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Taking Risks: Writing with Wild Abandon

fitbit-image-2-writing-wit-wild-abandonimg_6549That’s right! You might as well get used to it. I’m on a writing high at the moment, just over the halfway point with NaNoWriMo 2016 and loving every minute of it. So it stands to reason that you, my lovelies, are going to get a few of my navel-gazy, ‘gawd I love to write posts.’ For those of you who just stepped outside your caves for the first time in awhile, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, the object being – you guessed it – writing an entire novel in one month. I joyously participate every year if I possibly can by taking risks, by writing wildly, recklessly and eccastically for a whole glorious month.

 

I have to admit that when NaNoWriMo comes around, all bets are off. The house gets cleaned even less often than it usually does. The garden clean-up goes on hold. I drink lots of coffee, eat lots of one-handed meals, and reach for insane word counts. NaNoWriMo is the only time of year that I generate almost as many words on a daily basis as I do when I go to Lyme Regis every year on writer’s retreat. To be honest, I’m beginning to think that planning the time, setting November aside, making that effort to focus in and write a novel in a month is going to become at least as essential to my writing year as the retreat.

 

The thing is, each year I do NaNoWriMo, I take more risks and I write more innovatively. As a result, I come away from the experience a better writer. It’s not so much about word count. There are days when a few paragraphs are so essential that I may get nothing else done because they need to be perfect. When they are, that’s a victory in itself. What it is about is taking risks in a safe container. I have a month, only a month, and for some strange reason, I’ve always thought of November as a particularly short month. To me it always seems even shorter than February. Maybe that’s because it’s the last chance to breathe before the holiday season hits like a battering ram and there’s no slowing until after January first. All I know is that if I’m doing NaNoWriMo, I love, love, LOVE November! If I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, I hate, hate HATE November. It’s cold its bleak, it’s wet and windy and the days are short and dark and you know with that sense of cold in deep in your bones that summer is not well and truly over, and even Indian crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76Summer has had its last painful gasps. BUT absolutely NONE of that matters when I’m writing hard.

 

Bring on the coffee! Bring on the novel I’ve always wanted to write, but never had time for in a genre I’ve never been
brave enough to tackle before and I am SO close to nirvana I can almost taste it!

 

This year’s wonderful discovery for me has been something truly amazing with my FitBit. Yes, I know, live by the FitBit,
die by the FitBit, but write by the FitBit??? Oh you betcha!

 

FitBit encourages people to get up and walk 250 steps every hour. Good advice whether you’re a FitBit addict or not. It takes almost no time to do, and it gets me out of the hunched position over the computer. If I’m stuck, it also gives me time to walk through the problem. However, if I’m truly not ready to break, I’ve discovered that I can walk and write on my iPhone at the same time. OK, it ain’t elegant, I’ll admit, but it works! I walk, I write, I live very happily, and healthily in NaNo-land.

 

Eep! My walk alarm just went off. Must! Walk! Steps! And think! Be right back.

 

Yes, now where was I? Right! It’s sort of like a mini timed writing, a mini sprint, in NaNoWroMo terms, only it’s timed by steps rather than minutes. Okay, it’s sloppy and messy, but it works! Besides, sloppy and messy is what writing is all about. It never happens neatly or orderly. It’s either a mad scramble to get it all down fast enough or a pull-your-brain-out through your left nostril effort that leaves you exhausted and raw. Either way, it gets messy. Perhaps that’s why I love it so much, it’s permission to get messy, permission to give over control to those magical 26 letters and those squiggles of punctuation from which great stories, from which ALL stories are formed. Wow! I just gave myself chills!

 

Oh, and if you’re wondering, here’s the blurb for my NaNoWriMo WIP, my first ever scifi novel. Proud much???

 

imagesPiloting Fury Blurb:

“Win the bet and the Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer, Rick Manning’s
slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her she life she’d dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when the Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands the Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. But she does. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out the Fury is way more than a cargo ship. It’s a ship with a history – a dangerous history, a history Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer that she could imagine, and Rick Manning was not above fixing a bet to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 

Writing Badly? Permission Granted!

img_0082Being deep in the throes of NaNoWriMo right now, it’s not unusual that I’ve been thinking a lot about the process of writing and what makes it work. Why is it that sometimes the words flow and other times they just don’t? The first time I realised I might be able to exert some control over that flow, that I might be able to do more than sit in front of a keyboard and hope the Muse would take pity on me, was when I read Natalie Goldberg’s classic book, Writing Down the Bones. There I discovered the timed writing. It’s simple really. You write non-stop for a given amount of time. You write against the clock, and you don’t stop writing until time runs out. No matter what! You write whatever comes without fretting over whether it’ll be good. And when you’re done, some of the end result – even a good bit of the end result – might be crap. But mixed in with that crap might just be the seeds of something wonderful.

writing-down-the-bones-images

At the time I felt like I’d been asked to write with my left hand. Even writing for five minutes seemed like a daunting
task when I made my first attempts. But Natalie Goldberg knew what she was talking about. I was amazed at what came out of the abyss between my ears! It was only after I read Writing Down the Bones that I began to write real stories, and I think about that process of writing, just writing, no matter what comes out so often when I do NaNoWriMo because writing a novel in a month is never going to be pretty. But out of it, something truly wonderful can come. I know this because I’ve had two published novels from NaNoWriMo, and I’ve tackled both of those month-long races to the end as though they were a series of thirty gigantic, drawn out, timed writings.

