The Writer’s Hollow Reads: The Masked Songbird by Emmie Mears

Hello everyone! It’s been a while again (and even this post is a day late). I thought I’d do something different this week and share my space with Lovely Human Being and All Around Good Egg, Emmie Mears! If you don’t know her, you should. *stares with beady little dragon eyes until you do* So without further ado, here she is. –Dragon

 

 

Find Your Time

Sometime in high school, I realized that whatever gene was in charge of wiring my daily schedule must have been out to lunch on the critical presentation day. It’s no secret or mystery that most teens seem to revile the Morning Beast, but for me it was something else. I could barely function before 10 AM, and while I thought I’d grow out of it, I never did.

Fast forward to 2009 when I was teaching special education in DC, with the dream of writing novels for a living still fluttering inside my chest. My job was 45 minutes away, which meant I had to leave the house at about seven in the morning if I wanted to arrive on time. I frequently was at school until late afternoon, and I also had grad school classes until late some nights. Two months into the school year, I was exhausted and anxious. Christmas break went by so quickly that I was already yearning for summer – and none of it was really the job itself.

In spite of getting up so early every day, I was constantly awake until two or three in the morning. Couple that with my longstanding sleep anxiety (I get panicky when I know I am not going to get enough sleep, which makes me unable to relax and get any), and by the time April rolled around, I was lucky to get three hours a night.

A week later, I was in a bad car accident and was knocked flat on my back.

For five weeks.

Five weeks I couldn’t work and could barely move. Toward the end, I started noticing improvements. I was still up until two or three in the morning, but I was able to sleep until ten or so. I was getting a full night of sleep for the first time in what felt like decades.

That car accident, awful though it was, may have been the best thing to ever happen to me. It forced me to leave teaching, because there was no way I could go back to that kind of schedule. I needed a job where I wouldn’t be working 70-90 hours a week. I took the summer to recover, and in September I started waiting tables.

It wasn’t the most romantic notion, to be slinging beers and burgers as a college graduate, but my life improved dramatically. I was writing again. I finished another novel. I had a job I could leave at work, and I was able to get the sleep I needed.

So much of the world functions around the 9-5 schedule that I’d thought there was something wrong with me for a very long time. I’d thought that I could teach and write at the same time, but because the schedule never allowed me to take care of myself, the many little vacations and breaks we got were spent sleeping off the pent up exhaustion.

There’s no one way to be productive in your writing. Most of us who want to write have to have day jobs; the only way around that is judiciously applied lottery winnings or being independently wealthy or being the fraction of the fraction of a percent of writers who score a massive book deal right out of the gates. This means that we have to find a time that works for us to get our writing done. Some work best in the wee hours of the morning just after waking up. Others work best in the wee hours of the morning once everyone’s gone to bed. Some are afternoon writers, others write at lunch. Some scribble words in every spare minute; others need to carve out giant blocks of time.

Writing – especially as a career – is a persistence game. And it’s really hard to be persistent when your daily routine has burnt you to crispy critter status and the sound of your alarm clock triggers only negative feels and a string of expletives inside your skull.

Plenty of people will tell you to do it their way; I’m here to tell you to find your own. If my way works for you, use it. But if it doesn’t, you’re your own you…and the only you who can figure out which time of day makes your words flow.

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Blurb:
Mildly hapless Edinburgh accountant Gwenllian Maule is surviving. She’s got a boyfriend, a rescued pet bird and a flatmate to share rent. Gwen’s biggest challenges: stretching her last twenty quid until payday and not antagonizing her terrifying boss.

Then Gwen mistakenly drinks a mysterious beverage that gives her heightened senses, accelerated healing powers and astonishing strength. All of which come in handy the night she rescues her activist neighbour from a beat-down by political thugs.

Now Gwen must figure out what else the serum has done to her body, who else is interested and how her boss is involved. Finally—and most mysteriously—she must uncover how this whole debacle is connected to the looming referendum on Scottish independence.

Gwen’s hunt for answers will test her superpowers and endanger her family, her friends—even her country.

Bio:
Emmie Mears was born in Austin, Texas, where the Lone Star state promptly spat her out at the tender age of three months. After a childhood spent mostly in Alaska, Oregon, and Montana, she became a proper vagabond and spent most of her time at university devising ways to leave the country.

