I am sick of this book


It’s 9am on a Sunday and I’ve been up since 7am trying to revise a few more chapters before my eyes start burning and my brain turns to pureed Mac and Cheese. I am sick of this novel and I want to move on. Waaaa.

That isn’t to say I don’t love the book. I do. I love the story, love the characters. But I want it to be done.

This isn’t really a bad thing. Most people don’t realize how many hours go into a novel, especially a novel that is 125,000 words in length. A lot of people outline, set up a three-part structure and then flesh those sections out. My process is a lot messier, which leads to more revisions. I am now on revision 16…

That’s Sixteen… with a one and a six.  For me, revision is slow, with lots of iterations. I am whittling the story down enough to be clear, but not so much that essential elements are cut off. It can be delicate surgery at times; or it can feel like hacking off limbs with a chainsaw. Usually, I prefer the chainsaw to come sooner than later.

BLOOM went through almost as many revisions. In fact, the original rough draft was cut so thoroughly about the only thing left was the main character’s name. I deleted all the supporting characters, the universe, the setting, the time period, and started over fresh.  It was a good decision; the rough draft was bad. B. A. D. I don’t regret that decision at all, but that isn’t saying it wasn’t painful to do.

I’m working on a sequel to A LATENT DARK, and as the three of you who have read the book might remember, the story has a lot of characters. It tends to bounce around from different points of view, taking some odd turns here and there. It’s one part GOLDEN COMPASS, one part WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, with a healthy dose of Lovecraftian horrors.

I’ve never written a sequel before, and I’m learning that writing sequels, basically sucks. I don’t mean that the book isn’t good, just that writing sequels is a lose-lose situation a lot of times for writers. It is almost inevitable that someone is going to be bored because you included too much backstory; another reader  will be clueless because they don’t remember any of the characters and there isn’t enough backstory. Then there’s some other guy who never even read the first book and has no idea what’s going on at all! “Why does this girl have only one eye? Why does the Reverend wear only white? Wait is this character dead? WHAT’S GOING ON? OMG! ONE STAR!”

The book picks up three years later, with the characters, now in their teens, thrust into more adult situations. It’s a balancing act without a net.

The other thing that makes revision so mind-numbingly drawn out is the fact that writers grow. We improve over time. Returning to a manuscript you haven’t seen for months can result in a fairly awkward reunion. I am currently picking this book apart sentence by sentence, rewriting as I go. So far, the dialog is okay, but other parts… yeesh. I just want to rip out and rewrite from scratch, which I do.

But you see how this can be a slippery slope. It’s easy to fall into a state where the novel is never good enough, because in another year, you might cringe at some of the things you were once proud of. I know people who have been revising their first novel for ten years. Will it ever be done? Who knows? But it’s easy to see how the relationship with a novel can become an unhealthy one, even a codependent one. At some point, you simply have to let go.

So this will be the last revision before THE UMBRAL WAKE moves on to my story editor. I imagine she will give me her usual harsh critique, in which case, the novel will go through yet another revision. Then it’s off to proofreaders.

Then I will be free to move on to other projects. You can’t chase the horizon forever.

Echoes of Scheherazade

“I’m not saying it’s bloom,” says Doc. “I’m just saying it’s probably bloom.”

Larry glowers at him from beneath eyebrows the color of rust. “Are you saying it is or it isn’t?”

The hobo steps back and lifts the half empty bourbon bottle to his mouth, drinks, and scratches his chin, payment for his diagnosis. They both look down at the blemish on Larry’s arm, a fuzzy birthmark.

Doc hands the bottle back to Larry.“When I worked at the lab…”

“Which lab?”

“The one in Fresno. We were studying goat prions.”

“What?” Larry snatches the bottle and takes a swig, annoyed at the half-assed answer.

“Prions. They’re little rogue proteins. They eat away at your brain, make you forget things, act different.”

“Like rabies?”

“Thats a virus…” Doc takes a breath. “What I was saying is that at the lab we called these fairy rings?”


“Fairy rings. Like a bunch of fairies might dance around them. It’s folklore, Larry.”

Larry makes a face and takes another swig. “I’ll tell you who’s a fairy and it ain’t me.”

“No, you’re the troll.”


