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.



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.


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!”


Why I NaNo

A week+ into NaNoWriMo, you might be hitting a wall.  You might be falling behind.  You might be second guessing the whole commitment.  50K in a month?  Are you kidding me?  Even if you’re on track, you might be having a serious attack of the doubt monster, inspired by posts like NaNo No No.

Please don’t give up.  Don’t use the doubts and naysayers as an excuse to quit.

Does a lot of dreck come out of frantic November writing?  Sure.  If all you care about is hitting 50K and “winning” then this post isn’t for you.  Good luck and I’ll cheer you all the way to the finish line.

If you’re writing something that you want to publish, then keep doing what you know is right and comfortable for you in your heart.  Now is not the time to give up on your dream of finishing your project.

I’ll be the first to admit that I may not win NaNo this year.  I didn’t last year.  NaNo can be more than writing 50K in 30 days.  It can be a chance to commit to yourself and your writing.  If you want to work on a new, exciting project, great.  If you want to commit to finishing the current wip that you stalled on last month *raises hand*, then NaNoWriMo may be the kick in the pants that you need.

There’s no need to throw your process to the wind and write crazily without thought or preparation.  You can still plot (or however you “pre-write”) a story and start now (I have a friend who’s doing just that).  NaNoWriMo isn’t an excuse to throw out good structure and characterization just to write crap — unless you truly do just want to write crazily and wildly with joy and abandon.

That’s the beauty of NaNoWriMo.

I plotted my story extensively.  I have a mind map, a scene outline, and a synopsis already written.  Not just for this story, but also the other one I plan to work on when I finish this one.  In other years, I’ve written into December in order to finish the book — because 50K may not be anywhere near what you need to finish.

What I’m trying to say is use NaNoWriMo to succeed at your goals — whatever they are.

You might write a book that needs lots of revisions, even if you’ve plotted extensively beforehand.  (THE BLOODGATE GUARDIAN, my first NaNoWriMo book.  Please don’t ask how many times I survived Revision Xibalba.)

You might write a book that needs very little revisions and flows from beginning to end like a dream.  (RETURN TO SHANHASSON, my second NaNoWriMo book, not an outline or synopsis in sight — but I’d been dreaming the story off and on for years.)

You might finish a book that you’re having problems with.  You might finish short projects.  You might use NaNoWriMo to push through the Dark Moment of your book.  (Vicki’s YOURS TO TAKE, last year’s novel that I finished even though I didn’t win NaNoWriMo, coming soon from Samhain in May 2012).

It is possible to write a publishable novel via NaNoWriMo and we are not the anomilies.  Stay true to your process — or explore a new process.  Write by an outline — or fly in the zone, no holds barred.

In the words of Tim Gunn, “Make it work, people!”  Make it work FOR YOU.

Harness some of this frenetic energy and use it to meet your goals, whatever they may be.

NaNoWriMo2011 Day 7

After a busy weekend, I’m just barely ahead of my NaNoWriMo word count goals.  I wrote in the car on the way to Papa’s on Saturday, but Princess decided she was going to do NaNo too and stole my little netbook on the return trip home.  (Plus I was too tired to complain anyway.)  Sunday was church and laundry and a very poor Chiefs game.  🙁  I managed about 1K each day but that’s it.

Today, I returned to the Evil Day Job after a week of vacation.  To keep up on my goals, I made myself get up Dark & Early this morning.  I prepped the coffee pot last night and made it to bed between 10-10:30.  I really need to be in bed BY 10 PM, but last night was an improvement.  I made it this morning and netted about 1K.

I plan to do some more timed writing stints tonight, but first I have to get dinner on the table and help the monsters with homework.

NaNoWriMo count (as of this morning):  12,444 words

Snippet:  Continuing the scene from last time…in which Clare totally tricks the hero into getting what she wants.  This is truly rough, first draft quality (snort) stuff.  I’ve even got a few [notes] to fix later.  But I thought oh well, I’ll just leave it this way for now.  This scene is fun despite the question marks I need to go back and fill, and since it’s long, I won’t be doing another longer snippet from now on.  Just a line here and there.  So enjoy!

