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Clitfingers

I read this story at The National Young Writers Festival this year, during the Late Night Reading event. It was such a super cool event. Clitfingers can also be found in my book A Man Made Entirely of Bats which is coming out in March 2015 through Spineless Wonders.

‘Seen her? Yeah, I seen her. That is to say, I saw her. Dame was six foot sexy, with legs all the way from her hips to the floor. Yeah, legs like a newborn deer, like Pinocchio on stilts, ya dig? What was she wearing? Little red number that clung to her like a thirty-year-old nerd to his parent’s basement. And shoes – stilettos you could trim cheese with. What? You know, trim some cheese to put on the little round salt plates? Crackers? I call them salt plates. Was she wearing gloves? Yeah, she was wearing gloves, black satin gloves from her fingers to her elbows, real classy. Why you asking? She owe you some money?’

No, she didn’t owe me money – more like the entire State of New York. But this latest clue means I’m getting closer, tracking her down, zeroing in. And when I find her, it will be time for her to pay the piper. And by the piper, I mean the First Bank of New York. She’ll also have to account for all the hours and gastric pain she’s personally cost me.

That last witness I talked to worked the 4 am shift at the local casino, meaning I that was trekking through the streets as the sun rose sluggishly over the city. I know how you feel, pal, I said to the sun, on the account of how tired I also felt. The sun didn’t answer – but does it ever?

By the time I got back to my shitty motel room, my mind was buzzing with everything I knew, buzzing like a swarm of bees who had been evicted from their box thing, the box where they made their honey, like bees that had been evicted from their honey box. Yeah, buzzing like that.

There was no point even pretending to sleep, and I felt that my relationship with the bedbugs had grown a little one-sided, so instead I sat at the desk looking at photos of her and chewing on coffee beans.

A few days later, I’ve left New York entirely. I’m standing in a bank somewhere in North Carolina, confused and whispering sweet nothings to my ulcer. ‘You be cool, ulcer,’ I murmur. ‘Just, calm down and I’ll buy you something nice.’

The bank manager, who looks like he would have had a pretty cool solo song about domestic duties in Mary Poppins is mopping his forehead with a big bunch of tissues. ‘It was her. It was Clitfingers. She’s the only one who could have cracked our safe so easily.’

I grimace, as I have to concede his point – the crime does entirely match her MO. But why here? Why this stupid little town in the middle of nowhere, NC? Frampton barely had enough people to warrant a bank, let alone the kind of trappings that Clitfingers was accustomed to. No penthouses, diamond shops, high society laundromats or fat pig livers delivered directly to your home. There wasn’t even any frozen yoghurt, only politely affluent suburbia complete with high schools and movie cinemas a decade out of date.

‘Don’t worry, sir,’ I mutter to the bank manager, straightening my tie. ‘The FBI has their best man on the case.’ I was talking about me.

Three weeks later and Clitfingers has disappeared off the face of the earth. I’m drunk in the kind of shitty bar that families bring their children to. There’s way too much light everywhere. People are giving me sidelong glances, even though I’m just sitting here, nursing my coconut rum. I’m thinking Clitfingers might have lured me to North Carolina on purpose. I’m thinking that my quest to bring her to justice was doomed to fail. I’m thinking that I don’t like the smirk on the bartender’s face every time I order another coconut rum.

‘Howdy,’ asks some open-faced, friendly guy who has taken a seat at the bar next to me. He is clean-shaven, and has wholesome wrinkles around his eyes – the kind you get when you smile at children or pick hay from a field. He is perusing the menu. ‘Jimmabel, darling, I’d like a … hmmm, I’ll have a small beer thanks. How’s your mama? Good, excellent.’

I rolled my eyes as he conspicuously enjoyed his tiny beer. I loudly swilled my rum.

‘Say, Jimmabel, you know who I saw the other day? Tina Fairchild, you know, old man Fairchild’s daughter. Didn’t you go to school with her?’

He looks across at me because I have just dropped my glass. Clitfinger’s real name is Tina Fairchild.

Later on, everyone is gathered around me, listening to the biggest gossip this town has ever had.

‘So you’re saying little Tina is a world renowned thief now?’ asks a local farmer called Teddison.

