It’s Week Three of “INSPIRED Days”! – an approximate month of awesomeness celebrating my J. Taylor Publishing novel, of which yesterday marked its 6-month semi-anniversary of publication! *huzzahs, hurrahs, sings a round or two of “For He’s It’s a Jolly Good Fellow Novel”*
In honor of the occasion, here’s a piece of flash fiction I whipped up a couple months back, all about one of the many ways a muse may assist his author in finding inspiration. Enjoy!
“Next,” the voice like bells rang out from the doorway. O was on his feet in an instant. This is it, he thought, smoothing a hand over his hair and down his shirtfront. Don’t screw it up.
O walked in with all the confidence he could scrape together, then uneasily wondered whether they were looking for confidence. What if they wanted someone shy? The posting, written in lights in the ether, hadn’t specified. Confidence seemed the safest bet for first impressions, though, so he kept committed to that.
The dark girl seated at the desk smiled, and the glowing-bright man seated in the air beside her beckoned O further in. The door closed behind him – from all appearances, on its own power. “Hi-hi!” the girl chirped. “I’m Annabelle. This is my co-executive, Lucianíel. And you are?”
“O,” said O, shaking the girl’s hand. “Or, something with an ‘O’. Possibly multiple ‘O’s. That’s all I’ve got for sure.”
“Fair enough,” she said. She turned to her floating, glowing co-exec. “How do we feel about Orlando?”
“Donovan, I think,” Lucianíel’s voice rang again.
“Orlando Donovan, then. We’ll hold onto it for later.” Scribbling the name on a notepad with one hand and gesturing for O to sit with the other, Annabelle said, “So, O. Let’s chat. What do you know about yourself?”
“Well, I’m a guy.”
“A good starting point,” said Annabelle, her curly cloud of hair bobbing with her encouraging nod.
“And I’m a killer.”
Her brows rose. “Oh?”
He nodded. “I have to be. I mean, I have to kill. It’s a psychological need. If I don’t, I’ll, I dunno. Get sick. Go crazy. It’s in my twisted nature. Also, I have really arresting eyes.”
“I noticed,” she said. “What are they, blue?”
“I think so, yeah. Kinda flickers between that and gray, but I’m leaning toward blue. Or… do you think I could have eyes like a raven?” he asked hopefully.
Lucianíel tipped his head. “Are you a raven? Descended of ravens or tied to them in any way?”
“Shape-shifting raven?” Annabelle inquired.
O shook his head. “I didn’t mean literal raven’s eyes. Just their color. Y’know how the feathers are just so black they shimmer, like, purple and green and blue? It would be incredible to have eyes like that!”
“Hmm.” Annabelle chewed on the cap of her pen. “Amazing eyes do not in themselves an amazing character make. The psychological need to kill is something, I suppose, but even that on its own is a little… so-so.”
“Why do you need to kill?” Lucianíel probed, his own incredible eyes on O intent. “Whence came this vital need?”
O shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I’m really not sure. It’s something in my makeup. In my blood.”
“So this is not unique to you? There are more of your kind?”
“Sure. Or there were.” O shrugged. “I dunno. I might be the last, or separated from them. I feel separated,” he realized, of a sudden. “Isolated. I might not even know what I am, and that there are more like me. I feel like the only one.”
“Aww,” Annabelle said, absently sympathetic. A good half of her attention was on the fat little paperback in her hands, its pages well-worn and flipping with familiar ease beneath her fingers. “Dominic… Donahue… Here we are: Donovan. Celtic, Irish. Strong fighter, dark chieftain.” She turned wide, eager eyes on Lucianíel. “That could apply to a race of raven people quite well! A noble family name. Maybe he’s a long-lost prince!”
“Perhaps crows instead of ravens,” Lucianíel suggested. “Murder, and all.”
“A murder of crows – brilliant!” Annabelle cried. “Yes, yes, yes! You, young Donovan,” she said, stabbing a finger across the desk, “are a prince among crows! There was a conspiracy—”
“That would be the ravens,” said Lucianíel.
“A conspiracy of ravens.” He smiled. “Or an unkindness.”
“Ah, I see. Well, shoot, we’re rolling in awesome titling options, aren’t we?”
“Less awesome than obvious. But they’re as good a starting place as any.”
“In any case,” Annabelle continued, returning to O. “Conspiracy. Somebody wanted you gone, probably so they could cut ahead in line to the throne. That they didn’t just kill you shows it was one of the ravens.” She steepled her fingers, eyes gleaming in the glow of a plot unfolding. “A crow would have murdered you, but for one of the Unkindness, death would be too kind. They snatched you from your people and left you to grow up alone in a world not your own, desperate for the death of others without knowing why; a freak and a monster; friendless.”
O chewed down on his cheeks’ insides, trying to stem the flood of painful heat rising behind his eyes. As she said it, it was true. He wanted friends – of course he did – but how could he ask friendship, ask trust, of someone when he might kill them, or someone they cared about? It was bad enough that he cared. Each and every time. A crow prince raised with the morals of a gentler race. Every day was a battle of nature versus conscience, and he could not let conscience win. It would destroy him.
A tissue appeared before him. “It’s okay,” said Annabelle, gently. “Let it out.”
Taking the proffered tissue, he wept freely, embarrassed but unafraid. He sensed their compassion, the girl and the glowing man. Whatever happened today, however this ended, he had their understanding.
“I think we can work with you,” she said, when O’s sobs had softened to sniffles. “More than that: I would like to work with you, O. How would you feel about getting a story?”
“Please,” he said, a smile braving its way back onto his face. “I’ve been trying to apply for one for ages. You’re the first author who’s seemed to notice I exist.”
“And the last author you’ll ever need to petition,” said Annabelle, smiling wide in return. “You’re mine. Feel free to go hang out, for now. If you need anything, there’ll be other characters to show you around. Luc and I will be in touch when we’ve got more of a game plan for you. Sound good?”
“Excellent. Thanks,” said O, going in for the closing handshake. “I appreciate it.”
“The pleasure is ours,” Lucianíel said warmly. “Next,” he called, the first door swinging open in tandem with a second – the door through which O made his way out into the vastness of his new author’s mind.
“Hi,” he heard her greet the applicant behind him. “Sorry we kept you waiting. People were crying. So. A dragon master, huh? Tell me what that’s like.”
Thanks for reading! If you’d love to nab the novel chronicling the start of Luc and Annabelle’s partnership, remember there’s a giveaway on Goodreads with three paperbacks for the winning. Meanwhile, for the e-reading crowd, the novel’s e-version is on sale all month for a crazy-low 99 cents via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. So for anyone who hasn’t gotten hold of a copy yet, the time is now!
**Coming up Thursday**: A guest post from INSPIRED’s Uri on reconciling her worldview with the surprise revelation that she’s fictional.