Smoothing the suspicion from his face, he tapped the manila folder on the table beside him.  “If your food passes my inspection, I’ve taken the liberty of drawing up a contract for you, Ms. Remy.  I think you’ll find it most satisfactory, while allowing me to protect my interests. Shall we…?”

She picked up her spoon and dipped into her steaming bowl of soup.  “I never negotiate on an empty stomach, Mr. Michelopoulos.”  Holding the spoon in front of her mouth, she gave him a challenging glance.  “Unless you’re afraid I’d try to poison you or something…”

“Fine.” Warily, he studied the bowl for a moment.  He didn’t really care for watery squash and it was a rather revolting orange color.  It smelled nice, though, and his mouth watered despite the feared texture.  He picked up a spoon and shoveled some of the soup into his mouth, intending to get it down as quickly as possible.

Velvety warm bliss exploded on his tongue.

He’d eaten in the finest restaurants all across the world, and he’d never tasted anything this good.  Smooth and creamy, sweet and savory, so many flavors filled his mouth that he couldn’t keep up with the sensations.  Soup slid down his throat like a warm, fine wine that spread glowing heat all the way down into his stomach.

Food just didn’t taste like this.  Not like sex and happiness and love all in a tidy little package that made his stomach gurgle with pleasure.

Impossible.  Nothing tastes this good.

He took another bite, telling himself that this spoonful wouldn’t be so good. His taste buds would be used to the complex flavors, and he’d be able to find some element that wasn’t right.  A jarring hint of pepper, or a bit of squishy squash that hadn’t been perfectly blended.  Something.  Anything.

But it was magical.  Bite after bite melted on his tongue, satisfying his senses yet still managing to stir his hunger for more.  The spoon clanged on the bottom of the bowl,
and it took him a few moments to realize he’d emptied the entire bowl.

It was all he could do not to pick up the bowl and lick it clean, or growl at Dmitri when he arrived to whisk the dish away.

Then he caught the scent of roasted lamb and Yiorgos forgot all about the soup.  He made himself wait, enjoying the aroma for as long as possible.  The potatoes on top were crusty golden and he could almost taste the cream and butter.  Which vegetables had she mixed into the meat inside?  Peas, carrots, it didn’t matter.  He would love them all.  Hell, if it smelled this good, she could put broccoli in it and he’d still gobble it down.

“Why don’t I take a look at the contract now, Mr. Michelopoulos.”

Raising his head, he blinked at her, surprised.  That she was still here?  That didn’t make sense.  His stomach fluttered briefly, almost anxiety or a remembered plan of action, but the inviting scent of food wrestled his attention for dominance.  Graciously, he slid the folder across to her, trying not to act like a raving lunatic clutching his bowl and howling at anyone who threatened to interrupt his feast.

When his fork broke the perfect crust of potatoes and the rich scent of lamb fully hit his nostrils, he couldn’t help but let out a low groan of appreciation. Flushing, he chanced a quick glance at Clare to see if she’d noticed, but she was too busy scanning the documents.

He barely suppressed a smirk.  His attorneys had been most diligent in drafting his little agreement.  She’d be so busy trying to understand the legal jargon that he’d probably be able to eat her shepherd’s pie too before she noticed.

This time, he slowly placed the first bite on his tongue, braced for the explosion of taste.  He was determined to savor that first wondrous bite as long as possible, because he knew it was going to be incredible.  The meat fell apart in his mouth, tender and juicy without being too greasy.  She’d managed to give it a fire-pit roasted flavor in that simple little kitchen, in a matter of hours.  This tender and succulent, the meat tasted like it’d cooked all day.

Seasoned perfectly.  The vegetables were diced uniformly.  Gorgeous.  Not too big or too small, each cube added color as well as flavor.  Tender green peas so bright they couldn’t possibly have baked along with the meat. Onions, garlic, rosemary, a hint of wine.  Magnificent. And oh, the potatoes!  Such a basic, ordinary staple for any meat lover, these potatoes managed to convey richness without heaviness.  Light and fluffy yet perfectly creamy, they softened the hearty broth.