Except for an ill-fated space opera she attempted at age nine, most of Emmie’s childhood was spent reading books instead of writing them. Growing up she yearned to see girls in books doing awesome things, and struggled to find stories in her beloved fantasy genre that showed female heroes saving people and hunting things. Mid-way through high school, she decided the best way to see those stories was to write them herself. She now scribbles her way through the fantasy genre, most loving to pen stories about flawed characters and gritty situations lightened with the occasional quirky humor.

You can preorder THE MASKED SONGBIRD here (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JD7TWZK)! Released in a box set, you get four great paranormal and urban fantasy books for less than $4!

Follow Emmie on Twitter @EmmieMears and join her on Facebook!

Emmie now lives in her eighth US state, still yearning for a return to Scotland. She inhabits a cozy domicile outside DC with two felines who think they’re lions and tigers.

 

Emmie Mears

 
 
Author of THE MASKED SONGBIRD (Harlequin 2014)

Cautionary Tales: *insert appropriate “jumping too soon” metaphor*

It seems the Midnight Types have been stuck at 11:59 for a really long time, so hopefully this post gets the old clock wound and ticking again. It’s been a busy season of writer-related goodness, between the RT convention in New Orleans, BEA in New York, and half a dozen other exciting things in the last few months, we’ve been having trouble keeping up. It’s exciting to get back to somewhat-normal.🙂

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Yeah, I’ve been thinking about Salvador Dali a lot today. Sue me. It’s a good metaphor. Don’t look at me in that tone of voice. Shut up.

My cautionary tale for this week is something I’m still learning, nearly three years after sending out my first query letter. The scariest part of this story, at least for me, is that I was SURE I’d learned this lesson long ago. For all I know, I’ll still be learning it in another three years. Or another thirty. It’s that kind of lesson.

What chilling horror story could be so difficult to understand? Well, the very nature of horror stories gives the reader more information than the characters. That’s why they’re so terrifying to read. Surprise jump scares are scary for a split-second, but real terror builds up over pages and pages, and culminates with that awful-wonderful moment when the characters realize how deep in shit they are and how much worse their lives are about to get. THIS is the kind of intensity I’ve been hit with regarding my chosen topic. And here’s the words that strike panic into the hearts of anyone who’s ever handed their wordbaby over to an agent only to learn said wordbaby had a leaky diaper at the time. *insert Jamie Lee Curtis screaming*

During that first round of rejection, I kept writing. And I kept writing. Some agents showed interest, but asked for a rewrite. I rewrote, and resubmitted. Still, ultimate success was just out of reach. By this point, I had three novels in a series, and had rewritten the first novel twice. Well, I thought I’d rewritten it. Turns out, I sort of polished up the edges a bit, but I never understood what a real rewrite meant.

I’d always heard you should put the novel down for a while, then go back with a clear head to straighten out problems and catch plot holes, character issues, etc. I laughed at the idea of putting a novel away for an entire YEAR in order to get enough distance from it to be truly objective. I’d been waiting maybe a month between drafts, and during that time I wasn’t really distancing myself at all. I was still writing about the very same characters! It took a weird piece of advice, oddly coming to me from several different agents in the span of about a week, to go back to the beginning and write the main character’s backstory. I snort-laughed myself silly over that. Of course I can write her back story. I can write out her entire life story (pretty good for a 1900-year-old character), and it’s not even boring! She’s a warrior! She once fought Vlad Drakul! She bested the freaking Roman Empire! She’s awesome! The writing began.

It took four months of writing, researching, and rereading everything I’d written about her to realize how badly I’d treated her, writer to writee, in the first novel I wrote about her. She has this beautiful life story, and I’d reduced her to a 300 page caricature. In writing her grand history, I learned so much more about her, her abilities, her history, her personality, and what drives her to do what she does. And I learned that, dammit, I need to give her a better story.

What did I do with this revelation? I shoved everything– the entire 400k-plus words I’d ever written in that particular universe– into a box and then shoved said box under my bed.

For a year.

