NaNoWriMo: In Which Gregar Gets Even

I’ve been writing in the Sha’Kae al’Dan world since I decided to write and committed myself to finishing, so since 2003.  (The first book I ever completed went on to become The Rose of Shanhasson after several iterations.)  In all these years, I’ve written some very hard scenes in the Blood & Shadows world.  I’ve killed characters.  I’ve made myself bawl like a baby.  But one scene I never actually WROTE in all its gory, painful detail is Gregar’s darkest, secret shame.

It’s the scene that defines who he is, why he does what he does.  It is wholly HIM.  Yet I never wrote it, because it was too horrible, too painful. 

Since I dared call on him for help this week, he decided to get even and make me write out that dark secret.  In painful, gory detail.

NaNoWriMo count:  31,466 words

Snippet (with a bit from last time – corrected.  That scene ended wrong.)  First draft only.

I could not return to the Dream.  Not if I wanted her to live.

I sat outside my tent watching the sky lighten until dawn broke the horizon.  I dared not sleep again this night.  I wasn’t sure that I’d dare sleep again.  As the stars went out one by one, I finally realized what had been bothering me about that dream.

She’d been wearing Sha’Kae al’Dan clothing, perfect down to the last detail.  Not outlander clothes.

The dream had been mine.

#

For days, I hunted, sparred with other warriors, rode endlessly across the rolling hills of my homeland, refusing to pause for fear I would sleep.  I would Dream, and I dared not see her again.  Her scent had driven me beyond honor.  My will was nothing.  The honor I was so proud of would be my damnation.  And her death.

Why had Kae’Shaman shown me how to open that doorway into the sleeping realm?  I knew, but I resented that knowledge at the same time.  If I had not gone into the Dream that night, she might very well have died.  My mark might have been successful.

But now dread weighted upon my chest that I might have replaced my mark in the Endless Night’s foul schemes.

Night stretched about me, the Camp silent.  Shaido stood beside me, head down, ears drooping in sleep.  I’d ridden him hard these days, seeking to outrun my fears.

Fool.  You can’t outrun what’s inside your own heart.

Shame choked me.  I closed my eyes, just for a moment, and I was there.  Immediately.  The same perfect summer day, the wind playfully galloping across the hills and leaving waves of golden grass dancing it its wake.  Not a single cloud marred the glorious blue sky and the sun beat down hot on my head.  It wasn’t the baked scent of earth and grass that filled my nose, but the sultry, spicy flower.

She was here.

Night fell.  There was no slow fade to the gloaming of dusk, but a heavy curtain of darkness enveloping the world as my gift of Shadow cloaked me from all eyes except hers.  So dark.  No moon brightened the sky and the stars were mere pinpricks, too insignificant against the night to share any light.

Yet light came toward me.  She glowed with silver luminescence, a pearly beacon to draw my gaze, as though her alluring scent wouldn’t be enough to bring me to her.  She Called me, as surely as Vulkar’s thundering hooves would Call me to my next mark.

Crouched in the grass with Shadow chilling my skin, I waited.  I am Shadow.  I am Death.  I…

Don’t want to kill her.  Not her.  Vulkar help me.

She came, even though she had to know I was here.  Head high, shoulders easy and relaxed, she walked through the grass as though she knew this place, though no outlander had come to the Plains in my lifetime.  Smiling with delight, she trailed her hands through the waist-high grass and breathed deeply, drawing my gaze to those sweet curves.  At least she’d come in outlander clothes this time, although the metal wouldn’t protect her.  Not from me. 

I wanted to roar, Arm yourself!  Never approach me without naked steel in your hand!

Maybe she didn’t know I waited like a viper in the grass.  My bite would be as fatal.  If she dared tread so close…  She surely didn’t know.  Not even she would be so arrogant.

Then she looked straight at me with a sultry little smile curving her lips.  Oh, she knew.  And she was that arrogant.  Pride burned in her midnight eyes, blatant challenge, a glint of laughter that I could never deny.