His foodie heart wanted to sob when he realized he’d eaten the last bite.  He cast a hopeful glance at her plate, but hers, too was empty, although she continued to read the contract.  Her mouth moved slightly, endearing in an odd way.  Her nose was too small for her face, he decided.  And her mouth was too large.  She smiled unevenly, curling the right side more than the left.

“Mr. Michelopoulos?”

He feared she’d been repeating herself for quite some time.  He tried to feel horrified, but his stomach was too sated with complete bliss to allow him a moment of embarrassment or remorse.  “It’s wonderful.  I’ve never
tasted anything better in my entire life.”

He couldn’t even find the will to curse himself for revealing his hand so easily to her.  He ought to have drawn out her unease, allowing her to believe he was displeased with her results.  He couldn’t have her thinking he was too eager to bring her into Remy’s.

“Wait until you taste my chocolate cake.”  She smiled wider, evening out that lopsided grin into something even more wickedly endearing.  “I’ve been reading over your offer, and I’m quite delighted with it.”

He laughed, and the sound shocked them both.  Eyes wide, she searched his face and he felt the passing of her gaze like a scalding heat.  Damn, it’d been years since he’d actually laughed.  No, chuckled.  Laughter didn’t convey the amount of merriment he’d heard in his own response.

What the hell’s wrong with me?  Has she drugged me?

Not in a million years would he behave so stupidly at a business meeting, and this was certainly a meeting of the highest priority.  His entire life depended on its success.  He must have Clare Remy at his side.  She would break the curse.

She must.  She’s my only hope.

Despite that thought, he couldn’t feel alarm.  Not with the sinful promise of dessert that might be even better than the first two courses.

“However, there are a few items I’d like to discuss further with you.”

“Of course.”

She beamed at him.  “I’m so glad you’re not going to be difficult to handle.”

He frowned.  Difficult? Toddlers were difficult.  Calculus was difficult.  Yiorgos Michelopoulos was formidable.  A force to be reckoned with.  Not tolerated.

She waved her hand and Dmitri appeared, once more whisking away the dirty dishes.

Oh, bliss, Yiorgos could already smell the earthy scent of chocolate, promising sin and dark luxury, a hint of berry.  Maybe raspberry?  Just a thin layer, he thought.  Too much chocolate, surely.  She wouldn’t be able to give it any depth.

“I must warn you before I allow you to taste my dessert, Mr. Michelopoulos.”
Very solemnly, she leaned forward, assessing his face.  Did she think she could gain his secrets so easily?  He had to admit that with that temptation making him drool like the zombie hidden by the ring on his finger, she might.  The scent of chocolate held his attention like a dog obsessed with its ball.  At this point, she could balance the damned plate on his nose and he’d sit here obediently, waiting for the first bite.

Irritated, he reached for his own plate.  She closed her hand over his.  Surprisingly strong despite her smaller size, she held him firmly, keeping him from sliding the dessert plate closer.  “I’m serious, Mr. Michelopoulos.  I wouldn’t have you accuse me of trickery later.  This cake is dangerously good.  I call it ‘Death by Chocolate’ for a reason.”

Until Dmitri let out a snort, Yiorgos hadn’t even realized he was still standing at their table.  “Fine,” he said sharply, keeping the man under close watch to ensure he didn’t try to remove the dessert plates too quickly.  The man was a damned whirlwind when it came to cleaning tables.  “Dmitri is my witness.  I heard your warning and
I’m not afraid of your cake, Ms. Remy.”

“And you’ll allow me to write in a few changes to the contract you so generously offer?”

“What changes?”

She smiled apologetically.  “I told you that I wasn’t completely pleased with a few of the stipulations.  On page three, you state that I should be compensated at the rate of one hundred thousand a year.”

