The Fleshy Character Questionnaire, featuring Puck

While I’m busy working on the next set of Skata questions, I decided to exercise myself mentally with another of these deep, involved questionnaires. They’re more work than one would realize, but the reward is worth the time. So sit back, relax, and enjoy getting to know the Otherside’s most disarmingly dangerous faerie. (And if you want more? I made a thirty-second trailer that you can view here!)

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1. What color is your character’s hair? Dark reddish-brown, best described as cinnamon.

2. What color are your character’s eyes? The shade differs, depending on the slant of light; it can range from hazel to forest green.

3. What color is your character’s skin? His skin is naturally pale due to the light and atmosphere of Otherside, but he gets a vague tan very quickly in the human world.

4. What special aesthetic characteristics does your character have? Puck’s true, unglamored appearance shows pointed ears, teeth a little too pointed, and eyes as black as tar.

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5. Does your character have any piercings? Tattoos? No. Like most faeries, he shies away from unnaturally marring his appearance.

6. What’s the sexiest physical characteristic of your character? While he has the appearance of a slender guy in his early twenties, he has strong, manly hands.

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7. What’s the ugliest physical characteristic of your character? Puck carries many scars that are only visible under the light of a faerie moon.

BONUS: What element of their appearance is your character most insecure about? Puck doesn’t tend to care about his appearance or have insecurities. When he does worry about things, they’re more important.

8. What does your character wear? He wears jeans and tee shirts both in and out of the human world, as they’re comfortable, well-suited to most occasions, and they look well on his frame.

9. When your character smiles, what does their smile look like? His smile has three main modes. There is his sweet and unassuming smile, which comes less often than it should; his false, forced smile when he’s hiding the truth; and his dark, smirkish smile when his mood turns malicious. Any of these, however, is preferable to the look of calculating indifference he gets before he does something truly terrible.

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10. What does your character’s laugh sound like? Like an explosive, manly giggle.

BONUS: What sort of things would make your character laugh? Someone being stupid or dense, or falling for a prank.

11. What is your character’s normal style of speech? He speaks like a normal guy, but will correct your grammar. His voice gets louder if he’s angry, excited or really vehement. His voice is surprisingly deep and a little rough, not what most people expect based on his appearance.

12. How does your character express/handle anger? Anger is met with clenched jaw and fists, and hopefully that’s the extent of it. If you really, really make him mad, you will be lucky if you escape with body and pride intact.

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13. Does your character cry? Yes, but he rarely weeps. He’d have to be very emotionally exhausted for that. Tears will linger in his eyes and one or two may fall, but he’ll brush them off and try to hide them.

BONUS: What sorts of things would make them cry? Hopelessness, a broken heart, or if he’s kept his true feelings caged for too long and he finally admits the truth.

14. How easy is it for other people to read your character’s emotions? He likes to deflect questions and concern away from himself by flinging up smoke-screens. Only those who are exceptionally caring and/or keen will see his genuine feelings.

15. Is your character religious? He is not ‘religious’ per se, but he believes in heaven and hell. He lives with fierce rash behavior because he truly believes he’s damned already.

16. How does your character view those of other faiths? He doesn’t care much what you believe.

17. What are your character’s core values? Until he grows to love Leaf like a daughter, he doesn’t have any ‘core values’ to speak of. He has to learn them over the course of the story.

18. How willing is your character to fight for those values? Leaf is his value, and he will fight through hell for her.

19. What is your character’s favorite food? He eats like a teenage boy, which is to say – everything is his favorite food.

20 .What is your character’s favorite color? He likes dark blues and grays, and it translates into his clothes.

21. What are your character’s sleeping preferences? He never sleeps on his side, but is always either on his back or his stomach with his arms under his head.

22. What type of music does your character like? The longer Puck is in the human world, the less he can tolerate noise. Crowded places, music blaring through the radio – all of these begin to wear on him. He prefers silence.

BONUS: Does your character have a theme song? ‘Reel Around the Sun’ by Bill Whalen embodies the spirit of Puck, so far as one can.

23. What is your character’s birthday? While he’s very old, Puck has no idea what his birthday is. Faeries don’t celebrate things like that.

