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A Better Introduction

So I had the first character bible post all written up and ready to go when I realized it was going to be absolutely pointless without some sort of foundation for the story.  What’s the point of knowing about all these characters if you don’t even know where they are or why?  With that in mind, here is a better introduction to the story.

Once upon a time there was a barely habitable planet that the space government decided to use as a prison.  This planet was so cold, it was basically only possible to support life near the equator.  The space government called this prison planet Burg.

Burg

This wouldn’t be just any prison though.  It would be a rehabilitation center for citizens who had turned to committing some “lesser” crimes, such as theft or tax evasion.  Instead of cells, the prisoners were placed in houses.   Every day, they were allowed to go outside for supervised outdoors time. They were allowed to interact with their fellow prisoners, so long as said interactions were friendly and peaceful.

Housing 1

Instead of cell blocks, they had sectors.  The sectors were divided up based on species, so that record keeping for each planet that made use of the prison would be neat and easy.  There were nine planets in total that used this particular prison system.  They were spread out over four solar systems.  The nine alien species found on Burg were (and still are):

Goliaths – Giant, heavy people with stone skin.

Samaki – Amphibious race from a mostly water-covered planet.  Can survive on land for short periods of time.  Have gills.  (Their sector has specially designed houses that are like sad Sea World aquariums.

Creech – Humanoid race with feathers for hair and giant bird wings that they can use to fly.

Bortol – Vaguely canine species with animal snouts that make speech impossible.  Fortunately this species has the ability to communicate telepathically.  Highly developed sense of smell and hearing.

Rizzarian – Lizard-like species with tough scales that coat the body, and hair-like tentacles that grow from the top of their heads.

Delliakite – Somewhat feline species with pure black skin, spindly legs, and knees that bend backwards.  Giant, lidless eyes and small noses and mouths.  Large, semi-feline ears.  Can teleport short distances.

Lepthian – Shape-shifting, amorphous, see-through species.  Can heal minor wounds almost instantly due to fluid bodies.

Human – They look and act like humans from Earth, so they’re called human.  But honestly I’m not trying to imply that Earth exists in this universe.  It’s just there’s already a word for human, so why muddle the issue?

Aodik – Compact, humanoid species with dark hair and purplish skin.  Because they are shorter and not very strong, they often develop technology to do their work for them.

Sectors

Instead of prison guards, the prisoners answered to Enforcers, who kept the peace by patrolling the streets and keeping an eye on things from their encampments between sectors.

Enforcer

Instead of a warden, Burg had an Overseer.  It was this person’s job to keep the Enforcers in line, give out orders, head up certain committees and hearings, and interact with the government outside Burg.  The Overseer’s word was always final in any matter.  But don’t worry, the power definitely didn’t go to any of the Overseers heads.

Overseer

Note: I haven’t decided what species I want to make the Overseer yet, so for now he’s just Evil Space Elvis.

Mandatory re-education programs were conducted on a daily basis in each sector, to help show the prisoners the error of their ways.  Once prisoners had served out their sentence, they were evaluated by a committee and (usually) sent back to their home world to rejoin society.

A second infraction got them sent back to Burg for a slightly more permanent stay.  Unless they moved up from minor to major crime, in which case they went through the more traditional prison systems on their own planets.

Burg’s system worked out well.  Until one day, a war started.  Like they do.  Men and women from the military came to Burg and offered prisoners a chance to wipe the slate clean if they simply fought for their government.

Space Army.jpg

Many prisoners chose to fight.  Others chose to stay.

Years passed, and the war was lost, giving way to a new regime.  Shortly after that, all communications and travel to and from Burg were cut off.

More time passed.  Burg ceased to be a prison or a rehabilitation center or whatever you want to call it.  The new government had no idea it existed, and had no use for an old rehabilitation planet anyway.  Enforcers and prisoners alike were suddenly stuck on this world, with no way of escaping or communicating with their loved ones at home.  Yet, rather than band together, the old dynamic was ruthlessly, well… enforced.

