NaNoWriMo

I love NaNoWriMo.  I’ve participated every year since 2007.  I even schedule several days of vacation from the Evil Day Job — especially early in the month — to ensure I set myself up for a fast start.

I’m not feeling the love this year.

My grandpa passed away this morning.  Emotionally, we’re all handling in fairly well, because we had the chance to say goodbye Monday night.  I’m afraid it’ll catch up with me, though, especially during services this weekend.  We’ll be on the road Sunday for the funeral and visiting family.

I’m *this close* to finishing the big project at work I mentioned.  There are a few things still not working, but the bulk of my tasks for the project are done to the point where the other programmer isn’t stuck waiting on me to supply the data.  I promised to check email in the morning and see if I can finish the last few things still outstanding and I might call in for an update meeting.

So while I’m technically “on vacation” until Tuesday…. I might actually be logging in several times.  The joys of working from home where “showing up for work” is way too easy.

And yeah, I still have to get the monsters up for school at 6 AM.  Not feeling the “stay up all night to write” love then.

With all the long hours and stress this past week, I don’t know that I can even stay up until midnight tonight, let alone get my first 1666 words right out of the gate.  I haven’t touched Sig’s file in days — and I have to finish him before I can start anything else.

Needless to say, I’m starting with several handicaps, both emotionally and physically.  But I still want to try.  I’m hoping the love and energy will lift me up and keep me going when my tank is already running low.

We shall see.  The first task is whether I can actually stay up until midnight tonight as I originally planned.

NaNoWriMo2011 Winner!

I was so close tonight that I had to keep going until I hit.  All Lady Wyre’s Regret tonight, but I have absolutely no regrets.  I have no idea how much longer this prequel could be.  I don’t have a particular ending in mind.  Actually as I typed that, I *did* get the ending as clear as day in my head.  Isn’t that strangely wonderful?

So for this NaNoWriMo, I:

  • Finished The Billionaire Zombie’s Virgin Witch.  I even edited it.
  • Did some brainstorming for Lord Regret’s Price.
  • Wrote several thousand more words on Lady Wyre’s Regret.
  • Did some brainstorming and even first draft work on the project I’ll tentatively call “3 Aliens” even though that’s not what the title will be.

I did not get back to Phantom yet.  It’s going to have to wait a bit longer, because as soon as I finish this prequel, I need to format all the Shanhasson books and get them loaded next month.  After I submit the zombie story!

Final NaNoWriMo count:  50,027 (50,074 in my file, but I’ll go with what the validator gave).

Snippet:  From Lady Wyre’s Reget, first draft, etc. etc.

As Queen’s Physician, Charlotte had enjoyed every luxury Londonium had to offer as well as full backing for every scientific exploration she’d ever wanted to undertake.  Yet she’d never crashed a ship on an unknown planet before.

“Another thing I need to learn,” she muttered, pushing up out of the cupboard into which she’d tumbled.

Sig was sprawled on the floor and half buried by rubble.  From the brief look she’d gotten at his chest before the crash, she didn’t hesitate to grab the small black case containing her most prized research.  Tossing the broken panel and twisted hull away from him, she called out to him.
“Sig?  Are you still with me?”

“Charlie.”  He tried to laugh but his chest wheezed like a ghastly broken pipe organ.  “Did we make it?”

She dug into her case and pulled out a pair of sharp scissors to cut open his lawn shirt.  A pity, because the fine linen and delicate hand-woven lace looked like it’d come straight from Parisii.  “A bit worse for wear, I’m afraid.  I hope you weren’t terribly fond of Henry for I’ve broken him beyond repair.”  She kept her voice light and cheerful, despite the severity of his wound.  Any other physician would merely make him comfortable until his final moments.  But not I.  “What manner of planet have you sent me to, Lord Regret?”

“A colony.”

“A rebellious colony.”  Not good.  The shard had pierced his heart, possibly beyond even her repair.  “It won’t surprise me if Majel simply blows the entire planet out of the sky for their audacity.”

“Safest I could find in such short notice.”  His voice weakened, breathy with pain.  His pulse fluttered in his throat, frantic and uneven.  “Don’t bother, Charlie.  I know it’s bad.”

As if to illustrate his words, he wrapped his hand around the shard and yanked it out of his chest.  Blood spurted immediately, his life’s blood draining away in an alarming fountain.

Planting her right hand over the wound, she laid the precious glass tube out on his heaving chest.  Inside, tiny bits of silver metal glinted in the emergency lights.  She leaned down over him so he could see her face despite his weakened senses.  “I can save you, if you want to live.”

“Too many regrets,” he whispered, his words stumbling together until she could barely understand him.  “Let me die.”

She hesitated, searching his face.  The lines of pain eased about his eyes, smoothing into acceptance.  He’d risked his reputation as the galaxy’s most famous assassin to help her.  He could have left her at Dock 371.  He could have tossed her to the bounty hunter and escaped unscathed.

But he didn’t. How can I stand by and watch him die without at least trying?

She flipped the cork out of the tube.  She removed her hand from his chest, braced for spraying blood, but he’d already lost too much.  In the open wound, she could see the torn remains of his heart and the white of broken bone.  Into that cavity, she sprinkled the metal bits from the tube.

All of them.  The more assemblers in his body, the more likely they can repair the damage before he dies.

She pulled out the datapad and typed in simple commands.  Heart. Infection.  Blood loss.  Her assemblers weren’t  sentient, so without programming, they’d simply be bits of debris in his wound.  While they worked their magic, she gave him a shot for pain.  At least he’d be comfortable if they failed.  Then she spilled a bio-bandage over the wound and hoped for the best.