“Fine, fine.”  He waved a hand at the paper.  “Double it. Next?”

She blinked, opening and closing her mouth as though he’d managed to shock the sense right out of her.  “That wasn’t what I meant, sir.  I thought it way too high.  My father never took home such a [high] salary.”

“You cook like a maestro.  You’re worth it.  Next?”

“One page four…”  She flipped through the contract.  “You failed to detail which of us would be responsible for maintaining the restaurant’s larder during this period of

“Of course I will.”  He gave a hard push against her grip, keeping her attention on his right hand, while he reached over with his left to snag the plate.  The Remy ring glinted in the candlelight, casting a blood-red glow on her face.  For a moment, he swore her lips tightened and her eyes flashed with raw emotion. Hatred, retribution, condemnation. He couldn’t be sure, although it was harsh enough that some of the bliss created by her food faded.

Until he took the first bite of that dangerous cake.  Damn it, he’d forgotten to go slowly, to savor that first bite. Already the chocolate melted on his tongue, a molten heat spreading down his throat.  She had to have drugged it somehow.  The chocolate slipped deeper into his body, cascading alarms throughout his nervous system.  His brain went on high alert.  Overloaded.

Too many layers.  Too many fabulous sensations for his tongue to keep up.

Actually that was the problem…or the beauty…in her dessert.  She’d managed to create thin layers of chocolate cake, varying by texture and type of chocolate,
so that one bite carried dozens of flavors at the same time.  Milk and dark, fruit and cinnamon, sweet cream and sharp bite mixed with just enough raspberry to give it that extra kick from “too sweet” to “perfect.”

He opened his mouth to speak, but it took him several tries to get the circuit from his brain to his mouth to work.  “What else?”

She listed off some other nonsense about dress code in his restaurant, the number of employees she’d supervise, and most of all—at least as far as she would ever comprehend until it was too late—the crux of the contract.  She would help Remy’s win that coveted gold star this year…or suffer Michelopoulos’s wrath.  Which meant she’d lose everything.

Something that might have been guilt bubbled up in his stomach like corrosive acid, but quickly disintegrated beneath the next bite of chocolate cake.

AsI’ve lost everything that truly matters to me thanks to her father.

“May I? Mr. Michelopoulos, didn’t you hear me? I really need to know if that’s acceptable to you.  If not, I’m really afraid that we can’t do business together.  I’ll have to leave no matter how much I want to stay and help you.”

He pulled the plate closer and used the fork to gently lift out the top layer so he could sample it alone.  “Yes, yes, whatever.”

Dmitri gasped like a girl.  “Yiorgos!”

Unbelievable.  The top layer of thick buttercream frosting was good enough he’d like to paint her entire body with it so he could lick it off.  And he hated frosting.  “Have you forgotten who gave you this job, Mr. [name, what’s his last name?]?”

His old friend stiffened like he’d punched him.  In a way, he had.  “Of course not, Mr. Michelopoulos.  May I be of any further service, sir?”

“Not unless you’re going to bring me another piece of cake.”

Clare gently shook her head.  “I’m afraid not, Mr. Michelopoulos.  It’s too dangerous.  Why, think of your blood sugar!  The calories!  You’d hate me tomorrow, and if we settle this contract, then we’ll be stuck with each other until Remy’s is awarded the star next month.”

“I don’t give a damn about the calories.”  He carefully lifted out a bite of the next layer.  Sugary, almost crispy.  How’d she do that without making it soggy as it baked?  If she’d baked each layer individually, it’d be impossible to fit them all together seamlessly.  It looked like one sinfully delicious cake, not twenty individual thin cakes.  “You
must work here, Ms. Remy.  I need you.  So signed the damned contract and eat your cake, or I’m going to.”

She smiled warmly and squeezed his right hand.  Had she been touching him this whole time?  He couldn’t remember.  She scribbled a few lines on the contract and then pushed it over to him.  With a flourish, he signed below her name and shoved the papers aside.  Some of them fluttered to the floor but he didn’t care.