I’m sure that hearing about a former resident who’d become a notorious bank robber was making for a better story than whatever usually passed for news around here.

‘There more than that,’ I interrupted, tapping my glass lightly. ‘You see, we were once partners at the FBI together.’

‘The FBI has partners?’ questioned Jimmabel.

‘Yeah, like Mulder and Scully,’ I explained impatiently. ‘Anyway, we were the best, solving crimes left right and centre. But more than that – we fell in love. And love has a way of making things go twisty, twisty twirly. Anyway, long story short, there was an explosion that blew all the skin from her fingertips, making them one thousand times more sensitive, and now she uses her sensitive fingertips to break into safes. They’re so sensitive they can feel the minuscule clicking that the safe makes.’

The bar fell into a shocked silence, and I realised I’d done that thing where I’d told the story way too fast to make it seem plausible.

‘Umm, well yeah, anyway, that’s why she got the name Clitfingers, because her fingers are as sensitive as a clitoris.’

‘It sounds like you’re chasing her … because you’re in love, boy,’ said Teddison.

‘No, I’m chasing her because she betrayed me,’ I grumbled darkly. ‘It’s revenge.’

‘All love is revenge,‘ said Teddison sadly.

Later that evening, I stood atop the roof of the local school, my gun pointed at Clitfingers, aka Tina Fairchild’s, aka my wife who I hadn’t seen in over five years.

‘Tina, you bitch! You bitch, I hate you!’ I screamed into the wind. It was raining fitfully and only a nearby streetlight provided enough illumination to see her. Her face was shadowed and a long trench coat billowed around her. I’d practiced this speech so many times, developed the perfect pithy one liners, but now, here in the moment, all I could do was swear incoherently at her, screaming into the night sky. I wanted to tell her how unfair it was, that yeah, I might have cheated on her, one time, but that didn’t give her the right to ruin me, to get me fired from the FBI, to leave me without even saying goodbye. I didn’t care about the fact that she was an international jewel thief. All I cared about was the shame.

‘Tina, we’re going to talk about our relationship now,’ I said, motioning with the gun.

She sighed and languorously removed her gloves. Pink light glowed from her sensitive clitoris fingers as she levitated into the air and flew away with a sonic pop.

I didn’t know clitorises could do that.

BATS

 

 

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Story Town at Surry Hills Festival

HELLO! I am reading a story from my book ‘A MAN MADE ENTIRELY OF BATS’ at Surry Hills Festival in Sydney on Saturday with some absolute legends. I’d love to see you there, come and say hello why not. Also, I’ll be on 2SER ‘So Hot Right Now’ at 11.30am if you want to hear me talk about writing and NYWF and other stuff.

3:30 – 4:30 ★ LITERARY LOVE || Readings from some of Sydney’s best emerging and established writers. Listen as they muse on love, sex and relationships on the steps across from the Clock, featuring Justin Wolfers, Hannah Story, Patrick Lenton, Lily Mei and Sophie Hardcastle.

Urgh, Writing: The misunderstood task of describing your book, or how to pitch

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There are a billion trillion articles about ways to pitch your book. There are books on how to pitch your book (did someone have to pitch their book on how to pitch books?). There are people in bars who like to recount the story they heard of a person stuck in an elevator with a commissioning publisher from some kind of unnamed publishing house, who managed to speak so goodly about their book in the horrifying metal room that they immediately became a bestseller!

So, wisdom and laziness is telling me that I don’t need to add to the ocean of knowledge that lies on the other end of a quick Google – but experience working in publishing has shown me that PEOPLE STILL DON’T KNOW HOW TO PITCH AT ALL, OH MY GOD THEY ARE JUST SO BAD. I’m not going to go into details, because that would be unprofessional, but take my goddamn word for it. Luckily I work in digital publishing now, so at least I’m spared the envelopes full of glitter or (heard this one the other day from a romance imprint) rose petals. And attaching gifs to your submission email just isn’t as eye-catching. Or eye-cutting. Glitter will cut your eye up a treat. Not that I even take submissions. I’m marketing. Whatever.

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PUBLISH MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

I think the pitch is universal, but I suppose my experience as a writer is with small press and lit stuff. Author Steve P. Vincent wrote a great article about pitching his political thriller here, which you should read.