Settling back on her heels, she closed her eyes and allowed emotion to wash through her for one brief, luxurious moment.  Relief, joy, terror, heart-pumping adrenaline.  Her hands trembled, and with no one to see her moment of weakness, she even allowed a few tears to fall.  She was so close to freedom!  So close to losing the man who’d helped make it all possible.  So close to death herself.  But at least I’ll die fighting for my freedom, not trapped in the Tower while Majel scribbles down every secret her torturers yank out of me.

With that out of her system, she forced herself up and moving.  She couldn’t assume the bounty hunter had given up on them so quickly.  They were down in strange territory, helpless, unable to flee, and one of their party severely wounded.  If they had to make a run for it, she needed to gather the most crucial supplies.
There was nothing else she could do for Sig at the moment, although she couldn’t help stealing glances at him to see if he were still breathing.

Packets of food.  Every weapon she could find.  Anything she might be able to sell or trade for information or protection.  She had a tidy pile by Sig when she heard the first rustling and cracks of undergrowth outside the ship.  Arming herself with a lazor he’d thoughtfully installed beneath Henry’s main dash, she wiped all emotion from her face, hit the button to open the hatch, and walked outside with all the regal confidence of the Duchess of Wyre.

“Hello, there!”  She called in her most imperious voice as though summoning the butler for her afternoon tea.  “We need assistance immediately.”

A man stepped out of the shadows, crossing the torn earth and smoldering tracks of their crashing descent.  He approached with hands palm up and empty, his manner hesitant despite his lumbering giant-like size.  She kept the lazor hidden against her skirts, ready to slice his head off if he even thought about attacking them.  His much larger bulk wouldn’t matter one iota against the razor-sharp weapon.  Dressed in a strange mishmash of furs and leathers with the skin of some small rodent wrapped around his head, he appeared to be a colonist, not the bounty hunter that had shot them down.

“Are you hurt, my lady?”

English, at least.  She could thank her lucky stars a Britannian colony had been close, although she hoped the colonists weren’t too sympathetic to Her Majesty’s command.  Americus had been the first colony to attempt to cast off Majel’s yoke.  If she hadn’t been busy wiping out the Razari, she might have already destroyed Americus’s pitiful little rebellion.

“No, but my companion is.  Do you have shelter nearby?”

“Only my cabin, my lady.  I’m afraid we’re several klicks from any real civilization.”

Perfect.  She stepped aside to allow him to peek inside the ship at Sig.  “That’ll do.  What’s your name, sir?”

“Gage, my lady.  I’m no bloodletter, but your friend doesn’t look well at all.”

Briskly, she gathered up her research equipment and as much of their provisions as she could carry.  “Bloodletting is for ignorant fools who know nothing better.  Now make yourself useful and help me get my friend to safety.”

The man easily scooped Sig into his arms like a child, emphasizing his bear-like size.  I have no contacts in this
place.  My title and House cannot help me here.  All I have are my research—which I daren’t use too openly else Majel will catch wind of it—my feminine wiles, and my wits.

Putting as much seductive sway as possible into her hips, she stepped out of the wreck and cast a flirtatious glance back at Gage.  The poor bumbling man gaped at her like she’d sprouted another head and almost dropped Sig.

It’s a damned good thing I’ve been blessed with a brain. 

NaNoWriMo2011 Day 27

Posting this morning since it was too late last night.  I didn’t get much work done over Thanksgiving, but I did work in the car Saturday on the way to Granny’s.  And since I’m off from the Evil Day Job today, I stayed up late last night, which I’m paying for this morning because I still have to get the monsters up for school.

I plan to work more on Lady Wyre’s Regret today, but last night, I had to work on plotting and building a project that I’ve been thinking about for awhile.  I dreamed about it the other night, so I wanted to get down everything I could remember.  All the work this weekend was on plot and worldbuilding.  For once, I know the ending pretty well (or at least the general idea, perhaps not every last detail), but I have no idea what happens in the middle.  Other than the smexing.  *winks*  So I need to do a lot more plotting.  I’m sure I’ll be ready to set it aside for more work later once I run out of steam.

NaNoWriMo count (thru last night):  46,185 words

Snippet:  From Lady Wyre’s Regret, first draft only, subject to heavy revision later.

“So you’re a pilot as well as an assassin.”  Lady Wyre had traded in the slightly scorched gown for a high-waisted spotlessly delicate linen that made Sig shake his head.  “What other talents do you possess?”

The linen was so fine and thin he could see the darker hint of her thighs despite the petticoats she wore.  The hem and bodice were thickly covered with silver embroidery and pearls.  On Britannia, she’d be the perfect picture of a genteel lady heading to her country house.  She’s got a lot to learn about living on the run.

They slipped through the heavily armed Britannia shields using a tiny backdoor loophole he’d paid a small fortune to open.  Breathing a little easier, he initiated the illegal contraband engine he’d acquired from a desperate Razari.  It’d need a bit to warm up, but once charged, they’d hit Kali Kata in a matter of hours.

If one of Her Majesty’s ships happened to board him, they’d take one glance at that tiny crystal powering the ship to unheard-of speeds and throw him into the Tower without evening finding his female partner aboard.  Luckily they won’t be able to catch us once we hit Razari speed.  “Do you have any gowns a little less conspicuous?”

Up went her nose and she gave him that delightfully regal stare that somehow made him appear shorter than her slight five foot height.  “A Duchess has a duty to always look her absolute best.”

As gently as possible, he pointed out the obvious.  “You can’t be the Duchess of Wyre any longer, sweetheart.”

She sniffed and a sudden bolt of terror struck his heart at the thought that she might burst into tears.  He hated crying.  He’d actually botched a few marks in the past because he hurried up to silence all the moaning and messy sobbing.  If she was a crier, it’d be damned tempting to slit her pretty throat and toss her into deep space.

“I hope you stocked tea on this miserable little boat.  I need a cup.  Badly.”