Hundreds of years went by, and Burg became something new.  The prisoners started families.  The Overseer and Enforcers created a government of their own.  Soon only the ancestors of the prisoners, the original Overseer, and the Enforcers remained on the planet.  Yet the descendants of the prisoners were still treated like criminals, despite having committed no crimes.

Resistance groups cropped up within the sectors, attempting to take back their liberty from the unnecessarily cruel Enforcers and Overseer.

None have yet succeeded…

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Lyrics Part 2

I honestly did not think I was going to grade any more lyrics, but then I remembered the song “Story of My Life,” by One Direction.  So yeah, I had to do it.  This time I did it in image format so it’ll be easier to see.  But my handwriting is just as awful as ever.  Enjoy!

OneDirection1

OneDirection2

OneDirection3

OneDirection4

So that’s that.  I think I’m done grading lyrics now.  The joke’s probably already old.  But I got that off my chest.  Also as a gift to my friend, Micah, I made a new elemental chinchilla.  Because Micah has been helping me out with a project I’m desperate to get right, and he deserves a fire chinchilla if he wants a fire chinchilla.  Here it is.  (see the last post if you’re confused)

Fire Chinchilla

If you’re wondering what this post has to do with writing, then keep wondering!

Sorry, that was rude.  I’m working on a thing (mentioned above) but I don’t want to share anything right now.  I’ll write about writing again soon.  Maybe there will be another chinchilla to go with it for some reason.

 

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Title That Indicates I’m Going to be Talking About Romance Novels Again

I’ve been doing some research into romance novels.  This research has stemmed from a renewed attempt to figure out the genre, and how I can produce a work that fits the parameters of same.  In the interest of said research, I read one and a half new romance novels, bringing my total romance novel consumption to about twenty and a half, probably.  Maybe more.  I never stopped to count how many Sherrilyn Kenyon novels I’d read, because I wanted to maintain whatever shred of self respect I had left.

Anyway, at this point I believe I’ve come to some conclusions about a typical romance novel.  “Typical” in this case means “a straight man and a straight woman fall in love despite some obstacle or another.  And there are probably werewolves involved.”  I made notes in my phone.  Before we continue I am issuing a warning that there will be no graphic imagery but there will be sexual content in the writing that follows.  If the idea of this upsets you, stop reading.  I will forgive you!

Okay, here are the notes:

1. Each character must act like they’ve never before seen a member of the opposite sex that they were attracted to.

Match Made in Heaven

2. There must be a constant inner monologue from both characters’ perspectives about how attractive they find each other.  Remember to really beat that into the reader’s head.  In the case of my novel, Demon Heart, I diverged from this because I only narrated the book from the woman’s perspective.  Also, in the case of the long inner monologues, I wonder what one person is doing while the other is weighing out all the pros and cons of having sex with them.  All I can think of is a scenario that goes something like this:

Offer-of-Sex

3. Women must be saved from their emotions.

4. Men must curse their emotions (in that said emotions lead to relationships, which men either fear or believe they don’t deserve due to their dark and brooding past).

5. (This is exactly how I typed it into my phone last night) A man waiting for consent before doing a sex is super gentlemanly and attractive.  If he both asks for consent and is ridiculously hot, then it is ok to have sex with him within 24 hours of meeting him.  A lasting, loving relationship is sure to ensue.

Note on #5: I have read two novels so far that treat consent like a novel concept.  The first did it horribly wrong, where the male lead – the love interest! – was undeniably assaulting the female lead, but she decided it was okay because, hey, at least he’s hot and deep down inside she really did want this, didn’t she?  I was appalled.  The second got a pass because the female lead had been raised in an emotionally abusive environment with people who constantly belittled her, so she was truly learning that consent was a thing she could expect and ask for.  Still I mean… let’s just get past this, okay?  I think it’d be a great help if romance novels just took consent as a given, and didn’t tout it as some sort of proof of the man’s character.  “He didn’t rape me, so he must be a gentleman!” just doesn’t work.

6. Men are always upset (at least once per book) by the unfortunate combination of their stiff and/or tight jeans and their erections.  It’s super uncomfortable for them, and the reader definitely needs to know that.  It is crucial to the plot.  The sexy, sexy plot.