24. What family structure did your character have growing up? Puck, like all faeries, had no real family structure. Faeries are left to grow up on their own as soon as they are able – and in Puck’s case, it landed him in all kinds of trouble (which is, I suppose, the reason he’s so good at getting out of it now).

25. How well did your character get along with their family? He doesn’t recall much of his family, except his mother. He recalls her as being beautiful and cold.

26. What is the worst thing your character has ever done? Puck has done many great and terrible things in his lifetime. He has ensnared, tormented, and murdered both in Oberon’s service and out of it. I think, however, if you asked him what the most terrible thing he’s ever done was, he would answer that Leaf is both his biggest pride and his biggest regret.

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27. What is the most significant romantic encounter of your character’s past? There has been no ‘true romance’ in Puck’s life. He has had his flings and encounters, but the truth is that he has no grasp on actual love until Leaf. Even then, it’s the love of a father for a daughter, but it’s the step that enables him to care for Hayley, another character who springs up in the novel.

28. What is your character’s biggest goal in life? His biggest goal at the beginning of the tale is to finally be free of Oberon’s service. His priorities shift once Leaf is dumped into his life, however.

29. What does your character believe is their greatest virtue? Puck is extremely clever and cunning; traits which enable him to have the upper hand in almost any situation.

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25. What does your character believe is his greatest vice? Puck is the last of a rare kind of faerie. His very nature thrives on chaos, on beating everyone else at their own game. This makes him an unstoppable force, but a very dangerous one.

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26. What motivates your character? His own need to feed off chaos and strife, his fear of Oberon, and his love for Leaf.

27. Is your character objective-oriented? He will do anything to accomplish his goals.

28. Would your character rather be a great person or a good person? He would rather be his own person, to belong to and know himself rather than survive as the faerie king’s amusement and hand of judgment.

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29. Would your character rather be hated for being who they are or loved for pretending to be someone else? Love has never mattered before to Puck. He is feared and treated with due caution, but once he feels love, he realizes his own fragility – a dangerous thing, on his part; as it both weakens and strengthens him.

30. Is your character an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert? Puck is an ambivert; his tolerance and moods pendulum wildly, as do most faeries’.

31. Is your character creatively expressive? In a way. His treatment of others could be called ‘creative expression.’ He manipulates other people to get the result he desires, and he is an absolute master.

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32. What’s your character’s disorder? He has an almost overpowering bipolar disorder; his personality will be friendly and relaxed and the next instant he’ll be the dark shadow of himself, someone who would rather pit you in a fight against your closest friend and feed off the strife.

33. What is your character’s standard emotional state? Risky. He is (almost) never out of control emotionally, no matter the state of his personality. He’s too clever to do things without thinking, and he is never less than three steps ahead.

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34. Is your character materialistic? No, most faeries live in the moment with little thought for earthly possessions.

35. What is your character’s major learning style? He learns from experience and observation. He is always watching, assessing and learning; and he never makes the same mistake twice.

36. I am _______. How would your character complete that sentence? Insatiable.

37. Life is an act of _________. How would your character complete that sentence? Checkmate.

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Revisiting Disconnect

The annotated copy of The Tempest came in at the library today, much to my joy (I read the preface and the first three acts in the car on the way home, unable to stop myself) and tonight we get pizza for dinner and Divergent for dessert (or was that the homemade chocolate-chip/oatmeal cookies my sister’s whipping up?) – so altogether, I’d say today is one of those gems. I’ve been mulling over a blog post, but I couldn’t quite settle on what to write – so, I pulled my NaNo. I fell in love all over again. The characters, the world, the chapter titles, the (hole-filled but dear to my heart) plot make this a grand success, whether it ever gets published or not. Most people don’t know this, but the plot of Disconnect, if it ever continues into a series (it could use a sequel, if I say so myself) will follow the same line as King Arthur and Camelot; except in dystopian Japan. I’ll leave you to take that how you will.

So, to commemorate my trip down memory lane (also known as Five Months Ago) I give you a few of my favorite pieces. Some you’ve already read, and some you haven’t – but I love them all mightily.