 

So why did one book make such a difference? I finally had something I lacked in the past, something very important. I had permission to write badly. Every writer needs permission to write badly. Later Julia Cameron, in her book, The Artist Way, called those off-the-cuff, devil-may-care writings morning pages, and she prescribed three morning pages every day – written without forethought, written in haste. From a fiction writer’s perspective, she didn’t give them the weight that Natalie Goldberg did. They were only a part of a plan to open the reader to the artist within. To her, they were more about venting, sort of a daily house-cleaning for the brain. In addition to morning pages, Cameron insisted that every creative person should give themselves what she called an artist date once a week. An artist date was a date with oneself away from writing.

 

the-artist-wayI can’t count the number of times I stood myself up for my artist dates. I would have broken up with me long ago if I were actually dating me. But then I realised that an artist date didn’t have to be dinner and dancing or shopping or even visiting a museum. An artist date was a change of pace. It could even be ironing or weeding the garden. In fact the whole point of the artist date was to create space in which I could disengage the internal editor, engage the wild, creative part of my brain, the part full of ‘what ifs,’ and then, to give myself permission to write badly.

 

So many of us are under the impression that every word we write must be precious and worth its weight in gold. What I’ve learned since I discovered the pleasure of writing badly is that on the first draft, every word is most definitely not precious. On the first draft, every word is a crazy frivolous experiment. Every word is a chance to test the waters, to play in the mud, to let my hair loose and run dancing and screaming through the literary streets. Every word is a game and an adventure. Every word is eating ice cream with sprinkles for the main course. By the same token, every word is shit, every word is compost, and every word is the ground out of which the next draft will grow. I never know what’ll work crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76until I try it. I never know what my unconscious will come up with while I’m writing like a wild crazy person, grabbing words and cramming them in and rushing on to the next ones – just after I’ve done a basket full of ironing. Without that bold and daring first draft, without opening the floodgates and letting the words spill onto the page, there’s nothing to work with when the next draft comes. And when the next draft comes, the words do get precious. Every single one becomes weighty and irritable and reluctant to fit anywhere but the place it belongs, the place where I feel it just below my sternum like the point of an accusing finger.

 

But by the time I get to the second draft, by the time I get to that place where every word has to be perfect, I’m up for it. I’m ready to slow down and feel what every word means. I’m ready to find all the nuance and all the cracks and crevices of meaning in between the words. I’m ready for it because I’ve only just been playing up until now, and I’ve been allowing the words to play. And now … recess is over.

 

The longer I write, the more I realise what else, besides Natalie Goldberg’s timed writings and Julia Cameron’s reluctant artist dates, gets me there. And what gets me there is often totally being somewhere else, somewhere other than writing. Sometimes it’s playing the piano badly, or sweating at the gym, or weeding the veg patch. Sometimes it’s walking through the woodland not thinking about anything. Sometimes it’s reading something frivolous. Sometimes it’s writing-pen-and-birds-1_xl_20156020reading something profound. All the space that taking time not to write opens up inside me makes room for that wild
ride of the first draft. And when that first draft is finished, I have what I need to pick and choose, to sort through and sift, to change and rearrange until I find the best way to tell my tale. But up until then, it’s child’s play. It’s dancing naked. It’s shameless abandon and multiple verbal orgasms.

 

To all my lovely writing friends valiantly struggling through NaNoWriMo this year – in fact to anyone who has a story to write, let me just say this.

 

Writing badly? Permission most definitely granted!

 

It’s NaNoWriMo Time Again, and I’m Piloting Fury!

Scribe-computer-keyboardMG_07771-225x300I love November! November is National Novel Writing Month! I love the camaraderie, I love the challenge and I love the endless possibilities and the way the creative energy simply explodes in unexpected ways when I have only thirty days to finish a novel. Most of you already know that my latest release, The Tutor, got written last year during NaNoWriMo, and I had so much fun, that I decided to try it again this year.

 

What I wasn’t expecting was the I’d be making my first ever attempt at a Science Fiction novel, which I’m calling, Piloting Fury. To celebrate NaNoWriMo 2016, I’m sharing a little of my WIP with you lovelies today. This is the beginning of the first chapter. Please remember this is only a work in progress and this is the first draft, but I’m rather pleased with the direction Fury is heading already. Hope you enjoy.

 

Piloting Fury Blurb:

“Win the bet and the Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer, Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her she life she’d dreamed of owning her own starship, and when the Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands the Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. But she does. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 2nd mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out the Fury is way more than a cargo ship. It’s a ship with a history — one Mac may not be able to live with and one that she’s been a part of for a lot longer that she could imagine, and Rick Manning was not above fixing a bet to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 

Piloting Fury Excerpt — The Bet:

 

“Win the bet and the Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” Rick Manning was more than a little bit drunk. He had to be to make that sort of bet with me. Everyone knows you don’t gamble with Diana Mac unless you want to lose. I never lost – ever! What gambling I managed in spaceports was my income, and I hoarded it all obsessively. Every credit of it went toward paying off the contract of my indenture. Nope! I never lose because I can’t afford to, and yet here I stood on the small but efficient deck of the Fury, reporting to Rick fucking Manning, and the bastard was nowhere to be found. “Probably sleeping it off in some whore’s bed,” I growled under my breath.