Does that mean I didn’t think about them? Of course not. I spent hours daydreaming new starts to her story. Days were wasted angsting about how to shuffle the major events of her life around to accommodate the story I’d already written. And I do mean wasted. Because I couldn’t rearrange her whole history to fit my already-written words. It took MONTHS to realize I had to rewrite my words to accommodate her story. It’s only fair, considering I dragged her into this world.

I’m just starting to pull everything back out again. The lengthy back story I wrote will be woven into the text. And as far as rewriting goes? Yup. Entirely rewriting. Every. Single. Word.

So now that summer is upon us, this Midnight Type will be burning midnight oil. It’s better for my scales than sitting out in the sunshine anyway.

The moral of this story is that I still might not have it right yet. I still might not be able to tell the best story for my characters yet. There might be a lot more work to do, even after essentially starting right back at the beginning again. The thing is, the only way for me to find out is to just sit down and do it. And that’s the scariest thing I’ve ever written.

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Caption Friday!!

Alright! So we’ve got a creepy cool picture for you to caption!

Remember, winner gets the opportunity to have a short story posted alongside our next caption contest!

The winner will be announced Monday, in our Writer’s Hollow post. Please leave your caption in the comments section below. C’mon guys, amaze us with your wit! 

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Inspire Me Watson! Write what you feel.

I saw a quote online last week that’s really stuck with me.

Writers don’t write from experience, though many are resistant to admit that they don’t. I want to be clear about this. If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.
American activist, writer, educator and commentator, Nikki Giovanni

I’ve been thinking a lot about that. If we all only wrote what we know, there’d be a bazillion incredibly boring autobiographies on the market, and very little else. Writing what you know is only going to get you so far. But how is it possible to write about something you DON’T know? Easy. The situations and experiences we write about might be fantastical, but human emotions and reactions are pretty much universal. We all understand joy, anger, betrayal, love, loss, longing, fear, and a thousand other feelings. The trick is writing characters and situations with that understanding in mind.

Let me explain. No, it’s too much. Let me sum up. Most people are familiar with the works of Stephen King. I’m reasonably certain that he has no first-hand experience as a pyrokinetic teenaged girl, a rabid dog, a psychotic murdering clown, or a head-injury-induced psychic. Even still, he writes all of these characters with such care that we can see them as actual, three-dimensional people rather than as faceless paper dolls. It’s not scientifically assessed and meticulously assembled facts about the characters or situations that draw us in to their worlds, but the fact that, despite strange powers or otherwise unbelievable plots, we respond to the humanity of their situations.

So that’s what I took from this quote. If you can build your stories around the sorts of things we can all identify with as human beings, readers will be drawn to even the most inhuman of characters. And as a dragon, that makes me happy.

 

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Writer’s Hollow: NaNoWriMo and Pitch Slam!

by Chynna-Blue, a.k.a. The Vamp

 

April’s NaNoWriMo has begun! If you didn’t get the memo, you’re only 7 days behind, so if you feel like taking part you can sign up here.

If you don’t want to officially take part, you could always use the premise to build up the word count of your current WIP. Give yourself a 1,000 word a day goal for every day until the end of April and voila, you’ll have a finished draft by the end of the month.

 

To make April even MORE exciting, Pitch Slam starts this month! This year the pitching process has a rockstar theme, as if we needed another reason to be excited!

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Leatrice McKinney gives an excellent rundown of the rounds participants will have to make it through, starting with auditions on the 20th April beginning at 12AM EST. I sincerely recommend you check out her post if you’re thinking of taking part.

 

If you have any interesting news you’d like to share with fellow writers, drop it in the comments. Peace!

 


Lovesick by Meghan Schuler! #BleedingHeart2014

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It’s Friday! Halle-freaking-lujah! Once again we’ve all managed to make it to the weekend in one piece. Apologies for the hiatus–as I’m sure you’ve heard, some of us here have been dealing with some serious shizz. Accept our heartfelt virtual flowers.

Last time you heard from us, OH so long ago, we brought you a short by our own Jessie Devine. Today, we give you a Bleeding Heart courtesy of the Queen of Horror.

Meghan Schuler is one kick-ass chick, and if you’re not following her on Twitter, you should be. If you love her hauntingly excellent story (which you will!) please leave a comment or hit her up online. We’ve even given you little links because we’re just that nice. Enjoy!