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Mom ran her fingers through my hair, eyeing it critically. “You need to dye it again,” she said offhand. “The blue is starting to fade out at the roots.”

“I will.”

“And I know you aren’t a big shot at school, honey, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the games, right?” She hugged my shoulders and pressed a kiss to the top of my head.

Yes, I was short enough she could do that.

Shut up.

“I get sick of being followed around by cameras.” I shoveled the last bite of breakfast into my mouth and tossed the disposable container into the small square incinerator hole next to the sink. There was a faint grinding sound, and then silence. “People asking ‘hey, so are you friends with Deuce? Are you rooting for him? Are you his biggest fan? Do you have a crush on Gummy? Who are you rooting for? What’s your Life Game? What level are you on? Do you go to the bathroom before bed, or when you wake up in the morning?””

“They don’t ask you that.”

“Well, they ask me the rest of the questions,” I said with a sigh. “And since I don’t care, it’s a pain. I guess I can put up with it, though. Chopper enjoys it.”

“You haven’t brought him over in a while.”

“He barely fits through the front door.”

____________________________

I stood and let the students flow around me while I waited for Chopper. He was always last. Most people thought he was so polite he just wanted to wait until everyone else was off the bus, but really he was so lazy he didn’t want to have to fight his way through a crowd.

I saw him at the back, a good head and shoulders above everyone else. His hair, long, wild, and sticking up all over his head, was the color of tomato juice, and his entire tall body was covered – from the mask around his nose and mouth to his platform boots – in black, skintight leather.

I cupped my hands around my mouth and shouted, “Oi!”

His head turned in my direction and his stride quickened. As soon as he reached me, he gave me his customary greeting. He smacked me upside the head. “Yo, baka. What’s up?”

“You,” I said. “You’re always up, farther than anyone else in the city, and probably the rest of the world.”

He laughed. At six foot four – not to mention the four inches in his boots and the six or seven inches in added height his hair gave him – he towered above people no matter where he went. Compared to my height – a meager five foot six inches – he was a giant.

“You ready for the paparazzi, little man?” He bounced up and down, somehow able to keep his balance. “You know they’re gonna swamp us asking about the Hardcores.”

“They’ll probably think you’re a Hardcore until you tell them otherwise.” I looked him up and down and shook my head. “Little do they know.”

He tipped his head to the side and shrugged. “Shoganai,” he said. “Can’t be helped. Come on, we’re gonna be late for orientation.”

“We’ve pretty much got it memorized anyway,” I said. “It won’t hurt to be late. Besides, you’ve heard it – what, four times more than I have. Why are you so eager?”

“I like it!” He crouched down and slung his arm around my shoulder. “Maybe they’ll let you give orientation next year, huh? Since you’ve got it so memorized.

I shoved his arm off my shoulder. “Ikuzo,” I said. “Let’s go.”

“Sure. You know, you really should call me senpai,” he said, walking next to me. I’d told him several times before that I refused to run to keep up with him, so he shortened his stride accordingly.

“In a perfect world, yeah, maybe. In this one, you’re in the same grade as me, so dream big.” He liked to pull the ‘senpai’ card now and then, but it was more of a private joke than anything else. Chopper was twenty- two years old, and he should have been graduated by now, but he was a staunch underachiever and didn’t care if he was in my grade.

Sometimes I wondered if he failed classes on purpose just to watch my back, but I never voiced my suspicion because if I had, he might have stopped doing it and I valued my life as much as the next person.

____________________________

Chopper tucked the information packet between his knees and cracked his knuckles. “I need to stretch my legs.”

I tugged the packet free. “You always need to stretch your legs.”

“It’s a curse.”

“You know I can barely hear you with that mask on,” I said.

His eyes still on the wild chaos below, he patted my shoulder. “Don’t cramp my style, tiny.”

I smacked the packet against his leg. “Call me that again and I’ll rip your lungs out through your nose holes.”

His eyes, rimmed with heavy black eyeliner, slid over to me. “You’ll what?”

I amended my statement to be a bit more realistic. “I’ll attempt to rip your lungs out through your nose holes.”

            He tossed his head back and laughed. “It’s nice that you dream big, Q. It really is.”