Suspicious, he risked a glance at her and thankfully found her eyes completely dry. “I’ve got a nice black from Zijin. Just whirl your chair around one eighty degrees and hit the replicator.”

She didn’t fuss about having to make her own tea or complain that a replicator’s brew wasn’t as good as the real thing, a pleasant surprise.  After leading a life of privilege, she couldn’t be faulted for snobbish ways, as long as she wasn’t a bloody prig at the same time. That he couldn’t abide.

She surprised him yet again by handing him a cup, too and also asking—instead of ordering.  “Where are we going?”

“It’s going to be hard to disappear off the grid, unless you leave Britannian space entirely.  We’ll have to fuel up somewhere, so I planned to stop at the Colony.  Then beyond, wherever you want to go.”

“Britannia space grows wider day by day.  The Razari certainly didn’t expect a warship to show up on their front door.”  She sipped her tea in silence for a few moments.  “I’m not afraid of correcting my mistakes, Sig.  As long as you’re not afraid to point them out to me.”  She chuckled at  whatever she saw on his face.  “Besides, now I have a reason to go shopping again. What do you recommend?”

“Dark colors, simple utilitarian materials.  No embellishments.”

When she pouted, he couldn’t help but laugh.  “No silk?”

“Absolutely not.  Only a woman of a blooded House would wear silk outside of Britannia.  If you look like a lady, there will be questions.”

She blew out a long breath.  “This is going to be harder than I imagined.  I expected to live without servants, high fashion, and the tedium of Society.  In fact, I relished the opportunity to live on my own for once in my life.  But no silk?  Oh dear.  That might…” She sniffed and damned if her bottom lip didn’t quiver.  “Break me.”

Dread chilled Sig’s stomach.  Don’t cry.  Please don’t cry.  “Don’t make me toss you out the airlock, Charlie.”

She burst into laughter.  “You should see the look on your face.  Why, Lord Regret, I do believe you’re queasy.  Are you by chance air sick?”

An alarm blared, cutting through her teasing.  Instantly calm and alert, she calmly set the cup of tea aside and took up position beside him.

He scanned the readings.  “Unknown ship.”

“Her Majesty’s?”

Sig shook his head.  “Not a warship.  I’m also not detecting a merchant signal.  Not good, not good at all.  Someone was waiting for us to lift out of port.  I need another five minutes before the Razari crystal is fully powered.”

“What kind of cannon do we have?”

He couldn’t help flashing a look of appreciation at her.  No questions, no panic.  She leaped straight to the heart of the issue and prepared to blow them out of the sky.  “Henry might be little, but our ship is loaded for bear.”  He reached over and pulled up the armament program on her display.  “Fire at will.  We have plenty of ammunition.”

Concentrating on the controls, she still managed to quip.  “You named your ship Henry?”

“Be nice to him,” Sig warned as he programmed in a zig-zag flight pattern with a little more zig than zag to hopefully buy them time.  “He’s your ticket out of the Tower of Londonium.”

“Good boy.”  She patted the dashboard and winked at Sig.  “Fly faster, dear Henry.”

Taking return fire as quickly as she managed to get off a shot, the ship shimmied. Sig kept a wary eye on the shields, which were dropping at an alarming rate.  Another hit and they might lose their port engine.  Come on, Henry.  Fire up that blasted engine so we can get out of here!

Lady Wyre whirled her seat around.  “Where are my trunks?”

“You don’t have time to change your gown,” he gritted out.  “I’m pushing the engines are hard as I dare to get us some breathing room, but I need you to keep them off my tail as long as possible!”

“Oh for goodness sakes.”  She left her chair, stumbling against the panel when they took another shot that rocked the ship sideways.  Fortunately, the panel she accidentally knocked open contained her precious trunk. She rummaged in it and quickly returned to her seat.  “I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve, so to speak, Lord Regret.  I can help with the shields and possibly…”

She plugged a slim stick into the panel and her dainty hands flew over the keyboard.  “There.  I can’t wait to get my hands on Henry’s nether regions to fully explore that Razari engine.  All they brought to me to study was the crystal.”

Amazingly, the shields increased back to eighty percent capacity.

“You should have a bit more horses under the hood, too.”

Shaking his head, he increased the throttle and Henry leaped ahead like a charger taking the next fence.  “My dear Lady Wyre, if we weren’t getting chased by a bounty hunter, I’m afraid I might have to kiss you.”

“Bloody hell,” she muttered, slamming her fist down on the panel.

Taken aback, Sig kept his gaze straight ahead.  Stupid tongue.  Too familiar by half and me out of Society for years.  No wonder she’s offended.

“Oh don’t be a mamby-pamby.  If you dare to steal a kiss, give me your very best effort and I may reward you with a bedding you’ll not soon forget.  I’m frustrated because evidently I’m a wretched shot.  If we survive, I want your solemn word of honor that you’ll see to it that I receive proper training on marksmanship.”

“Done and done.”  Another blast rocked the ship, and this time poor Henry didn’t recover.  He wallowed to the port side.  Cursing beneath his breath, Sig hauled on the controls but the ship was sluggish to respond.  “Damnation, we’re sitting ducks here.  Don’t do this to me, Henry!”

“Incoming.”  Her voice was tight and low but not panicked.  “I’m trying to intercept.  Hold on…”

The explosion sent the ship rolling back to starboard.  Shrapnel splintered off the hull, jabbing into his left side and chest. He fought to bring the ship out of the roll, but pain choked him.

No.  That was blood.

“The hull is compromised.”  If anything, Lady Wyre’s voice became even more measured and calm as their situation worsened.  “Redirecting shields with my device.  Hold on, Henry…”

Sig glanced down.  A long piece of twisted metal protruded from his chest.  Once he pulled it out, he’d probably die in minutes.  I have to find a place to land and fast.  A place where we won’t fall into Britannian hands as soon as we try to dock.