Manhood

7. No butt stuff.  Butt stuff is neither romantic nor a symbol of twue wuv.  Only oral and vaginal sex are loving forms of sexual expression.  Reading the previous statements may very well have made you uncomfortable, and therein lies the root of the problem.  Sex with a stigma attached to it is not sexy.  Therefore it is not mentioned, hinted at, or overtly used in any way.

8. Every eleven words, at least one character thinks about how much they want to have sex/pictures the love interest naked/is actively having sex with that love interest.

9. A real man knows it’s his duty to bring a woman to orgasm before he has his own climax.  That’s just common courtesy.  Conversely, the woman does not owe the man pleasure.  His orgasm is not brought on by her actions, but is rather his reward for seeing to her needs first.  And because she’s hot.  He gets to orgasm because she is very attractive, as his inner monologue should have pointed out several times already.

So there you have it.  The results of my study.  If you were thinking about writing a steamy romance of your own, now’s your chance.  You have a handy little guide right here.

And speaking of steamy romances, I have moved my novel Demon Heart to two other platforms.  You can still buy it on Gumroad for $1.00 if you want.  Go to this link and type in coupon code writeright.  OR, if purchasing a Word document isn’t your thing, you can buy it on Kindle for $2.00.  Or you can pay full price for an actual book to be shipped to you from Amazon, complete with front and back covers.  I actually wanted to charge $2.00 for the book as well, but Amazon had a minimum dollar amount I had to charge so they could make sure they made money.  So sorry about that.  But the Kindle and Gumroad options are still there.

I also have an Etsy shop where I do artwork.  You can check that out.  And I’ll be writing soon about my second rewrite of Grotesque!  Ta!

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Filed under art, books, Humor, writing

Dusting off the Cobwebs

Hello again.

It’s been months since my last entry, hasn’t it?  I checked and my last thing was that flowchart in April.  Jeez.  Where have I been?  What have I been doing?  Surely whatever was keeping me occupied was important, otherwise I would have been updating this blog regularly.

Easy Chair

Uhhh…

I wrote an 80,000 word romance novel in three weeks and submitted it to Harlequin?

They haven’t written back.  I don’t think they’re gonna.  But the status on their website still says “In Progress” whatever that means.  I didn’t really have high hopes for it.  It was just a side project that was fun to write.  If Harlequin rejects it I’m just gonna publish it on Gumroad for $2 a pop and forget about it for the rest of my life.

Let’s see, what else?

A serendipitous event led me to meeting a woman by the name of Evelyn Gabai.  You probably haven’t heard of her, but I guarantee you’ve heard of some of the cartoon shows she’s worked on.  I was talking to her on the phone about a completely different project when I happened to mention Grotesque. I said something like, “It’s based on this really old show I used to watch called Gargoyles” and her reply was something along the lines of, “Oh, how funny!  I was part of the team that developed that show for Disney.”

At this point Bex transformed into the spazziest fangirl who ever existed.  I full out thirteen-year-old-girl-seeing-Rob-Pattisoned this woman.  After a lot of stuttering and squeaking, I asked if I could write about her on my blog.  She agreed, bless her, so now I get to tell the whole world (or the ten people who read this) that I met someone who worked on the show that inspired Grotesque!  It was absolutely amazing, and she is a fantastic person.  So knowledgeable about the animation business and the process of story writing.  I learned so much from her and it was such a stroke of good luck that I met her.

Naturally I sent her Grotesque so she could read it.  It’s still not polished or edited yet, but I’m sure she’ll get the idea.  And hopefully she’ll be able to confirm that Disney won’t sue me for any similarities they might notice.  Which I have to admit are very few and far between.  Disney doesn’t have a monopoly on inanimate objects coming to life or things turning to stone, though perhaps they’d like to.

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been working on lots of little side projects, but haven’t been doing anything that merits sharing at the moment.  However, because I’m a generous soul, you can read the first chapter of my super steamy romance novel, Demon Heart, right now!  And before you start laughing at me and my cheesy book, remember: It’s a romance novel.  It’s supposed to come with an extra side of cheese.

Enjoy!

