(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Valerie was written by Valerie Seimas.)
“I warned you the bunnies bite!” Kelly stood at the front counter of her Muse Shop and placed her hand on her hip as she watched her plot bunnies’ latest victim cradle his hand close while quickly scribbling on paper the flow of ideas that wouldn’t stop coming.
Joshua shot her a look. “Why do cute things have such teeth?? And I mean, it’s like venom but to the brain—total immediate transfusion of ideas, and I don’t need more ideas!” He yanked the paper off the tablet and waved it in Kelly’s face. “Your fault. I’m blaming you!”
Kelly raised her brows and crossed her arms. A humored smile touched her lips. “Oh come on, you’ll thank me…eventually!”
He muttered under his breath, but Joshua knew it was true. The Muse Shop was the place to get ideas—even when you didn’t want some. He should have known not to stop by for a visit, but he had heard Kelly had baked cookies. Still, he shook his head. “I’m heading out before anything else jumps out at me.” With that, he turned on his heel and headed out the door.
“Have fun! And let me know how it goes!” Kelly waved at him and chuckled. This wasn’t the first time her plot bunnies bit someone, and the people always came back, gushing over how one idea had multiplied to ten, fifteen, twenty! And they’d written more than one book based on it. They knew the bunnies were around and would bite, but they always came back.
Kelly turned to resume going through the list in her notebook keeping stock of things, and the door chimed. She lifted her head half-expecting Joshua to come back in babbling about something, but she saw a new visitor. Putting down the notebook, Kelly came around the counter. “Valerie Seimas? I’m Kelly Blanchard.” She reached out to shake Valerie’s hand. “Great to meet you! How are you doing today?”
Valerie took the proffered hand and smiled, her eyes darting about the shop. “Great, thanks It’s so nice to meet you. What smells so wonderful?” Her eyes drifted over the shelves, taking in the curious colors and shapes. “What an interesting place you have here. Looks way too fun to get any actual work done.”
Kelly beamed. “Fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies!” She motioned for Valerie to follow her through a door behind the counter. It led to another room lined with shelves filled with odd trinkets, scrolls, and books. However, in the middle of the room was a big table with some unique items scattered across its surface, but more importantly were the cookies on the plate.
Kelly gestured to the cookies. “Feel free to take some.” She began clearing off the table. “Got a boatload of stuff from another story dimension, so I’ve been organizing, so pardon the mess!” She smiled at Valerie. “So, tell me a bit about yourself—what it is that you do and such. I’d love to know everything.”
Valerie looked at the cookies longingly but didn’t take one. She dropped down into the chair and smiled. “I like to tell people I’m a paper-pusher by day and writer by night—makes me sound like a superhero. Don’t I wish it was that glamorous. I write romance novels mostly, dabble in fantasy whenever a NaNo comes along. I like to write about celebrities—actresses, singers, athletes—and imagine that they’re just like us. I can’t help it, I’m addicted to happily ever afters. I can’t have gluten anymore but as long as I have the happily ever afters I think I’ll survive.”
She opened her purse and pulled out a bookmark and laid it onto the table next to a orb glowing faintly purple. “Here. This is my attempt at marketing—I’m not very good at it. I hate talking about myself and my writing but I’ll pass out bookmarks. Of course my two published books are only available as ebooks so you can’t use it on anything I’ve written —a little irony to pass the time. Well I don’t actually hate talking about my books—obviously I’m rambling now.”
Kelly picked up the bookmark and inspected it then smiled at Valerie. “It’s lovely, and yes I know how hard it is to market oneself! Now, you mentioned you published two books, but you also said you write about celebrities and such? Real life ones? Like fan fiction?” She raised her brows. While most people didn’t agree with fan fiction, Kelly didn’t see a problem with it, so she was curious.
Valerie laughed. “No, not fan fic. I actually didn’t realize until a few months ago that you could write fan fic about real people and not just characters. No, I invent my own—then I can give them hilarious and tragic back stories and not be sued. All of my romantic comedies take place in the same universe so the characters make cameos in the other stories. Fan fic is quite interesting though. The way people can mimic the voice and style of characters—and that they want to—is fascinating to me.”
“To me, fan fiction is the training arena for a writer. Helps them develop characters, worlds, and master the elements of writing before getting thrown into the deep end.” Kelly shrugged with a smile and finally put the box of stuff down on the floor and took a seat across from Valerie. “So, before we get into what your stories are about, tell me, how did you get into writing? Have you always been writing? What inspired you to become serious about it?”