 Blog | Twitter

 

LOVESICK

By

Meghan Schuler

I drummed my fingers on the desk, tired of the silence, tired of waiting, my chin propped on the heel of my hand. Hed left me nearly three hours ago to speak with Father about marrying me. Id missed my first demonstration of the evening waiting for him. Henry returned, but instead of embracing me or offering me a shred of what had transpired, hed avoided me, rushing upstairs to do God knows what before returning to me. My elation that he was finally going to ask Father for my hand was now a black mass of uncertainty and sorrow in my chest, pouring over my heart like tar. He caught me watching him, his thin figure moving along the rows of jarred specimens, hands searching.

Anna, are you all right?

No,I said. Henry, why wont you talk to me? What happened?I stood from my chair, smoothing my hands over the black fabric of my dress. Black hid any stain a surgeon could come by, but I couldnt hide the blood etched around my fingernails. Henrys hands looked much the same as mine, his long, tapered fingers suited to his profession. We were a pair, he and I. My worry earned me only a peck on the cheek.

Anna, theres little to talk about.

Little? Father kept you for hours, Henry. What did he say?

He kept his back to me, his black coat stained on the right sleeve. He said he was pleased you were doing so well at your studies.

I groaned. Not about me, about us! You did ask him, didnt you?Henrys face took on a curious blank, as if we hadnt discussed this a dozen times. Didnt you?I repeated, hoping for a smirk, or a light in his eyes, anything.

Another kiss was all I was granted.

Henry, I have my reputation to uphold. I cant keep claiming to be on-call when Im with you.

His expression turned worried. You dont regret what we—“

No,I said, cupping a hand to his jaw. Absolutely not.I had no remorse for my actions, our actions. I loved Henry dearly. My floppy-haired surgeon meant the world to me, but his tendency to ignore the obvious drove me insane. Did he not see how his silence killed me?

You did speak with him, didnt you?

Instead of giving me my answer, Henry looked at his pocket watch. Youve a cardiology lecture, dont you?

I sighed, turning away from him to blink back tears. Henry, if Father denied you, just tell me. Well think of someone else. Well elope if we must.A terrible thought came to me, chilling my blood.

Oh God, Henry, he didnt find out, did he? That we…” I couldnt finish, my throat dry.

He put his hands on my shoulders and lowered his eyes to mine, reassurance in their blue haze. In the dim lighting, they appeared nearly black, like the sea during a storm.

He knows nothing, Anna. Not about us, anyway. Our secrets are safe.He kissed me then, a soft brush of his lips against mine. Sadly, weve no time for kisses. Were late.

He returned to the specimen rack and collected two jars, one empty, the other containing a bisected human heart. Id made that one the year wed met and Henry insisted we take it with us. His sentimentality melted me a bit, but my love was overshadowed by longing. I wanted his answer, Fathers answer, but it appeared I would not be getting it.

I followed him up the narrow staircase, one hand resting on my bodice. I felt ill, angry. How difficult was it to say, Yes, Anna, I can ask for your hand,or No, your Father has denied me?I followed on instinct, ignoring the blurs of black-clad figures in white masks passing us on the stair. For a moment I wished I still wore that mask, but I was no longer a mere observer in this place.

The third floor housed my cardiology hall, a small room set like a theatre in the middle of a garden. Nothing grew inside, but dirt helped absorb the blood from the cadavers. Henry set the jars on my surgical table, beside the glistening box of scalpels and blades hed given me for my birthday.

He loved me. In every touch and smile and sidelong glance, I knew. I only wished hed understand my reason for being upset. He vanished into the storage room, leaving me with the tools of our trade and a body in need of dissecting. It was funny to me that tonight should be my cardiology lecture. I picked up the jar containing half a heart, turning it over in my hands.

Nearly two years earlier, on this same day, Id managed to animate this heart for nearly ten seconds. Id rushed through the college to find Henry, then my mentor, and show him what Id done. He smiled at me and demanded I show Professor Starling, but as the only woman enrolled in the surgical school, I wouldnt be taken seriously. He refused to let me doubt myself, called me unapologetic, fearless, confident. He believed in me, and I fell for him fast, holding a beating heart in my hands while losing my own to him.