“Under the bridge,” Doc smiles and points to the tracks high overhead, lost in the night sky. He runs a dirty hand through his wild salt and pepper hair. It wisps slightly in the breeze coming off the gorge as they sit beneath the railroad bridge. A tin can sitting on the rock beside him falls over and they both watch it tumble down the slope into the San Joaquin river. Then the ground rumbles and Larry looks back at his arm. Now there are two rings.

“Fairy ring, eh?”

“Yep. you see them a lot in the wild. Formed by mushrooms.”

“I thought you said prions.”

“These were mushrooms, a fungus.” He points at Larry’s fairy ring. “That probably is too.”

“Someone plant them like that?” asks Larry. “The mushrooms I mean.”

“Nope. Just happens naturally.”

Larry screws up his face and takes a drink. “How do they know to be in a circle?”

Fifty feet up, a train makes its way over the bridge. The ground moves. Doc’s mouth begins to move, but Larry can’t really hear over the train. He looks down at his arm again. They’re still there, a dozen wispy towers in a circle, growing out of his skin just below the crook in his elbow. At the center stands another cottony spire, half an inch high. It doesn’t hurt, but Larry can’t help but wonder if it will.

“So is this a prion or a virus, or a fungus or what?” he asks. But Doc is still talking and the train is making it impossible to hear his own thoughts. What he does hear, sounds like music. The train above is blasting Rimsky-Korsakov, Scheherazade. All Larry can do it smile.

Doc is staring at him. “You alright, Larry?”

“Fine. Why?”

“You’ve been staring at that fairy ring on your arm for the last two hours.”

He sees now that Doc is wearing a paper face mask. When did that go on, he wonders. “I have?”

Doc nods slowly.

Scheherazade sounds fainter now that the train is gone. But Larry still thinks he can remember the tune. He hums and then laughs.

“Damn. I couldn’t even play drums in school.” He beams at Doc with a gap-toothed grin. “They kicked me out of marching band. But I fuckin’ loved me some Scheherazade.”

But Doc isn’t laughing with him. Doc just stares, his dark eyes going between the fairy ring and his face. Finally Doc reached into his tackle box and brings out a clear plastic bottle.

“What’s that?” asks Larry.

“Rubbing Alcohol,” says Doc. He pours some on a damp rag. “Give me your arm.”

He’s on his feet before he knows it. “Why?”

“Because,” Doc says. “I’m going to see if I can get rid of it.”

The arm moves fast, snatching up a rusty metal shiv and brandishing it at the old man. Larry stares at his arm like some alien appendage. A full minute passes before he can relax and the shiv comes down. It clatters on the dirty concrete.  “I’d… I guess I’d rather you didn’t.”

Doc gives a slow cautious nod, damp rag in hand. The music is louder again, and Larry can’t tell if Doc is smiling or frowning behind that surgeon mask. He likes to think the old man is smiling, smiling along with him. Maybe he hears Scheherazade too.

“Why does it know how to grow in a circle like that?”

“Maybe that’s just what it’s meant to do,” says Doc. He stands and takes his tackle box. “Lots of things in nature do things without knowing why. How does a spider know how to make a web? How does a bee know how to plot its GPS coordinates to the hive? How does a lyrebird know how to mimic any sound it hears? How do we know how to write or sing or play the harpsichord?” He begins to walk past Larry, but stops to look down at the arm. “Maybe that’s all talent is, ,just some flipped genetic switch. What you should be asking, is if you are remembering a song, or if the bloom is remembering it for you. Or if you are even remembering this conversation.”

“But I… you said it wasn’t bloom.”

But Doc is gone and it’s now daylight. Larry looks at the sky and blinks. How did it get so fucking bright? He raises his hand to block the sun and frowns at the wool muff over his arm. Densely packed fibers hint only a faint suggestion of the hand and forearm underneath.

Larry flexes his fingers, and the fibres shift like a feather duster under water. And from somewhere deep inside, Larry hears the song again. He smiles up at the warmth in the sky, and hums along.


This is a flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds.com.


This is in response to Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge over at Terribleminds.com, something I always enjoy doing but have had little time for lately. This week’s challenge was a sub-genre mashup. I chose cozy-mysteries and dystopian sci-fi. Please forgive the pun in the title. I really couldn’t help myself.



© 2012 Marlan Smith (published as Martin Kee)

“Do you have anything more… red?”

Jimmy stood holding the limp, pink tie in his hand. It dangled to the counter-top, the noose at one end still tied.

“You’ll have to give that one back,” I said.

“That’s fine. I just want a more red one.”