Valerie fidgeted, grabbing the orb from the table and idly spinning it as she answered. “I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember except for the one week in 6th grade that I wanted to be a veterinarian. That was a bad decision—I hate blood and am a bit scared of dogs.” The orb turned red as she shivered. “For as long as I can remember I’ve been making up stories in my head and started writing them down in middle school on floppy disks I was always losing. In college I decided I needed to be honest about wanting to be a writer even if it scared me. After I graduated I participated in NaNoWriMo which showed me that I could write consistently and finish what I started. Haven’t looked back since.” The orb glowed a bright teal.
“That’s awesome.” Kelly gave her a warm smile. She noticed the orb glowing different colors and had to ask as she nodded to it, “Why does it change colors like that? It’s fascinating!”
Valerie looked down at the orb, mildly surprised at its behavior. She held it up in front of her eyes and studied it. “You know, I think the colors and changing based on my emotions, a little bit like a mood ring. Reminds me a bit of a fantasy story I’m working on…” Valerie squinted at it and it turned a lovely shade of butter yellow.
“Tell me about this fantasy story.” Kelly set her elbows on the table and propped her chin in her palm as she leaned forward to listen. “Always love a good fantasy!”
“It’s about a girl, an Intuit, who can smell emotions. Right before her 28th birthday, she puts on a necklace that gives her access to powers and a community she never even knew existed. I’ve written the first book of I think a trilogy—Let’s Get Intuit—and it’s definitely unique but I’m not sure if anyone would read it. It straddles a few genre lines—a bit coming of age but not teenagers, not really high fantasy. Not sure if anyone would like it but me, so I wrote it for me. And because deciding what emotions smell like is actually really fun.” The orb turned bubblegum pink and Valerie laughed. “Well now it’s just showing off.” She set it across the table out of her reach.
“Have more confidence in your story. I think you might be surprised. Fantasy is pretty popular, which can make it a competitive market, but there’s so much to it. And, for what it’s worth, I like what you’ve said about it so far although I do wonder what emotions smell like.” Kelly then watched the orb and smiled. It seemed to have it own personality, and that was intriguing. “So, what inspired this story? What more can you tell me about it?”
“It kind of just hit me—literally.” Valerie shook her head and rolled her eyes at herself. “One day at work I slammed my finger in a drawer and it started getting one of those weird bruises on the nail. A few days later I looked at it and thought it looked like a cloud, what if I could go there, what if the cloud was telling me something. The same day there was a really weird smell in the office, and I described it so someone as what disgust must smell like. Delilah, with her bruises that predict the future and expressive eyes that tell stories, was born!”
Kelly’s eyes lit as she smiled widely. “That’s awesome! Love it how ideas just come out of nowhere. Sorry you had to get hurt for that idea to come, but…it’s really cool! So, what do emotions smell like? Is there like a specific smell for happiness, sorrow, anger, or so?” She furrowed her brows, but she couldn’t deny herself a fresh cookie any longer, so she snatched a small one off the plate and tore off a piece while waiting for Valerie. She really hadn’t eaten much, so cookies were her dinner.
“Well Happiness smells like honeysuckle because I associate the color yellow with brightness and joy and sugar makes everyone happy. Sadness smells like salt, like tears. Intuits can also smell danger, and it’s a challenge for Delilah to try to figure out what’s an emotion or situation and what’s just the taco joint down the street.” Valerie looked at the cookies, trying to think what emotion would smell like warmth and grandma’s kitchen. “My favorite is that biting sarcasm smells like burnt toast.”
This caused Kelly to laugh out loud. “Oh, if she met my older sister, she would smell that a lot, but thankfully my sister is getting better about that.” Still, she smiled at the thought but then shook her head, She felt bad for any Intuit who had to smell that all day. “Okay, just curious, with us, if we smell something long enough, we stop smelling it. Is that the same for these people when it comes to emotions?” She furrowed her brows as she regarded Valerie.
Valerie smiled. “Me too, burnt toast would follow me around. Intuits have special teas and medicines to help clear their sinuses so they can stay fresh. Magical Wasabi root—very original, I know.” She glanced at the orb for a moment before looking back at Kelly, a bit thoughtful. “It’s funny that you should ask that because one of the Intuit philosophical questions is what does humanity smell like. Maybe they can’t smell humanity because it is masked by everything else. The forest for the trees and all that.”
