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Fast Draft Day 006

I hoped to break 15K today but it just didn’t happen.  I slept in this morning, which I needed desperately, but that put me behind.  Between fending off starving monsters, climbing Mt. Laundry and destroying the kitchen for dinner, I just didn’t get as much done as I hoped.

Today: 1,882

Total:  13,918


The damned quetzal started screeching again.  My ears rang with the sound, and his world suddenly wavered, thin and insubstantial.  I clutched him desperately, slipping further away, fighting to stay in the dream.  Sleek hair slid through my fingers, and I tore brilliant feathers loose in my effort to stay with him.

“Bring me back to life.”  He whispered inside my head, but I couldn’t feel him any longer.  I couldn’t smell his tropical scent, but I could still taste him.  I’d never be able to eat another guava or passion fruit without remembering, aching for him.  “Wake me.  Call me to your side.  Not even Alvarado himself could keep me from you once the gate is open.”

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Fast Draft Day 005

I slept in this morning, so I didn’t have any words until late (after work).  Luckily, we took the kids to the community center to swim tonight after dinner.  I sat out by the cafe with my laptop and got 1.5K words, and finally hit the other 500 tonight.  (My goal was to break 12K.)

I’m still following my outline pretty well, but a few things popped up today that were surprising, including a tattoo and a zombie.  Woot!  I love zombies.  However, I’m not really sure this last scene is working very well.  It’s not happening quite like I expected, which would be okay…as long as it’s not boring.  I’m too tired to tell.

A decent day, though, and nothing I can’t fix in revision. 

Today: 2,608

Total:  12,036


“It doesn’t matter what you know or believe when you can see me with your eyes, touch me with your body, taste me with your mouth.  Am I not real, Cassandra Gonzales?  Do I not breathe?  Didn’t you feel how much I ache to take you again?”

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Fast Draft Day 004

I barely made it D&E this morning after staying up too late last night watching DVR’d Survivor and America’s Next Top Model.  I actually got up okay (the lure of a programmed pot and fresh hot coffee waiting for me!) but my focus was fuzzy.  I struggled to get a couple of hundred words, and then my mind needed a break.  Still, I made decent progress – though not stunning.

Last night’s words: 770

This morning’s words: 1,144

Total:  8,479

My goal for today is to eventually break 10K.

This is the last longer snippet I’ll share, though I’ll try to do a line or two each day.  This is the first scene with hero and heroine on page together, setting the tone for the erotic components of the story.  What do you think – are they going to burn up the page?

His hands clamped on my upper arms, hauling me up out of the water to him.  The dream again.  I fought to wake up.  I didn’t want to be here.  I didn’t want him to—

I flailed and managed to land a glancing blow to his head, but he chuckled deep in his chest, more like an animal’s purring that any sound a human would make.

“I’m happy to see you too, Cassie.”

I jerked and twisted against his grip with all my strength, but he didn’t slacken his hold.  He didn’t even try to restrain or evade my blows.  Each time he pulled me through the dream, I fought.  I tried to fly free of him, but I couldn’t escape.  We both knew it, and the ease in which he held me to his chest only infuriated me more.  I dug my nails into his shoulders like claws, ripping my way down his meaty biceps. 

His breath hissed out, his eyes slitting dangerously, but he didn’t try to stop me.

“Don’t call me that.  I hate it.  It makes me sound like a little girl.”

The growing darkness in his eyes eased a bit.  “Your mother used to call you that.”

I shuddered, instinctively ducking my head and curling my body tighter into a ball.  “Get out of my mind!”

His lips brushed my temple.  “Forgive me, lady, but that is impossible.”

Tenderness from a massive warrior who could crush me with his smallest finger.  That easily, he made me melt against him.  He had to have felt the tension leaking out of my body, but he didn’t make any move to further his advantage.

Disgusted at myself for letting him win so quickly, I turned to questions.  Analytics and reason.  Not insanity.  Because I had to be insane to think any of this was real.

“Tell me your name.”