____________________________

I decided not to talk to Chopper for the rest of the day, and he seemed content to transfer annoying pictures with cheesy captions to my Eye every five minutes for the rest of the day. As soon as the last class let out – the best one, since the instructor was a hologram and everyone was allowed to talk and ignore her to their hearts’ content – I blinked Chopper’s combination and waited for the connection to reach him.

Moshimoshi,” he said.

“Chopper.”

“Hey, little man.”

“Enough with the pictures.”

Things like sighs and breathing did not transfer through Eye calls, but I knew he was letting out a huge sigh anyway. “You have no sense of humor, Q.”

“I’ll add that to my list of defects. Just don’t send any more pictures. You’re clogging my feed.”

“Did you like the kitten?”

As if I needed a reminder, an image of a fluffy white kitten entered my head again, its enormous, cow-sized eyes staring wide at me, with the caption HOW MUCH FOR YOUR SOUL? underneath in block white letters.

“Chopper, if you don’t stop, I’m going to tell Gummy that you have a crush on her, and were doing some kind of psychological alternate speaker with me for your feelings. And before you ask ‘what does that even mean,’ you know what it means.”

The connection went silent for so long, I thought he might have hung up. “Chop?”

“Chibi,” he said, and the connection went silent.

I rubbed my forehead. Cosmic. Now Chopper was mad at me, too. I had every right to be mad at him! He’d spoken for me when I was incapacitated!

“You’re too sensitive for someone your height,” I growled, and hoped he heard me, wherever he was.

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Mom opened the door and stopped abruptly. “Chopper! I had no idea you were coming over!”

“Neither did I,” I said, as Chopper waved to my mom from his upside-down position.

“I thought I’d surprise him,” he said.

She waved back at him with the sort of smile on her face that said He’s Such a Nice Young Man. “There’s some leftover okayu if you’d like some, Chopper.”

“I’m good.” He curled his thumb and forefinger in an O. “Arigatou.

She smiled and shook her head, then pointed at me. “Don’t stay up too late, Q. School tomorrow. Chopper, I’d advise the same for you, but since you’re no longer a minor, I can’t exactly order you to.”

“I don’t want to keep Shorty up too late.” Chopper reached up and ruffled my hair, pulling his gloved hand back before I could hit it. “He needs as much help as he can get.”

“Says the guy who got all D’s last year.”

“I have better things to live for.”

“Yeah, like killing Deathstrike?” I held up a finger. “Or wait, wait – like attempting to kill Deathstrike, because the last time I looked, you’d decided not to again.”

“I have it all under control,” he said smoothly. “I can kill him any time I want.”

“Which will be when?”

“Whenever I decide to.”

Koshinuke.”

Mom squinted. “Sorry to interrupt your bromancey moment, but what does ‘koshinuke’ mean again?”

She had trouble with insults and nastier words, because, as she put it, ‘why go to the trouble of learning words you aren’t ever going to use?’ “I called him a coward,” I translated.

Daijoubu,” said Chopper, sitting up and pulling his long legs in, Indian-style. “It’s all right. We call each other names all the time.”

“It’s affectionate,” I added.

Baka ja nai no?” He cocked his head, his two long sections of red hair hanging in front of him. “Are you stupid or something? I mean every insult I call you.”

Hidoi na,” I said, punching him in the arm as hard as I could. “You’re a jerk.”

“I’ll let you two battle whatever this is out yourselves,” said mom. She walked into the room and gave me a quick hug that I knew she couldn’t resist. “Sleep tight, honey.”

“Yeah, you too,” I said, returning her hug and watching as she moved back to the door.

Oi!” Chopper held his arms out. “Don’t I get one?”

Mom laughed and went back to him, hugging his neck and planting a kiss on his head. “Oyasumi najai. Good night.”

“You, too, Mrs. Shohei.”

She left, closing the door behind her, and he sighed. “It’s really too bad your mom’s married.”

            “Whatever.”

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“Yo, baka.”

I groaned as Chopper smacked me upside the head. “Same to you.”

“Seen Gummy yet?”

“No, idiot, I was waiting for you. You told me not to talk to her without you, if you recall.”