I exploded up out of the grass with rahke in hand and she whipped the sword up to meet my strike. 

She laughed and I’d never heard sweeter music.  No scream, no tears, she met me with sword in hand and fought as a warrior.  Did she truly have this skill, or did she have powers in the Dream that I couldn’t even imagine?  I thought to test her stroke by stroke, but she didn’t give me that chance.  As fast as I could be at my best, she struck blow and after blow, driving me to use my full skill.  No holding back, no hesitation, we fought, sword to rahke, a symphony in the night that made my blood sing in my veins.

Until I drew first blood.

Blood welled on her chest.  Until I saw the ruby and heard the gasp of her indrawn breath, I hadn’t realized her armor had disappeared piece by piece.  Perhaps I had cut it off her in our glorious fight, or her powers in this dream had failed to maintain the illusion of protection.  Most likely, my dream had changed hers, putting her into my clothing.  The sight of my blue in her memshai—the same color as her eyes—made me growl deep in my throat.

Mine.  She’s mine and no other’s.

Her scent ripened, a luscious fruit at the peak of sweetness, promising heaven and hell at once.  Ignoring her blade entirely, I seized her left arm, dragging her into my deadly embrace.  She struggled, grappling now with fear.  Blade to blade, we were nigh equals, but in sheer strength and bulk, I easily overpowered her.  I had broken the rules of honorable combat, but with the wealth of her blood only a breath away, I did not care.

Then I tasted her, and nothing else in the world mattered.

Her blood filled my mouth and Vulkar’s Moutain detonated in my head.  I was lost, lost forever in her blood, her scent, her arms.  She fought me, shifting her grip on the sword to slice the blade into my back, but she couldn’t stop me.

My blood smeared her hands and she moaned.  She fisted her free hand in my hair and jerked my head up so she could slam her mouth into mine.  Now she was lost too.  She held me as I held her, raking her nails down my arms, my back, spreading the fire of my blood upon her skin.

I took her down to the grass, or perhaps she took me.  She was as frantic as me, her mouth devouring mine, her hands pulling me closer instead of shoving me away.

Dropping my forehead to hers, I fought to regain my will.  “I cannot do this.  Not to you.”

“I wanted you from the first moment I saw your shadow.”

My shadow.  I shuddered and pulled back.  “I’m a Death Rider.  The Endless Night wants me to kill you.”

“I know,” she whispered, tightening her grip in my hair so I could not leave.  “He always wants me dead.”

Determined to save her from myself, I disentangled her fingers from my hair and pressed my rahke into her hand.  “Kill me now, lovely one.  Don’t let the Endless Night win.”

“I can’t kill you.”  She shoved the rahke into my heart, as she’d done with her sword in the last dream.  I felt the pain of it, aye, and the immediate surge in my lust.  Pain and blood always fed my desire, and with her lying beneath me…

Her blood whispering to me…

How could I resist?  Yet how could I not fight with every beat of my heart to keep her safe from harm?

She was my greatest dream come true, all fire and courage and pride, a heart cold enough to kill me or anyone stupid enough to threaten her.

Yet she was my greatest nightmare, because she was right.  She couldn’t kill me.  Here, in this Dream, my Shadowed heart did not need to beat and it refused to die as long as she lived and breathed somewhere in this world.

She kissed me.  She took me into her body.  She held me, whispering in my ear.  Not sweet endearments, the sort of blanket talk a man and woman might share in pleasure.  She whispered of blackest temptation. 

“Save me,” she whispered, slipping the bloody rahke back into my hand.  “Take me away from all this darkness.  I’m tired of being alone in the Shadows, lost and scared and cold.  Take me into your Shadow, hold me forever, and I’ll never be alone and scared in the darkness again.”

Her voice broke.  She cried out in pleasure, tightening her grip on my hair.  “Please!  Please save me!”

My heart knew her, even though I did not know her name.  I would know her anywhere, anytime, in any unknown place in this world.  I pressed the tip of the rahke to the vein thumping so frantically in the side of her throat.  “Na’lanna.”  My beloved.

