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Instant Replay

When I lived in Croatia a hundred years ago, I spent three weeks every summer camping on the Adriatic near Pula. At the campsite where I stayed, there was a small store and a restaurant that had live music every night. There were several buildings with showers and toilets. That was the extent of the place.

 

One of the shower blocks not far, from where I set up my tent, was a narrow concrete pre-fab with a row of cubicles, each containing a shower, each with a door leading right out onto the main path through the camp. One year one of the six cubicles was missing a door. That meant more congestion for the remaining shower units, which were in high demand in August. There was almost always a queue.

 

Early one evening on my way back from the grocery store, I noticed two very fit German blokes I’d seen wind surfing earlier in the day queuing for the shower, but they got tired of waiting, so they stripped off their Speedos and waltzed right on in to the cubicle without the door.

 

I happened to be with a friend who was a bit more prudish than I, and she averted her eyes and dragged me away in a huff, me nearly breaking my neck for one last glance over my shoulder at naked, wet maleness. The whole incident couldn’t have lasted more than a minute. What I saw was fleeting. But what I imagined – over and over and over again – was most definitely not!

 

Sometimes it takes nothing more than an image to capture our imaginations, to inspire us. An image can inspire us because once we’ve seen it, processed it – especially if it’s a little scenario like mine with the shower and the naked wind surfers, our glorious, super-high-tech instant replay brains take over. Not only can we replay that image over and over again, but we can change it simply by imaging what might have happened IF … It’s were our fantasies come from, it’s where a writer’s story ideas come from, it’s built-in entertainment.

 

My voyeuristic encounter at the showers stands out to me as outrageously erotic, and yet nothing happened. Two blokes got tired of waiting in queue for the shower, probably anxious to get to dinner and a cold beer, so they chose to shower in full view of hundreds of people they didn’t know, hundreds of people who would never see them again. BUT, they were wrong, I’ve seen them countless times in my imagination – sometimes sun bleached and golden in the late afternoon light, sometimes dark, tattooed and dangerous just before dusk, beckoning me to come join them, speaking softly to me in German — words I don’t understand, though I completely get their meaning. I know exactly what those boys want, as they leer at me and I leer right back. Well, in my imagination at least.

 

In some of those instant replays, I meet them on the beach at midnight to share a bottle of wine and a naked swim in the warm moonlit waters. In some of those instant replays, I shoo my prudish friend back to her tent, then strip off shamelessly and join them, letting them soap me and rinse me and protect me with their naked, glistening bodies from gaping onlookers. In other versions, they come to the shower late at night when everyone else is asleep, and only I’m there to watch them lather and bathe each other, thorough in their efforts to get clean, more thorough in their efforts to relieve the tensions of the day.

 

Our delicious instant replay allows us to rewind, slo-mo, enhance, zoom in on any part of any experience or image that catches their fancy, and then enjoy it a second or even a 50th time around. We can take that experience and totally change it if we choose. We do it all the time; in our heads, we rewrite the ending of an interview that didn’t go so well or an argument with a lover so that we can take back what we wish we hadn’t said. Sometimes we imagine what would have happened next if things had been allowed to unfold to the end, if I had been allowed to linger a little longer in front of the showers. In fact, we can be really neurotic about it, playing the same scenes over and over and obsessing on them, for good or for ill.

 

Writers are especially adept at using this instant replay to inspire, to arouse, to tease out and focus on details we might otherwise have missed, details that might have totally intrigued us the first time around, even details that weren’t really there. Then we write those details into whole new scenarios, sometimes even whole novels.

I know, I know! It’s all a part of memory. Anyone can hit the ole instant replay button at any time and experience the

past all over again. We all do that. But there’s nothing ordinary about the ability to relive our experiences and imagine ourselves in a different life – perhaps even as different people who make a different decision; perhaps the decision to strip off and shower with the German wind-surfers. The creative process of a writer quite often depends on the exploitation of that instant replay button. I can’t think of anything I’ve written that isn’t grounded in some way, no matter how miniscule, in my recalling of an experience, my reimagining of a moment, or my reworking of an image that intrigues me. In a very real sense, we are what we write as we wind back the video in the editing room of our brain and hit replay, then hit slo-mo, then zoom in real nice and tight-like so that we can enhance and recreate every detail to tell a brand new story.

 

Flaws

(from the archives)

I’m thinking about flaws today, which is not unusual, since I’m smack-dab in the middle of the final rewrites of Blind-
Sided and In The Flesh. In one, the main character lives with a demon 24/7, in the other, the hero is homeless and living in the storm tunnels of Vega. Both novels are filled with the most deliciously neurotic group of characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with – father issues, inferiority complexes, jealousy, obsessions with work, obsessions with revenge. Oh my! I’m excited just thinking about them. I’m thinking about flaws rather than nice arses or the size of the package or the pertness of the tits, because the more I uncover of my characters’ flaws, the better I like them. The more I uncover my characters’ flaws, the better I know them – the better my readers will know them.