I took the tie from him and turned to face the stack of odd-shaped bins that took up the entire space of the wall. Sitting in the stool, I opened the bin in front of me. It was empty. The first bin was always empty. The only way to get something back from another box was to place something of value in the empty one. Jimmy knew the rules as well as I.

The bins were anywhere from a few feet long to the size of a trunk. They emerged from the wall, suspended on a a rotating rack that vanished into the workings of the shop. Nobody ever went in the back, not even Murray.

After the Big One nobody trusted machinery much. I just happened to be someone who wasn’t bothered by the plain beige bins, the rattling from deep within the wall, the clanking of chains as the bins rolled under one other, each one unique with its own scrapes and dents. Murray hadn’t been bothered by it either.

I inherited the shop from Murray. Well, not so much as inherited as Murray just wasn’t here anymore. That left me. It wasn’t a bad job, and it gave me something to do on the cold, grey-rain days.

A long, shallow bin stopped in front of me and I opened the metal lid, pulling out a wide tie, red as a gaping wound. I turned to Jimmy. “Will this do?”

“Yeah!” he said, eyes wide. “It’s great!”

He slung the tie around his neck, resting it against his dirty shirt. His brown suit was worn at the elbows with stray strings poking out. Jimmy liked to dress up.

“You got a job interview?” I asked, joking. Nobody had a “job” anymore. We were all just kids playing pretend in some fashion.

“Yeah,” he said. “Otto says he needs help with the rain filters. I’m gonna see if I can get him to hire me.”

“That tie should impress him,” I said.

He nodded and left through the door. Behind me I could feel the empty bin gaping at me, waiting for something new to be placed inside. As if on cue, a woman entered just as Jimmy left. I recognized her, Molly from down the street, where grass has actually begun to grow back for a while.

“Hi,” she said, looking around.

“Hi yourself.”

“I was told that this is the place people can go to trade things.”

“That it is,” I said. “What are you looking for?”

She continued to stare around the walls, bare except for the cracked certificate of business, Murray’s first dollar. “I don’t see any merchandise.”

I jabbed a thumb over my shoulder. “It’s in the bins.”

“How do I know what I’ll get?”

“You don’t.”

She frowned. “How does it work?”

“Don’t know. What do you want to trade?”

She pulled a ring off her finger. There was a naked facet, the tiny gem gone. “I guess I won’t be needing this.”

“What do you want in return?”

She looked past me, a whimsical expression on her face. “Oh, my life back,” she laughed. “I don’t know, actually. I just want something new. I want to remember what new things are like.”

I held my hand out and she placed the ring there, hesitating slightly before letting it go. I winked at her and turned to the empty bin, placed it with a small metallic clink at the bottom and closed the lid. I caught her jump slightly as the machine roared to life, pulling the bins underneath with rattling finality.

We waited. Bin after bin rotated under another, until a long, slender container came to rest in front of me. I opened the dented lid with a creak. Inside was a key, a worn bit of masking tape stuck to the side, the number 4 fading in black ink. I turned and handed it to her.

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“What am I supposed to do with this?”

“Dunno. Must be for a door somewhere. I guess that part is up to you to find out.”

“What a fucking ripoff! I want my ring back!”

“Sorry,” I said. “No refunds. You can always place the key back and see what you get next, but it’s usually something similar.”

“Another key…”

“Maybe. Who knows?”

Molly almost handed it back to me, but stopped, looking at it for a while. She placed it in her pocket. “Have you always worked here?”

“I used to. Murray left it to me.”

“He died?”

“Dunno,” I said. “Was just gone one day while I was sweeping in the back room. Sometimes people just go away. You know how it is.”

She nodded, her expression melting a little. She moved towards the door. Over her shoulder she said, “Have you ever wished for anything?”

“Once, but I don’t have anything good to trade.”

She nodded and left.

As the door closed, the machine began to hum on its own. First just a rattle, then a full on, grinding racket that shook the entire shop. I hadn’t placed anything in the bin. I was afraid to turn around.

The sound stopped with a hiss and I forced myself to look, thinking of Murray, thinking of how the machine had roared to life that day, wondering if he had failed to place anything in the bin.

In front of me was a five-by-three-foot metal container, beige and dented, rocking gently in its cradle.

It’s still there. Rocking.

I could climb in.

Or maybe I’ll just stare at it a while longer.