Amusement lightened his voice to the warning rumble of an approaching storm.  “You heard a rousing tale about me this afternoon when you toured your grandmother’s property.”

I shook my head, but that only made my lips brush his chest…and the rougher scar tissue over his heart.  Supposedly where Alvarado’s spear had pierced his chest and killed him.  “If you’re really Tecun Uman, the Guatemalan national hero, then how can we understand each other?  He died in 1524!”


Of course.  I forced out a derisive snort.  “I don’t believe in magic.”

“Besides, I’m not really Tecun.  Or rather, he was not the man people thought him to be.  He was more.  He was legend.”

“So you’re legend?”


“Then you’re not real.”

He didn’t answer.  His heart beat strongly beneath my cheek.  He stroked my back, his palms so big and broad I could imagine him ripping his enemies’ heads off with his bare hands.  I didn’t want the magic of his hands.  I didn’t want to succumb yet again to his seductive dreams that left me sweaty and needy.

In desperation, I threw out more questions.  “Who are you?  Really?  If you’re not him…”

“I am him, but more.  You won’t believe the truth.”

I pulled back so I could see his solemn dark eyes.  He traced my face as though he was carving my image into his memory forever.  “Try me.”

He arched a brow, his lips quirking.  He lowered his head toward mine but I shoved him in the chest.  “No!”

He didn’t have to stop—a gnat would have as much impact upon his strength—but he paused immediately at my request.  I’d learned very quickly in these dreams that he would always take my refusal seriously, despite the darker edge to his sensuality.  He’d enjoyed my initial struggle too much to hide his erection digging into me.  I’d fought him, even bloodied his arms, but I hadn’t told him no.

“You know what I meant.  Tell me the truth.  I’ve learned things since the first…”  Swallowing hard, I averted my gaze.  The first dream.  The first time I died in his arms, and he brought me back to life.

“Some people know me as Kukulkan.”  When that name didn’t garner my response, he added, “Great Feathered Serpent.  Quetzalcoatl to the people of Teotihuacan.  Tlahuizcalpantechultli, Lord of the Star of the Dawn, but only when my wrath had poured out upon my enemies.”

I made myself look back into his face.  Chiseled, proud, strong, larger than life, yes, but very much human.  “So you want me to believe you’re a god?”

“Some have thought me to be a god because they didn’t understand how my kind could come and go through the gates between our worlds.  For a thousand years, I often walked your earth as a man, until I died as Tecun Uman K’iqab, Black Butterfly Grandson of K’iqab.  I haven’t been able to pass through the gate since.  They’re locked until the Return at the end of the age.”

Now I could roll my eyes and laugh, because I really didn’t buy any of his crap.  “December 21, 2012, yeah, I’ve heard all about it.  The Maya predicted the end of the world thousands of years ago.  Sure.”

“No,” he replied in that calm, solemn way of his that carried so much silent weight and strength that I could almost believe he was a god.  “Not the end of your world.  The time of our Return to your world.  A new age will begin.”

“With Mayan gods walking around again.”

He nodded, letting some of his humor return in the sensual curve of his mouth and the teasing tone to his voice.  “Some thought us to be gods.  Especially when they were taken to be our lovers.”

Taken.  My stomach muscles fluttered, both with fear and an arousal I couldn’t deny.  Another woman might have thought he’d used those words lightly.  I took my date to dinner.  I took—chose—a new lover.

In these nightly visitations, he’d already hinted that he’d take me every way possible, preferably with me kicking and screaming all the way.

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Fast Draft Day 003

I didn’t get quite as much accomplished this morning — but I expected that after the huge day yesterday.  Details, details, they’re crucial for some of these sites we’re visiting.  And the spelling!  Ack!  Q’umarkaj.  Utatlan.  Even Antigua (I always want to spell it with a q for some reason.)  Luckily I’ve found several pictures that help me set the mood.  I’ve been listening mostly to Apocalyptica and Evanescence on the play list.  Especially “Bring Me to Life” and “I Don’t Care.”