There was only one blip on the radar that was settled but not firmly in Britannian control.  Whatever she’d done with the shields had settled the ship’s roll, but the controls were still sluggish.  He tried to plot the new course, but his fingers were numb.  His hands felt like blocks of ice.

“Tell me what to do.”

“New course.”  He tried to breathe shallowly to ease the pain.  “Americus.”
She said something, but pain blanketed him in a gray daze that words couldn’t penetrate.  He couldn’t help but laugh, even though it sent shards of agony through his heart.  I never thought I’d die in a shipwreck at the hands of a bounty hunter.

NaNoWriMo2011 Day 22

Just 769 words today but I’ll take them.  This piece (Lady Wyre’s Regret) is soooo fun.  It’s been great getting back into this world and visiting Lord Regret and Charlie again.  I went back to previous scenes and layered in a few more details that I thought about after heading to bed last night.

NaNoWriMo Count:  42,121 words

Snippet:  Following from the previous day.

He picked her up, manhandling her down the impressive stairs to her gleaming carriage. Her shoe fell off and she had the inane urge to laugh.  Cinderella would be late to the ball.  Would Prince Charming find her shoe and come to her rescue?

Lord Regret slung her inside the carriage so hard she fell face first against the floor.  Her head rebounded off the wall and for a moment, everything went black.  Outside, screams and chaos did nothing to help her regain her senses.  She tasted blood and her head throbbed.

The flash of heat stirred her numb limbs to life.  Fire exploded about the carriage, created by the Razari crystal she’d studied.  A deliberate message to Majel, as well as a  plausible source for the execution to which she could claim ignorance.  Someone had to want Charlotte dead other than the Queen, enough to make her doubt Charlotte’s hand in her own execution.

Of anyone, the Razari would want her dead for what she’d accidentally done to their planet.

Smoke choked her, making it impossible to see.  She ran her hands over the floor of the carriage, trying to find the escape hatch.  I have to get out before it starts moving.  Damnation, where’s the latch?

Panic made her hands tremble.  Sweat trickled down her face, the heat scalding her skin.  The stench of scorched silk and melting metal burned her throat.  Finally, she found the latch, hefted the small door open, and jumped through to blissfully cool darkness.  She pulled the hatch shut after her and nearly collapsed into a heap of smoldering skirts.

Too close.  Too real.  Her mind shrilled, her nerves raw with fear, but she forced her body to move.  She had to get off Wyreton lands as soon as possible.  Majel wouldn’t delay the search long, even if they managed to extinguish the blaze.

Her greatest fear was that someone would put out the fire before it managed to destroy the carriage.  The Razari crystals were powerful, flashing so hot that metal began melting almost immediately.  Definitely hot enough to combust a body into nothing but ashes, indistinguishable from the remains of the carriage.

I hope.

No one outside of Wyreton knew there were extensive tunnels beneath the estate, and her own people would never betray her House, not even to the Queen.  Yet she daren’t leave any trace behind, just in case.

From her reticule, she pulled out a thin canister of bio-bandage to seal shut the assassin’s wound.  She yearned for a mirror to see how badly she’d scar, resisting her vanity that insisted she cover the ugly cut with a scarf.  She didn’t feel much damage.  Sig knew very well what he was about.

She had no lady’s maid to help her strip off the gown, so she heaved her skirts up about her waist, picked up her remaining slipper, and ran down the corridor in her stockings with nothing but a hand on the wall to guide her.  No light, in case someone was watching.  No sound.  No trail for Majel to follow.

Once well away from the house, she exited the tunnel in a dim, empty stable. No horses lived in these stalls, but Charlotte—and her mother before her—had always been suspicious with private caches and safehouses  throughout Londonium.  With ruthless House Krowe in control of Britannia, a lady never knew when she’d have to make a run for it, and a Wyre always went in style.

Donning a full-length cape, she hopped on a motorized scooter—her own invention, of course—and headed for their meeting place at the Thames dock.  She checked her timepiece and pressed the accelerator.  Lord Regret had been adamant about the time.  Once the accident happened, the docks would close down within minutes just to make sure no one escaped.  Majel would claim she wanted to capture the assassin who’d dared harm her Physician, but she’d want to ensure Charlotte wasn’t escaping the net at the same time.  Five to ten minutes would be all they had to get out of the Britannian airlocks.

She skidded to a halt at the dock, Pier 371 as he’d ordered.  The motor started in a rumbling roar of smoke.  Oh, dear, the Captain could surely use my assistance in fine-tuning his engines. Perhaps he’ll allow me to make a few modifications as we sail…

The ship lifted off and she stared at it a moment, dumbfounded.  She opened her mouth to shout, but it would do no good. No one would hear over the engines, and she daren’t draw attention to herself.  How ironic that she’d been betrayed by her own assassin.  “Dead” wouldn’t matter if she couldn’t get off Britannia.  There was only so long she could hide, so many favors she could claim, so many bribes…before the Queen’s Ravens found her.

She squeezed her eyes shut and fought for calm.  Think, Wyre.  Think!

A hand closed around her arm and she nearly shrieked like a fishmonger in Cheapside.  Her eyes flew open and met Lord Regret’s knowing smirk.

“Doubting the trustworthiness of your assassin, Lady Wyre?  Surely not.”

He guided her further down the dock to a much smaller ship.  Fighting back shock and relief, she stared doubtfully at the tiny boat.  Would it even be large enough for the two of them?  Then an overwhelming sense of loss washed over her, weakening her knees.  My research. Lost.  What if it falls into hands worse than Majel’s?  Her voice trembled as badly as her hands.  “My trunks?”

