplishments. So, make your own list. Think of what you've done and be proud of it. All we can do is move forward, so rather than dwell on what we haven't accomplished or what we wish we'd done differently, let's congratulate ourselves for our accomplishments!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mashed potato brain, blog block, and all the many readings

     I think maybe the rumors are true, and I do have blog block. The diagnosis can be confirmed, seeing as how I'm supposed (says I) to be writing a post 2 or 3 times a week and I'm only hitting once a week. Why I am supposed to be posting 2 or 3 times a week: well, it just seems like a good number. It keeps the blog fresh and it ensures that my handful of faithful readers don't forget about me. That would be devastating.

      It's not as though I'm not writing. I'm working on my novel most weekdays and some weekends, which is the most important things, but I really want to stick with my blog, I'm just having a hard time doing that right now. For some reason, every time I think of blogging my brain gets mushy. It feels mushy right now in fact, even as I'm writing this. I don't actually like what I'm writing and there's a good chance I'll delete it, thought I'm really going to try not to. I'm hoping to get back into the swing of blogging and get all that mush out of my brain.

     Aside from the writing, I've been doing lots of writing related activities, like reading. My reading list is huge and a lot of it is research for the books I'm writing. I'm currently reading two grammar books and a book on trauma and PTSD for my mystery novel. I recently read two war memoirs, one by a reporter, and one by a Navy Seal. Those are also for my mystery novel. I recently realized that I'm not done prepping for my vampire novel (which is ridiculous considering how long I've been working on it) so the other war books are on hold while I read more apocalypse novels. I'm currently reading The Passage, which is awesome (I'm not sure how I haven't read this sooner). It's nearly 1000 pages long, which is also awesome, except I'm worried that I won't finish it before my library checkout period runs out, and that would suck. Although, other than that fact, I'm very excited that it's so long, it gives me hope for my books, and also for the world. I'm sad that people don't read long books the way they used to. So, to summarize: I'm reading grammar books, psychology books, war memoirs, and post-apocalyptic fiction. Let's hope I don't get that stuff mixed up because that would be bad. I suppose the war books could have some relevance with the apocalypse stuff, but still, one of my stories is fantasy and the other isn't, so I need to keep things separate. And you know, I'd hate to have a vampiric semi-colon attack a soldier who's supposed to be getting treated for his PTSD and is instead finding himself dealing with the end of the world. That just won't do.

     So, those are the things I'm doing while not blogging. Actually, those are just some of the things I'm doing while not blogging, but I'm going to try to squeeze some more blogging in there. Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Dragon's Lair- a short story

Here is a short story, inspired by a table and a prompt about a dragon. 

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     The Dragon’s Lair wasn’t a fitting name for a coffee house. A tattoo parlor maybe, or a strip club, but a coffee house? It just didn’t fit, but at least it was somewhere that James could get some writing done since his apartment was now hostile territory. Lauren had seen to that.
     She’d ripped his heart out. Everything had been going fine. James had even been thinking of proposing. At least he hadn’t bought the ring yet. The icing on the cake was that they still had six months left on their lease and neither of them had the money to end it early, so they were forced to keep living together. It was hell. Even when Lauren was at work the apartment was suffocating; he could feel her presence everywhere. He couldn’t write in that environment.
     First he’d tried the library, but it was deader than a cemetery. He didn’t know how a man who loved books could hate a library, but he did. The place had a vampiric energy to it—it sucked the life out of him, and he didn’t have much life left to spare. After the library he’d tried Starbucks, but if the library was vampiric than the Starbucks was Stepford—he figured if he ordered too many coffees he might feel compelled to go out and get a nine to five job and buy a minivan.  
     If he hadn’t discovered the Dragon’s Lair he might’ve just given up on finishing his novel. He’d found it the previous day while driving around. An accident on the main road had forced him to turn into a shopping center. He’d driven around to the back, hoping to take a side road, and spotted it. James had never been anywhere like it. He’d gotten hours of writing done, and the owner—an intriguingly beautiful woman named Sari—had served as a bonus.  