“But do they ever stop smelling a specific emotion if they’re used to smelling it?”
“Hmm, I don’t know. I’ll have to go ask Marge about that—she’s Delilah’s mentor but a bit scatterbrained, so she keeps forgetting to tell her some important stuff. Though I imagine as long as you’re keeping your sinuses clear, you should be able to smell all the emotions of the rainbow as long as you’re concentrating.” The orb suddenly blazed bright green ad Valerie got a gobsmacked look on her face. “The Muse just struck me”
Kelly arched a brow but held back a chuckle. People called her the Muse, and she certainly didn’t struck Valerie, but she knew what she was saying, and she sat back. “What idea did you just get?”
“My villain. Like any good villain he seems to think that he’s never wrong and completely right and doesn’t realize that he’s gone completely off the rails. Well maybe he lost the ability to smell some of the emotions that would have directed him back to the side of righteousness. Oh, this is good…this place is well named.” Valerie noticed a bunny in the corner and reached out her hand, beckoning it over discreetly under the table.
Kelly sensed the bunny moving forward, and she took in a breath. “I wouldn’t—“ but the bunny leapt forward to the inviting hand and chomped down on it. Kelly winced as if she had gotten bitten, and she gave Valerie an apologetic look. “They bite. I’m sorry!” She then rose to her feet, went to the shelf, grabbed a pen and paper and set them on the table. “For any ideas you may get.” Then she shook her head and glared at the bunny. “Evil things. I’m sorry about that! Let me get you something to wrap your hand. Are you okay?”
Valerie grimaced and tried to shake it off but the bunny had chomped down hard. She picked up the pen with her free hand and started scribbling until it loosened it’s jaw enough to disengage. Valerie stared at her tingling fingers. “I’ll survive—been through worse. A towel or something would be good.” She glanced warily at the white rabbit trying to look innocent. “See, told ya a veterinarian would have been a bad idea.”
“I’m sorry! I swear I’ve fed them, but they’re just biting everyone today.” Kelly fetched her a towel and got some water to clean it. “Let me see the hand.” She began to tend to the hand, but still she felt horrible. “I’m so sorry. They’ve never bitten any other interviewees of mine! I feel horrible. Need to put them in their cage whenever people come over, but they always chew their way out.” She locked eyes with Valerie. “Yes, they’re not your ordinary bunnies.”
Finally she finished with the hand and stood back. “I’m so sorry about that…but the good thing is you’ll likely have plenty of new ideas. They are plot bunnies after all!” She gestured to the bunny now hiding in the shadows. “And unfortunately our time is up. What a terrible way of ending an interview.” She frowned and shook her head. “I’m so sorry about it. Are you okay though?”
Valerie looked up from the paper she was scribbling all over, emotions and smells and landmarks on a treasure map. “What? Oh yes, I’m fine. This is great actually—my day job had gotten me so stressed I’ve had a massive case of writer’s block on this story. I think she just bit it right out of me.” She stood up, tucking the paper into her purse, and laughed. “You have nothing to feel sorry about. I’m should know better than to feed—or pet—the animals by now.”
“Well, you’re welcome to stick around and keep writing down all those ideas, but unfortunately I need to go back to the front of the shop to tend to my other customers. Our time has come to an end, but I’ve quite enjoyed our chat. Now I will be thinking of emotions every time I smell something.” Kelly smiled at her.
“I know the feeling.” Valerie walked through the door into the shop. “Maybe I’ll stay and browse.” She walked through the shelves, running her throbbing hand idly across a shelf. She winced, hit a vase, and it teetered on the corner of the shelf before falling into her hand. “On second thought, maybe I’ll come back and browse later.” She returned the vase, shrugged and moved to a less crowded piece of floor. “It was wonderful to meet you. Thanks for your time.”
Kelly smiled at her but was thankful the vase didn’t break. “Thank you for coming. It was fantastic to meet you, and you’re welcome by anytime!” With that, she motioned Valerie to follow her back to the front of the shop where she found several of her characters having emerged from her mirror, and they were arguing. Kelly sighed at the sight and gave Valerie a look. “I’ve gotta get back to work. You take care!” With that, she waved at her then approached her characters to see why they were here in the first place.
Valerie’s story ‘Let’s Get Intuit’ has no release date set yet, but you can follow her on social media for more updates!