And I plunged the rahke into her throat.

NaNoWriMo: In Which I Call For Help

Now I know why NaNoWriMo recommends you start a brand new project for NaNoWriMo, instead of trying to finish an existing work.  It’s damn hard keeping momentum up after you hit “the end!”  Worse:  I’ve hit the end not once but twice.

I’m going to see if I can hit the third.

After several days of struggling with the new projects, I was getting desperate.  I decided to Call for help.

If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you know allllll about Gregar, my wicked Shadowed Blood.  Of course I went to him for help.  I should have finished his prequel a long time ago anyway.

NaNoWriMo count:  only 29,561 but it’s more than I had before.

First draft snippet (picking back up from the last Shadowed snippet):

“ALREADY, SHE DREAMS OF YOU.”

Her eyes flew open, startling blue even in the night, and she gazed not at the other Death Rider, but at me.  Her eyes flared.

As though she recognizes me.

Her dream morphed and she stood clad in metal, a short sword held cocked over her shoulder.  “Come and get me, you son of a bitch.”

With a low grunt of acceptance, my mark saluted with his rahke and stepped into her dream, wrapping himself in Shadow.  She wouldn’t be able to see him.  Despite her bravado, she would die.  She must die, against a Death Rider.

My stomach felt heavy and sick, but I, too, stepped into her dream.  Behind me, I heard a low chuckle and the hair crawled on my scalp.  Somehow, I felt as though I had done exactly what the Blackest Heart of Darkness wanted most of all.

#

My gift of Shadow had never felt so dangerous.  My skin felt like ice, my palm damp on my rahke as though I faced my first elimination in Vulkar’s name once more.  Outlander hallways of stone had been replaced by more familiar rolling hills, and night had become a clear and perfect summer day.  How could this woman know of our Plains, which we aggressively protected from her kind?

My nostrils flared at the first hint of her scent.  A spicy, rich flower that I had never smelled before, thick and sweet in the heat of a summer night.  I couldn’t not follow that scent.  It pulled me onward, whispering as seductively as a warm, willing woman’s musk of desire. 

This woman wasn’t willing and she wasn’t mine.  My mark—the man I’d come to kill—would be hunting her.  I had to kill him first.

The clash of steel sent me running down the hill and up the next with all my speed.  No one would last long against a Death Rider, let alone a woman.  A sword wouldn’t help her, even if she were a blademaster.

Which she might be, I admitted.  She fought well.  For an outlander. 

My mark had abandoned his gift and fought fully visible, his short rahke effortlessly slipping in and out of her defenses.  But she managed to whirl away each time.  Neither were unscathed, but the Death Rider hadn’t been able to land a killing blow.

Lightening my steps to make no sound, I raced past their battle as silently as a cloud in a summer sky.  My rahke dipped, severing his spine at the base of his skull.  He dropped like a stone and I crouched in the tall grass, silent and invisible.

At first glance, I’d thought her beautiful.  Up close, she was magnificent.  Panting, sweaty, bloody, she stood with her head high and sword comfortable in her hand.  “I know you’re still here.”

It took all my years of experience to keep from twitching with surprise.  No one saw through a Death Rider’s gift.  No one.

Except her.

I drew my gift tighter, silently urging her to look away.  Don’t see me.  Don’t see the flicker of darkness upon the grass, the waver of nothing where light should be.  I am Shadow.  I am Death.

“I didn’t need your help, you know.”  She smiled wryly, keeping her tone conversational, but I noted that she kept the sword firm and ready in her grip, which earned an approving grin from me.  “I would have eventually finished him off.  As I’ll finish you.”

I bit my tongue, fighting back all the lewd jokes that immediately burned in my mind.  Aye, I had a foolish, raw sense of humor.  Either she was extremely stupid—which arguably, all outlanders were—or she was baiting me.

Me.  The most skilled Death Rider with more kills than any other living assassin to roam the Plains.

It was enough to make me laugh.  Out loud.

Eyes narrowed, she pinned my hiding spot and shifted slightly to face my attack.