Inclining his head, he waved her aboard, smiling at her torn stockings and slightly scorched red silk.  “Already aboard, Your Grace.  I thought it best to have my own red  herrings.  Lord Regret would make almost as an attractive lure as Lady Wyre for the footpads and pirates lurking about the docks.  Now shall we be away?”

Charlotte spared one last glance at the glorious city stretched out along the Thames.  The Tower of Londonium rose like a gloomy dark sentinel against the brightly-lit night.  Even at this late hour, crows flew about the tower, their eerie caws echoing like ghosts in the nearly silent city.  Britannians everywhere were pausing in their chores and celebrations to watch with awe and not a little dread as a small distant planet began to slide in front of the silvered moon.  For almost an hour, the moon would be completely hidden in the dark of that planet. While I slip far, far away.

“I’ll not regret it if I never see Londonium again.”

NaNoWriMo2011 Day 21

I haven’t given up on hitting 50K but wallowed in the glow of finishing ZCR a bit too long.  It’s hard to switch gears without much down time, especially this time of year.  I’ve been a shopping, cleaning fool the past two weeks preparing for Thanksgiving.  I’ve got two fridges absolutely stuffed with all the fixings.  Cooking will start Tuesday night this week, Wednesday is prep day when I’ll bake the pies, make at least 10 batches of egg noodles, and mash 20 pounds of potatoes.  (We like our carbs…)  Then of course the turkey needs to go into the oven by 8 AM Thursday and we’ll have a house full of guests until late Thursday night.

Writing?  In all of that?

Yes.  I’m trying.  I did some plotting and brainstorming for Lord Regret’s Price.  I also decided to see if I could expand the free prequel, Lady Wyre’s Regret.  IF I can get to RT next April, I want to have something to hand out and sign (since Lady Doctor Wyre is an ebook).  I’m thinking about printing up a chapbook of the prequel and a nice excerpt.  But of course I want it to be the absolute best I have to offer, and there’s a lot more to how Lady Wyre and Regret meet than I’ve given you so far.

NaNoWriMo count:  40,450 words

Snippet:  this is continuing the free read prequel, Lady Wyre’s Regret.  First draft only, etc. etc.  I love the little line tying into the next book….  What exactly is Lord Regret’s price?

Waving regally, Charlotte paused on the front steps of Wyreton and awaited her public assassination.  Her heartbeat ramped to supersonic speeds, but she managed to smile for the millions of Britannians watching the Solstice Eclipse festivities.  Cameras flashed, broadcasting her departure for the royal ball.

As the Duchess of Wyre, she’d be fashionably late. Eternally
late, if Lord Regret manages to pull off this charade.

She heard the shocked whispers and gasps before she felt the assassin’s blade digging into her neck.  This time he didn’t spare any pressure, deliberately drawing enough blood to leave DNA evidence on her spotless white marble.

It must look real and authentic.

Drawing in a deep breath, she let a shrill scream echo across the plaza.  She clawed at his arm locked about her throat so tightly she couldn’t breathe.  Combined with the rigid corset, she was afraid she might actually pass out.

Pain burned across her throat and she screamed again.  She hadn’t counted on being so terrified.  Her orders had been
explicit.  He must rough her up enough to make it look real.  He must draw her blood, obviously wounding her severely enough that the general public would believe her dead.

Yet she couldn’t help that niggling doubt.  What if Majel had gotten to him?  What if someone had upped her price, making the amount on her head too attractive for the famous assassin to resist?  Every man has a price.  What is Lord Regret’s?

 

NaNoWriMo2011 Day 16

This post was supposed to go up last night but I lost track of time.  I still ended up going to bed way too late, but it wasn’t because I was trying to write an update post.

I was re-reading ZCR.  *happy sigh*

I think I’ve re-read it twice already.  I added the missing scene to get my words in for yesterday.  I picked up a few threads that disappeared.  I went back and laid a little more groundwork on the “villain” thread.  I went back and put some character traits into earlier scenes so it was consistent.  I fine tuned the “fairytale” and “dream come true” theme that I honestly didn’t plan but ended up giving the story — especially the ending — that extra oomph I was looking for.

It all came from one angry, “Wrong fairytale,” line that Yiorgos retorts about a third of the way into the book.  The book already had a “beauty and the beast” vibe, so that matched.  There’s also a “Cinderella” moment.  So it was easy to keep that idea going.

That’s one of the jobs of revision — pick up on the glimmering ideas that need to be highlighted.  Bring them forward and more important than ever.  Tone down and eliminate what’s NOT as important.  Know your theme and what you’re trying to say.

This story might have a lot of jokes and laugh-out-loud moments (especially if you know the real Mythos in Joplin) but it certainly has a lot of very real things to say too.  To be entirely honest, I think it’s my best ROMANCE I’ve written.

I finally wrote a “fireman and arsonist” kind of story.  The hero and heroine know they can’t be together for very real and concrete reasons by the midpoint of the story.  Being together will destroy them.  Yet they find out soon enough that they’re willing to do anything, sacrifice anything, to be together.

The Zombie Billionaire’s Virgin Witch is complete at 44,300 words.  If there’s anyone who’d like to beta read, drop me a note.  I won’t bother the usual suspects because it’s 1). NaNoWriMo 2). Thanksgiving and 3). I’ve bothered you many times in the past.  But if you want an early sneak-peek read and are willing to tell me your opinions (likes/dislikes not critique or line edits), then let me know.

Snippet:  This is one of my favorite scenes in the book and the fallout after this snippet took place much earlier than I expected.  At first I was worried, but then I realized it happened in exactly the right place.  Because then I had a good 60 pages left to make the characters agonize and squirm.  :mrgreen:

“When we first met last week, you made it very clear that I wasn’t your type.”