“You cheated, you bastard!” I said more loudly. Even if he heard me, what the hell was he gonna do, dock my wages, crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76throw me in the brig? “I know you cheated, I just don’t know how you did it,” I said out loud to the console, which, in spite of my anger at Manning, already had me intrigued. OK — Pilot! I confess. Even visions of strangling Rick Manning with a New Hibernian cryo-whip couldn’t hold my imagination quite like the console of a new ship – even if it was one I was now indentured to for who the hell knew how many galactic years. I’m not bragging when I say I’m the best pilot in the galaxy, and that means I’ve never met the spacefaring ship I couldn’t fly. Not that I got that many opportunities indentured to the Dubrovnik, but Captain Harker had fattened his pocket more than once by betting on me in an impromptu race of some sort. Of course the ship was never my own, and that made the bet even more interesting. No one ever saw it coming. In spite of my crap situation, I couldn’t help admiring the clean lines and the efficient arrangement of the Fury’s controls. Already I was jonesing to see what the ship could do, and the truth was that the Fury was one helluva ship – not a new one, by any means. Hell I doubted if Manning even knew what the original make was. If the entire ship wasn’t glued together with spare parts, I’d be surprised, and yet leave it to Manning to win, steal, smuggle and finagled some of the best, state of the art, components in the galaxy. I only knew that because he and I got drunk together on Diga Prim waiting out a lava storm one night in a bar. The man was as proud of his ship as he was his cock and, while I’d made it a point not to check out the latter, I’d wanted to check out the Fury for a long time. Just not like this.

I flopped down in the pilot’s seat, which strangely enough felt as though it molded to fit my butt. I knew for a fact that Manning’s ass needed a little more space than mine did, and so did his broad shoulders, which while I had admired in more than a few space ports where we’d had the misfortunate to ran into each other, I now loathed with a loathing hotter than the fiery pits of Diga Prime, and envisioned kicking that very fine ass out the airlock somewhere in the Outer Rim. But thanks to the fine mess the cheating scumbag had gotten me into, I couldn’t even do that, and it had been such a sure thing. I was sitting pretty, wasn’t I? The newly healed incision on my forearm itched like crazy, and while it was already all but invisible, it was far better than any manacles Manning could have slapped on me. I should have known. I should have suspected something, but I was too busy patting myself on my back for my good fortune, too greedy for more.

I should have suspected something when Manning lost a small fortune to me in game after game of Sandirian poker. At the time, the man wasn’t yet too drunk to make intelligent decisions, and I knew for a fact he wasn’t a gambling addict. I’d heard about addicts who had gambled away far larger fortunes than the one Manning had amassed, which was just enough to buy back my indenture with a nice little nest egg to tide me over until I could find other work. Nope, Manning was a lightweight when it came to gambling losses. In fact a minor satrap was legendary for gambling away a whole planetoid out at the edge of the Orion Nebula. I just figured it was a cock thing with Manning. I recognized the signs. The skirt had worked its magic just like it always did with lonely, horny sailors in spaceport hoping to get laid. Men or women – it didn’t really matter. If they gave me that look and offered to buy me a drink, I knew I had them. They all just assumed because I was sitting alone, shuffling a deck of cards, I was as lonely and as in need of entertainment as they were. And then there was Rick Manning. He’d been doing his best for the past several galactic years to get me in bed. By now it had become a game between us. He flirted with me, and I let it roll right over me. I liked the banter. I liked the fact that we had intelligent, often witty conversations in between his flirtatious, but harmless advances. It was what we did, the two of us, so why should I think anything was particularly different about last night, and yet the man had lost everything he had, all of his life savings and all he could do was chuckle.

“It’s your hair, Mac,” he said, as he motioned over a notary to make the transaction legal. “And when you wear that dress and let your hair down like that, of course a man’s gonna lose. And you, you little minx, that’s what you’re counting on, isn’t it?”

I rubbed my fingers together indicating money. “My entire income depends on me making it work, indentured here, remember?” I laid a palm against my chest. “But if it’ll help,” I grabbed up the band that had secured the battered deck of cards and pulled my hair back in it. “The dress I can’t do anything about. Other than my uniform, which is back on the Dubrovnik, I don’t own anything else.” I truly did live close to the bone. But that was about to end, wasn’t it?

He leaned over the table and offered a smile that would have shamed the Suns of Valoxia. “Well that’s a start. Tell you what, one more hand and I’ll bet my jacket.” If you win, you can cover up a little bit and maybe give me an even chance, and if you lose,” he looked me up and down.

“I won’t,” I said shoving the deck of cards across the table to him.”

He took them and began to shuffle, his eyes still locked on mine. “If you lose, then I get your clothes. All of them.”

“I won’t,” I repeated organizing my cards as he handed them over.

In no time at all I was bundled up in a vintage flight jacket that Manning swore up and down was a real Terran relic he’d one in a poker game he’d apparently done much better in that he was doing in this one. He slugged back another New Hibernian whisky and the barmaid, who bent so he got a good view down her bustier, brought him another one. I laid down enough credits to pay for my drinks and stood. “Gotta go, Manning. You’ve got nothing left I can win off of you, and I sure as hell don’t want the clothes off your back.”

“Not so fast, Mac,” he said, his words not exactly slurred, but getting pretty close. He blocked my exit with an extended leg, nodded back to my chair and with a wave of his wrist sent the barmaid scurrying for another whisky for me. “You can’t leave till I’ve had a chance to win back all my shit.”