One

“I’m not looking for anything in particular. Just maybe a copper chain with turquoise stones? On the shorter side, but not a choker. Nothing too flashy. I need it for a wedding.”

Naomi nodded along with what the young woman was saying, trying to maintain her smile.

“Maybe something from my newest collection?” she offered, steering the young blonde over to a display by the register. “I use a lot of different stones and metals in these necklaces, and they’re very delicate. Not overbearing or flashy at all.”

The girl looked them over, taking her time to try on each one as she inspected herself in the mirror from all sides. Naomi glanced at the clock. She had just opened up shop, so Farrah wouldn’t be arriving to start her shift for another hour.

“Which do you like better?” the young customer asked, drawing Naomi’s attention once more.

She held up two necklaces that were nearly identical except for the number of stones. Naomi never made exact duplicates, but this style of necklace had been selling well so she’d been sure to make a set of similar ones. It seemed her instincts had been right.

“Hmm…” she mused, pretending to mull over the decision. “The one on the right has more potential, I think.”

That sounded like something Farrah would say. Naomi couldn’t believe that a teenager who was approximately seven years younger than her would have taught her so much about sales.

“How much?” the girl asked, looking at the tiny white tag. “Forty-five? Oh, I don’t know…”

“There are some earrings over on the other display here that I can give you for half price if you buy them with the necklace.”

“Oh! Let me see.”

It didn’t take long for the girl to select a pair – chandelier, brass and turquoise, two and a half inches long – and take the jewelry to the register.

Finally, something Naomi was good at. She happily rung the girl up and made sure to wrap her purchases in tissue paper so they wouldn’t be damaged.

“Enjoy the wedding!” she said, trying for cheeriness but coming off a little too manic.

“As if,” the girl said. “This is the third one.”

She left without offering any further details, and Naomi breathed a sigh of relief. Just forty-seven more minutes until Farrah arrived.

With no other customers in the shop, Naomi returned to doing inventory, which the early shopper had interrupted. She settled back into her usual rhythm, embracing the cold comfort of numbers and percentages while the shop’s ambient music wafted around her.

She didn’t look up from what she was doing until the shop bell trilled again.

“Welcome to Sarla’s,” she said without looking up.

“It’s just me,” Farrah said.

Naomi glanced up at her, shocked. “Is it ten already?”

“Yeah. You been crunching the numbers again?”

“Oh…yeah. It’s that time of the month. I mean…not…not that time of the month.”

Farrah laughed as she hung her coat on the rack by the door.

“I love you. You are so crazy.”

“That’s me,” Naomi mumbled.

The younger girl pulled her wavy chestnut hair into a ponytail. Even pulled back, her hair hung well past her shoulders. Naomi envied the girl. Her brown hair was rich and thick. She also had the ability to tan in sunlight, rather than burning. And her hazel eyes changed color in certain lighting.

Meanwhile, Naomi had to deal with deathly pale skin and stick straight red hair. Her eyes were a boring shade of brown, too. Nothing spectacular there. At least she had a slender nose and nice lips, in her own opinion, but Farrah’s overall look was much more enticing.

“I thought Sarla had the morning shift today,” Farrah said conversationally.

“She called me last night. Her son has the flu and she doesn’t want to leave him alone.”

“Oh, wow. So are you working a double?”

“Yep.”

“Jeez. On a Friday, too.”

“It’s alright. I would’ve been closing tonight either way. It’s not like I had plans.”

“Maybe you should start making some plans.”

“My social life is none of your concern.”

Farrah pressed her lips together and nodded. Naomi felt her stomach clench with guilt. She hadn’t meant to snap at the girl. If it weren’t for her, Naomi and Sarla wouldn’t have been able to keep the shop running.

Farrah had come in to browse a couple weeks after Naomi and Sarla had opened the shop. They hadn’t been looking to hire help at the time, but Farrah managed to sell one of Sarla’s handmade gowns and a matching bracelet – made by Naomi – to a fellow customer. After conferring in the back room, the two women had decided to offer the girl a job. She had readily accepted, and they had worked with her to create a schedule that wouldn’t interfere with Farrah’s classes.