I had preserved it out of sentiment, a reminder that Id made cardiology my field by force and will.

The lights flickered in the chamber and hastily I tied my apron around my dress. I could see the onlookers filing in from the doors, a black tide against the dim light, stark white faces peering back at me. I tied my hair back, the braid doing little to keep my hair in place. Henry nodded from his position by the door. I tilted the operating table up slightly, making sure the body was secured.

This man will demonstrate to you the workings of the circulatory system. The way blood is moved through the body in a series of circuits is what maintains our body temperature, keeping the organs warm and functional,I intoned, picking up my scalpel. The blade slid through the flesh with ease, but a suture near the lower ribs caught my eye. It wasnt unusual for a body to be checked before dissection, but the cut was fresh.

I continued, pinning back the skin. To access the heart, one must break through the sternum. This requires precision and power. Once broken, the bone can be separated to expose the heart.

I did just that, the snap of bone loud in the silence. Blood ran down the sides of the mans chest and I mopped it away. The heart moved erratically, the atypical rhythm obvious.

The aorta is the major artery keeping blood flowing from the heart,I continued, trying not to broadcast my worry. Puncturing the aortic arc will lead to death in three heartbeats. With nowhere for the blood to go, the patient will bleed out.

The slightest groan sounded from the operating table. Henry moved from his position against the door, concern painting his features. I looked at my patient. His head lolled against the metal table and his once stable heartbeat sped up. Something caught my attention, and I leaned closer, eyes narrowed. Like the sutures in the flesh, the mans heart also bore an anomaly: a single row of nearly invisible stitches. I was losing control. I had to salvage this demonstration.

Increased pulse occurs in when the body is not getting the oxygen in needs. This can result to over oxygenating the blood,I stammered, trying to hide my nerves. The man opened his eyes and I stepped back, watching the fog clear and his brain register the vision of his chest torn open. The lungs expanded and the screaming began. I cursed myself for not having sutured his jaw shut, but with Henry on my mind, things had slipped away from me. I tried to still him, but he arched his back, my scalpel piercing the aortic arc. I couldnt stop my own cry as the blood covered me, staining my dress and matting my hair. I wiped as much as I could from my face, but the man was dead before I could do anything. Three heartbeats.

In three heartbeats, Henry had crossed the room to my side, a clean towel in hand. The observers filtered out. Id no doubt that if they could speak in these rooms, theyd be denouncing me. I sank into my chair, covering my face.

Henry touched my shoulder. Anna, weve all had vivisections go poorly. Its a difficult task, especially in front of an audience. No one gets it perfect all the time.

Constants and variables,I muttered, glancing back at the ruined body on the table.

Its nothing to be ashamed about,he said, kneeling beside me, a hand on my knee. You remember my first demonstration. I had to cut the lungs out of that man just to keep from screaming. He managed to get a leg free before he died. Kicked me in the jaw.

I sniffled. I remember. You were bruised for a month.

He lowered my hands and brought the cloth to my cheek, wiping away the blood. Anna, you are, without a doubt, the most beautiful woman Ive ever met. Youre brilliant, and you are good at what you do. I even love you when youre covered in blood, perhaps especially then,he said, and my heart fluttered in my chest. I know what will make you feel better.

He rose and crossed over to my newly-deceased cadaver. I watched him, his long fingers cradling the heart while his other hand severed it from the chest cavity. The blood ran over his cuffs, leaving new stains Id never be able to wash out. He presented the heart to me, a smile on his lips.

I shook my head, feeling a trickle of sticky wetness slide down my ear. Henry, Im not much in the mood for further dissection.

Its not for science, its for fun,he said, handing me the blade. He looked so pleased, I couldnt turn him down. He knelt beside me again as I cut into the tissue, the usually smooth incision proving vastly more difficult. I tore it open, venting my frustration, anger, and worry in one mad slice. A tiny black box filled the crimson chambers of the left ventricle. I pulled it from the muscle, dimly connecting the oddity with the stitches on my patient. Henry tilted his head, and at his command I opened the box.