“I can, and I will,” I said, stepping over his leg, but even half drunk, Manning was fast, he lifted his thigh, effectively high-centering me and ending me up in his lap. He curled a thick finger around a strand of hair that had escaped my make-shift pony tale and, I remember thinking it strange that he smelled more like a man who’d been enjoying a trek or a camping trip in the National Parks of the Beledine than someone three sheets to the wind on cheap-assed whisky. I even remember not minding his flirtations at the time, but then why would I when I was a free woman at last, one with a very nice jacket, even if it was considerably too big.

“I do have something I can bet.” His breath was warm against my ear, and I felt the buzz of my own generous alcohol consumption that made me think I just might take him up on what I figured he was about to offer me as apart of my drunken celebration of my freedom. After all, an indentured didn’t have a lot of free time for sex, and for me, when I did have the time, I was trying to manage a few more credits toward my freedom.

“Oh that,” I nodded down to his lap and gave a little laugh. “I figure I can have that without wagering for it.”

The chuckle he returned sounded positively animal, and his lips quirked into a crooked smile. “And while I can think of nothing I would enjoy more than a good shag in the sheets with you, Mac, that wouldn’t win me back my stuff now would it?”

I was about to say since he had nothing to offer I saw no point. I was about to walk out the door of the bar free and clear, go straight to Captain Harker and pay off the contract of my indenture and see what it felt like to sleep and wake up as a free woman. That’s what I should have done, in retrospect, but then Manning dropped the bomb.

“One more hand, Mac. Just one. Win the bet and the Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.”

Fuck me! If he hadn’t been holding onto me, I would have fallen right off onto the floor. Now I’m not a woman who is often speechless, though as an indentured, I know when to keep my mouth shut, but this time, all I could do was make a couple of fish gasps as he gave me that look I was sure had gotten more than a few women in his bed and probably worked just as well getting him out of trouble with the authorities when his cargo was less than copasetic.

“What do you say, Mac? You up for it? I’m betting the Fury along with the next three contracts I have to fill.” He shrugged. “If I don’t have a ship, I can’t fulfill the contracts, right? Come on. Give me at least one more chance.”

“Your ship? You want to bet the Fury?” I stumbled off his lap all but falling on my ass before I made it back to my chair, and he was already motioning the notary over.

“What does this mean, her ass is yours?” The notary asked, with a strong New Hibernian accent. “You know I need specifics.”

“He wants me to fuck him, if I lose,” I clarified. Me arrogant? Huh! I could already picture myself easing the sleek bulk of the Fury out of dock and seeing what the ship could do in open space.

There were three other tables demanding the attention of the notary, and the fact that such a big wager had to be witnessed wasn’t making them or him very happy. “Well I can hardly write that down, can I?”

Manning rolled his eyes and grabbed the notary’s device using the touch pad to type in whatever was a good euphemism for the thing I was certain wasn’t going to happen, and I was so sure of myself, so positive that the Fury was already mine, that I didn’t bother to look at what he wrote. I just placed my thumb against the DNA reader on the keypad and the notary grunted his approval, nodding to the barmaid who brought over a sealed pack of cards. Manning settled her on his lap – for luck, he said, as he shuffled the cards, considerably longer than necessary, but then I could be patient when I would be walking away with the price of my freedom plus change and a bright shiny starship of my very own. I certainly wasn’t worried about Manning. He was a respectable pilot – not as good as I am, but not bad Writing pen and birds 1_xl_20156020either, and he was one cunning sonovabitch. He’d land on his feet no matter what happened.

When he dealt me three tens, I figured I was in like Flin. The vacuous barmaid was too busy playing with Manning’s bronze curles to give anything away, and really, while she might meet him after hours and commiserate with a good fuck, she wasn’t at all interested in the outcome. Looking back, I should have thought that strange. I should have thought the whole situation strange, that a man was about to bet his fucking starship to a woman who had a reputation for never losing. Looking back, I should have thought of a lot of things, but all I could think about was that in one glorious night, I would gain my freedom and a starship with contracts pending.

I sure as hell wasn’t thinking about Rick Manning pulling a straight flush. But that’s exactly what the bastard did. Winner takes it all.

 

NaNoWriMo the Second Time Around

Writing imageSeven years ago I started my first NaNoWriMo in the most auspicious circumstances. I was ensconced in the Red Lion Pub in the middle of Avebury stone circle with my dear friend and wonderful author, Helen Callaghan. The Red Lion is reputedly the most haunted pub in England. Avebury is the largest stone circle in Europe. It was pouring down rain and every pagan in South England was there to celebrate a soggy Samhain in the stones. Perfect place for me to begin Love Spells, which would eventually become Body Temperature and Rising, the first of the Lakeland Witches Trilogy. And yes, there was a ghostly encounter while we were there. At the time, I had published a few short stories but no novels.

For me, that first NaNoWriMo was tough. I stressed over the fact that instead of the required 50,000 words for a NaNoWriMo win, I needed 70,000 words to finish the novel I had in mind. The situation was made even more stressful by the fact that I had several other writing projects with deadlines to deal with. Never mind all that. Those of you who know me, know I’m a pit bull when it comes to word count. As my poor husband can attest, I turned into the Queen Bitch of Surrey for the month of November. BUT the novel got finished and stowed in the drawer while I wrote and published The Initiation of Ms Holly and The Pet Shop, and THEN the timing was right for Body Temperature and Rising. That was seven years ago!