Let’s go into some quick basics:

What is a pitch -

The process of summarising the totality of your book, generally to a few sentences of text, sometimes even a single sentence. What it is not – recounting the story, talking about a thousand ‘themes’ or listing the characters.

For my book, A Man Made Entirely of Bats, I pitched it as a collection of short and micro-fictions which was ‘A  comedic, absurdist and entertaining literary interaction with the concept of super heroes and the super strange in our world.’ Short story collections are a difficult breed to pitch, in comparison to something more straightforward like a novel. If I was going to pitch my perennial hypothetical example of the typical Australian lit.novel that I’m never going to write, which I’ve named ‘ Dry Rural Secret Town’ I would say something like ‘In the tradition of Winton and Carey, a man returns to his hometown to discover the reasons why he left in the first place.’

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So bleak. So mysterious. So award winning.

That was a wee bit sarcastic, but you’ll see that there’s a hook there. I am only implying murder, but I think if there was a murder, I would say murder. The ‘name drop’ of Winton does so much – it established a genre for one – if we took that away, we might be looking at crime or even horror. But it also announces intention of marketplace. Winton is a literary writer, but he is also a bestselling literary writer. A publisher might definitely be looking to fill a gap in their selection that a new Winton might fill. They might need another book for November, they might be interested because that kind of book is definitely Aus award bait.

In my one line pitch, I include the words: ‘homage to Kurt Vonnegut, Etgar Keret and Tom Cho.’

Vonnegut, because it uses genre in the pursuit of the literary, Etgar Keret because of its absurdist message and Tom Cho due to its playful interaction with popular culture. All this seems WILDLY embarrassing to write outside of a pitch, btw. What I am really saying with those names is ‘yes, these are literary short stories, but they are accessible and fun and silly and other writers do something like this, and they are doing OK, I’m not a madman.’ I am a madman, but I learnt to stop saying that in resumes and the like a long time ago.

Why is a pitch important -

A pitch is more than just the cover letter to your manuscript. An author needs to be able to understand their book as more than the weird story that lived in their head until they let it out. They have to understand it as a transferrable concept, not just through the medium of human speech, but also as the idea of something a reader wants to read. A pitch is so, so, so important for that crucial first step – getting the book published. It’s the magic sentence that you’re using to communicate with a publisher, or an agent, or whatever. The romance writing community, which as as per usual, is several steps beyond any other writing community, have regular pitch sessions at their conferences and conventions. Publishers come to these and grab pitches their, because the system of communicating books (a pitch) is established and works. And romance writers involved in these communities generally have some education on HOW to do this. Sometimes they even turn their pitch sessions into insane gameshow like events, like deathmatch and survival modes. It sounds intense and horrifying.

But, even beyond that first step, but also linked with it, is communicating who will be reading this book, who your audience are, what the genre is, what the style. How you are going to reach those readers. I am very, very, carefully stepping around using words like ‘product’ or ‘sales’, because I know that idea is abhorrent to a lot of holier-than-thou writers. But the goal is to have people read your work, and because of commerce, that means buying them. Understanding your book as something you will be working hard with to reach readers is crucial, and something that is increasingly more important to communicate during your pitch. For me, I talked about some markets, in Australia and abroad, and I submitted a marketing plan with my manuscript of ways I plan to reach them. Keep in mind that this is a collection of comedy short stories – the only thing that I can think of that is more unpalatable to sell would be poetry. Or a collection of short plays maybe. Or a 200,000 word description of poo.

I sent my manuscript to five publishers, and received an answer from four, and three decided on the strength of my pitch that they wanted to read my manuscript, and Spineless Wonders bit fairly early, and I decided I liked their style a lot. But my publisher at Spineless said that the marketing report was the reason she actually decided to read the manuscript, because she wasn’t currently looking for more books. So, I feel like my first experience pitching my own book was fairly positive.

Anyway, there’s a lot more ‘specific’ articles I mentioned, which will tell you what to include in your actual pitch, but I think I’m done here. I am happy to answer questions. There’s a good chance that publishers, who actually RECEIVE pitches might think my whole stance is missing several important things. I’m ok with that. This is mostly about my experience, and that’s all we can ever really be sure of, you know? Deep. That’s probably the tagline of ‘Dry Rural Secret Town’.