“Put your sword away, woman.  I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Somehow I don’t believe you.”  Her voice frosted, hard, cutting ice, telling me that many had come to kill her.  For whatever reason, the Endless Night wanted her dead.  He must have been sending his filthy murderers after her a very long time indeed.  “Reveal yourself, shadow man.  Or will you cower in darkness against a woman?”

I stood and peeled back my cloak of darkness just enough for her to see that I was a formidable warrior, leaving shadows to wreath my face.  Shadow man indeed.  Meeting her gaze, I gave her my most cocky smirk—though whether she caught it through my disguise I could not say—and sheathed my rahke.  “I came to kill him.  Not you.  If I had come to kill you, you would already be dead.”

Despite the lack of any threat from me, she narrowed her gaze as though she sought to pierce the shadows hiding my face and took a step closer.  Steel hovered mere inches from my bare stomach.  “I think not.”

“Try me.”  I winked at her suggestively.  “I would love for you to finish me.”

Silent and swift, she struck, jabbing forward to impale me on her weapon.  I simply blurred sideways.  Her sword struck nothing but air and she stumbled off balance.  Her shoulder brushed mine.  A heavy braid hung down her back, inviting me to jerk her head backwards and curve her throat for my rahke.  That perfect skin would split easily beneath my blade.  Her blood would be hot, sweet, unlike anything I’d ever tasted before.

My mouth watered.

Shuddering, I pulled my disguise tighter, backing away.  My head swam with her sultry scent, made even more enticing by the blood she’d spilled in her first fight.  I felt dizzy, my head stuffed with cotton, my throat dry and tight even while my mouth flooded with saliva at the thought of tasting her.  My stomach pitched uneasily.  My ears roared, my heartbeat thundering in my head like a thousand stampeding horses.

Great Vulkar, what is wrong with me?

Steel cut sharply into my side and I loved her for it.  Here was a woman more than capable of killing to protect herself.  She hadn’t waited for me to recover from whatever malady attacked me.  She’d seen an opening and she’d taken the opportunity to sink her sword into me.

Her only mistake:  she hadn’t gone for a killing blow.

As a Death Rider, I was already mostly dead, but I was even stranger than most assassins riding the Plains.  Blood and pain were mere endearments and kisses for one like me.  The more she hurt me, the more I would like it.  The more I bled, the more I would want her.

And the more I wanted her to bleed in turn.

A dangerous proposition to be sure.

“You won’t find me an easy kill, shadow man, even if I can’t see you.”

I jerked back with a grunt as steel slid out of me.  “You have very good aim for one who supposedly cannot see her target.”

“I don’t have to see you when I can smell you.”

“Ah.”  I laughed wickedly, dodging another strike.  To test her senses, I circled her, soundlessly, yet she kept her body turned to face me.  “And how do I smell, lovely one?”

“Vile.”  She made her voice a weapon, flat, hard and cold.  It made me smile again, and evidently, I loosened my concealing shadows, because her mouth went tight and flat with determination.  “None of the others have smelled like you.”

She meant it as an insult, but I heard the ring of truth in her voice, and my spine sheeted with ice.  “You have a great many Death Riders walking your dreams?”

“Every single night someone tries to assassinate me.”

I snatched her right wrist and jerked her closer, ignoring her blade entirely.  “Do they come in your dreams?”

“Like this?”  She whispered, dropping her gaze to my mouth.

A waterfall of fire poured over me, stealing my breath.  She had no right to do this to me.  No one had claim on my heart.  Fury made me tighten my fingers on her wrist, digging into her skin.  I’d rather cut my own hand off than harm a woman, but in that moment, I was too furious to care.  I kill for Vulkar and my heart is mine alone.

“If I take your heart, I’ll cut it out of your ribcage.”

I didn’t realize I’d spoken aloud.  I shoved her backward away from me.  “Return to your dream and leave me in peace.”