Eleven novels, several novellas and numerous short stories later and I finally am getting around to doing IMG_3564my second NaNoWriMo. It’s all about timing, and this year the timing was right. Auspicious beginnings? Well it all started with breakfast at home in our sunny dining area – yes there was sunshine! With my hubby at my side no doubt girding his loins for the month-long battle he feared was to come — especially since this year’s NaNoWriMo effort is even bigger. I’m figuring the finished product to weigh in at 80 – 90,000 words. Mind you I did a lot of prep in advance … er … well not that much actually, since I didn’t know I was even going to write it until on the train coming home from Smut Manchester. But I did begin with a chapter by chapter synopsis and a good idea of where I wanted to go.

This NaNoWriMo, I’m a happy little camper. Poor Hubby keeps looking at me wondering who I am and what I did with his wife. BUT this NaNoWriMo is about enjoying the hell out of writing a seriously fun story with characters who are full of surprises. All of that fun I missed out on with the lovely characters in Body Temperature and Rising because I took the whole event too seriously, I took myself too seriously. Having fun with what I write makes it a whole lot less stressful where word count is concerned. AAAAND … strangely enough, the less I stress about word count, the easier the words come. Result!

NaNoWriMocrest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76I can thank the lovely and talented Kay Jaybee for the inspiration for The Tutor. And yes there will be several scenes involving a tin of pears in heavy syrup. That being said, the novel is more likely a Grace Marshall sizzle than a KDG inferno, but it’s early days. We’ll see.

For those of you who are doing NaNaWriMo this November, I wish you all the very best of luck. Write like the wind! For those of you who are just checking what’s coming up the pipeline as far as good reads go, I reckon there’ll be a lot of great novels coming from NaNoWriMo 2015. And do keep a lookout on this blog to see details of The Tudor as it evolves. With that in mind, here’s a little first draft, rough excerpt from The Tudor. Enjoy! And please remember, this is a work in progress.

 

The Tutor:

Struggling writer, Kelly Blake, has a secret life as a sex tutor. It’s strictly a no touch deal — advice only, and it pays the bills and keeps her solvent. Reclusive sculptor, Alexander ‘Lex’ Valentine’s, sculpture is in high demand, but Lex has his own secret. He can’t stand to be touched — by anyone. Sparks fly when he seeks out Kelly’s services. After a rare appearance at an exhibition turns into a fiasco, rumors fly that Lex and Kelly are engaged. The press feeding frenzy forces Kelly into hiding with Lex until rumors die down. Intimacy may not require touch, but can it survive the secrets uncovered as their sessions become more and more personal?

 

The Tutor Excerpt:

Kelly took a deep breath and tiptoed down the hallway to the master suite, then with a soft knock on the doorframe, she stepped into the open door.

A man tall and broad of shoulder stood with his back to her silhouetted in front of the window overlooking the city.

“Mr. Valens?” she said softly when he didn’t turn around. “I’m Kelly Blake.”

“Please close the door behind you.” His voice was a rough edged baritone, as though he’d just risen from sleep. A bedroom voice when they hadn’t yet begun – she didn’t know if that was a good sign or a bad one.

The muscles of her stomach tightened in nerves, but she did what he said, carefully pulling the door to behind her. When she turned back, she found herself the focus of the man’s full attention. Though he was still little more than a silhouette in the subdued lighting, she felt as though she were under the microscope. “Please sit.” He motioned her to a wing-backed chair facing a plush dark blue sofa. She felt his gaze on her as she settled in the chair, but he made no effort to move.

Bernini Hades and Persephone close uptumblr_lg4h59T3z31qe2nvuo1_500            She set her bag on the floor next to her and sat back with her hands clasped in her lap, noticing that there was wine, coffee and an assortment of snacks on the coffee table. She smiled and nodded to the small feast, are you interested in food play, perhaps, Mr. Valens?”

He started at the sound of her voice as though she had suddenly regained his attention from where ever else it had been, but in truth it hadn’t wavered from his studying of her person. Strange that in spite of being the center of his focus, she didn’t feel threatened or ogled. “Oh no. I just wasn’t sure what the normal protocol is for a visit from a … sex tutor, and I decided that hospitality is never out of place. Though,” he stepped forward a little and the lamplight caught his half smile, tinged in mischief, “I have heard that you do interesting things with canned pears. Sadly those aren’t on the room service menu.”

She chuckled softly. “Well I certainly could have brought a can if that’s what you wanted.”

His laughter was like velvet against her skin and her forearms rose in goose flesh. “I don’t know what I want, exactly.” He rubbed a hand over his stubbled chin, then he added, “you’re not at all what I expected.”

“What exactly did you expect?”

“Someone a little more like Dr. Ruth,” he said.

“Sorry to disappoint, she said.”

This time they both laughed, and he moved to set across from her at the end of the sofa and for the first time she got a good look at him. His dark hair was mussed, as though he, or someone else, had just ran fingers through it. It was in need of a cut, hanging to the collar of a faded denim shirt. He wore jeans that were nearly as faded and a pair lightweight hiking boots. Though the lighting was subdued, there was a thin scar that began dangerously close to his right eye and curved across his jaw toward his ear, disappearing in his tussled hair. It shown in pale relief against the stubble of several days.

“I didn’t say I was disappointed,” he said.

“Well if it’s any consolation, you’re not exactly what I expected either, not in this place anyway.”

