Brian Thomas and I met when I was still in high school, at a meeting of the Flint Area Writers Club. Brian was a storyteller, full of adventure and fun. I was – and continue to be – in awe of his energy.
I think Brian only asked me out once. We went to the video arcade. I liked Tempest and Ms. Pac-Man, but the only game I was good at was Galaxian. Brian played all the rudimentary Star Wars games. He was fun to watch.
All these years later, I don’t remember many of the details of our date, beyond the automobile tour of Grand Blanc, where Brian grew up. At some point, the cops started following Brian’s car. I’m not sure what he had done, although I’m sure it was something. Rather than pull over, Brian raced through a subdivision, taking turns at speed, and ducked into some stranger’s driveway. He turned the car’s engine off. We hid in the front seat, lying flat against the leather upholstery, until Brian was sure the police car had gone away.
That was the first and only time I’ve run from the authorities.
I don’t remember exactly why we didn’t date again. Brian always seemed to have lots of girls fluttering around him. I didn’t want to be one of many. At some point, he moved to East Lansing to go to film school. I moved to Ann Arbor to finish my journalism degree.
We kept in touch through Martha Allard and our mutual love of Star Wars. When Mart proposed writing a Star Wars shared world zine, Brian and I collaborated for the first time. Our story “A Contest of Wills” was the first time his character Sano Tocneppil met my character Ariel Shaad. Luckily, neither of them killed the other. It was published in Tales of a New Republic in 1996. You can read that on Wattpad.
Together with Mart, Brian and I wrote “Just Another Day in Paradise,” which was published in 1997. You can read it on Wattpad, too.
Time passed. I got married. Brian moved to LA. I moved to San Francisco. Brian got married. They visited us in San Francisco. We visited them in LA. I don’t remember what got me and Brian writing again, but we started many Ariel/Sano stories. One, raw erotica, was finished but has never been published.
Then I started writing about Lorelei. I’ve written elsewhere about how she got her name, but that was about all I knew about the story when I started it. I wrote the story one scene at a time, in order. That’s unusual for me. Every day, I emailed another installment of the story to Brian.
They were rough first drafts. It was terrifying, showing my daily work to someone else. I didn’t know who the characters were. I didn’t know where the story was going. I just sat down every day, asked myself what happened next, and pressed send.
Brian loved it. In fact, he loved it enough that when I finished “The Angel’s Lair,” he jumped in with both feet and extended the story. Brian surprised me with the harpies and Ashleigh Johnson, the mortal soul who is used to possess Lorelei. Whoever heard of a mortal possessing a succubus before?
Brian wrote, I wrote, we wrote separately and together. The book ballooned up to 700 manuscript pages. Eventually, I broke the manuscript in half. It had a natural climax halfway through and that made the story a manageable, readable length. The first half was published two years ago as As Above, So Below. After a little tinkering and some updating, it is available now on Amazon as Lost Angels.
The second half of the story will be published for the first time in November. It will be called Angelus Rose.
I learned so much from writing with Brian: how to throw your characters into an action scene, how to handle the relationship between a gunslinger and her weapon, how to send your characters into situations that you can’t imagine they’ll survive. Brian taught me to take risks.
He also taught me how to crack a bullwhip, something for which I’ll always be grateful. And he roamed around 20th Century Fox with me, getting me researcher privileges in their library. He snuck me onto the set of The X Files movie. We spied on Arnold Schwarzenegger smoking a cigar. I got the faintest taste of the entertainment industry.
Most of all, though, Brian taught me how point of view shapes a story. In the As Above, So Below books, Lorelei and Azaziel look at exactly the same events from diametrically opposed viewpoints. That tension is what makes the story crackle.
I took what I’d learned writing the draft of the original massive Lorelei book as the guiding inspiration for Kill By Numbers. I wanted to explore the gulf between what Raena wants out of her life and what Gavin wants for her. I wanted to see how people who had shared so much could still completely misunderstand – and completely underestimate – each other.
The book couldn’t have been written without the decades of friendship I’ve shared with Brian, the years of inspiration he’s given me. When it came time to dedicate Kill By Numbers to someone, I never considered anyone else.