 

 

BATS

Urgh, Writing: A BOOK OF MINE IS GOING TO BE A REAL THING!!!!!

I’ve known about this for a few weeks now, but I haven’t felt like I can make it ‘blog post official’ yet. I’ve felt like maybe at some point someone will be like ‘no, we made a mistake, your short stories are godawful, we thought you had a cookbook?’ But I’ve spent the day working on the first round of edits on my manuscript, so I suppose it is now time for me to be Officially Excited.

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I am very excited to announce that next year, a collection of my short stories called ‘A Man Made Entirely of Bats’ will be published by Spineless Wonders. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

A Man Made Entirely of Bats is a collection of short and micro fictions that humorously swarm around the idea of superheroes in popular culture. It has stories in it called things like ‘Radioactive Jerk’ and ‘Guerilla Mum’ and ‘Infertility Man’. It also has some previously published stories in it, like ‘Mooncat’ and ‘Believe’ in it.

We don’t have a lot of small press in Australia, and we don’t have a lot of publishers who are actually devoted to short stories as a form, which is why I’m so excited to be accepted by Spineless Wonders. I’m inspired by Angela Meyer’s ‘Captives’ and I’m inspired by Tom Cho’s ‘Look Who’s Morphing’. Also, the entire concept for this book came from the Flaming Lips album ‘Soft Bulletin’. I’m inspired by like a thousand alt-lit people who are writing and publishing stuff which traditional publishers aren’t doing and stuff which is fun and awesome and experimental.

I just feel this whole collection is so dumb, so weird and like, devoted to being silly before ‘meaning’ anything, so I’m really excited that it is going to exist. I am excited to be able to hold it in my hands and i’m also excited that it is going to be available as an ebook for people who don’t want to have another physical book. Every day when I think about it, I’m like ‘yay, this is great’ but also ‘what, what are we thinking, this is such a dumb idea’.

I’m also going to be pretty transparent about the process, because obvs I’ve never had a book published before, so I’m pretty interested in the process. Sometime this week I’ll write a post about pitching? People interested in that? I dunno. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. I also work in publishing, so you can just ask me stuff. I dunno.

When I found out that my pitch had been accepted, I got expansively drunk a the Pan Macmillan sales conference and kept yelling at people ‘I’m celebrating’ in between shots or dancing on my own to ‘Suffragette City’. “I’M CELEBRATING”

I’M SO EXCITED!

 

 

Minor Act of Bio-Terrorism

Friendship

So, this morning I was standing at the station listening to ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Gillian Welch and I was thinking about a romance book I’d just read which said something about passion being important in life, and I was trying to think what passion feels like, but I just kept thinking about the flu.

When the train pulled up, I looked at my reflection in the train doors because I accidentally shaved my whole sideburn off the other day and I can’t stop looking at it, and saw a wasp fly directly into my neck. I was already stepping into the carriage by this point, and I really wasn’t worried because in my heart I was a sad southern woman, and I kind of loosely grabbed the wasp in my hand and flicked it away. I then went down the stairs and sat. In reality, what I’d just done was grab a wasp and throw it directly at a bald guy in the standing section, and for the rest of my trip I just kept hitting ‘repeat’ on Wrecking Ball and watching everyone freak out and run around as this wasp kept landing on people, and every station more people would get on, tired-eyed commuters in suits with running shoes who don’t expect to be in any danger and there was always this moment, where they look at everyone else ducking and screaming and they just stand still, listening to music or playing on their phone and then suddenly they’re like ‘holy fuck, there’s a wasp on me’.

It was pretty great, I felt pretty powerful, I wanted to poke the lady next to me and be like ‘I did that, I threw that wasp’. I think that passion is pretty nice maybe, which is probably the point of all these romance books that I sell, but I think life is all about throwing wasps at things, and seeing if they stick. You’re either a wasp thrower or someone surprised by a wasp. Or maybe you are a wasp. I dunno. What’s a hornet?