Christmas in July

Now that I have finished a draft on the novel, I decided to stretch my brain a little and contribute to another of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenges at Terrible Minds.  The picture below was to be used as our prompt.


Christmas in July

It had to have been the mask, Murielle was fairly certain at this point. The way it snapped over her eyes, like a peacock had sat on her face, feathers everywhere, tickling her nose and lip. She hated it.

“Just wear it until we’re inside, then you can take it off. If you wanted the fencing mask you should have said something,” said Jane. “It isn’t like I didn’t give you a choice.”

“I know,” said Murielle. “It’s just… Does it have to be so itchy?”

“Once we’re inside you’ll never even notice.”

Murielle sighed as her sister led her by the hand, through the curtain in the back of the store.

THE TIME TUNNEL was a run-of-the-mill costume warehouse, full of clown suits and rubber masks, some stupid hipster hangout Jane had been going on and on about. Murielle had come here simply to humor her.

It was oppressively dark in back. Murielle froze for a second. She could feel Jane turn.

“You ok?”

“No,” said Murielle. “How much further?”

“Just a while longer,” said Jane. “I’m telling you, there’s nothing like this.”

“And you do this for fun?”

Jane only laughed, a high willowy laugh that normally would have made Murielle feel right at home; this time it set her teeth on edge. It explained why she hadn’t heard from Jane in five years. Amazing she hadn’t been abducted. Idiot.

“Almost there,” said Jane.

“And what then?”

“Then, you just relax. And watch.”

“Are there chairs?”

“We’ll stand,” she felt Jane tugging urgently on her hand. “Once the lights come on we won’t have a choice.”

Old mannequins popped out of the shadows, white as ghosts, startling her as they rushed past. Feather boas brushed her face and fluttered like escaped birds. No, Murielle did not care for this at all.

Of course Jane was always the black sheep, the one coloring outside the lines. When Murielle went to college, Jane ran away from home and lived for a week on a train. When Murielle got her job at the law firm, Jane was finger-painting in a studio “Like a goddamn five-year-old,” Murielle had complained to their parents once.

“You and your sister are two sides of the same coin,” her mother had said. “You just can’t see it yet.”

And she still didn’t. All this running and tripping. It was a good way to twist an ankle or scrape a knee. She bumped into something small and soft and realized it was Jane.

“We’re here,” she said.

“Now what?”

“Pick a pose,” said Jane.

“A pose?”


“I don’t want to pose. I want to sit down and have a goddamn drink.”

“Look,” said Jane. “Remember that time we went on the Gee-Force?”

“At the fair?”


“Yeah, I hated it.”

Her sister only laughed. “Well it’s a lot like that.”

“Great,” said Murielle, panic rising in her voice. “Don’t they provide seat-belts? A safety bar. This place is a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

“Shh,” said Jane. “It’s starting.”

“What is–”

A light, much brighter than she expected, came on and lit the room like a sun. Murielle felt her body stiffen, her heart sank. Her feet seemed to stick to the floor. She tried to open her mouth to scream, run, anything, but nothing worked anymore.

I’m dying, she thought. My brat sister has gotten us killed!

But after the sensation faded–or maybe she had just gotten used to it–Murielle noticed other people, a dozen or so, all frozen, mannequins.

Oh God, she thought. Is that me? Am I stuck in that awful 80’s movie? I am going to fucking kill my sister when this is over.

In front of her was a huge window looking out onto the corner of 5th and Market. People walked along the sidewalk, parents holding their children’s gloved hands as the first flakes of snow fell.

Snow, she thought. In July?

A man sat there on the corner, a cup in one hand and a sign: ANY HELP GOD BLESS. People ignored him as they walked past, the snow piling on his shoulders. He stayed there, cup held out, not a dime falling into it.

An hour went by, then another. Murielle felt no discomfort despite the prison her body had become. It forced her to notice little details in the man’s beard, his tattered clothes, the way he nodded and said “Merry Christmas” behind the muting glass.

More hours passed and the man sat, collecting nothing, shivering in the cold. Wasn’t anyone going to help him? Jesus. A fucking quarter. Get that man a cup of coffee. Something.

And still he waited. He waited until the sun came up and the snow had turned to dense slush on his back. They watched as his shivering ended and he turned to a frozen statue on the pavement.

Then the curtain came down, the lights went off and Jane led her through the darkness again. “What did you think?”

“Isn’t someone going to help him?” she said as they stumbled back to the entrance. “Isn’t someone going to call an ambulance?”