     Entering The Dragon’s Lair was like stepping into—well, maybe a dragon’s lair. The walls were painted a bright red; combined with the many windows it created a strange contrast of light and dark. Even though he'd been there before, it still came as a shock to him. As he walked to the counter he glanced at the table he already thought of as his favorite, disappointed to find it occupied. It was in the corner and provided the perfect view for people-watching—James’s default activity when he hit writer’s block.
     At the counter he smiled at Sari, who gave him a broad smile in return. Sari was as fitting a name for her as The Dragon’s lair was to a coffee shop. To James, a Sari should be petite and pixie-like. This woman was anything but. She was tall for a woman, hell she was tall for a man—she was at least a couple inches taller than James’s 6’1”.
     Sari’s large, muscular body was a canvas. Though James had spent plenty of time staring at her many tattoos the previous day, he found himself doing so again. Her hands and arms were covered, as was her chest up to her collarbone. They were all dragons. There must’ve been hundreds of them: large, small, detailed, simple . . . Some were woven into the wings and bodies of other dragons. Some were drawn into the fire coming out of the mouths of others. Finding them was like a puzzle, one that James waned to solve.
     “Didn’t you get a good enough look enough yesterday?” she asked.
     He leaned over the counter and gave her his special smile—the one that had gotten Lauren into bed on their second date. “Oh no, not nearly good enough.” A wave of guilt overcame him and he stepped back. A second later he reminded himself that he was single again; he was allowed to flirt.
     “What’ll it be?” she asked.
     “Coffee. Large.”
     “Is that all?”
     “Yeah. None of that fancy shit,” he said.
     That earned him another smile just before she turned to pour the coffee. He admired her tight jeans, this time ignoring the guilt. When she turned back she set the cup down with a wink and tossed her vivid hair over her shoulder. He blinked, waiting for the afterimages to pass. Staring at her hair was like dropping acid and looking at one of those posters with the swirls of color. Not that James had ever done that—well not since he was a teenager anyway. Sari’s hair, which was a mix of red, green, and purple made him feel as though he was on LSD. It wasn’t an unwelcome feeling.
     “I think I’m going to write you into my book,” he said.
     “Is that a compliment?”
     “For you? Yes.”
     “In that case, I’m intrigued,” she said, her black eyes sparkling with interest. For a moment he was lost in their depths; he felt like he was falling. Suddenly he was afraid, though of what he didn’t know. His heart pounded and he had the urge to turn and leave when someone behind him cleared her throat.
     “Hey, are you gonna pay for that? Some of us are waiting.”
     James glanced briefly at the woman behind him. “Sorry,” he said. He turned back to Sari, feeling stupid. The moment was broken; whatever he’d been afraid of had passed.
     Sari’s dark eyes drilled a hole in him, as if she knew what he was feeling. “That’ll be $2.45, and you get a free refill.”
     He handed her the money, watching her large hands as she did. He let his imagination wander to the things she could do with those long fingers. When she handed him his change her fingers brushed his; her skin was rougher than it looked, adding a note of realism to his fantasies. Rough hands meant they got a lot of use and he liked that idea.
     He gave her a tip that was larger than necessary for simply having poured a cup of coffee.
     “Thank you,” she said.
     “Anytime.” He flashed her that smile again before walking away. His earlier annoyance returned when he saw that his table was still occupied. He gave the table thief—an older man with a gray beard—a long hard glare before sitting down across from him, where he would be well positioned to continue to stare. Maybe he could intimidate the man into moving. James continued to stare at the man until he realized his efforts were completely futile. The guy was clearly a writer, which meant he possessed an uncanny ability to shut out the entire world.
     James sighed and turned around, resigning himself to dealing with a subpar table. Pulling his laptop out, he opened up the document and set to work. He was on the second draft of his first novel. There were only a few more chapters left to go, but since the breakup it felt like someone had poured tar in his brain. That someone was Lauren.