Not with Death by Chocolate Cake calling his name.


NaNoWriMo2011 Day 4

Another slow day but I kept chiseling bit by bit until I cleared over 1800 words.  I was hoping to break 10K but I just ran out of gas.  Tomorrow for sure.

Emotions are building.  The first kiss is just around the corner.  What’s hilariously ironic — I don’t have any of this part plotted.  It just happened and I like it, so I’m keeping it.

NaNoWriMo count:  9,130 words

Snippet:  I ADORE THIS SCENE.  It’s hilarious and wonderful the way the heroine tricks the hero to get what she wants.  Unfortunately, this scene is rather long for snippets and I don’t want to give *everything* away.  So I’ll pick a few fun pieces to give you an idea of the direction.

He allowed a smug smile to flicker on his lips, deliberately trying to antagonize her.  “I hope your meal lives up to my expectations.”

She smiled back at him, amusement glittering in her eyes.  “My food will exceed your wildest dreams.”

“What’s on your menu, then?”

“Roasted butternut squash soup, followed by shepherd’s pie.”

He arched a brow at her and curled his lip with even more disdain.  “Peasant fare.”

She leaned forward slightly and lowered her voice to a husky timber that made his body harden with interest.  “Delicious peasant fare.  I caramelized the squash in the  oven and roasted the garlic until it’s sweet and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.”

The tip of her tongue teased the corner of her lips, and he swore she gave a little sigh of pleasure.  She gripped the snifter of dark amber liquid in front of her, stroking her fingers over the glass until he had to shift in his seat.

“The ground lamb is lean and browned, yet not dry.  Rich gravy flavored with wine, carrots, fresh rosemary.  Topped with whipped mashed potatoes rich with real cream and butter.”

She let out a long, slow breath and raised the glass to her lips.  He’d filled her glass with a healthy dash of Metaxa Private Reserve, not waiting to see if she could stomach such liquor or not.

She threw it back with practiced ease, her eyes falling shut.  Licking her lips, she gave him a smoldering smile and set the glass back down.  “And I haven’t even gotten to dessert yet.”

Oh yes she had.  The Metaxa made her already sensual voice rough and deep.

When the bowl suddenly appeared in front of him, he jumped, shaken out of the sensual web she’d woven about him by the arrival of the first course.  Dmitri served them himself, and he gave a knowing wink before disappearing back into the kitchen.

Yiorgos scowled.


Eyes narrowed, he searched her face, his hackles rising.  The witch was cunning, he’d give her that.  She’d been weaving her magic since the first moment she’d walked in, dressed like a frumpy old maid but swaying her hips and wielding that husky drawl like a weapon.  Who knew what manner of spells she’d already cast against him?

He couldn’t even fire her.  She hadn’t signed the contract he’d drawn up yet, and she certainly hadn’t broken the filthy curse her father had thrown at him in desperation.  Assured of her powers, Yiorgos stoked the hope burning in his heart.  She will break the curse.  I will be free.  Then she can burn Remy’s down for all I care.

NaNoWriMo2011 Day 3

I struggled with my focus today.  I feel the end of my vacation looming like a thunderstorm on the horizon, that low rumble reminding me that Monday I’ll be back to the daily grind.

Instead of feeling motivated, then, to write harder, I find myself tempted by Netflix.  I so adore watching cheesy horror movies!  Today, I watched Hisss.  I also got caught up on my reality show fixes, like the Project Runway finale and the opening session of Top Chef Masters.

I realized by the time I get the last kids to school (they start at different times) and leave to pick the first one up in the afternoon, that I only have 6 hours.  They go by soooo fast.  Tomorrow I’ll only have 5 hours (they get out early on Fridays).  Saturday we’re hoping to drive up to my Dad’s again, so I might have some car trip time…or we might have guests in the car and I won’t get a thing done because I’ll be visiting.

So it’s going to be a struggle from here on out — as I fully expected.  My best bet is to get up early and get the first 1K before work, but I must be getting old.  I’m having a really hard time getting up on time, let alone early.  Sigh.