“I said you weren’t my usual type, which, quite honestly, was a mistake in judgment.  One I don’t make very often, because you’re a tempting, sexy siren, and I’ve been finding it harder and harder to resist hauling you back into my arms.”  Whatever look had shocked itself onto her
face made him chuckle.  “Meanwhile, I believe you called me an alphahole.  That certainly doesn’t sound like I’m your type, either.”

“Not my usual type,” she conceded, trying to smile coolly.  Not as shaky as she felt on the inside.  “If it’s my cooking…”

“It’s not,” he broke in.  He leaned forward and slowly
stretched out his hand across the narrow island, giving her time to withdraw.

But she didn’t want to pull away.  She hungered for touch and warmth, laughter and passion, all the things a woman of her age should be able to have with whomever she chose.

His long, elegant fingers slid over the back of her hand, his fingertips lightly tracing the hills and valleys of her knuckles.  Such an innocent touch, but it made her voice thick in her throat so she could hardly talk.  “I thought you liked my cooking.”

“I love your cooking.  But that’s not the only thing going on here.”

“It’s not?”  Fine trembling spread across her shoulders and her eyes ached from staring so hard at him, willing, begging him to say it.

“Should I kiss you again so you can feel it too?”

She squeezed her eyes shut, swamped by the memory of his mouth, heat and wet and pressure threatening to drag her under.  Shuddering, she made herself open her eyes so he could see the truth.  “No.”

He didn’t cease stroking her hand, but his voice gentled like she’d never heard before. “Why not?”

“Mr. Michelopoulos…”

“Surely you can call me Yiorgos now that you’ve had your tongue in my mouth.”

She couldn’t help the rough moan that escaped.  “Stop it.”

“Stop what?”  He taunted, low and soft yet insistent, as
ceaseless as his fingers on her skin. Somehow her hand had flopped over like a cat stretched out in a window seat, soaking in the rays of summer sun.  “Telling you the truth?  Would you rather we walk around like two immature idiots screeching at each other because the sexual tension was destroying our control? Instead, we can sit here like two reasonable human beings and decide how quickly I’ll have my mouth on yours again. Although I admit, I’d rather not have you smashed up against the wall outside, but in my bed.”

She clutched his hand to stop the incessant stroking that was making her insane.  “I’d like that very much, but I can’t, Yiorgos.” [the first time she will use his given name]

His eyes went molten chocolate when she said his name.
Turning his hand in hers, he clasped her firmly, as though he was afraid she’d leap up and run from him.  “Why not, Clare?”

How much should I tell him?

If she admitted that she’d lose her power—and thus her ability to break his curse, assuming she found a way—he’d do the only possible reasonable thing.  He’d back off.  I’m off  limits if he wants to free Remy’s of whatever ill-will might linger here.

Exactly what I want.

Right?

 

NaNoWriMo2011 When Zombies Rule the World

That’s sort of how I feel tonight.  As exhausted as I am, I have to admit I don’t think I’ve ever been able to pull in these kind of numbers before.  It was like once I caught the whiff of “the end” I was obsessed.  I wrote every free minute outside of work and kid duty today.  We even grabbed a bite out so I didn’t have to stop and cook.  Between Dark & Early, lunch, before dinner, after dinner…

I netted over 9,800 words today and managed to finish the first draft of the Zombie Category Romance at 43,133 words.  I have one scene I know I need to go back and add, and I might need to fine tune the ending to get a snappy last line.  I’m not sure that what I have sings enough, and I’m too tired to tell.  There’s also a few dropped threads I need to go back and fix, but overall, I’m so very pleased with this draft.

It’s everything I love about HQ Presents and alphahole heroes mixed with zombies and a tough yet sweet woman who knows exactly how to bend the arrogant Greek to her will.  I so hope Angie wasn’t kidding when she said she was interested in something like this…  Plus it’s got a foodie theme for Alissa and pays tribute to my all-time favorite restaurant, Mythos. I’m so ridiculously pleased with everything about this story that I’m almost giddy.

Or maybe I’m just high on words. Or maybe Clare slipped me a little of that Death By Chocolate Cake when I wasn’t looking…

Now I’m turning into a pumpkin for the night.  I won’t be getting up D&E tomorrow and I plan to rest my wrists and eyes as much as possible.  Since I’m ahead, I might make the first pass of revisions while the fire is hot and then move to Phantom.  Or maybe I’ll just free write notes for Lord Regret.  He’s been nagging me lately, even if I don’t have a plot for his book.

We’ll see how I feel.

NaNoWriMo count:  36,701 words

Snippet:  Hmm, there are so many fun and touching moments I haven’t shared with you.  Shall I share the first kiss…when Clare punches him?  The word games they play in the kitchen?  The “demonstration” that Helga puts on for him that convinces him Clare is the real deal and as honest as she claims to be?

I decided to share the first tender moments when Clare begins to understand exactly how much danger she’s in.

“When are you going to start calling me Yiorgos?”  Briskly, he turned to an expensive barista-quality espresso machine that certainly had not graced the kitchen in her father’s time.  “Besides, tea is for stuffy old ladies in silly hats. I’ll make a cup of coffee that’ll grow hair on your chest, while you explain how a curse works.”  So I can break it.

He didn’t say the last aloud, but now his carefully worded contract began to make more sense.  He desperately wanted to break this so-called curse, and he suspected she might know how to do so.  Even if her father had cursed Yiorgos—which she highly doubted—she didn’t have a clue how to break it.

Of course, Michelopoulos didn’t…couldn’t…know that.  If he suspected she was of no use to him, she’d be kicked out of Remy’s so fast she wouldn’t even have time to remove the apron.  She’d certainly lose her chance of regaining not only the restaurant but the Remy family legacy as well.  If, and that was a huge if, the man would uphold the contract he’d signed, arguably under duress.

She didn’t know much about the real man behind the famous tycoon façade, but she suspected he valued his word of honor above winning this war with her father that had gone on way too long.