He chuckled softly. “I should have met you in Dillon’s apartment. We’d have probably both been more comfortable there.”

“Your PA?”

He nodded

“Now he looks like he belongs here,” she said.

“He probably belongs here more than I do, Ms. Blake,” he said.

“Kelly, please call me Kelly.”

“Kelly,” he said. “You do look like a Kelly, much more than you do a Dr. Ruth.”

There was a nervous laugh, and he poured them both a glass of water. As per his PA’s warning, she waited until he set the glass on the coffee table in front of her before she reached for it, took a sip and then smiled up at him. “Now then, what can I do for you, Mr. Valens?”

Her question seemed to unsettle him. He reached for the water glass and knocked it over, then Writing pen and birds 1_xl_20156020cursed and looked like any second he might bolt.

“It’s all right. It’s just water. Sit still.” She said, “I’ll get a towel.” She found the bathroom and took her time in returning, giving the man a chance to collect himself. Male ego could be a fragile thing under the best of circumstances, and whatever it was that had driven him outside his comfort zone to solicit her services meant this was definitely not the best of times. When she returned, he’d moved from the spot and once again stood in front of the window, but this time he turned when he heard her.

“Leave it,” he said, but she knelt on the floor and gave the pristine carpet a brisk rubbing before leaving the towel to absorb the spill and returning to her chair.

“It’s only water and it only went on the carpet. I spilled a glass of red wine down the front of an elderly Chinese gentleman’s white shirt in Lausanne once, and I wasn’t even drunk.”

He laughed. They both laughed and some of the tension left his broad shoulders. “Oh sure, I can laugh about it now,” she said, but at the time I was mortified. It was the poor man’s birthday. He was there with his whole family.”

He settled tentatively on the arm of the sofa while she cleaned. “What happened?”

“Turns out the gent didn’t speak any English. None of his extended family did either, so I ended up having the waiter translate from English to French to the one teenage daughter there who did speak French that I would pay for the dry-cleaning, that I would pay for the whole dinner, which I sure as hell couldn’t afford, that I would do anything including becoming his slave until his next birthday.”

“And did he … take you up on any of your generous offers?” He asked, settling on the sofa, slightly closer to her, but still a safe distance.

“They wouldn’t hear of it. Instead they insisted I join them for their celebration. I didn’t understand a word and neither did they, but they were all lovely, and when it came time for cake and the happy birthday song, they all insisted I do it in English. Solo. In front of the whole restaurant. It was one of the most fun evenings I’ve ever had.” She chuckled, “and that fact alone should tell you that I spend entirely too much time in my own company.”

“Now that, I can relate to,” he said, offering her a broad, easy smile. He looked so much younger when he smiled so unguardedly. She was betting he didn’t do it often.

She refilled his water glass and settled back in her chair. For a long moment they sat in silence. She had learned long ago that it was best to let the client speak in his own time.

“I need to masturbate a lot,” he finally blurted out, then downed all of the water in a single gulp.

“High libido isn’t unusual in busy people,” she said, “especially if their work is creative.”

He nodded. And then there was more silence. This time he fumbled with the bottle of wine. She watched as he opened it and poured himself a glass. He poured her one too before she could refuse. Then he drank his back in one go. “I mean a lot,” he said, slapping the glass down on the table with a thwack for emphasis. “I’m aroused all the time. If I did it as often as I’m aroused, I’d never get anything else done.” He shifted in his seat and folded his hands in his lap as though he were about to say a prayer or just in case she should glance at his crotch. She didn’t. A part of what made her good at what she did was that other peoples’ situations never titillated her. They intrigued her. They brought out her sense of empathy. “Do you?” he asked, clearing his throat loudly and pouring himself another glass of wine.

“Do I masturbate a lot,” she asked.

He nodded as though his head were suddenly loose on his neck.

“I do, yes. But I’m a creative and my job is both stressful and exciting. I need an outlet. It sounds like you do too.”

He nodded. This time more thoughtfully. “I … for complicated reasons I’m not in a relationship either, so no help from there,” he said. “I’m sure that would make it easier.”

“A lot of creatives don’t have time for a relationship,” she said. “Love of their work is their relationship.” He hadn’t said that he was a creative, but she could tell. She could always recognize another creative person.

When he still said nothing, but downed the second glass of wine just as quickly as the first, she thought it best to press the issue just a little bit at least while he was still sober. “Mr. Valens, what exactly is it that you need? If you’re expecting me to advise you to masturbate less, and to give you ways not too, well I think that’s a little premature. I would suggest that perhaps you need to masturbate as much as you do because of your circumstances. That’s certainly my case.”

“You don’t know my circumstances. You can hardly compare your case to mine,” he blurted. “You’re a lovely woman who could easily have a partner whenever she wanted, hell you could pick and choose.”

She bit back her response, for some strange reason wanting desperately to tell him that he had no idea what her situation was and he had no right to jump to conclusions. The urge nearly took her breath away. One of the reasons she was so good at what she did was that she could stay neutral, let people tell their stories, let them tell her what they needed in their own time. She took a steadying breath. “I’m not comparing anything with anything Mr. Valens, and since I don’t know your circumstances, I’m generalizing until you give me enough information to make an intelligent suggestion.”

“So I’m supposed to tell you what to do?” He said.

“No, but it would help if you told me what you need from me.”