Laughing softly, she turned, that long dark braid swinging down her back to her hips.  I’d never noticed what she wore until now.  A short emerald green cloth wrapped about her hips, a memshai in the manner of the Sha’Kae al’Dan.  Jealousy twisted vicious talons in my gut, for that color meant she belonged to someone else.  If she were mine, she’d wear my blue and nothing else.

Insane.  This dream had made me lose my mind.

“You’re the one who invaded my dream, remember?  Leave me to my usual nightmares and never return, or I’ll kill you now and save myself the trouble tomorrow night.”

“You think—” 

She whirled, that braid whipping in an arc, stinging my face.  She slammed the blade through my heart, shoving hard, again, until we stood face to face.

“So?”  I finished on a groan.  Blood pulsed from the wound with every beat of my heart, and I saw the heat flare in her eyes.  She felt it.  She felt the fire of Vulkar in my blood, the very heartfires of the earth.

“I know so,” she whispered against my lips.  I reached for her, intent on pulling her closer, but my hands grasped only air.

I jerked awake in my tent.  A cold sweat chilled my skin.  Lying there in the darkness, I calmed my breathing, but I couldn’t still my mind.  A dream.  Only a dream.

But I had killed my mark in that dream.  She’d killed me—so why wasn’t I dead as well?  Vulkar forbid, what if I had indulged in her challenge?  If we’d fought, and bled, and…

I could do nothing less than love her.

Kae’Shaman’s words thundered in my head.  You will hold that precious heart beneath the weight of your rahke.  May Vulkar guide you in your darkest hour, when the Endless Night will lure you to ravage and destroy the last light of the world.

A woman stalked in her dreams by Death Riders.  My woman.  Vulkar help me.

My hand trembled on the hilt of my rahke.  When had I unsheathed it?  Horror bubbled up my throat.  I had to roll on my side and vomit else choke on my shame.  That dream had been shadowed from the very first moment.  I’d know it, yet onward I’d gone, too determined in my pride as the most honored Death Rider to turn back.

I could not return to the Dream.  Not if I wanted her to live.

Surely hours later, I finally calmed enough to close my eyes.  As I drifted off to sleep, I finally realized what had been bothering me about that dream.

She’d been wearing Sha’Kae al’Dan clothing, perfect down to the last detail.  Not outlander clothes.

The dream had been mine. 

NaNoWriMo: In Which I Fall Behind

I’ve been sick and just not mentally in a place where I could write this week.  Even knowing that each day I’m falling behind, I feel ashamed at bedtime when I realize I haven’t even opened Word or Scrivener yet.

Part of it is Thanksgiving prep.  I have less than 7 days!  *dies*  Also, I had several full days at the Evil Day Job, not only making up for being sick but also preparing to be out of the office for a week.  Everybody had questions yesterday and today, and I was fielding stuff all day that I hadn’t allowed time for, plus all the responsibilities I had hoped to finish.  I worked late tonight hoping to get some progress on my item, and I just couldn’t get it to work.  Frustrated, I had to send an update out that I hadn’t made my goal.

I hate that.  I really do.

My NaNoWriMo goal is in the same boat.

But do not despair.  I have next week off, even though I have a thousand things I need to do.  Wednesday will be a big prep day.  Unfortunately I realized tonight the monsters are out of school on Wed.  Ugh.  They’re going to be in my hair all day while I’m making 20 lbs of mashed potatoes, baking pies, etc.  They’ll help, yes, but then I’ll have to clean up after Hurricane Lizzie in my kitchen.

Even if I can’t make up the lost ground, I have finished two stories.  I’ll just do the best I can.

NaNo Day 15, 16 and the Winner

It’s been a miserable few days. I caught some kind of stomach bug that’s had me very friendly with the bathroom for the last twenty four hours.  I didn’t have a single cup of coffee all day!  *shock*  I took the day off and was too weak and tired to do much more than watch the first four episodes of Castle (that’s Sis, for getting me hooked on another show!).  I barely did any writing at all, so now I’m good and behind, not just at NaNo but at work and around the house too.  Did I mention that we’re hosting Thanksgiving next week?  *dies*

Anyway, no counts today.  I’ll try to get a fresh total for tomorow and regroup.  I’m not sure if this novella is going to work or not — the perils of starting a new work in the middle of NaNo.