“I recall, but since when have you ever taken my suggestions to heart? Keep this up, and I’m gonna have to rethink my existence. And that’s your department.”

“You didn’t word it like a suggestion,” I told him, walking toward homeroom. “You worded it like a threat.”

“Well.”

“It was, wasn’t it?”

“Maybe.”

“You had something planned, like embarrassing me in front of the entire student body if I didn’t, right?”

“Probably.”

I looked sideways at him. “Why are you giving me one-word answers?”

He shrugged. “Because.”

As we approached the homeroom door, I asked, “Are you going to continue giving me one-word answers?”

“No.”

I stopped walking and stood in front of the door with my arms folded. “Ii kagenni shiro. Stop messing around.”

He grinned at me underneath his mask. “Sure thing, little man.”

“You know, I really hate you sometimes,” I told him, opening the door.

“Mutual.”

“Quit it already!”

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Half an hour later, Deuce had taken off his mask to showcase his stare of violent disbelief. He looked at each of us, his lips pressed tightly together.

“You” – he jerked his head at me – “can’t be serious.”

I rocked back and forth on my heels. “Unfortunately I’m about as serious as I know how to get.”

“Which is pretty serious,” added Chopper, “when you think about it. I mean, you haven’t seen serious until you’ve seen this boy get bothered about something. Trying to call him off is like trying to hold back an angry rhinoceros with a piece of floss.”

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I jumped as Chopper’s hand gently nudged the side of my head. He was probably being careful because I had been injured the day before, but I hardly noticed. I was too shocked. “You’re here early!”

“The bus just came in.”

“Chopper,” I said. “You’re always the last one off your bus. Now you’re at the head of the crowd?”

He cocked his head to the side and squinted at me. “Your black eye looks worse,” he said. I glared at him until he shrugged and said, “What’s wrong with wanting to be early, Q? Sheesh; you’d think two minutes was a life or death problem.”

“Eager to get to work or something?” I teased, and then blinked. “Something’s different about you.”

“I’m exactly the same height as I’ve always been.”

“Not that.” I looked him carefully up and down. Same boots, same skin-tight black leather, same long, wild, bright red hair… “Okay, I give up. What is it? Did you get a different brand of eyeliner?”

“Real observant, Q. Look into my eyes.”

Yabai!” I yelped. His irises had been dyed the same color red as his hair. “You look like an evil robot!”

He frowned; I could see it underneath his mask. “Su-ge. Arigatou, Q.”

Yare yare, nante koto da!” I gave an exaggerated groan. “What a disaster. Now, not only do you look weird, you look villainous.”

“You’re one to talk, Grandma.” He eyed my sweater. “What exactly are you wearing?”

“Something to hide my cast, which is just a tad bit on the bulky side. Like you’re one to talk, anyway. You’ve worn the same thing every day for like fourteen years now. Can’t you choose something a little more creative?”

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We turned and watched as Deuce approached at a quick saunter. “What are you idiots standing around for?”

“We missed the bus,” I pointed out.

He turned and gave me a how stupid are you look. “Exactly. It’s why I didn’t take a bus today. I drove that.” He pointed toward public parking at the far end of the tunnel.

Even Chopper grinned, then. “Now that,” he said, eyeing the vehicle as we approached it, “that, I like.”

Deuce smirked. “Then get in.”

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Chopper’s relaxed posture stiffened. “You’re joking, right?” He gaped at me, then at Daigo. “She hates me! In case you haven’t noticed. Also, I’m not fond of her. As a matter of fact, we have about as much chance of getting together as two opposite magnets.”

“That’s her condition,” he said, flapping his arms at his sides like a dejected penguin. “I do not happen to be able to see inside her head.”

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“What,” said Daigo, “have you three done?”

“I think we’ve just started a country-wide panic,” said Chopper, sounding remarkably relaxed. “How does it look like where you are?”

“I think you have just destroyed Tokyo,” said Daigo.

“Not destroyed,” I said, shaking my head. “Revealed. There are no Rulers. There haven’t been for a long time.”

“We’ve all been living in a hologram,” breathed Gummy.

