Twas 7:14 am on the Friday before Christmas, by some quantum flux of the damn universe, and I rolled over to nudge the gigantic lump on the other side of the bed. "We overslept."
"You overslept." A single, saucer-sized yellow eye glared at me. "I survived a war, a political coup, the machinations of madmen, and your fondness for plot twists and sub-arctic temperatures."
In winter, I always wake up with either cats or Hsktskt in the bed. I don't know which are more annoying. "You're supposed to be running a planet on the other side of the galaxy, not on Earth hogging my covers."
TssVar yawned. "We need to discuss the resurrection of the rogur."
"Book eight. Maybe. Go back to the future." I got up, pulled on my robe and went out to make a small vat of Irish breakfast tea. After putting the kettle on, I discovered a note from my guy telling me he'd taken the kids out for breakfast. No one had figured out the insanely complicated task of pushing the ON button to engage the dishwasher, so I drank my first cup of tea from my daughter's Barbie Petshop juice mug.
"Good morning, my dear." A slim, silver-haired woman carrying a 20 lb. bag of wild birdseed came in from the garden. Her pearls went nicely with her beige twinset. "Did you sleep well?"
"Too well, thanks, Louise." I eyed her. "I stopped writing you ten months ago."
She gave me a gently exasperated look. "I was Louise. Now I'm--" she paused as a six-legged blue and white scarfaced snowtiger came out of the livingroom to investigate the amount of Eukanuba left in the cats' bowl. "I'm not in that book, am I?"
"No, but you can be in my book, love."
"Don't hit on the senior citizen." I didn't look at the big blond vampire standing in the shadows by the fireplace. "And you're not supposed to be hanging here until the copy-edit arrives."
"You've been second-thinking the apartment love scene," Lucan reminded me. "It was too bloody short, if you ask me." He smiled at Louise. "Does she rush you?"
"We had a very strict wordcount limit," Louise admitted. "And there was no sex in our novels. Although I always had my suspicions about the man who ran the floral shop. He was the secret torrid affair type."
"I think the same of the seigneur's seneschal," Lucan said. "I'll wager he has a little human tucked away somewhere."
My head was starting to pound, so I pointed to the book room door. "Back, both of you."
I put on my bunny slippers and carried my second cup of tea out to the porch. It was a bit chilly, but there were still some birds having their morning seed feast, and no one usually came out here. The neighbor's evil-eyed horse was chewing ground over in the pasture, but we ignored each other.
"You can't ignore me much longer." A warrior who would be king, dressed like a beggar, emerged from the rose garden and came to stand beside my Japanese maple. He was short like me, but built like a brick coliseum. "She wants to see the proposal." He swung the tip of his sword toward my favorite tree. "Useless, but pretty."
"Touch it," I advised him, "and I'll change your life forever."
He laughed. "You can't."
"Want to know what the world would have been like minus you? We call it alternative history." That shut him up. "Look, before I write the proposal I need to decide if you're two or three books."
His spine stiffened. "Surely I'm at least five, woman."
I shook my head. "No more series for now." I saw a dark face peeking out from behind the oak tree and called out, "You're 2008. Don't even think about it." I got up and stalked inside.
I walked past Michael Cyprien, who was cavorting on my sofa with Alexandra Keller. "Lord, be nocturnal, will you? Or get a room." That reminded me. I went to the spare bedroom, listen at the door for a minute, then hammered on it. "Caine." I waited as two nubile, barely-dressed smiling women slipped out before going in. My new sleeper sofa was a wreck. "I thought we agreed next Spring."
A naked Caine Gantry yawned and folded his arms behind his head. My guest sheets almost covered him from the waist down. "That was before Katrina destroyed my setting."
"I told you, I'll handle it." I turned and saw a seven-foot shadow stretch out in the hallway. "Not now, Jory."
"You've got mail." The blade dancer shoved a small stack of envelopes into my hands. "They all want the next installment." She glanced in at Caine. "He's nicely-sized. Can I have him for the Clan?"
"Wrong time period, and you've already got one guy too many." I tucked the letters in my robe pocket and headed for the stairs, stepping over a stray Aksellan youngster who was stalking the small cage my daughter had left next to the window. "You haven't developed mouth parts yet. Quit scaring the hamster."
No one was supposed to be upstairs when I was working, so of course everyone was waiting. Vampires, aliens, and FBI agents stood by the walls. A giant worm was reading indignantly from my biography of Keats to a rather bored-looking scarlet dragon. The girls had all gathered around the work table and were examining my latest cover flats.
"We're tired of being depicted as Running Woman," Terri Vincent mentioned, waving her cover. "Moriah would like to be Lying in a Hammock Woman."
"I can't control cover art." I saw Phillipe at my work desk and smacked the back of his head. "Off the internet."
"By the way, I'm not having a torrid affair," he said as he surrendered the chair. "But I know someone else who is."
Moriah rested her cheek against her hand. "It isn't me yet."
"Or me." Jo Edgeway frowned at one of my covers. "Is that Flipper in drag?"
A lupine alien with two golden marks on his chest fur shook his shaggy head. "No, it's an Ylydii princess. As depicted, she's suffocating, but we did protest."
"Fat lot of good that ever does," Raven grumbled, pointing at her cover. "Check out the title they stuck me with."
Kameko had a look. "Mine was worse."
"Do I have to stick my fingers in my ears and sing LaLaLa?" I demanded.
A short dark-haired woman appeared in the doorway, put two fingers in her mouth, and produced a piercing whistle. "If you want her to write you, you have to give her some room, people. You know you'll all get your turn. Now, everyone out."
Everyone grumbled, but everyone got out.
I needed to learn how to do that. "Thanks, Joey."
"No problem." Cherijo came to look over my shoulder at the screen. "I guess this isn't a good time to talk about book eight, or the rogur, or Reever, or how you ended book seven."
I rubbed my forehead. "Yes, sort of, no, and tough."
"That's what I thought." She winked. "Happy writing, boss."
I waited until she close the door before I began typing. Twas 7:14 am on the Friday before Christmas, by some quantum flux of the damn universe . . .