     He sipped his coffee, pushing Lauren from his head and focusing on the fantasy world he’d created. His fingers danced across the keyboard, but not nearly as fast as he would’ve liked. They were clumsy, not deft like they used to be. Still, something was better than nothing. He sipped and typed, glancing behind him every few minutes in the hopes that his table had freed up, but it hadn’t.
     He wrote a few more paragraphs, finished his coffee, and got up for a refill. Another round of flirting with Sari perked up his mood. When he returned he found that the corner table, his table, was empty. At first he was happy until a voice in the back of his mind whispered: wrong. His stomach churned and he was suddenly lightheaded. It was wrong, that empty table. Just before he’d gotten up, it had been occupied by a man who hadn’t looked like he would be moving anytime soon. Now it was empty. James hadn’t seen the man get up. There you go again, letting your imagination run wild.
    Feeling stupid, he set his coffee cup on the corner table, gathered his laptop and backpack, and carried them over. Once he was settled his fingers flew over the keyboard, barely keeping up with the ideas that popped into his head. When he got up for his third cup of coffee he barely even paid attention to what Sari said. He drained his fourth cup just as he finished the epilogue. There was editing to be done—a lot of it—but he was finished. He felt like dancing.
     He should be tired, but he wasn’t. He might as well get started on the edits. Within minutes he was lost in his story again. It had been ages since he’d gotten so much done, and it felt good. Hell, it felt amazing. He was so lost in the world he’d created that he didn’t notice the table and chair were moving.
     “Another perfectionist. I should’ve known,” Sari said.
     “What?” he muttered. As much as James enjoyed flirting with Sari, he wasn’t in the mood anymore; he was in the zone.
     When she didn’t answer he looked up and gasped. He wasn’t in The Dragon’s Lair anymore. He was still sitting at his table—the precious table he’d wanted so badly—but the rest of the shop was gone. There was no other furniture in the room, no windows. There was nothing but red walls and gray cement floors. Sari stood in front of his table, towering above him.      
     “What the hell? Where am I?”
     Sari smiled, opening her mouth in a way she hadn’t before, revealing sharp, pointy teeth. “Welcome to my lair, James.”
     He felt like he was missing something, but he was suddenly too light-headed to think clearly. “What’s going on?”
     She took a step closer. “It’s okay. It’s only the basement, James. Your table’s an elevator.”
     “An elevator?” He couldn’t wrap his mind around it. Her image blurred in front of him. There were two of her and he struggled to focus, but his brain kept trying to think about his novel and the edits he’d been working on. Think, James!
     “I love a focused man,” Sari said, dreamily. “A war could’ve been going on outside and you wouldn’t have noticed.”
     “What did you do? What are you?” He couldn’t think straight. The walls, those horrible bright red walls were moving. No, the walls weren’t moving, but something on them was. The paint. The red paint. It was dripping, oozing, moving down.
     Sari’s smile widened, showing more of those perfectly pointed teeth. “You really haven’t figured that out yet?”
     “What kind of a sick joke is this?” It wasn’t a joke at all; she’d drugged him. That had to be it. He looked in the empty coffee cup, as if that would give him a clue. But the clue wasn’t in the cup—it was in that wild, rainbow hair. “Did you give me LSD?”
     She laughed. “Something like that. It’s my venom. It helps you focus and keeps you calm. Don’t worry, it’ll take the pain away.”
     “Pain?”
     She nodded. “Trust me. You’ll be thanking me.” She took a step back, pulled her tank top over her head, and tossed it on the floor. Okay, now he was definitely hallucinating, but wow, what a hallucination. Calm and casual as can be, she unzipped her jeans and slipped them off. “I always take them off first. Otherwise, they rip,” she said in answer to his puzzled look, though this really wasn’t an explanation at all.