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #10: QUITTING

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There are some thoughts that you can only reach when walking through freezing, mist-filled streets at 4am, when a crazy man is screaming monotonously in the distance, when drunk nightclub people are still waiting for taxis to get home. My thought was this: I have made some mistakes. My thought was: Some people are experiencing worst things than this, like leg amputation and pregnancy and medically not being able to eat cheese. My subsequent thought: Those people are not me right now, this is still awful.

As I waited for the first train of the morning to lumber into the station like a long hippo with a stinky moist inside that we all sat in, my final thought was: I am quitting my job this month.

Probably the only thing I truly admire about myself is that once I have made a decision I will pursue it with the tenacity of a brain-damaged terrier chasing a seagull. That day at work, buzzed on the thousand coffees I drank secretly in a toilet stall, I made lists. Lists of potential things I could do, ranked and cross-referenced with pros and cons lists. Lists of all the lists I would make. Colour-coded lists. Secret lists.

A week later, I was enrolled in an Honours degree at university. The problem with my dum-dum dog tenacity is that sometimes it means the ideas I pursue aren’t GOOD ideas, but the fact that I then dropped out of that degree about two weeks in is another story for another time.

If you’ve never had the experience of quitting a job you truly detest, I thoroughly recommend you do so. It’s like walking down a shadowy alley and seeing all the muggers surround you, but unknown to them – you are a ninja robot killing machine. Inside you are only more indestructible steel.

On the day I discovered I’d been accepted into the degree and its subsequent Centrelink payment (which I never received, FYI) I stomped my metallic legs into my boss’s office and told her I was quitting. It’s not so much that I disliked my boss, it’s that I thought she was a terrible person and really bad at her job. Also, I disliked her. Fun things that we’d been through together: the time she threatened to fire me after a customer spat at me, the time she tried to deny me a day off for a funeral, the time she changed all my shifts to the 5am starts.

In my head, I dreamt our showdown would be full of snark and wit. I wanted to be like ‘say goodbye to all of this, you monster, good luck replacing my particular brand of apathy and incompetence’. Instead, I found myself being overly polite and telling her how much I’d enjoyed working in the place that had probably given me a minor drinking problem.
I told her I’d be happy to stay for another two weeks and help train my replacement, and also subtly sabotage things around me and really wallow in my leaving. I wondered if I could somehow take her down with me. But, being my diabolical arch-nemesis, she was like ‘Actually, this can be your last day. Please write a formal letter of resignation and… we can leave it at that.’ She tapped her sharp nails on the table as a dismissal, and I left the office, feeling cheated. This was supposed to be my amazing, drawn out and dramatic leaving, showing that i’d won. Somehow, she’d reversed everything and made me feel dismissed.

I spent the next few hours trying to work out a way to one-up her. I plotted stealing things, or leaving fruit somewhere. I schemed leaving a series of cryptic notes hidden around the store to mess with her mind and maybe even drive her insane. And then, when it was my lunch break, I realised… I could just leave. I could just walk out of there, and let all the anger and spite leak from the back of my head like baby drool.

So I gathered my stuff, said goodbye surreptitiously to the people I liked, left my resignation note on my bench and strode into the future, an uncontrollable smile pasted across my smarmy face.

But also because I am in no way above absurd spiteful gestures, my letter of resignation was a penguin holding a sign that says ‘I quit.’

 

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This was the LAST in my #curriculumworstae series. Thanks so much for coming along on the ride. I’ll be starting a new series on Facebook soon, which will also be published on this blog. The support for these stupid stories was amazing! YOU GUYS ROCK SO MUCH.

Urgh, Writing: How To FOCUS on Writing

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I was reading this post by my colleague Craig called ‘How Not To Write a Novel’ and was nodding along with his points, before realising that actually my problems are entirely different to the ones he has laid out, and are maybe unique to me. But then I thought I was probably overestimating how special I am and underestimating how ridiculous other people’s lives are. So here are my pointers on how not to write a novel, with an added moral at the end:

1. Don’t Write Theatre

One of the easiest ways not to write a novel is to spend years writing theatre. While it may sometimes look like you’re writing a novel due to all the words you are putting on a page, don’t be confused – this is a script, and not a novel.