Today so far: 1,390

Total: 6,565

Snippet:  first draft only, subject to heavy revision later, still from the opening scene.  Some real life experiences getting added here — That Man just started a timeshare sales position this year!

“How long have I been bugging you to take a vacation?”  Natalie turned to me, grinning, but the concern in her eyes cut me to the quick.  “You need this, Cass.”

I nodded and some of the shadows eased from her eyes.  “It just seems like a fairytale.”

“You deserve a fairytale.”  She tried to laugh, but we both knew how close I’d come to dying.  She’d been the one to give me mouth to mouth until the paramedics arrived.  We’d always been as close as sisters, but now I owed her my life, too.  “Besides, whoever heard of a timeshare salesperson who never actually goes on vacation herself?”

Grateful that she returned to our long-standing banter instead of driving me to tears, I gave her a friendly shove.  “The top salespeople never go on vacation, silly.  We’re too busy making money selling other people their dream vacations.”

“Well, you’ve never sold a view like this.”  She swept her hand toward the glistening lake and the hazy volcanoes in the distance.  “This is pretty dreamy, Cass.”

I could only nod in agreement.

“Hey, you never finished your story, Jose.  Why does the quetzal have a red breast?”

Thanks to Nana, I knew this part of the legend.

“Believing the horse Alvarado rode to be a part of a terrible man-beast, Tecun Uman beheaded the creature.  Unharmed, Alvarado took the opportunity to stab the great warrior in the heart with his spear.  As Tecum lay dying, his quetzal flew down to lie weeping on his breast until he drew his last breath.  Ever since, the quetzal’s breast has been stained with Tecun’s blood as a reminder.”

“A reminder of what?  The Spaniards’ cruelty?”

Jose turned to me with a peculiar look on his face, careful and reverent.  “That someday, he will return.”

Uneasy, I jerked my gaze back to the lake.  I didn’t know if I could ever see so much water and not remember.  The sound of crashing metal on metal.  Thick smoke on the air, the stench of gasoline.  The screams.  Our small pontoon had been broadsided by a party boat, more of a yacht than Lake Taneycomo could really support.

Bone-chilling cold water had closed over my head while fireworks exploded behind my eyes.  Blood on the water.  My blood.  I knew I was dying.  Darkness.

I thought near-death experiences were supposed to be tunnels of light and a blessed feeling of peace, but I’d seen an obsidian pyramid.  A man had pulled me out of the water and lifted me to the sun blazing at the top.  I remembered the feel of his big hands on my back, the heat of his body bringing my cold, dead limbs back to life, his mouth on mine as he gave me his breath. Long blue-green feathers had hung in my face along with his hair, as shiny and black as the pyramid.

Most of all, I remembered his voice whispering in my ear.  Deep and rumbly, his voice had vibrated my bones.  “You’re well-named, Cassandra, for you can bring light to my people.  Help me return.  Only you can bring me through the gate.”

Even now, that distinctive growling voice made my bones want to dissolve my body into a pile of goo. 

Help me return.

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Fast Draft Day 002b

I said this on Twitter:  some days the words just roll out like a dream.  That was today.

I wrote over lunch and promptly forgot to eat.

As soon as I finished the Evil Day Job, I started again instead of cooking dinner.  Ooops.  We had to eat out once That Man got home.  (Not entirely a bad thing of course!  Yum–and no dishes.)

I’m paying for it now with an eye-strain headache and sore wrists, but it was a very rare, fabulous writing day.  So far, the story is going EXACTLY like I planned.  I can’t stop thinking about it.  I see it all so clearly that I can hear the characters…I don’t want to lose that before I can capture the words.

Total for the day:  3,782

Grand total:  5,175 words

And I’m still tinkering with the file.