Anyway, it’s been a good week off and I’m happy with my 7314 NaNoWriMo count.  Even more, I’m extremely happy with the story itself.

Here’s the first scene with the hero and heroine on stage together.  First draft, subject to heavy revision later.

Yiorgos had doubled his fortune twice over by acting on his gut instincts, and first impressions were everything.  Staring at Remy’s daughter—the key to his salvation—he couldn’t help but curl his lips in what he hoped was not too obviously a sneer.  This will be ridiculously easy.

The only word to describe her appearance was frumpy.  If he hadn’t known her age,  he would have guessed her to be closer to forty than not yet thirty.  Why on earth would a woman deliberately age herself so drastically?   The shapeless skirt and baggy suit jacket would have been more attractive on a rubbish heap.

“Mr. Michelopoulos.”

That quickly, she rocked him back on his heels.  A woman in an ugly brown suit and a tight bun should have a prim little voice, not this husky vibrato more appropriate for whispered innuendoes and sweaty sheets.  Eyes narrowed, he ran his gaze over her again quickly, looking for something he’d missed.

The old fashioned A-line skirt might hide shapely full hips.  Perhaps the jacket was baggy on purpose, to disguise her lush breasts.  And while that tidy bun did make her look like a schoolmarm, he had to admit the toffee color was quite pretty.  Pulled back from her face, her hair couldn’t detract from the sculpted bones of her cheeks and her full mouth.

Intrigued by the inconsistencies, Yiorgos gave her a slow, smoldering smile.

The little witch stiffened like he’d called her a vile name.  Instead of blushing or flirting, she brushed past him without another word and strode into the kitchens as though she owned the place.

“Make yourself comfortable,” he said dryly, slowly following her through the swinging door.  Unfortunately, he didn’t expect her to stop just inside, so he nearly flattened her.
He closed his hands on her hips to steady her, and yes, he might have pulled her back against him a moment or two.  Her curves made a very nice handful, an unexpected pleasure after dating tall and slender women for years.

For the barest moment, she softened against him, nestling in like a kitten.  Then she inhaled sharply and leaped away like he’d goosed her.  Cheeks on fire, she waved a hand at the sinks loaded with dirty dishes.  “This is a disgrace!  My father’s probably rolling over in his grave!”

“Indeed,” Yiorgos drawled out in his most charming voice.  Remy will rot in hell for what he’s done to me!  “We’ve had a bit of a… problem.  That’s why I contacted you, Ms. Remy.”

“This isn’t a problem.  It’s a travesty.  No wonder you’ve been having issues—this kitchen is filthy!”

The few remaining kitchen staff stood frozen like deer in headlights.  No one  had ever stood up to him…in his own kitchen, no less…and survived.  Clenching his jaws to keep from barking out his demands, he simply waited to see what she’d do.

He didn’t have to wait long.  She marched over to the wall and pulled down a fresh apron hanging on the line of hooks.  She removed her misshapen suit jacket, revealing an ugly pink blouse the color of Pepto Bismal, and snapped the white linen apron into place.  Rolling up her sleeves, she gave an accessing look to each of the staff shaking in their boots.
“You.”  She pointed a finger at the chef paid a small fortune to fail so dismally.  “Clean the stoves.  And you,” she jerked her head at Dmitri, “assign a crew to start mopping the floors.  We can’t possibly hope to cook anything in a kitchen so wretchedly filthy.”

When she walked over to the sink mounded with stainless steel pots coated with grease and baked on gunk, Yiorgos could only stare.  He’d assumed she’d give the hard jobs to his people and take the supervisory role, getting in her digs verbally as many times as  possible.  But she tackled the nastiest job with nary a complaint.

In fact, he’d be damned if she wasn’t happy.

The whole atmosphere already seemed different.  The air felt lighter, cleaner, as though the restaurant recognized her in some way.  Maybe the little witch was already working her magic on Remy’s.

If so, she’ll be working on me as soon as I can learn how to break this curse.