2. Don’t Write Films

Hey, films are cool. How do they get the words you wrote up on that big screen and expressed through shiny pictures? We’ll never know. But doing that film writing course is not writing a novel. You are often sitting down, but once again, still not writing a novel.

3. Don’t Write Satirical Poetry

Even though you got a shiny purple suit and an 8-foot banner of yourself, you are still not writing a novel. You are in a poetry boyband.

4. Don’t Write Miscellaneous Shit for Everyone Who Asks

Still not a novel. Mostly these are lists about 90s TV shows.

5. Don’t Get A Job You Love

Because you have to go there every day, and not write a novel. They’re pretty strict on that point.

I am definitely guilty of all these, and because of the last point, I’ve had to look at all the things in my life and decide what my goals are. I am now dedicated to getting some books out there – starting with a collection of short fiction, then a creative non-fiction novel and then potentially a fiction novel. These are my goals. Because I am now focused on my goals, my writing has become a clear and defined thing. The microfiction a day plan that I talked about in a previous Urgh, Writing has been working fantastically, and I am reliably pumping out a few stories a week. Furthermore, I’m enjoying my actual writing. It doesn’t feel like a chore. Accompanying this is STILL a bunch of side projects – things which I’ve looked at and said ‘this will help my eventual goals in terms of promotion and exposure’, or smaller projects which I really believe in, such as a top secret thing I am working on with Seizure. But I am also learning how to say ‘no’. Over the past two weeks, I keep seeing fantastic writing opportunities – comedy writing positions, webseries, residencies, etc etc etc. Things that would have suited past me a lot, or things that I think I would enjoy. And it’s super hard staying focused and saying no to them. But I’m getting better.

And now for bonus moral point:

6. ACTUALLY DO ALL THOSE THINGS I SAID NOT TO DO

Why? Because maybe I don’t have a novel, but each of those points has led me to becoming a better writer. Theatre for example – something I love, something I love writing, and something I will write again, but I KNOW my dialogue skills in prose have enhanced because of it. My film course? Taught me I don’t want to write for Hollywood, but also how to pitch ANY project. Focus is good, but I think I’ve needed this time being a little bit adrift to pick up some skills, and now I can focus them into a deathlaser or whatever.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #4: JARED PADALECKI

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When I am old, handsome old, like George Clooney or a big majestic tree, that one story I’ll tell to my grandchildren and old war buddies over and over again will be the time I met Jared Padalecki. ‘BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHO THAT IS?’ my grandchildren will scream ‘WE HAVE EVOLVED INTO BEINGS OF PURE THOUGHT AND NOW RIDE ON MOONBEAMS, WE CARE NOT FOR YOUR ANTIQUATED ACTORS’. And I’ll chuckle, and start peeling a mango with only my blunt thumb nails.

You see, I was working in the specialty wine store at the airport when it happened. I thought that the lights overhead had failed perhaps, but it was actually because someone immensely tall was standing over me. I am 6’2 myself, so the sensation of being loomed over is a really strange one, but there it was. I immediately recognised Jared Padalecki, or as I thought of him ‘Dean’ from Gilmore Girls. He was smiling politely, and his shoulders were enormous, as wide as I am tall. I wanted a piggy back from him, a sexy, sexy piggy back.

He explained that he wanted to bring wine as gifts for his family, and he wanted something ‘Australian’ but not touristy. I managed to help him in what I believe was an adequate manner, also managing to keep a surprising degree of calm. I probably came across as fairly humourless, focused on not blurting something ridiculous like ‘NICE SEX PANTS, BIG FACE.’

I even acknowledged his celebrity status, casually asking if he’d been filming here in Aus, only to learn they were using the Australian desert for some episodes in Supernatural, which I didn’t watch.

Finally, at the counter as I packed all his wine for him, listening to him speak fondly of spending Christmas with his parents, he went to leave, thanking me for helping him. I almost left it at that, almost let him walk away, before I softly said ‘You were my favourite.’

‘Sorry?’ he asked.

‘You were my favourite of Rory’s boyfriends’ I stated, before blushing furiously. He nodded and thanked me vaguely and walked off, and I realised that I was blushing because I’d lied. At that point, Logan had been my favourite Rory boyfriend. But now Dean is. Shoulders as wide as I am tall.