Now, for the winner of the Jenna Reynolds book:

Lianna Williamson!

Lianna, please drop me an e-mail (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com) with your desired format, and I’ll get your copy of Kiss of Honor.

Congrats again, Jenna, on yet another release!

NaNo Day 13,14

I’m spluttering a bit, which makes me nervous.  Yes, I’m ahead, but not by much.  I don’t have any days off this week, so I really need to get my words in each and every day!

However, we had a HUGE weekend of shopping and prepping for a family dinner today.  The two youngest monsters were baptized today, and we had family over after church for dinner.  I had to get up super early to get the dish prepared.  Michael Smith’s fancy spaghetti was wonderfully yummy, but it needs an hour to simmer (to burn off the alcohol).  I could have done it Sat. night and then put it in the crock pot to warm this morning, but I didn’t feel up to it.  Somehow in all the organizing and cleaning Thursday or Friday, I tweaked my lower back.  It was worse Friday night/Saturday to the point where all I really wanted to do after shopping all day was to put my feet up with a heating pad on my back.

Luckily today it’s much better although still stiff and sore.  Up Dark & Early to cook, but it was sooo worth it to come home and devour such delicious food.  I had the salad prepped, even the garlic bread ready to pop in the oven (one with roasted garlic that I prepared while the spaghetti simmered).  Definitely a WIN for lunch.

However, I didn’t get much done at all on the writing front.  To make it even harder:  I had to START a new story and openings can be slow to get going.  I have to get the setting and voice of the characters nailed, and I’m still a little shaky.  However, I’ve just about got this introduction figured out.  I started in Phantom, but I plan to work in Miseryland too until I get settled on one story for the rest of month.

NaNoWriMo total:  27,025

Snippet:  horribly rough opening.  I know I’ll change it a dozen times.  There are a lot of clues in these lines, though, about what this story is really about.

“Son of a bitch.” Christel stared at the incriminating numbers on her laptop’s screen. “He was right.”

For the last six weeks, an anonymous tipster calling himself Phantom had been leading her through GHI Shipping’s books on a bread-crumb trail of international weapons smuggling, fraud, and murder. The man had to work for GHI to have such in-depth knowledge, but she had no idea who he was or how he’d gotten her name in the first place. Somehow, he’d known exactly why she’d finally let her mother—who just happened to be CEO—browbeat her into accepting a position in the family company.

All she knew about him was his cell number—pre-paid, evidently, yielding no clues to his identity—and his firm belief that the culprit she was looking for could be no other than their boss, Rafael [last name].

Unfortunately, her mother surely suspected him too, or she wouldn’t have sent Christel to the Houston office.

She took off her glasses and rubbed her temples. Not Rafe, surely. She’d known him her entire life. Once upon a time, her mother had even dreamed of a merger between two of the three founding families of GHI, even though Christel had her eyes set on the third family, not Rafe’s. That dream had been doomed from the very first—and only—kiss.

NaNoWriMo Day 10,11

Between yesterday and today, I finished a first-draft plot for Miseryland (post-apoc).  I played around with a tarot reading to get some ideas on how the climax and resolution should play out.  I’m still fairly vague on several key items, but in general, I have the road map figured out.

Then I returned to Phantom tonight and began plotting it in more detail.  Since Scrivener is really working well for Miseryland, I created a new folder for this project too.  I love the notecards!  LOVE.  I’m almost to the end of Act I for the plotting, but it needs to be tightened.  I want this to fall into the 20-30K range, so I need a small cast of characters.  I’m also shooting for an erotic work, and so far, there’s nothing erotic about it.  :oops:  Will definitely be working on that tomorrow!