A silver ring sat on the black cushion, filigree running the edges to accent the diamond set in the center. I pressed the back of my hand to my lips, not caring I was still bloodied. Henry drew my hand away and held it, taking the ring from me as well. The mishap with the demonstration vanished as the grin spread across my face.

How?was all I could manage.

Henry grinned fit to spite the devil. Of course your father approved. He tried to throw us together the first time I called on you,he answered. I rushed back to prep the body. He wasnt going to last long in either case. I can only give you my heart metaphorically, but I can find a spare one or two in effigy.

I wrapped my arms around his neck, holding him tight before splaying my fingers across his cheeks and kissing him.

I hadnt meant to upset you, Anna. I wanted it to be a surprise.

I reached for the cloth to clear my finger marks from his face, but he caught my hand again, sliding the ring onto my finger.

Well?

Well what?I teased. Hed tormented me all evening, and Id be damned if he didnt say it, even if he already knew my answer.

He blushed, looking away for moment, his handsome face made more darling by the blood on his cheek. I bit my lip, fighting the urge to bite his.

Annabelle Victoria McKittrick, will you marry me?


 

*Amazing, no?*

If you think this was as good as we do, don’t forget to show Meghan some love by leaving a comment or hitting her up on social media. 

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The Most Romantic Evening of My Life by Christian Rogue #BleedingHeart2014

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Hey girls and boys!

I trust you are all well…

So, today on the blog it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Christian Rogue, awesome author of our latest Bleeding Heart story, The Most Romantic Evening of My Life. You know the drill, if you enjoy Christian’s story as much as we did, don’t forget to let her know in the comments below. And of course enter our awesome giveaway to win free books. 

And now, without further ado, take it away Christian

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The Most Romantic Evening of My Life

by

Christian Rogue.

Zane: Ready for the most romantic evening of your life?

I hit the hold button on my phone. Yeah, right. I know what that means. Some cheap Italian restaurant that he says has character. I’m sure he’s googled it, and it gave him three stars and a groupon. Classic, Zane. 

Me: On my way out the door.

I adjust my black beanie and make sure my lipstick isn’t on my teeth. There’s skull earrings and a streak of red in my dark hair. It’s Valentine’s Day after all, might as well go out in style. 

Outside, it’s raining buckets. It’s the kind of weather that makes me wish I could wear more sensible rain boots, but my leather ones seem more appropriate for date night.

 Zane’s beater car is ghastly. If it were a dog, someone would have rescued it from a shelter because it only had two legs and a missing eye. I slide in, and he’s talking on his phone.

“Right, I have a reservation in five minutes. We’re going to be late-“ he says and let’s out a sigh. “Oh hey, Saph-“ He leans over and gives me a quick peck on the cheek. “Yeah…” He backs out of the steep driveway. Another car honks and just barely misses the bumper.

Zane flips him off, which the guy can’t see because the back window is fogged up, and he’s already gone.

 “-Jerk.”

 Buzz. Tylie (aka best friend): How’s the date?

 Me: Words can’t describe this hell.

 “Great!” Zane says, pulls the phone back and hangs up. The car is in the street and ready to go. “Hold on a second. I have to call somebody.” He turns the wheel and drives, dialing and swerving as he goes.

Instead of phone tag, we play people tag instead. I continue texting Tylie to keep from going insane. Giving her the play by play until she tells me that’s she’s watching Game of Thrones and can’t be disturbed. Someone is dying, and she’s absolutely horror stricken.

 By then, we’re at the restaurant.

 “Sorry, about that, babe,” he says. “Now are you ready for the most romantic evening of your life?”

 “Does it come in Vegan?” I ask him.

 “Yup,” he says with a smile that insists that I forgive him this instant. “Made sure.” He wiggles his phone at me.

 “Picture, so we won’t forget,” I say. It seems proper to memorialize this moment forever. We lean in and the camera flashes. He looks slightly perplexed, and I look pissed. Dorky Zane and shady Saph, the usual.

 Inside, it’s cozy like a rom-com and makes me want to puke. There are wooden tables with lacy tablecloths and red doilies. I didn’t think those things existed outside  Amish country. Beyond that is an open kitchen where a fat chef makes food.