He ran a hand through his already mussed hair, and she noticed it was trembling. “If I could get what I need from you, or from anyone else for that matter, I wouldn’t be here. Look, this was a mistake. There’s nothing you can do. Dillon knows it, you know it, and I know it. I’m really sorry I wasted your time. Dillon!” he shoved his way up from the couch just as his PA and Tuck came into view. “I need to leave. Now.”

The PA shot an accusing look at Kelly, who shrugged, and then back at his boss.

“Who the hell is he?” Valens said, nodding to Tuck.”

“Her bodyguard,” the PA said.

To this, Valens laughed out loud, then shot Kelly a look that suggested he was seeing her for the first time. “If there was any place on earth you don’t need him, Ms. Blake, it’s here with me.”

clear typewriter_n“What the hell happened?” the PA said.

“Nothing the fuck happened, what did you think would happen?” Valen’s reply was little more than a growl.

“Look it’s your suite,” Kelly said, hunching her bag up onto her shoulder and moving past Valens, careful not to touch him. “I’ll leave. I’m sorry it didn’t work out,” she said softly.

Valens nodded, avoiding her gaze, pushing back against the wall of the entry way as far from her as he could get, but not so far the she couldn’t see the sheen of sweat on his forehead, the dilation of his pupils and the way he cupped his hands protectively in front of his fly. She quickly looked away, not wanting to know if he had an erection or not, though she was certain if she had looked, that’s what she would have seen. She left quickly with Tuck right behind her.

 

Body Temperature and Rising, the Long Way Around

Body Temperature and Rising, volume one of my Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy, is now available in all ebook formats with most major distributors. It will be available in print in February. After a very strange, circuitous journey to completion, I’m very excited to be able to share my first ever paranormal erotic romance with the world.

Body Temperature and Rising didn’t start out to be a trilogy. In fact, it started out, three Novembers ago, as my first effort to write a novel in a month for National Novel Writing Month. (NaNoWriMo). During November, National Novel Writing Month, people everywhere of all ages from all walks of life attempt to write a novel in one month. For me, not only was it my first attempt to write a novel in a month, but it was my first ever attempt to write an erotic novel.

Considering the way it all began, Body Temperature and Rising could hardly have been anything BUT paranormal. My good friend Helen Callaghan and I decided to get the first day of our NaNoWriMo experience off to a good start by driving to Avebury to write at the pub there.

Avebury is a village set in the middle of the biggest Neolithic stone circle in Europe, a stone circle 500 years older than the Pyramids.

The Red Lion Inn. Taken on a much nicer, much less haunted day.

Because the stones are much easier than Stonehenge to access, and there is no charge, Avebury has become a gathering place for modern Pagans and other New Age folks. And our timing was perfect, as it was the day after the old Celtic holiday of Samhain and even in spite of the torrential downpour that we arrived in, we found ourselves surrounded by druids, witches, wiccans and all manner of Pagans celebrating what is essentially Celtic New Year. The people watching was fabulous, even with the drowned-rat effect.

Never mind that, Helen and I were there to write, so after a scuppered attempt at an inspiring walk in the wind and rain, we settled in at the Red Lion Inn, right in the centre of the stone circle. This 16th Century pub proudly boasts the reputation of being ‘the most haunted pub in England.’

It didn’t take us long to get pulled into the writing, so after lunch we wrote our way through numerous coffees and pots of tea, watching the super-saturated Pagans come and go in the pouring rains. There was a fire in the fireplace, and we were both in the zone.

By late afternoon, sharing leftover Halloween candy across the table while the Muse whispered in our ears the pub was nearly. Suddenly there was an enormous banging sound, like doors slamming. It seemed to be coming from the hall that led to the restroom behind us. The space that had felt toasty warm all at once felt chilled, and we were both shivering. Seconds later, one of the wait staff came running back to the restrooms looking very panicked and very pale. From behind the bar to the kitchen we heard murmurs and nervous laughter. We overheard mentions of the ghost, followed by more murmurs and mentions of supernatural phenomena when the volunteer returned unscathed to join the rest of the staff cowering behind the bar. And then the room was warm again. Helen and I ate more sweets, ordered another pot of tea and discussed our near-brush with the supernatural. Then we kept writing.

One of the Avebury stones on a nice day.

It was only as dark settled and the rain hadn’t let up even a little bit that we remembered two things. We weren’t parked in the pub car park, but in the National Trust car park on the other side of the village, a car park that closed at dark.

We quickly gathered our belongings and made a run for it, trying to hold umbrellas to protect us from horizontal rain, and struggling to see our way on the tiny, unlit path back to the car park, illuminated only by the pale green light of Helen’s mobile phone. With boots full of water and a banged knee from the metal fence post I ran into, we finally arrived at the Car Park to find it deserted except for Helen’s car, and thankfully for the National Trust Land Rover parked by the gate with a lovely NT employee waiting patiently to let us out.

Oh, and that intsy-weentsy little second thing we’d forgotten about… We’d been so busy talking on the way over to Avebury that we’d forgotten to get petrol for the car, and we were running on fumes. Avebury has a pub, several tourist shops and a post office. No garage. The next town of any size up the deserted highway was Marlborough. Everyone with any common sense was long since inside out of the horrid weather. It felt like we were the only people on the planet. We were only fifteen miles from Marlborough, but we weren’t sure we were even going to get to when we realized the Kennet River, which usually runs under the road was now running OVER the road. Thinking only of the fumes quickly dissipating in the petrol tank, we ploughed through the raging waters of the Kennet and continued on our way, a thought which still gives me a chill when I think what might have happened crossing a flooded river as we did. But only a few miles up the road, looking like the gates to paradise was a small Murco station. And it was open! We were saved! Thus began Lakeland Heatwave: Body Temperature and Rising, which at that time was called ‘Love Spell.’