After a moment, I leaned back. I had to get back to my parents, to our institution. We had just started something that was not about to go away. “What if he was right?” I nodded toward the desk where the hologram had sat. “What if there is nothing else? What happened?”

“We’re sunk,” said Chopper. “If he was right.”

Gummy turned away from the window, an odd expression on her face. “What if he was wrong?”

They were both looking at me. I had the feeling even Daigo was waiting for my response. “Um, well,” I said, knotting my hands in my shirt, “if he was wrong, then I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”

The glamour in the room around us had faded, exposing rough concrete and dust.

“We need to get home,” said Gummy. “Before the panic starts.”

“Panic will have already started,” I said, shrugging. “But yeah, we should leave now before it gets worse.”

It was the only thing to do. We walked out of the office and down the hall, toward the elevator. The rusted steel doors opened and we stepped into the worn interior.

I squeezed Gummy’s hand and gave her what I hoped was a reassuring smile. “It’s going to be okay,” I said.

She squeezed back and did not respond.

Chopper slung his arm around my shoulder. “You always did have a knack for trouble, little man.”

I blew out a breath, gave him a lopsided smile, and pressed the button for the ground level. “Just you wait.”

I Know You Are but What Am I? part 2

TrystanandMagnoliaI have reached a point in both of my current works-in-progress where I need to spend a few days (or all of tomorrow) plotting out the next twelve or fifteen chapters. To relieve some of the mental stress, I figured, why not do another round with Trystan and Magnolia? They tend to jog my brain and give me a laugh, so here we have the dynamic duo again. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

“Houston, we need to talk.”

            I didn’t bother glancing up from my chemistry book. “I think the phrase is actually, ‘Houston, we have a problem.’”

            “But you aren’t Houston now, are you?” was the condescending reply. “I meant what I said.”

            I shut the chemistry book and sat up. “What is it?”

            Trystan sat down on the end of the bed, his hands on his knees. “Louis.”

            I blinked. “He’s supposed to be a problem,” I said. “He’s the villain. Sort of. I have future plans that may involve him realizing how terrible he is and making the required amends.”

            Trystan paled – or would have paled, if he could get any paler. “No,” he said weakly.

            “It’s a distinct possibility,” I said.

            The vampire put his head in his hands and let out a keening wail.

            I climbed onto my knees and patted his back. “What’s wrong? What’s the matter? I thought you’d be happy!”

            He lifted his head and glared at me. “Happy? Over what?”

            “Louis’s redemption!”

            “And why,” he asked, “would I be happy about that? I’m the good guy! He’s the bad guy!”

            “Technically you aren’t the good guy,” I pointed out. “You’re the antihero searching for a cure to your vampire state.”

            “Whatever. I’m better than he is.”        

            I folded my arms, all consoling feelings gone. “You’re a brat. You just want to hog all the glory.”

            “This has nothing to do with glory,” he protested. “It’s the truth!”

            I narrowed my eyes. “Oh, so you’re hogging all the truth, then.”

            “What – no!” He flipped his dreads around one shoulder and clasped his hands together, like he was saying a prayer for patience. “Louis,” he said slowly, “is a menace. He ripped out my heart, remember?”

            “Chapter twelve.” I nodded sagely. “I remember.”

            “He still has it in a jar somewhere.”

            “It’s actually an ancient cured-leather case,” I said.

            “Don’t nitpick.”

            “Sorry. Please continue complaining.”

            “I’m not complaining, I’m trying to make you see sense!” He stood up and strode several circles around the room, like a distraught merry-go-round. “Louis can’t be redeemed! He’s too evil!”

            “You know how I feel about that,” I said, frowning. “Anyone can be redeemed. Don’t make me turn you into the villain.”

            He sat down abruptly in the swivel chair by my computer. “You wouldn’t. I haven’t got an evil bone in my body!”

            I pointed to the computer behind him. “Open your document,” I told him, “and search for the words ‘Trystan killed, maimed, or otherwise injured.’”

            He folded his arms. “You wrote me,” he said, and sounded like a pouting three-year-old.