NaNoWriMo total:  25,953

NaNoWriMo Days 8,9

Since I’ve finished up the first two projects, I had major planning, plotting, worldbuilding, etc. to do for the other two.  Yeah, I have notes and some details already figured out, but not enough to confidently plow through one of these new stories.  I fully intend to SUBMIT these stories for publication, so it’s important that I know what the @#*% I’m doing before I get too deep!

So for two days, I worked on the plot for Miseryland (post-apoc).  I’m doing it in Scrivener, and I’ve managed to complete at least a rough draft of the plot through Act II part 2.  I still need the big showdown and final climax.  In general, I know “what” happens.  I just don’t know all those pesky details.  *sheepish*  I’m hoping those will filter out naturally once I get closer.  I do at least have an ending point to write to, and then I’ll have to figure out how the good guys actually WIN.

The other project, working title Phantom, has been giving me some problems.  I had the premise pretty well thought out in my mind, and it’s a shorter work, so I don’t need a lot of plot.  I actually don’t want a bunch going on to detract from the erotic elements.  But the characters themselves were just little cardboard props.  I had no idea WHY they had to be in this story, with those names, those goals, etc.  So today, my job was to sit down and write out all the backstory I could think of.

When did they know each other (for space reasons, I need them to know each other relatively well before the story starts)?  How did they grow up?  What problems did they have as teenagers and young adults?  Who’s their family? Who’s the antagonist?  Who’s the red herring and why? Who did they not get along with? 

WHY WHY WHY?  Always, that crucial question. 

I managed to get over 2k of backstory written.  Now most of this will NOT end up in the story, but I have a much better feeling of who these characters are and why I need to tell their story.

And yes, I’m counting all this synopsis/pre-work for NaNoWriMo.  It’s words that I have to have to be successful.  Consider them a “draft 0.”  I’m hoping to begin drafting a bit of Miseryland while I work out a more formal plot of Phantom.  Whichever one takes off the most in the next week will be the one I ride to the finish line, but I’d really really love to have first drafts of both done by the end of the year.  Doable since I think they’re going to be about 70-80K total in first draft.

No snippet tonight since I’m just plotting and building.

NaNoWriMo count:  24,200

NaNo Day 6,7

Another one bites the dust!

Since I have the day off from the Evil Day Job today, I stayed up late last night until I finished the short novella.  Yes, you read that right.  NaNoWriMo has helped me finish TWO projects.  Could I have finished them without NaNoWriMo?  Of course.  But the pressure and challenge of this month gave me the extra push that I needed in order to finish Vicki.  She’s been the albatross about my neck since March or so.  Now she’s done, the short novella is done, and I’m free to start one of two brand-new projects.

I’m spending the day plotting a post-apoc, working title Miseryland.  I don’t know how much wordage I’ll get, but I’m writing up an outline in Scrivener.  Of course I have another short — the Gregar prequel — I could also work on if I get desperate for words.  Right now, I’m ahead.  Taking the time to plot a bit will only help me come up with a working, usable project.

NaNoWriMo total as of last night:  20,173

Last snippet of Golden:

As beautiful as the most delicate orchid, Empress Lei lay back onto the Emperor’s bed, her gaze studiously locked on the ornate ceiling and drapery above.  Fine silvery lines traced over her stomach, bearing testament to the son she’d delivered, but otherwise, not a single flaw marked her body.  The stories of her bathing in milk and honey to keep her skin’s youthful glow must surely be correct.

Naked as her, he stretched out at her side so he could look across her at me.  His hand was dark against her skin.  I knew how rough he could be, the hidden power in those cruel fingers that could make me squirm in pain or scream in bliss.  Yet he touched her lightly, as though truly afraid that she might break.

A tiny piece of my heart cracked off and crumbled to dust as I watched him touch her. 

NaNoWriMo Day 5

Lots of real life stuff came up today.  We’re having an impromtu family dinner for four, possibly five, guests tomorrow, so it’ll be frantic cleaning, etc. tomorrow.  I also learned our Thanksgiving Dinner (which we host) count has gone up by 5, bringing us to 18.  We also have a special class to attend after service at church on Sunday.  Don’t even ask about the mountain of laundry.  I also need to get groceries. 