That had been a little over a year ago.

The shop’s success had floored Naomi. She couldn’t believe that only a few years ago she was renting a kiosk in the mall, peddling her homemade jewelry to random passers-by.

She had thought Sarla was just another customer, there to browse but not buy. But Sarla had something else in mind.

“You do well here?” she asked, her words lilting from her Indian accent.

“I make enough to get by,” Naomi said carefully.

“You could do better. You make all this yourself, yes?”

“Uh-huh. I converted one of the bedrooms in my apartment into a workshop.”

“I do the same. With clothes. I’ve been thinking of opening a boutique, but that is too much for one woman to handle, don’t you think? Have you ever considered opening a shop?”

“Uh…uh no,” was Naomi’s flabbergasted reply.

“When do you get off?” Sarla had asked. “Let me buy you dinner and we can talk. But first I will buy these bangles. They are lovely.”

Sarla purchased the bracelets and handed Naomi her card, all business.

“Call me when you are done with work. We will talk.”

Naomi had watched the woman flounce away, her new bangles clinking along with her steps. The business card was clutched between her thumb and index finger. She almost crumpled it up and threw it away, but she didn’t.

Later that night, she called Sarla and agreed to meet her for dinner.

In no time at all, they had opened a shop in a strip mall that got a lot of foot traffic. They named it Sarla’s. Naomi’s suggestion. It was all Sarla’s doing that she was even in this position, and she was so grateful. She was able to return the favor by starting a Facebook and Twitter account for the shop, which happened to generate a lot of business. Especially since every one of Sarla’s female family members had liked and shared the Facebook page.

Sarla, unlike Naomi, had a very large and welcoming family.

Naomi had her dad. And he lived in another state.

“How long are you staying today, Farrah?” Naomi asked.

“‘Til three. I have class at four.”

“Okay, that’s good. That means you can watch things while I grab some lunch later.”

“Aren’t you the one who makes up the schedule?” Farrah asked, teasing.

“Your schedule changes every semester. Don’t ask me to memorize it.”

“But you do, don’t you? In a week or two, you’ll know which classes I have better than I do.”

“I just pick up on things.”

“Right.”

Naomi was saved from further conversation by the arrival of a string of customers, which kept Farrah occupied for the next couple hours. She took a break from budget reports and inventory to man the register when it was necessary, but for the most part she sat at her desk and got work done. It was a very productive morning.

Around one in the afternoon, when there was a lull in the rush, she told Farrah she was going to run out to get some lunch. Farrah suggested picking up something to eat for dinner later as well, but Naomi just shrugged. They closed at eight, so she’d pick up a late dinner after locking up.

There was a Panera that was located in the center of the strip mall. It was probably going to be busy from the lunch rush, but Farrah said she was fine if Naomi needed to take a little extra time. It would be her only break in the day, after all.

The line wasn’t too long, thankfully. There were a couple people in front of her, giving her plenty of time to decide what she wanted to get. She had to lean to one side in order to see the menu around the tall guy standing in front of her, but that was a minor inconvenience.

When it was the tall guy’s turn to order, Naomi was close enough to hear that his voice was very deep. It was almost melodic. She wondered if his face was as attractive as his voice, but there was no subtle way to sneak a peek.

Then he was done and moving out of the way. She pushed the thought of his possibly handsome face from her mind. No time for relationships anyway when one is running a business.

She placed her order with the teenager at the register, accepted her receipt, and went to wait off to the side for her food.

While she waited, she pulled out her phone to make sure Farrah hadn’t called. She had a text from Sarla asking if all was well and thanking her again for taking the extra shift, but that was it.

“Those earrings are awesome.”

Naomi jumped and looked up from her phone right into the twinkling gaze of the sexy-voiced man who had preceded her in line. No need for a subtle peek at his features after all.

His skin was a shade darker than tan, and his hair was jet black. It was styled with a little gel so that it spiked upward, but it was cut short enough that it didn’t look too obnoxious. His biceps bulged under his tight blue shirt, and his eyes were a tantalizing shade of green. He was smiling at her, his lips accented by a faint scar.