 

I’m not saying that I don’t want a strong hero, or a heroine who is bad-ass. Of course I do. I want strong, sexy, intelligent. I want it all! But I’m saying that there’s something about the stuff that both the hero and the heroine keep hidden, the stuff that they don’t really want me, or my readers, to see that makes me want to embrace them and love them, that makes me remember them long after the novel is over.

 

I suppose it’s the need to identify as much as anything. I mean, lets face it, we all put ourselves in the story as we read it. We all become in some way, the characters we read about. And if we do it as readers, I promise that we writers do it even more. Living vicariously is the name of the game for us, whether we’re reading or whether we’re writing. That means that I need to be able to identify with those characters and, to be honest, perfection is not very relatable.

 

Of course we want our heroes to be larger than life, to live beyond what our everyday work-a-day world offers, to have adventures and mad, passionate, filthy sex, and in the end to win the day and get the love they deserve. I’m speaking of romance here, of course, because that’s what I write. I need to have romance in any story I’m writing because I’m a romantic to the core and I need to believe that love will prevail.

 

But I also need to believe that love will prevail in spite of our flaws, that it isn’t our beauty that makes us loveable, but something much deeper, something that struggling to live with those flaws creates – the oyster making the irritating grain of sand into a pearl, if you will. The flaws in characters are a touchstone to their humanity and to their relatability as well as an opportunity for them to do battle with themselves, an opportunity to overcome. Those flaws are also the opportunity to answer the big question in all romance – is the hero worthy of unconditional love, and can the heroine give it to him and facilitate either the healing he needs or the acceptance he needs to come to grips with those flaws and except them as a part of who he or she is, to live large in spite of those flaws.

 

Flaws make stories multi-dimensional in a way an external battle alone never can. Granted, an external battle is a fantastic way to bring character flaws to the surface, and Susan and Reese, and Samantha and Jon have mind-blowing external battles to deal with, but in a story or in real life, it’s how those flaws are dealt with in the external battles that keep readers (and writers) on the edge of their seats and reading or writing until the transformation happens. And sometimes the transformation is simply the acceptance of self. In fact more often than not, the internal battles are characters’ struggle to move beyond denial and accept who they are. Often that involves coming to the understanding that someone else, someone they have come to care about, has also accepted them and values them for who they are.

 

Here’s a little scene from In The Flesh, book 1 of the Medusa’s Consortium series. in which Susan discovers that some of Michael’s flaws are real doozies. Enjoy.

 

In The Flesh Blurb:

When Susan Innes comes to visit her friend, Annie Rivers, in Chapel House, the deconsecrated church that Annie is
renovating into a home, she discovers her outgoing friend changed, reclusive, secretive, and completely enthralled by a mysterious lover, whose presence is always felt, but never seen, a lover whom she claims is god. As her holiday turns into a nightmare, Susan must come to grips with the fact that her friend’s lover is neither imaginary nor is he human, and even worse, he’s turned his wandering eye on Susan, and he won’t be denied his prize. If Susan is to fight an inhuman stalker intent on having her as his own, she’ll need a little inhuman help.

 

“You’re an angel. The sculpture in the garden at Chapel House, it’s you, isn’t it?” The fact that the question sounded totally insane seemed irrelevant considering the way the weekend had gone so far.

He shrugged and I watched as a blush climbed his throat spread across the tightening of his jaw and up his cheeks. “I’m retired,” he replied without looking at me. Then he added quickly, “The sculpture’s old. A friend of mine did it a long time ago, taking the piss really — especially by putting it there in that particular garden.” He ran a large hand through the fall of damp hair. “It’s her way of reminding me that I’m grounded now, tied to the earth just like every other mortal. No matter what I was, at the end of the day, I’m dust, and I’ll return to dust, if I’m lucky.”

“Wait a minute, angels can retire?’

He shot me a quick glance. “Well, it’s all a matter of semantics, isn’t it?”

“Then you’re not a builder?”

“Oh I’m a builder alright, and a damn good one,’ then he added as an afterthought, “Jesus was a carpenter, after all.”

I squinted hard in the fading light studying the lines of his face, the plane and slope of his strong upper body, the slow, deep rise and fall of his chest as he took in and released each breath. But I could find no distinction, nothing that would give away the fact that he was an angel and not an ordinary man. Oh he was nice to look at, he was interesting to look at, but he wasn’t beautiful, as I thought an angel would be. Obviously the nose had been broken since the sculpture was made, and he seemed thicker through the shoulders and chest. Perhaps that was all down to hard physical labor in lieu of playing a harp and mooching his way around the pearly gates. There were several white puckered scars just below his ribs. Two looked to be puncture wounds of some kind. The other was an angry gash that surely must have all but eviscerated him. Without thinking I reached out and traced the long pale arc of scar tissue that followed the shape of his lower left rib and disappeared in the shadow under his arm. He tensed beneath my touch and the skin along the path of my finger goose fleshed. “I had to force the issue of my retirement.” His words were barely more than a whisper, and his gaze was locked on the logs in the fireplace, laid, yet unlit.