 It’s warm inside, so I take off my jacket, and cross my arms. My hand grazes the skull tattoo with a red flower.

 A host stops us at the door.

 “Reservation?”

 “Zane Wright.”

 “Yes, right here. Come with me,” he says and leads us to a table. Zane orders the wine as I check out the menu. There’s a vegan section as promised.

 The clunk of a hammer pulverizes meat in the back. Vomit tickles my throat. The chef’s hammering is hard and methodic.

 Everyone else in the restaurant is lost in small talk. Their heads are close together. The buzz of a few drinks make the distraction of a man with red-rimmed eyes pounding juicy meat meaningless.

 “Zane…”

 “Yeah, babe?” He snacks on a bread stick and plays on his phone.

 “This place doesn’t seem funny to you, does it?”

 “Character, Saph. You know, I bet he’s the best cook in town. Some jerk probably wrote a bad review, because they didn’t like the way he dressed or isn’t a…”

 “A what?” I raise my eyebrow and kick him in the knee. He grins. “He doesn’t seem funny to you, at all?”

 “Like how?”

 A man coughs in the back.

 “Here are your drinks,” says our new waiter. “What can I get for you today?”

 Zane orders one of the brick oven pizzas, and I order the vegan pasta. The waiter leaves us.

 “We’re running behind in the kitchen…maybe an appetizer?” offers another waiter after a few minutes. Zane is checking the scores for some stupid game on his phone.

 The baked raviolis aren’t vegan, so I’m not eating them. He digs in and enjoys them as the guy in the back starts coughing worse. It sounds like his guts are coming up.

 “Are you sure you should eat that, Zane?”

 Someone else starts coughing too. Then, there’s the repeated sound of the mallet smacking the meat. I feel a migraine coming on as I touch my head.

 “It’s fine. Seriously, I’m so hungry,” he says still stuffing his face. It’s eerily lit by the candle and his phone.

 “Do you think it’s dead yet?” I demand. He looks up, sniffs, coughs and clears his throat. At first, he doesn’t even know what I’m talking about. Then, he hears it over the coughing. The sound of the hammer hitting flesh.

 “Whatever, it smells…appetizing.”

 “You’re so sick sometimes,” I mutter. He smiles that smile again, but it’s different, sexier and hungrier. “When are you going to pay attention to me?”

 He slides out of his bench into mine, and I know that I’ve got him. I grab his phone while he’s left it unattended.

 “Hey!” he says. “Give that back!”

 “You like it…” I say and text naughty things on his Facebook. He wrangles it from me. Then, he bends toward my cheek and steals another kiss.

 “Ow! You bit me!”

 We look up and standing about ten feet from us, is a man in a white shirt with copious amounts of blood soaking through it. He holds his ear, and his fingers are covered and can’t contain the dark red flow.

 “Are you okay?” Zane asks.

 A moan escapes from the bench where the guy came from. It’s not an I’m hurt moan. It’s more animalistic and strange.

 The chef still beats at the meat as if nothing has happened, and there’s not some guy bleeding in the middle of his restaurant.

 “Can we help you, sir?” the waiter asks. “Someone call…”

 A woman across the room screams. Each shriek is staccato and laced with panic. The woman in the bench with the bleeding man leaps out onto him. She knocks him over and bites into his face. Her lips and teeth drip red as she chows down on the jagged hole of her lover’s face. It’s a make-out session straight out of hell.

 I climb onto of the table. My heart is in my throat as she begins digging into his stomach, pulling out guts and jamming them into her mouth like a hungry kid over pasta. I gag and cover my mouth.

 “No, no! No!”

 “Saph! Saph!” Zane says. “We have to-“ He coughs and not a little cough either. He doubles over. I realize that I can’t hear the meat being beaten anymore. The screaming is too loud. I swallow as panic threatens to overwhelm me in the chaos.

 When Zane looks up at me again, I realize I’m not going to get the attention I want tonight. His eyes are red-rimmed and hungry.

 I hear another moan, another scream, and the ripping of flesh.

 I’m standing on the table with a rabbit scared waiter staring back at me.

 Then, I look at the door. Zane slides closer. I feel his breath on my calf under my fishnet stockings.