She had been silent for too long.

“Thank you,” she said. “I made them.”

“I thought you might have. You look like the creative type.”

“And what does that type look like?”

He shrugged. “Unique jewelry. Quiet. Observant. It was pretty much the earrings that tipped me off.”

“Oh. Well…hm.”

She didn’t really have anything else to say. The guy seemed to fill up the room. He was ridiculously handsome, and she kept noticing more scars on his exposed skin. There was also the hint of a tattoo beneath his sleeve. Barbed wire perhaps? And a piece of unique jewelry around his neck.

“Yours, too,” she said, suddenly.

“Mine, too, what?” he asked.

“Sorry. Your necklace. Your necklace is also…um…cool.”

He had a single charm hanging around his neck by a black leather cord. It also looked handmade. Lots of looping metal. It almost looked like a Celtic knot, but something about it was different. It was unlike anything she’d seen before. And it had the added bonus of giving her an excuse to stare at his perfectly sculpted chest.

“Thank you,” he said, smiling like they were sharing a joke.

His buzzer went off then and when he left to grab his food she thought that would be the end of it. But then he returned to her.

“You sell that jewelry anywhere?”

“Oh! Y-yes.”

Naomi bit her lip, not sure if she should divulge the location of her shop. This guy was intimidating, and he seemed way too interested. She knew nothing about him. He could be a rapist or a thief. She doubted he had gotten all those scars from a weekly sewing circle.

He raised his eyebrows, waiting for her to continue. She couldn’t think of a way to avoid telling him that wouldn’t be completely rude.

“Is it an online store or something?” he prompted.

“Ah. No. I’m still working on the website. It’s…uh…it’s actually a shop called Sarla’s. It’s four stores down from here.”

“Oh, cool. I’ve seen that place. Any reason you didn’t want to tell me about it?”

She opened her mouth to respond then closed it again. What could she say? She wished Farrah were here. She could distract him while Naomi ran.

Thankfully her buzzer chose that moment to go off, saving her from responding.

“I have to go,” she said quickly.

She rushed to the counter, snatched her food, and dashed out the door.

When she returned to Sarla’s, she was panting. The few customers in the store eyed her curiously for a moment before returning to their shopping.

“You okay?” Farrah asked as Naomi made her way to the back. “You look like you’re going to be sick.”

“I’m fine,” Naomi said quickly. “Just hungry. You doing alright here?”

“Absolutely one hundred percent alright. Go eat.”

Naomi slumped into her desk chair and took a second to breathe. Something about that guy had rattled her. She wasn’t usually a genius when it came to social interactions, but that one had been especially tough.

Pushing the image of his knowing smile from her mind, she began eating her lunch. She found time between bites to text Sarla back and let her know that everything was going fine.

When she finished eating, she pulled up her webpage designs and tried to get some work done on getting the site up and running. She had learned a lot about computers and coding in college, and she had picked up some books at Barnes & Noble when she needed a refresher.

The steady tinkling of the shop bell soothed her as she sank into her work. Knowing Farrah was able to man the sales duties meant she could worry less about the comings and goings of potential buyers.

In her downtime, she sketched ideas for new pieces. She was working on drawing out an intricate necklace when Farrah burst into the office.

“Naomi!” she practically shouted.

“Ah! What?”

“How? How did I scare you?” Farrah demanded, exasperated. “You saw me come in.”

“You’re just a surprising person, Farrah. What do you need?”

Farrah’s face brightened again as she remembered her reason for the intrusion.

“The hottest guy in the universe just walked in, and he is asking for you! Oh my God when did you meet him? Are you dating? Can we take turns?”

“First of all, um…I don’t even know who you’re talking about. Is it the guy from Panera?”

“Yeah, that’s what he said.”

“Well, no, we’re not dating. I don’t even know his name.”

Farrah squealed. “Does that mean I can have him?”

“Don’t you have a boyfriend?”

“Who Rich? I’d dump him in a second for this guy.”

“I think he’s a little old for you,” Naomi said, stalling. She did not want to have a second confrontation with this man today.