     God help him, he was still attracted to her. He should be making a run for it, not that there was anywhere to run to. He didn’t see a door, and even if he did, he wouldn’t make it around Sari. She was too big. Had she gotten bigger? It seemed as though she had. She took up nearly every inch of space in the room.
     Crazy or not, she was captivating. He’d been right: she had more tattoos. Her stomach, chest, breasts, legs—pretty much every inch of her exposed skin was covered in ink. The ink depicted dragons. Dragons, he thought, understanding dawning on him
     “Venom. My god, you psycho, you think you’re a dragon,” he said with a laugh. It was a crazed laugh. It was the laugh of a man who knew he was doomed.
     “Oh, is that what I think?” She moved closer, her tail swishing behind her as she did. Wait—her tail? James tilted his head and looked and yes, she did indeed have a tail. It took up the entire length of the floor. It was covered in scales of greens, blues, and reds, all kinds of colors and if James were a dragon himself he would want to take Sari to bed. Or to the pile of gold. Did dragons do it on top of their treasure?
     He wasn’t thinking straight. That would be the LSD, which was making him see a tail, because surely this woman did not have a tail. She was not a dragon. Nor did she have scales, though that’s what her tattoos looked like: scales. Her body was covered in scales.
     Sari moved forward and reached with clawed hands for his laptop. “No!” He made to grab it, but he couldn’t move.
    “Did I mention that my venom is paralytic?” she asked. “But don’t worry, your story is safe.” With a delicacy he wouldn’t have thought possible with her huge hands (claws?) she lifted his laptop, closed it, and carried it to the far corner of the room where she gently laid it on the floor. “I can’t say the same about you,” she said, moving toward him again.
     Panicking, James shouted, “I’m not a virgin!”
     Sari laughed, a harsh sound that was like boulders falling down a mountain. Her body rumbled with it, shaking the entire room. Her hair—a wash of colors—swayed around her head. Since when did dragons have hair? As James watched her, he realized her hair continued to move and that it wasn’t hair at all—it was fire. The flames danced atop Sari’s head. The sight was magnificent. “I hate stereotypes. Not all dragons want virgins. My tastes are a little different.”
     “You have a taste for writers?”
     She nodded and came closer, shoving the table aside.
     “But I’m not any good,” he said in one last attempt to get her away from him.
     She pressed against him, on top of him now. Her large body should’ve crushed him, but it didn’t. “Yes, you are. Some dragons can smell virgins, but I can smell talent. I want yours.”
     “I don’t have any treasure. Trust me, you don’t want old that thing. It’s a relic,” he said, nodding in the direction of his laptop, though Sari’s large body—which was now entirely reptilian—was blocking it.
     “The laptop isn’t the treasure. It’s what’s on the laptop.” Sari’s voice was muffled, probably because her mouth was buried in his arm. She was right: her venom did take the pain away. Hell, it was pleasant. He almost didn’t know he was being eaten.
     “You—you’re a dragon with a taste for writers and your treasure is stories.” He leaned back and closed his eyes as she breathed a gust of fire on him—apparently she liked her meat cooked. The warmth was pleasant after the air-conditioned coffee shop.
     “Yes. You’re a talker, has anyone ever told you that? But it’s been awhile since I’ve had a chat over dinner. It’s nice,” she said, spraying bits of food as she spoke. She slurped up a mouthful of blood to wash down his flesh.
     “Good. What kind of a dragon name is Sari?” he asked, feeling sleepy.
     “It’s actually Sarikyvalixaxblskyginami. But you can keep calling me Sari, for as long you’ll be calling me anything.” She’d moved down to his stomach, and it was true that he wasn’t likely to be calling her anything for much longer.
     “Sari, this isn’t real,” he mumbled.
     “Isn’t it?” she asked.
     He didn’t know, and maybe he didn’t care. Her venom took care of the physical pain, but not the pain in his heart. That was still there. But hey, he’d finished his novel, and even better, someone wanted it. And just like he’d said, he’d written Sari into it. If only he’d been able to foresee the ending.