During the month that I wrote BTR, a time when I already had a very full writing plate on top of the novel-in-a-month plan, the paranormal experience continued as I was magically transformed into The Bitch

Research is hard work

from Hell, a creature so unpredictable, so terrifying, so vile that only my husband, Raymond the Brave, could successfully handle being in her presence for long periods of time. The man has permanent psychological scars from that infamous November, I have no doubt.

In the meantime, I got trapped in the Eurostar Tunnel and The Initiation of Ms Holly was born, followed by The Pet Shop while BTR languished tucked away in my computer as a Word file. I just wasn’t confident enough to attempt anything paranormal. Then, maybe it was the influence of the Avebury Ghost, but I decided to propose Body Temperature and Rising to Xcite, knowing that it would need a lot of reworking because I had grown a lot as a writer. Once Xcite accepted my proposal, I found myself totally unable to continue with the rewrite. Every attempt felt like a false start, every effort felt like it wasn’t right somehow.

Just when I was about to lose heart, I took a long walk and realized that if it were going work as I envisioned it, Lakeland Heatwave would have to be a trilogy. Xcite went for the proposal and from that point on, the ghosts and witches practically wrote the story for me.

Of course with the action set in the Lake District and the first chapters set in a bad storm on the fells and in a slate mine shaft, I was forced to make several research trips to the Lakes. How I suffer for my art! I have no doubt I’ll need to do much such suffering as the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy unfolds.

Body Temperature and Rising will be available in print in February 2012, and as is the happy tradition, will be celebrated with wild partying and raunchy reading at Sh! Hoxton.

Blurb:

American transplant to the Lake District, MARIE WARREN, didn’t know she could unleash demons and enflesh ghosts until a voyeuristic encounter on the fells ends in sex with the charming ghost, ANDERSON and night visits from a demon. To help her cope with her embarrassing and dangerous new abilities, Anderson brings her to the ELEMENTALS, a coven of witches who practice rare sex magic that temporarily allowsghosts access to the pleasures of the flesh.

DEACON, the demon Marie has unleashed, holds an ancient grudge against TARA STONE, coven high priestess, and will stop at nothing to destroy all she holds dear. Marie and her landlord, the reluctant young farmer, TIM MERIWETHER, are at the top of his list. Marie and Tim must learn to wield coven magic and the numinous power of their lust to stop Deacon’s bloody rampage before the coven is torn apart and more innocent people die.

Dale Head. The sight Marie would have seen without the mist.

Excerpt:

‘First you treat me like I don’t exist, then you go all big brother on me like I’m too delicate and soft-brained to take care of myself. Well I have news for you, Tim Meriwether, I was taking care of myself for a long time before you decided I needed looking after.’ She shoved again, and this time he grabbed her with such force that she felt the bones in her neck pop.

With her forward momentum, he stumbled over an uneven paving stone, lost his footing and went over backward into a manger full of fresh hay, pulling her on top of him.

Before she could shove and claw her way to her feet, He grabbed her around the waist and rolled, pinning her beneath the weight of his body. He gave her no time to think about it, but pulled her into a bruising kiss, forcing her lips apart, probing her hard pallet with his dexterous tongue, biting her lower lip before he came up fighting for the breath to speak. ‘I think about you a lot, Marie,’ His chest rose and fell in hungry gasps. ‘But I promise you, none of those thoughts were even remotely brotherly.’

She bucked underneath him and clawed at his shirt. ‘Then do something about it, damn it, and stop toying with me.’ Several buttons popped and flew across the stable floor. He forced her legs apart with his knee, moving it up to rub against the crotch of her jeans. She shoved his shirt open and arched up to him as he pushed her t-shirt up and manoeuvred and tugged, forcing her breasts free from her bra into his spayed hands and hungry lips.

She fumbles with the fly of his jeans, sliding an anxious hand into his boxers. He huffed a breathless grunt, and the muscles low in his stomach tense as she closed her fingers around his engorged penis and began to stroke.

He had just began the anxious efforts with her own fly when suddenly the stable door slammed shut, and the light bulb overhead exploded in a shower of fine glass plunging the two into total darkness.

Marie yelped, and Tim cursed. As they fought their way to their feet, the mare screamed, and they could hear her struggling.

Tim vaulted over the manger’s edge seconds before Marie, calling back to her. ‘Get the door. Get it open.’

Struggling to secure her jeans with one hand, Marie felt her way along the perimeter of the stable toward the door. The relief was short-lived when her fingers closed around the handle, and it wouldn’t budge.

‘It’s locked,’ she shouted above the desperate cries of the mare.

‘What do you mean, it’s locked,’ Tim shouted back. ‘It doesn’t have a lock. It’ can’t be locked.’

‘I’m telling you it won’t open,’ she yelled back, feeling an icy chill blasting her from behind. With one final tug, the door gave and she tumbled backward on her ass. The sharp knife edge of light that shot through the darkness was blinding, like a flashbulb going off, leaving a deep bruised after image dancing in front of her face, an after image of Deacon.

She cried out and crab walked backward, as he stepped toward her, unfurling his bullwhip, in what seemed like endless slow motion.

 

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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