Sigh.  Whose idea was it to make November the National Novel Writing Month?!?

But as Lynn Viehl blogged tonight, real life is always going to interfere.  We just have to find a way to balance it all as well as possible. 

I continued work on Golden tonight (1681 words) bringing my total to 16,113.

Snippet:  Jin’s instincts warn that something is terribly wrong.

I untied my sash, carefully slipping my two favorite blades into my palms.  Casually, I hummed beneath my breath and slowly moved toward the massive bed, even though my heart pounded like a thousand Mongols at full charge.  A slow turn around the room as I slipped off the outer robe indicated nothing alarming.  All the doors were shut.  None of the tapestries rustled against the walls.  Yet that prickling sensation came again, a fleeting warning.

The attack will be from above.

Drilling with General Wu for years had honed my instincts.  I waited until my nape screamed with urgency, refusing to look up.  How many assassins had the Empress sent?  One, I was confident I could handle at least this first time, because no one expected me to know how to protect myself.  More than one assassin, though, and the Emperor would likely return to find only a bloody corpse on his rugs.

At the last possible moment before my nerves erupted into a firestorm, I threw myself to the floor, rolled upon my back, and tossed the first knife at the black shape hovering six inches above where my head would have been.  I didn’t stop to think.  I tossed the second knife before the first even landed.

A man crashed onto the floor.  Blood sprayed my gown, my face, but I jerked the next knife out from inside my sleeve.  The first throw had caught him in the neck.  The second in the eye.  But they were slender blades.  Maybe not enough for a killing blow.

I heard voices, the rush of running feet, but no one called out to me.  She must have paid off the token servants left to see to anything I might need in the Emperor’s absence.

The assassin didn’t make a sound, but he twitched uncontrollably.  His right arm jerked out toward me and I stumbled back, knife cocked.  He crawled after me, but blood bubbled from his mouth.  I kept out of his reach, but I didn’t wound him again.  The man was dead.  He simply didn’t know it yet.

At last, I heard the Emperor’s raised voice and the thudding of feet.  The grand door slammed open and guards poured into the room.  He took one look at the black-clothed man on the floor and turned narrowed eyes on his captain.  The man fell to his knees, while the attendants wrung their hands, crowded together like a flock of squawking chickens.

“If one precious hair on her head is injured, you shall all die.” 

NaNo Day 4

(I owe you a post declaring the winner of the gorgeous P&P handbag, and I also have a review to share.  Tomorrow, I promise!)

Late, and I didn’t get nearly as much done today.  I had a hard time concentrating.  Imagine that, after finally finishing Vicki!

I knew it would be tough today.  Finishing a book is always an extreme high, and then naturally, a crash follows.  I didn’t want to do much of anything tonight but watch scary movies now that we have Netflix instant streaming working on the monsters’ Wii.  However, I didn’t want to totally lose steam, so I kept Golden open all night and finally scratched out a word or two.

Golden: 1432

Phantom: 0

Miseryland: 0

Day’s Total:  1432

NaNoWriMo Total:  14432

Snippet:  This is from Golden, the short novella I’m working on, a sort of secret project.  *oops* 

She did not need to explain the intricacies of political power to me.  The Emperor would find it difficult to dispose of her quietly without causing his three strongest rivals for the throne to unite against him in rebellion.  I’d known before I ever set foot in the Forbidden City that he needed his Empress to hold his throne.  Any overt action against her would require his immediate and forceful retaliation.

But her intentions against me were not nearly so limited.

She watched me with narrowed eyes dark with intent.  Poison waited on this table.  I could almost smell it.  She’d eaten the pastry but neglected to drink her tea, but that told me nothing.  If she’d used the same poison she’d used to kill Ping’s mother, then she could have simply ingested the antidote prior to coming to my room.

The same as I had done. 

Yet the risk tightened like a noose about my neck.  If I’d assumed incorrectly and she’d used some other poison…

Courage.  I cannot protect my son if I’m unable to make a decision for fear of making a mistake.