“I turn twenty next month,” Farrah said defensively. “He’s probably only a few years older than me.”

“Right, well…if he’s interested, you’re welcome to him,” she replied, heaving herself out of her chair.

Sure enough, she glimpsed Panera Guy towering over the displays in the front of the store. Steeling herself, she put on what she hoped was a friendly and not-at-all-terrified expression and went to greet him.

“Hi…again,” she said.

“Hey,” he said, smiling like he was meeting up with an old friend. “Sorry to crowd you. I just felt weird about the way we left things. Thought I could come over to apologize and introduce myself.”

“Oh…okay.”

He held out his hand. “My name’s Kai.”

She shook with him, feeling the roughness of his skin. It didn’t shock her. Jewelry making had left its fair share of calluses on her own hands.

“Naomi,” she said.

“Nice to meet you, Naomi. Do you mind if I look around? Not at the dresses, but maybe the jewelry?”

“Sure. All the jewelry is at the back of the store. We have a small collection of rings and necklaces just for men. Farrah can help you if you need anything.”

She gestured to Farrah, who was hovering conspicuously close to them, then beat a hasty retreat to the office.

When she’d first started out, she hadn’t concentrated on making any jewelry for men. She hadn’t thought there would be a market for it, but after the store gained popularity, she started receiving a lot of requests. Men came in shopping for themselves, or women came in insisting that they wanted to find matching sets of jewelry for themselves and their boyfriends. So she had made a point of designing a small, male-oriented collection. It turned out to be a good move. She sold several pieces from the men’s collection every week, and it was easy to keep stocked, as men’s jewelry tended to be simpler.

When Naomi saw the time on her computer, she groaned. It was a quarter past three. Farrah was supposed to have clocked out already. She took a deep, fortifying breath and returned to the sales floor.

The girl in question was drooling over Kai while he inspected one of the ring displays.

“You’re going to be late for class,” Naomi said.

“What?” Farrah asked, distracted. Then she looked at the clock. “Ah, crap. Thanks, Nomi. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Have fun.”

Farrah darted around clocking out, grabbing her stuff, and pulling on her coat. Then she was out the door.

“Nomi?” Kai asked.

For one blessed second, she had forgotten he was still there.

“Nickname,” she replied.

“It’s pretty. I like it.”

He held up a ring – worn silver with an opal set into the center, size ten – and asked, “How much?”

“Thirty-five,” she replied automatically.

“I’ll take it. I like the stone.”

“Opal. Good for protection.”

Naomi’s mouth snapped shut. That was the fifth time this month she’d let that tiny phrase slip out, and she never knew why she said it. She never said anything weird about other stones or gems. Just opals.

“You don’t say?” Kai commented, inviting her to elaborate.

“I really don’t, actually. I have no idea why I said that. You can come up to the register if you’re ready.”

She turned away so he wouldn’t be able to stare at her burning red cheeks any longer and met him at the counter. His fingers brushed hers as he handed the ring to her, and she tried to ignore the tingle that ran up her arm. Her imagination conjured images of his fingers brushing over other parts of her anatomy, parts that had been neglected for quite some time. She frowned slightly as she busied herself with the transaction, trying to push the errant fantasy out of her brain.

He stopped her when she went to put the ring in a jewelry box.

“I’ll wear it out,” he said, reaching out to take it from her.

There was no way to avoid feeling his touch again, the roughness of his skin, the way it made her warm inside.

He slipped the ring onto his right hand and flexed his fingers a couple times, inspecting it.

“It’s perfect,” he said.

Naomi’s eyes traveled over his body once more, trying to memorize every contour, knowing she’d never see him again. Perfect didn’t begin to cover it. Her hand moved to the delicate chain around her throat, and she began twisting it around her fingers. It was a nervous habit. Whenever she touched it, she heard her mother’s voice.

That necklace looks so good on you, dearest. Promise mommy you’ll take good care of it. It’s going to keep you safe.

Kai’s eyes traveled down to her neck and his expression hardened, his brow furrowing.

“What is…where did you get that?” he asked.

“My mother made it for me,” she replied quietly, not liking the intensity of his scrutiny.