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Fast Draft Day 002

I got bogged down in a few details this morning so I was afraid I wouldn’t get my words.  I wanted a couple of variations of Kukulkan — all the names he’s been known as across the various Mesoamerican peoples.  Then I needed Tecun’s real name — and I couldn’t find it.  I knew I’d seen it somewhere, but it wasn’t in my notes.  I finally remembered that it was at the end of the Popol Vuh (and since I have a copy with tons of post-it notes sticking out of it, I didn’t bother writing it down).  Tecun Uman K’iqab, Black Butterfly Grandson of K’iqab, who was one of the rulers of the K’iche. 

The scene I was working on was trying to introduce him — and I had to get it right. 

Of course I had to look up how to spell some words too.  Quetzalcoatl I got right, but not Teotihuacan.  (I truly feel sorry for whoever gets to voice these names if the story is a). accepted and b). ever goes to Audible.)  And yes, I know that in a real Fast Draft I shouldn’t have bothered spelling them correctly — that’s what Revision Xibalba is for.  However, I want this draft to be as solid and readable as possible and misspellings of major things drives me nuts.  Of course some of these details might get edited out in revisions too.  I don’t want it to read like a history book.

Anyway, despite my hang ups this morning, I still made good progress, bringing my total wordage to 2,865.  As always when I start a hard round of true Dark & Early — and drink too much coffee — I get an upset stomach.  So only one cup this morning, along with toast.  I’m also ravenous (because I’ve been up since BEFORE the butt crack of dawn) which makes my diet challenging.  So I’m having smaller meals more often.  I’m really craving scones, so I might try to make some healthy ones tonight.  That’ll be my treat D&E tomorrow morning.

I’ll continue a bit from yesterday’s first line, but remember this is only first draft.  I’m not sure that I’ve nailed the voice yet (which is CRUCIAL in first person).  Openings usually go through several iterations before I get it right — but I’m pretty sure that first line has to stay.  🙂

I heard a quetzal calling outside my window again last night.

A few months ago—before I nearly drowned—I’d never even heard of the strange bird.  Now it seemed to roost outside my window every damned night.

Glaring up at the invisible watcher hidden in the tree limbs, I muttered beneath my breath. “I thought queztals were extinct.”

“Some say they are, because the bird we know today surely isn’t the magnificent bird of legend,” our guide said in an agreeable voice.  I don’t think anything would rattle Jose’s calm, leathery exterior.  At least my constant American questions hadn’t upset him.  “We still revere them.”

“I think that one has a red breast.”  Natalie peered up into the shadowed growth like Sherlock Holmes.  My best friend was determined to prove all this mumbo-jumbo shit was all in my head.  I couldn’t fault her for trying.  In fact, I wished she could.  I didn’t want some strange holy bird howling outside my window every night.  Let alone the other dreams.

Despite the sauna-like air filling my lungs and frizzing my hair, I shivered.

“Oh, very lucky, then,” Jose replied.  “Let me tell you our legend of how the quetzal came to bear its red breast.

“Many say that when the great Tecun Uman went to fight the demon conquistador Pedro de Alvarado not far from here, that his quetzal nahual, or spirit guide, went with him.  Some say Tecun even transformed into the mighty bird during the battle, his massive wings buffeting the Spaniards and shielding his people from their terrible weapons.”

Jose paused his tale as we reached the end of a long avenue of overgrown trees.  Ahead, a sprawling house stretched across the countryside, beautiful despite the jungle trying to overtake it.  Perched on the knees of a verdant volcano, the house commanded an incredible view of Lake Atitlan below. 

Cradled between three massive volcanoes, Lake Atitlan claimed to be the most beautiful—and possibly the deepest—lake in the world.  I couldn’t bear to look at it.

Water closing over my head.  Cold.  So cold.  Blood on the water.

Shuddering at the memory, I shielded my eyes and scanned the house again.  Rows of coffee fields curved up the side of the volcano.  So green.  I’d never known such an incredible, lush green before coming to Guatemala.  Birds sang in the trees, not the annoying call of the quetzal that kept me up all night.  With the huge bushes and trees trying to swallow the house, I could almost picture what Eden had been like.  Lush, riotous growth everywhere I looked.

“Are you sure this is it?”  I asked our guide.