“Using what?”

“A cellphone, for fuck’s sake!”

“Did you see anyone on a cell phone, Sis?”

Murielle froze momentarily in her frustration and confusion. They stepped out into the warehouse where other people removed their costumes in silence. She blinked away tears at her sister.

“You sure didn’t pay very close attention, did you?” said Jane.

“What?” said Murielle. “What did I miss?”

“You didn’t see the newspaper?”

“What newspaper?”

“Or look at the cars?”


Then Murielle remembered what she didn’t see. Not a single Prius, or Civic, just huge, old metal things with massive chrome bumpers and ornaments. The coats the children wore, like something from an old 1960’s cop show. The concept of cellphones suddenly seemed ludicrous.

She looked at Jane, who smiled back at her from under the letters of the store sign.

“Do you see it now?”

(c) 2011 Marlan Smith


Tark stared at the diagram. It was a golden square, clearly valuable, more valuable than the machine it came off of. He honestly didn’t think he would ever find salvage this far outside of the galactic rim.

“What are they?” asked Pim. He was looking over Tark’s shoulder.

“I don’t know,” said Tark. “Do you think we should call HQ?”

“Are you kidding?” said Pim. “We have explicit orders not to get involved in alien civilizations. Lets just keep the salvage and go.”

“But these ones are so weird looking.”

Pim sighed and floated to the far side of the bridge. He hovered for a while at the controls, touching this and that display. A meter wide square appeared suspended in the middle of the room. A representation of the golden artifact glowed in the center.

“Okay, look,” said Pim. “We’ll make a cypher okay?”

“A cypher?” asked Tark. “Why don’t we just try to contact them?”

Pim glared at him. “Look, you’re lucky I’m willing to allow this.”

“Okay okay, fine,” said Tark. “Let me program the message then.”

“Do you even know what to say?”

“Yeah there’s an audio transmission from the planet.”

“Fine,” said Pim, tapping the controls with a slender finger. “Then afterwards can we just go?”

“Yeah, yeah, we’ll go.”

Tark held the square in his digits while the rest of the probe was crushed, cubed and reduced to its elements. In another chamber, a figure stood, ambiguous behind the glass. Pim tapped at the controls and turned to Tark.

“You’re sure they look like that?”

“Yeah,” said Tark. “Why wouldn’t they?”

“I don’t know,” said Pim. “Just seems kind of odd. You don’t see many life forms so thin. And golden? Really? Do they carry some sort of isotope in their skin?”

Tark shrugged. “I guess. They’re clearly spacefaring, so they must have holographic technology. If they looked any different than what’s on the plaque, they would have just shown us in three dimensions.”

“So they’re flat? That’s ludicrous.”

“Look,” said Tark. “Trust me. When they meet the cypher, they won’t even be able to tell it apart from their own. It will blend right in, talk to a few of them. We’ll watch the whole thing cloaked, then we leave.”

Pim sighed again. “I swear, if HQ fires us for this, I am never forgiving you.”

“Trust me.”

The cypher was a thin creature, golden skinned and asymmetrical. It walked on the flimsy balls of its feet out the door and into the delivery pod. Pim watched it go with some skepticism.

“I don’t know… are the arms supposed to be lopsided like that?”

Tark held up his three fingers in a dismissive gesture. “Would you just trust me for once?”

They watched through the cypher’s eyes. They watched as the pod landed and the door opened into a lush, green forest.

Phyllis Guntmeyer had been walking her pomeranian when Spunky began to bark. A man stepped from behind a nearby tree–no, not a man. It was a cardboard cutout of a man, frozen in a waving pose. It was golden, naked and flat as paper. And it moved!


Its mouth was an animated gash in a line-drawing face, a living paper puppet, eight feet tall and impossibly thin. Its bent raised arm waved and twisted like a shaken saw blade.

Phyllis screamed, clutched her chest and fell to the ground.

Pim turned to Tark, his three eyes glaring. “You’re a fucking idiot, you know that?”

(c) 2011 Marlan Smith

Irregular Creatures

Chuck Wendig asked for some submissions for his blog under the prompt of  “irregular creatures” and this is my entry at 900 and some odd  words.

Jon was nervous.