“If I’m going to have motor oil in a cup, then I need dessert.”  Laughing lightly at the scowl he shot over his shoulder, she prepared two plates of strawberry shortcake which she’d intended to serve at dinner tonight, assuming he allowed the restaurant to open.  When he set the steaming cup of coffee in front of her—straight jet black and so strong just the smell of it made her eyes water—she spooned some of the cream into her cup.  “Besides, you never gave me permission to use your Christian name, Mr. Michelopoulos, and according to our contract, you’re my employer.”

The furrow between his eyes deepened into formidable caverns.  “That contract is null and void.”

“Oh, thank God,” she breathed out heavily, letting her shoulders slump.  “I was afraid I was going to be stuck working for you.”

“You are,” he retorted without any real heat.  He drew up a high stool opposite her at the large island.  Sipping his cup, he closed his eyes—evidently in bliss, not revulsion.  For the first time since she’d arrived yesterday, he appeared more human and less the caricature of the billionaire playboy.  If he was deliberately letting her peek into his real life in order to sway her into helping him, it was working.

Ruefully, she dug into her cake.  The man was gorgeous and rich and brilliant. Evidently he possessed a soul, too.

“Well, then, Ms. Remy, I shall ask the most difficult question first.  Do you hate me too much to help me?”

Surprised, she searched his face.  He was trying for bland and smooth, but he kept his eyes guarded, veiling his secrets in those dark depths.  True vulnerability?  Or merely stage two of his conquest?  She couldn’t be sure.  “I never said I hated you.”  She took a sip of coffee and nearly spluttered it all over his immaculate shirt. “Oh dear.”

His lips curled in the first genuine smile he’d bestowed on her.  “A bit stout?”

“Errr, yes.  Stout.” She barely restrained herself from rubbing her tongue with her napkin to get the bitterness off.  She spooned more cream into her cup.  There’s no amount of fat and sugar I could put into this to make it palatable.

“You have every right to hate me, Ms. Remy.  I defeated your father at his own game, took his beloved restaurant which was surely to be your inheritance, and ultimately left you and your mother to face the world alone.”  He stretched out his long, graceful fingers and lightly stroked the back of her left hand. “I’m terribly sorry for your loss.  I had no idea Mr. Remy was quite so ill.”

Emotion made her throat swell shut.  So unfair. Tenderness and sincerity from the arrogant man would devastate her defenses like nothing else.  “We didn’t either.”  She raised her gaze to his.  Gleaming pools of melting obsidian didn’t flinch or withdraw from her perusal.

Because he had nothing to hide? Or because he was such a practiced liar?

Her fingertips tingled, bewildering her even more.  Why would her magic come to life when she wasn’t cooking?  She had no other gifts. But it wasn’t her imagination, because he felt it too.  His eyes flared and his stroking fingers froze on her skin.
“What was that?”

“Magic,” she whispered, as shaken as he.

“Can you break this curse, Clare?”

The way he said her name, slow and gentle, a verbal stroking of pleasure and hope, made her shudder.  This couldn’t be happening.  Just the faint touch of comfort and his voice alone had her quivering like an eager puppy. He’d already made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t attractive to him.  He might stoop to a little seduction to get what he wanted, but that was all it could possibly be.

He’ll leave me brokenhearted and powerless, while he goes in search of his next conquest.

 

NaNoWriMo2011 Day 15

A little early I guess but I might not have time tomorrow, so you get another update from me today.

Huge day today with over 4600 words.  I struggled a bit Dark & Early this morning after having a few days’ off, but once the scene started going, I knew exactly what to do.  Smexy time for the win!  Almost everything I’ve written today is smexy time.  Yes, I know this is probably too much for a true HQ Presents, and the hero is too blatantly dominant (in the BDSM sense, without saying it outright), but hey, I’ve got to go with my strengths here.  :-)

One of those days when I started writing as soon as I got off work, and didn’t want to stop for dinner.  Plotted how to get out of doing the dishes (impossible, since That Man had to work late tonight).  Wrote with football on in the background.  I don’t want to stop now but I’m tired and D&E won’t happen if I don’t get to bed.  Plus my wrists are starting to stiffen up.

I know how I want the rest to unfold, so I hope I’m not jinxing myself by saying it should be downhill from there.  Of course I need to finish this neverending sex scene…

NaNoWriMo Count:  26,877  Also crossed 33,000 in the ZCR itself (started before NaNoWriMo).  I *think* 40K is about where I’ll finish up.  We’ll see.

Snippet:  Verbal sparring between Clare and Yiorgos:

“I ate at your casino restaurant in Kansas City once.  You weren’t there, of course—too busy jetsetting around the globe on business, I guess.  My father made friends with our waiter and finally convinced him to let us see the kitchens.”

“Tell me who it was, and I’ll fire the traitor.”

She flashed a look over her shoulder at him that…  Impossible.  Had the woman actually stuck her tongue out at him?

NaNoWriMo2011 Day 14

As you can probably tell from my lack of posts over the weekend, NaNoWriMo was a bit of a bust.

We host for Thanksgiving, so we had a ton of preparation we needed to do this past weekend to ensure the house was fit to open up for guests.  The basement was a pit of toys and junk, but we couldn’t clean it until we cleaned the garage and the unfinished storage area (so we’d have a place to take all this junk).  We’ve been in this house just over a year now, and last Thanksgiving I cut us some slack because we had just moved.  However, there’s no excuse this year.  Some of those buckets and tubs hadn’t been touched in a year, and they were taking up much needed space.

So we worked almost all day Sat.  We donated several bags of clothes, toys, and coats.  Plus I found some things I’d totally forgotten we even had (because they’ve been packed up for over a year).  I didn’t find everything, like my leather coat I bought in Texas many a moon ago, but overall I’m pretty pleased.  We still have to hang some artwork, but the general organization is much better.