“I checked the papers this morning.  The house is still deeded to Carla Gonzales.”

My grandmother, Nana, who’d set my feet on this adventure.

No, I whispered to myself.  Drowning started this little nightmare.

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Fast Draft Day 001

Up at 5 AM this morning with coffee waiting on me.  I didn’t sleep well — but then I never do before a big push like this.  I made the mistake of thinking about how I was going to start this novella — priming the pump, so to speak — and then I couldn’t get it to shut off.  Plus it stormed last night, and Middle was up late fighting sudden 101 fever after a day of company (I hope she didn’t infect anyone!).  She’s very upset because she has perfect attendance.  🙁 

A slow start at first but then I managed to finish the first scene.  It’ll need a lot of work later, of course, but I’m happy with what I got so far.

1,393 words.

First line:

I heard a quetzal calling outside my window again last night.

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An April Fast Draft

Sometimes an idea comes together like a lightning strike.  Perfect, clear, powerful.  The timing is good, and it makes sense to insert this project into my to-do list now rather than later, so I’m going for it.

Almost a year ago (MayNoWriMo) I was working on Maya#2, and while doing some research, I ran across the legend of Tecun Uman, the Guatemalan national hero.  I took a lot of notes about him and his mythic battle against Alvarado that ultimately led to his death and the defeat of the K’iche.  I knew it was important, but I didn’t have a story.  The synopsis I wrote for Maya#2 would lead to an interesting story — but I don’t feel compelled to write it.  I’ve changed my direction this past year.  I’m working harder to firm up my brand.  While I loved the idea of The Bloodgate Priestess (working title for #2), I just don’t think it’s the best story for me to write right now.

Fast forward to last weekend, and I had a waking sort of dream.  I saw Kukulkan’s pyramid — the shiny obsidian one from the other side of the Bloodgate — and a sacrifice.  Although it wasn’t the kind of sacrifice you’re probably thinking.  *winks*  One thing lead to another, and suddenly the dots connected between Tecun Uman, Kukulkan, and the Bloodgates.  In a few days, I managed to get the entire story plotted on my handy-dandy spreadsheets.  Both characters have ran through the Emotional Toolbox.  The story fits within my BRAND I want to build. 

Even more significant, I’ve dreamed about the story again.  The ending plays out in my mind like a movie.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to pull a modified Fast Draft.  I’m not going to shoot for 20 pages a day — but I am going to shoot to finish a first draft of this novella by the end of the month.  The fire is stoked — I’m going to take advantage of it.  I think it’ll end up closer to 30K than 20K, but if I can get a minimum of 1K a day, I’ll be in good shape to finish by the end of the month.  I’m excited enough about this story to face getting up at 5 AM everyday to finish it.

Never fear, Vicki fans — I finished her synopsis yesterday.  We have company arriving today, but my task tonight will be to edit the synopsis again and write the query, so I can submit sometime on Monday when I have the chance to review everything one more time.  I also turned back in Golden copyedits yesterday — the last time I’ll touch that ms before its release August 29th. 

My slate is clear.  It’s a GO for —


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Manic Plotter

My work on Vicki’s synopsis has been temporarily blindsided by a new project.  Unscheduled — but necessary, and it makes sense to do this sooner than later.  I’ve been researching like mad and plotting on paper with green ink — the green is significant for this particular character.  Tonight, I got a first draft of the plot and I’ve already thought of a few more things I need to add, nice little details that will make this story richer.

And it all started from a half-walking dream I had a couple of nights ago.

No, I haven’t been sleeping very well, why do you ask?  *wry grin*

I feel a Fast Draft coming on, because I’d really really like to get this project done quickly.  Anyone up for a quick, hard, and dirty first draft race later this month?

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Winner & Vicki Snippet

Thank you, everyone, for reading e-books!  Tina, you’re the winner of yesterday’s giveaway!  Please drop me a note (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com) with your selection from my backlist and the format you’d like.

And now to the snippet!  Here, Vicki has taken Jesse on an innocent shopping trip, which doesn’t end up quite so…innocent. 