Her mother had died when she was eight years old. She had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. A mugger killed her while she was leaving work.

A few months before she died, she had given Naomi that very necklace. It was a simple charm. Two interconnected circles, almost like a Venn diagram, except the circle on the right looked more like the outline of a sun. It had points going all the way around it.

Naomi’s mother had told her the necklace would protect her, that she should wear it all the time. And she had. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d taken it off.

Kai licked his lips, his eyes glued to the simple charm at the base of her throat. It had been a lot longer on her when she was a child. Her mother had made it long on purpose so she’d grow into it. She was always thinking ahead, planning everything out before taking action.

“Thank you for the ring,” Kai said finally. “It was nice meeting you, Nomi.”

“Naomi,” she said quickly, correcting him before she could stop herself.

A shadow of his earlier smile came to his face. “Naomi,” he repeated quietly.

He withdrew from the shop, leaving Naomi wondering what on earth had just happened. She was confused and aroused at the same time, and it was really pissing her off. Her body had no right to react this way. She didn’t even know this man.

After a moment, she shook herself and returned to her work. It was done now. She was never going to see him again, anyway, so it wasn’t worth worrying over.

But the memory of his gentle touch lingered much longer than she would ever admit.

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It’s a Bit Cold

Everyone is so up in arms about winter happening.  Yes, it’s colder than it usually is, but let’s focus on the real problem here, shall we?  How it affected ME.

I went home for my birthday, which is late in December.  I flew United, which turns out to have been a mistake.  Here is a brief overview of my recent air travel experience:

1. Flight from NY to CA – I arrived at the airport at 4 AM, having not slept the night before, to find out that my flight was delayed by about two hours.  Since this meant missing my connecting flight, I had to call the convenient customer service number.  The robotic voice told me I’d be on hold for about three minutes.  I was on hold for over an hour.  Flight got rebooked, everything was fine I guess.

2. Making my way back to NY – So apparently the midwest was royally screwed by the weather, but my flight was not to the midwest.  My connection was in DC.  But as I was sitting in the airport waiting for my first flight, an announcement was made that there was a “mechanical” issue with our plane and go rebook all your flights now.  Long story short: Two hours waiting in the line for customer service, rebooked on a flight that was leaving a full twelve hours after I got to the airport, got to Washington DC only to find that my connecting flight to NY had been cancelled, more customer service, crying at the customer service desk, finally get flown in to a city that is over an hour’s drive from where I live, stop at the airport I was supposed to be at to pick up luggage, get told luggage never left CA.

My anti-anxiety/depression medication was in my checked bag.  A bag I paid to have checked, mind you.  Now, I know what you’re thinking: You idiot, Bex.  Who packs their medication in their checked luggage?

I know, I know.  But I did.  It happened.  And nearly a week later, I still haven’t heard about my luggage.

Let me just tell you a little bit about anxiety.  This is me/my brain without anti-anxiety medication:

Anxiety

It’s especially bad when you stop taking those meds very suddenly.  Fortunately, I finally got over my own stubbornness and called my doctor for an emergency refill.  But as long as we’re on the subject, let’s go ahead and talk a little more about my mental problems.  Especially since some people seem to believe they’re made up.  Not you, of course, but some people.

This is my anxiety:

Anxiety

It’s a little beast that spills milk and makes me cry over it.  Worse, it makes me cry over all the milk that has yet to spill.  Hell, it might not ever spill but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to worry about it anyway.  Because the anxiety beast tells me to.

This is my depression:

Depression

It’s a shadowy creature that whispers to me that I’m worthless.  It tells me not to care.  To stay in bed all day and watch YouTube videos and not eat because nothing matters.

My family and friends are very supportive, don’t get me wrong.  I’d be nowhere near this sane if it weren’t for them (and a little therapy).  But the medication also helps.  It gives me the push I need to be Okay.  With a capital O.  It is a sword I use to fight the monsters.  And it works quite well.  So when United airlines took that away from me, I got pretty mad.

I hope I see my luggage again one day.

That is all.

Word of the Day: Overwrought (adj) – extremely or excessively excited or agitated

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