“Hit me,” I say, sliding onto my favourite bar stool. “And make it strong.”

Maudie eyes my dirt-encrusted skin and bloody fingernails as she grabs the kettle. “Oh honey, what’d she do this time? Bury you alive?”

I nod.

“Fire last week? And poison yesterday?” She pats my hand. “Either this is going to be the most thrilling story ever or she’s a bona fide pantser.”

She slides my Earl Grey (white with one) over and I take a sip, my tense muscles easing instantly.

I take another sip and gaze around. Maudie’s Basement Bar is busy tonight. Usual crowd. Most of the regular characters are sporting genre-specific injuries but I blink when I see Donny near the window — the dashing English gentleman is now half cyborg.

I raise my eyebrows.

Maudie shrugs. “His writer’s switched to a Sci-Fi / Romance mash-up.”

I chuckle. “Guess I’m lucky mine sticks to Action and Adventure. On Earth.”

She takes my empty cup. “Refill?”

I nod.

“Where’s that nice young lady you came in with last time? The nuclear physicist?”

I look away. “Gone. Written out completely in the latest edit.”

“Oh honey, what a week you’ve had. Perhaps you need something stronger than tea?” She winks and hands me an enormous slice of chocolate cake.

“Thanks, Maudie. You’re the best. I don’t know what I’d do if this place didn’t exist. We all appreciate it, you know. The things our writers put us through… just knowing we can come here for a brief respite makes all the difference.”

I glance at my watch. Almost time to get back.

I close my eyes and stretch out my arms. My fingers bump something feathery soft.

“Watch it, mate,” a gruff voice says.

Startled, I open my eyes. A stunning pink and purple butterfly glares at me.

“Sorry, little lady. Didn’t see you there.”

“Not a lady.” He lands on the bar. “Hit me, Maudie. And none of that tea nonsense. I need the hard stuff.”

“Rough day?” I inquire.

He laughs. “Something like that.”

Maudie pours his water. “What’s wrong, hon?”

“I’m sick of being a background element,” he says.

“I hear you,” I reply. “I’ve been the bad guy forever. I mean, why can’t I be the hero just once?”

The butterfly nods.

I appraise him closely. “Actually, everyone loves pretty butterflies. You would make a perfect undercover spy.”

I grab my hat and stand up. “See you next time, Maudie,” I say. She doesn’t respond. Too busy scribbling in that tatty notebook of hers.


“Today we’re joined by bestselling author, Maudie Jones-Smith.”

“Hello everyone, happy to be here.”

“Maudie, you’re renowned for your inventive plots but your latest release definitely takes the cake. A reformed criminal and a butterfly teaming up for a spy mission? Amazing! Please tell us, how do you come up with these super creative ideas?”

Maudie smiles. “I just listen to what the characters tell me.”

Jane Brown is a web programmer and short fiction writer who lives by the beach in Australia. Her stories have been published in The Centropic Oracle, Etherea Magazine and Every Day Fiction.

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