She turned around, looking for Jesse, and found him mesmerized by a white fluffy negligee a few rows back in the lingerie department. Slowly, she walked back toward him, trying to figure out why he found the silly thing so interesting. It was innocent and frilly, totally not her style. He’d already said she was red, passion, fire. Not meek and insipid white, let alone such a feminine, helpless looking outfit.

Her hackles rose just looking at the damned thing, but she tried to keep the bite out of her voice. “You’re not picturing me in that, are you?”

His cheeks flushed but he met her gaze with a sheepish shrug of his shoulders. “So sue me, I’m a man, and I think you’d be hot in it.”

“In this?” Incredulity rang in her voice and he smiled wider. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Remember the surprise factor.”

That took her aback. When choosing colors and patterns only by her personal preference, she’d created a solid but boringly conservative line, which was far from what she’d hoped to accomplish.

“I already knew you were strong, kind, gorgeous, and that once you make up your mind to do something, you do it one hundred percent all the way.” His voice roughened into a whiskey husky drawl. “I heard enough last night to know that you’re also uninhibited and sexy as hell.”

Now it was her turn to blush. He just had to get in a dig about what all he’d heard last night. “What’s your point?”

“If you were to deliberately pick out something to wear for Reyes, I bet you’d choose red or black, right? This is totally unexpected. It screams innocence and shyness, a direct contradiction to your personality. If you were to slip this little baby on for your cop, I guarantee he’ll swallow his tongue in surprise, and then blow a gasket trying to get you out of it.”

Doubtfully, she took the hanger off the rack to examine the negligee closer. She tried to picture herself in it, and failed. Just thinking about it made her feel awkward, shy, and stupid, none of which she typically felt, especially around Elias. He brought out the vixen—or the crocodile—in her. Not the blushing virgin.

Maybe that’s exactly Jesse’s point.

He stepped close enough to whisper. “Hold it up to you. Let me imagine you wearing it.” For me.

He didn’t say the last words out loud, but she heard the longing in his voice, the intent in his body. Could he be right? Would Elias like her in such a feminine, innocent-looking nightgown?

She held the negligee beneath her chin and watched Jesse’s eyes flare wider, darken to the mysterious lost-lagoon depths.

“If you think it’s too…”

“Virginal,” she said wryly.

His mouth quirked and he dipped his head. “Then wear something brazen beneath, like a see-through thong. Or better yet, nothing at all.”

She arched a brow at him in warning but he only smiled wider. “That reminds me. You need underwear and socks. Hmmm. I wonder what size you are?”

Since he was so close, it was easy enough to reach around his waist and slide her fingers down the back of his saggy jeans in search of the waistband tag.

Mistake. Huge. Because instead of cotton, her fingers met only bare skin.

“Jesse. You are not wearing any underwear.”

A muffled gasp drew her attention. A blushing, wide-eyed saleslady stared at them.

“No, ma’am.” Whispering, he dropped his head and allowed his shoulders to droop, that automatic, innate signal of surrender she recognized despite her refusals to ever consider learning more about the BDSM lifestyle as her brother urged. “Extras were a luxury, and I don’t mind going without.”

Glaring at the ogling saleslady, Vicki shoved her hand down further. Her index finger lodged between his cheeks, the rest of her hand cupping his buttock. Jesse quivered beneath her grip but otherwise didn’t move a muscle, while the saleslady flushed even darker and finally whirled to disappear down a side aisle.

She tried to keep her voice firm instead of sultry, but her voice sounded like she’d just slugged a flask of Jack Daniels. “I thought we agreed to no flirting.”

“Um, it’s your hand down my pants. Ma’am.”

She couldn’t help leaning into him, squeezing firmly, letting him feel how strong her hands were. She’d grown up on a ranch and although she had two older brothers, her parents had always believed in hard work for every single person in the family. “What did I tell you to call me?”

“I can’t,” he breathed short and fast. “If I say your name while you’re touching me like this, I might not be able to control myself.”