In the middle of all this, Middle Monster decided she would really really like to have her own room…in the basement.  Right now, she’s sharing a room with Littlest, and the only thing downstairs is my office and the kids’ play area/family room.  We don’t have another bedroom and I can’t give up my office (I telecommute for the Evil Day Job), but she was happy with just having a bedroom set up in the corner.

So on top of all the cleaning Sat, on Sunday we put together a platform bed in the basement (involved a trip to Lowe’s to replace the plywood base that had cracked) and moved a bunch of her stuff into the basement.  She hung pictures.  She set up shelves.  She made her bed.

And lasted about 10 minutes after bedtime.  ;-) Then she was back upstairs with her little sister.  Oh well.  I think she’ll make it eventually, and she loves having her own space.  Once the newness wears off, I think she’ll be able to sleep down there permanently.

NaNoWriMo Count:  23,274.  I’m going to start falling behind if I don’t pick up the pace.

In a discussion with Dmitri, one of Yiorgos’s best friends, Clare says:

My specialty is food and he sampled the best I can offer for Remy’s.  You heard me warn him not to eat another piece of cake but he insisted on another piece not once but twice.  It’s not my fault he’s a pigheaded chocoholic.

NaNoWriMo2011 Day 10

So far I’ve made it up Dark & Early each day this week, but I admit I haven’t been the most productive today.  I wrote myself into a hole earlier than I expected last night, so I’m still sorting out whether the scene can stay where it is…or if I need to add more sparring between the hero and heroine in between.  We’ll see.  For now, I’ll embrace the words I have and move on as though it’s going to work.

This story feels like it’s going to be longer than I originally intended.  I’m guessing 40K or so, but we’ll see.  I broke 25K in the story last night (not all of that for NaNoWriMo) and I’m now into the unrequited desire stage.  I’m not sure how long this will play out yet.

NaNoWriMo count (as of last night):  19,335 words

Snippet:  this bit is just too fun not the share — the fall out the next morning after Yiorgos realizes what Clare did to him.  *giggles*

The swinging door slammed against the wall with a crash that froze the entire kitchen.

At the stove, Clare didn’t even turn around.  Her nerves sang with heightened sensation, energy leaping about her like lightning.  This morning when she’d arrived, the restaurant had welcomed her with open arms. It’d certainly alerted her to the approaching storm.

“You.” Yiorgos Michelopoulos stomped over and clamped a hand on her arm, whirling her around to face him.  “What have you done?”

She smiled brightly.  “Good morning, Mr. Michelopoulos.  I assume we’ll be open for business tonight, right?”

Unshaven and still in the incredibly tailored suit he’d worn last night, he glared down at her.  Eyes blazing, lips tight, nostrils pinched, he looked like he desperately wanted to wrap his big hand around her throat and throttle her.

“Out.”

Since he didn’t release her or look away from her face, she assumed he meant everyone else but her.  She was actually rather impressed that he kept his tone even and controlled despite the fire flickering in his eyes.

“Do you care to explain what happened last night?”

She batted her eyelashes at him.  “Isn’t that supposed to be the woman’s question when the man slips away before making her breakfast in bed?”

His eyes narrowed to obsidian slits.  “Like I’d be interested in a woman like you.”

Her heart stuttered, skewered by a pain so severe that he might as well have picked up the butcher knife and stabbed
her in the chest.  I knew it was impossible from the very beginning.  If he found me even the least bit attractive, this whole adventure would be pure hell.

She let out a little laugh that she hoped was carefree and lighthearted.  “Of course not, Mr. Rich Beyond Belief.  You were too busy devouring my cake to spare a single thought about me.”

His fingers tightened on her arm hard enough that she let the pain flicker across her face.  Not that he cared in the slightest.  “You drugged me.”

“No,” she said evenly, refusing to drop her gaze or show any alarm or concern. “I bespelled you.”

He snarled.  “There’s a difference?”

“Surely a man knowledgeable enough to approach the Wizard Council would know that there’s most certainly a difference
between a drug and a spell.  You knew exactly what I was before you ever summoned me to Remy’s.  You even ordered me to cook for you.  What did you expect a kitchen witch to do?  Skin you with my knife instead?”

“What did you do to me?”  His voice rose with each word until he roared loudly enough to rattle the stemware.

“I gave you a dose of your own medicine, Mr. Michelopoulos.  I beat you at your own game.”

He let go of her arm.  By the way he flexed and clenched his fingers, he’d released her before doing serious harm.
“What the hell does that mean?”

Wincing, she rubbed her biceps, making sure he saw exactly how he’d hurt her. “You deliberately wrote up a ridiculously meticulous contract meant to bedazzle me with terms and money, while waving the deed to Remy’s beneath my nose.  You thought I’d be too stupid to see your game.  Ply the little lady with some wine, pay a few compliments, smile seductively, and she’ll fall head over heels into your schemes, right?  Well, wrong. You picked the wrong patsy this time, Mr. Michelopoulos.”

“I didn’t agree to a modification to the terms.”

“I asked you if I could modify the agreement in front of a witness.  Shall we call Dmitri back in here?  If I need
him to testify in a court of law, I’ll subpoena him.”

“I was under duress.  No court in the world would award rights to a witch who’d deliberately bespelled her target by plying him with…with…”

“Chocolate cake?  Oh, how dreadfully sinister of me.  Seriously, do you think your high and mighty reputation can withstand such a ridiculous case, Mr. Michelopoulos?  I can see the headlines now:  Tycoon bamboozled by kitchen witch; claims the chocolate cake did him in.

He slammed his fist down on the island so hard that a stainless steel bowl fell off and clattered on the floor, spilling sliced potatoes all over the spotless tile.  “Hear me now, witch.  I cannot…will not… give you that damned ring.  Never!”