            “Yeah, I wrote you. And look, you’re turning a new leaf. You’re becoming the good guy. There’s hope for you, and there’s hope for Louis. Stop whining.”

            “I’m not whining! Vampires don’t whine.”

            “Stop throwing a fit, then.”

            “Louis is crazy,” he said.

            I opened the chemistry book and placed it over my face with a groan. “Leave me alone.”

            “He’s demented! He’s insane! He’s like – like Spike if he ran into Loki and they smashed into Jack Sparrow!”

            I held up a finger. “Captain Jack Sparrow. And I really think he’s more like the Mad Hatter, if we’re going to bring in Johnny Depp movies.”

            The room was blessedly silent for almost thirty seconds, and I wondered if he had gone to have a tantrum back in his own novel.

            Then he said in a very small, very put-out voice, “If you make Louis part of the gang, I’m boycotting you. You’ll have writer’s block from now to Ragnarok.”

            “So I’ll have it until today.”

            “What?”

            I sat up, letting the chemistry book slide onto the bed. “According to the Viking calendar, Ragnarok is today.” I gave him a smug smile and snapped my fingers. “So there goes that threat.”

            “You know what I meant,” he retorted.

            Someone knocked on the door. Trystan glanced toward it, still straddling the swivel chair. He mouthed, ‘your mom’?

            I waved a hand. No matter how many times I tried to explain Trystan’s random appearances, nobody really understood it. I didn’t blame them, but I had stopped mentioning it. An insane asylum was not where I wanted to spend the rest of my days.

            “Honey? Are you on the phone?” Mom’s voice asked, muffled.

            “No,” I sang. “You can come in.”

            She walked in and glanced around the room, automatically checking for a visitor. Her eyes swept right over Trystan, lounging in the chair and watching her with his chin propped up on his hand.

            “Dinner’s almost ready,” she told me, smiling. She motioned to my chemistry book. “Have you finished the chapter?”

            “Almost,” I said. “I was interrupted.”

            Trystan made a face at me, and I stuck my tongue out at him. I pulled it back into my mouth when I caught Mom giving me a quizzical expression.

            “Interrupted?”

            I tapped my head. “Trystan,” I said. “Writerly things.”

            She clucked her tongue. “I don’t know why you decided to write a vampire. They were never really your thing.”

            I shrugged. “The character calls, I have no choice but to respond. Besides, he’s trying to un-vampire himself.”

            “And you aren’t helping,” said Trystan.

            “Well, I certainly hope he’s able to,” said mom. She ruffled my hair and headed toward the door again. Before she left, she turned to me and said, “How’s the other one? The mean one?”

            “Louis?” I asked, surprised that she remembered. She could remember character roles, but names eluded her. She only remembered Trystan’s name because I talked about him all the time; not that I would ever tell Trystan that.

            She smiled. “That’s the one. Did you decide what to do with him?”

            “She’s going to ‘redeem’ him because she’s too soft-hearted to be smart,” said Trystan.

            My mom’s eyes never wavered from my face as she waited for my response. “Well?”

            I smiled. “I think I’m going to turn him into a good guy.”

            Trystan almost fell out of the swivel chair. For a supposedly graceful vampire, he could be awfully clumsy.

            I added, “I think he and Trystan are going to become really good friends.”

            “I thought Louis did something awful to Trystan?” Mom’s eyebrows drew together.      

            “He tore out his heart,” I said helpfully. 

            Mom opened her mouth, and said the inevitable, “I don’t know where you come up with these ideas. I worry about you, sometimes.”

            “Hey, I’m redeeming Louis, remember?” I smiled. “It’s going to be great.”

            “It’s going to be purgatory,” said Trystan.

            Mom laughed and said, “Well, I’m glad to hear that. Dinner’s in ten minutes. Finish your chemistry.”

            “Gotcha,” I said.

            Trystan got to his feet and folded his arms. “You get crueler by the day.”

            “Go away,” I said, and threw a pen at him. He caught it and threw it back. “I have to finish chemistry before dinner.”

            “Go blow yourself up,” he said, and disappeared.

            I opened back up to the ninth chapter and began to read.

            Just wait, Trystan. Louis has a few tricks up his sleeve, and so do I.