It wasn’t because he had been out of practice so long, or because he hadn’t spoken to a person face to face in five years. It was just plain old nervous energy. He checked the mirror, checked his clothes, checked his pants–

Shit.The pants didn’t match his shirt. Why didn’t he notice that before? He had paid good money for them too and now they looked almost pea green next to the emerald shirt. He removed them in disgust and tried on another pair.

Brown… he looked at the time. Brown would have to do. Rose would be here any minute.

He had been shy about using the dating service at first. It wasn’t until his best friend, Bobinator1982 had sworn by it, that he had even considered something so extreme.

“I am telling you,” said Bobinator1982, “She was fucking hot.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Jon had said, the cold glow of the screen reflecting off his glasses. “But did anything come from it?”

“Oh hell yes!”

Bobinator1982 went on for another fifteen minutes describing his date with Hillary, in detail, from dinner to her cup size, color of panties, the hair style (above and below the belt). It was more than Jon had really asked for, but Hillary sounded amazing and if Date-2-Go was really that good, if he could even do half as well as Bobinator1982, Jon would consider himself lucky.

“This isn’t an escort service,” Jon said. “Right?”

“No. No way man. It is totally legit. I had no idea that I could even meet someone so amazing.”

So Jon signed up, installed the plug-in, the addons, the mobile app. He had paid the $200 fee up front and waited, tapping nervous fingers on the desk while the software installed. He made a profile, made an avatar, made a link to his various online profiles, complete with stats, equipment, swords–Jon had a kickass rogue in Silhouette Nights, so it only made sense to lead with his best foot forward. Jon listed his preferences: gender, race, appearence, financial stability.

He had been slaying werebeasts in the Upper Golden Valley when she contacted him.

“You’re Jon?”

“I am.”

The conversation went from awkward, to nervous laughter, to some harmless, but promising flirts and winks.

“I’m not looking for normal,” she said. “I’ve dated normal. I don’t want that anymore. I want excitement. Someone who can show me things I haven’t seen before, an irregular creature who lives a life worth living, not some schmuck with a boring career and a standard house.”

“You would like my house,” said Jon.


“Yeah.” And then he described it.

“I’ll be over at ten,” she said and disconnected.

Step 1 was over and done with before he had even given it a second thought. Maybe Bobinator1982 was right. Maybe this service was totally worth the money. They already had so much in common.

As he looked around his house, he had a pretty good feeling Rose would be impressed. He had designed it himself and to very specific and whimsical specifications. Not everyone had an indoor pool, or a game room, or balconies overlooking the ocean.

That isn’t to say that it hadn’t cost him. But money was never a problem for Jon anymore. Slaying monsters in-game was just something to kill the time. He was honestly bored.

He strolled through his courtyard that separated the gaming room from his dining area. Maybe he should start the tour with the game room. She was a gamer–obviously!–so maybe the game room made sense, or was that just too redundant?

Five years since he had spoken to a woman face to face. Well, there was the bank clerk downtown. He saw her every day practically. You didn’t get to be a man with Jon’s wealth and status without talking to your banker regularly about investments, stocks, porfolios. It took time and patience, but most importantly, he hadn’t been helped by anyone. Jon was a self-made man.

But his patience was sure being put to the test tonight as he stared up at the full moon, fighting back his nerves. It had been a long, painfully long time.

He heard the hooves outside his front yard and nearly ran to the door, forcing himself to walk. Can’t be too anxious!

Rose knocked. He opened the door and held his breath. She was a knockout.

She stood six feet tall with hair so blonde it was almost white. It rippled down her shoulders, over her pauldrons (Etherial pauldrons! So hard to get!) Her eyes were large, blue as seas and wide-set under long lashes. Her tiny elfin nose rested above pouty red lips–like a rose, he thought.

“You’re a troll!” she laughed, but not cruelly. “I never thought I’d date a troll!”

“Well you said you wanted an irregular creature.” He flashed his tusky smile at her as a golden trinket dangled from one elongated tooth. “Want me to show you around?”

“Actually,” she said, twisting a finger by her dimpled cheek, “I need some help with the Goblet of Amarrians quest. If you think you’re up for it.”

“Honey,” he said slyly, “I was doing that quest when you were level 2.”

She laughed again, perfect white teeth shining as brightly as the claymore strapped to her back. Jon whistled and a silver dragon appeared with saddles for two. There would be time for pillow talk later during the nightly server maintenance. There would be time to meet in real life when the game got boring… if the game ever got boring.

For now, they were off on the best date of Jon’s life.

(c) Marlan Smith 2011