 “Babe…I’m hungry…” he says. His lips tremble. His tongue touches his lips and inhales. “I’m really hungry.”

 “Stay away from me, Zane.” I glance at the door, but someone’s eating the host now. Then, I look toward the kitchen. I see the fat chef, pounding away at the meat. There’s a row of butcher’s knives behind him.

 Yoga, don’t fail me now. Zane reaches up. His hand grazes my calf.

 I leap to the top of the first bench. There’s a shaky moment before I find my equilibrium. The girl looks up from her feast. She has a dark face covered in blood from her chin to her breasts. She smiles at me. She’s ready for more.

 She crawls over her man with a strange boneless grace. My foot plants right in the middle of their pizza, and I leap to the next bench top. Then, I jump to the counter.  Plates scatter and break. Heads rise and turn in unison to look over the booths.

 The screaming has died down. I leap from the counter and charge to the back wall, grabbing two of the butcher knives in each hand.

 “Aren’t you hungry?” the chef asks, scratching his thick belly under the stained, white apron. “Not hungry for my food?”

 I tighten my grip on the butcher knife.

 “Stay back!” I say. His fat fingers squirm.

 “I’m hungry for you, Saph,” Zane says. “Only for you.” I look up. He and the woman are on the counter, crouching like animals. Both of their eyes are laced with thick red veins. The girl decides she’s hungrier and dives at me.

 I throw the cleaver, and it clunks right into her chest. She looks at it, eyebrows rising. She staggers back into the counter from the force and slides down as she coughs up more blood. It dribbles thick down her chin.

 “I’m leaving now. You guys…just stay put,” I say, brandishing the cleaver. The fat chef grabs a poker from his oven. He goes to ram it through me, but I duck and slam the handle of the cleaver into his knee. He staggers.

 I grab a knife from his counter. The metal slides across the granite counter top, and I close my eyes when I stab him in the belly. My trembling hand sinks to the hilt of the knife, pressing against him. I stagger away. My back presses against the counter.

 He brings one foot under him, flesh jiggling, and he grabs the knife. Blood soaks through the apron. Then, he pushes himself up with a grimace.  He slaps me across the face with his meaty hand, and I fall.

 Zane dives on him from behind, biting into his fat neck. Blood spurts out, and they’re both covered in it. Zane keeps digging, until I’m sure he’s reached the spinal chord. The fat chef slides to his knees, eyes rolling up into the back of his head, and convulsing.

 Zane has flipped from distracted boyfriend to Dexter in seconds. I slam myself into a corner, get myself on my feet, and look around for another weapon. I go for a pot lid. It’s closest.

 Shield, axe, demon boyfriend. Right. I’m Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.

 The chef collapses on the ground, and Zane stands up with a satisfied smile on his face. He looks like a vampire, blood on his cheeks and neck, but he’s no vampire. He’s hungry for meat.

 “Not hungry?” I ask him, hopefully.

 “Only for you, babe. Only for you,” he says with a twitchy shrug and grins at me.

 All’s forgiven, right? Especially when a fast-acting bacterial infection makes you hungry for human flesh. Right, babe?

 He charges. “I want you!” I slam the lid into him. He hits me at full force. My elbow bumps the counter, goes numb, and I drop it. He backs away, eyebrows invisible under his soft brown hair. The cleaver is embedded in his chest. Blood gushes from his body and splatters on the white, greasy linoleum tiles.

 “Oh! Sorry, Zane!” I tell him. “It was an accident!” He looks at me, and then, at the cleaver. He slides down to his knees. This will be a first, breaking up with a guy via meat cleaver. It’s the most romantic evening of my life.

***AWESOME! We LOVE! Thanks, Christian!!***

About the author…

Christian Rogue currently lives and works in Spain, but her roots are firmly planted in Missouri. An adventurer at heart she’s learning languages and helping people abroad. In the meantime, she enjoys reading and writing anything YA, science fiction, or fantasy. When she’s not writing or working you can find her doing high kicks and sparring at the local dojo.

Her current manuscript is Beastia, a dark contemporary retelling of Beauty and the Beast. She enjoys nothing more than challenging the system and turning any and all stereotypes upside down.


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