“Christ,” I whispered. “Why? I mean why the hell would you give up immortality to be one of us?’

He covered my hand with his and held it against his side. At last he raised his gaze to meet mine. “I would have done anything to get away, and at that point, I didn’t care if I lived or died. It felt like it was all the same.”

“Are you a fallen angel then?”

This time he laughed out loud. “Stupid term, fallen angel. Truth be told, gods are bastards – all of them, any religion, any mythology, they’re all arrogant, megalomaniacal bastards. They want control, and when they don’t get it, well, they’re even worse bastards. The woman who made the sculpture, she knows that at least as well as I do.”

“Is she an angel too?”

He shook his head and looked away again, the smile slipping slightly from his face. “No angel, a pawn really. At least she started out that way.” His eyes flashed bright in the fading light and the smile returned. “But sometimes even the pawns thumb their noses at the gods and get away with it. It cost her. It cost her dearly, but no one controls her now.”

“So what, she was a sculptor, and the gods didn’t like her work, was that it?”

He released my hand and knelt to light the fire. With the sun setting the chill of evening came on fast. “Oh she’s not actually a sculptor. That’s just a part of her cover. She’s a thief, stealing back things the gods have taken that don’t belong to them.”

Every question he answered raised a dozen more. That what we were discussing sounded totally nuts wasn’t lost on me either, and yet neither was the fact that it was all either very real or I was still asleep dreaming in my bed, a cherished possibility diminishing with each passing moment. We both watched as the logs caught fire from the kindling, and flame blossomed turning shadows of ordinary things into ghouls and ghosts that writhed and dance on the walls. Once he was sure of the flame, he stood to close the balcony doors. “I work for her sometimes. When she needs me. She uses me when what I do as a builder dovetails with whatever job she’s on at the moment.”

I shifted in my seat to look up at him as he returned to settle back on the chair arm. “So you’re trying to steal something from Chapel House? What is it, a flaming sword?”

He laughed. “Not anything that obvious. Chapel House and I have a long history, as you might have guessed from the sculpture.”

“Annie really did hire you to do the renovations at Chapel House?”

He nodded. “All a part of the plan.”

“It must have thrown a monkey wrench into your scheming when she fell in love with a demon, or whatever he
is, and told you to bugger off.”

He shrugged, raising one well-muscled shoulder. “Doesn’t matter. I seldom let something like that stop me.” He pulled a shirt from a peg next to the door and slipped into it. “I’ve brought your things in, and I would imagine you’d like a shower. Then we’ll see what we can scrounge for dinner. If that’s alright.”

 

Flaws

I’m thinking about flaws today, which is not unusual, since I’m smack-dab in the middle of a month long promo for The Tutor. The Tutor is written from the standpoint of flaws — the hero, Lex Valentine, is haphephobic, and can’t tolerate being touched or touching anyone. The heroine is great at giving advice on having a happy sex life, but does not have a good track record where relationships is concerned. I don’t think I’ve ever written a novel in which the flaws of the characters play such central roles in the story that unfolds.

 

I’m not saying that I don’t want a strong hero. Of course I do. I want strong, sexy, intelligent, creative. I want it all! But I’m saying that there’s something about the stuff that both the hero and the heroine keep hidden, the stuff that they don’t really want me, or my readers, to see that makes me want to embrace them and love them, that makes me remember them long after the novel is over. Strange that it should be the character traits that are intended to keep other characters at arms length that make them most endearing and give the reader the clearest view of who they really are.

 

I suppose it’s the need to identify with as much as anything. I mean, lets face it, we all put ourselves in the story as we read it. We all become, in some way, the characters we read about. And if we do it as readers, I promise that we writers do it even more. Living vicariously is the name of the game for us, whether we’re reading or whether we’re writing. That means that I need to be able to relate with those characters and, to be honest, perfection is not very relatable.

 

Of course we want our heroes to be larger than life, to live beyond what our everyday work-a-day world offers, to have adventures and mad, passionate, filthy sex, and in the end to win the day and get the love they deserve. I’m speaking of romance here, of course, because that’s what I write. I need to have romance in any story I’m writing because I’m a romantic to the core and I need to believe that love will prevail.

 

But I also need to believe that love will prevail in spite of our flaws, that it isn’t our beauty that makes us loveable, but something much deeper, something that struggling to live with those flaws creates – the oyster making the irritating grain of sand into a pearl, if you will. The flaws in characters are a touchstone to their humanity and to their relatability as well as an opportunity for them to do battle with themselves, an opportunity to overcome. Those flaws are also the opportunity to answer the big question in all romance – is the hero worthy of unconditional love, and can the heroine give it to him and facilitate either the healing he needs or the acceptance he needs to come to grips with those flaws and except them as a part of who he or she is?

 

 

Flaws make stories multi-dimensional in a way an external battle alone never can. Granted, an external battle is a fantastic way to bring character flaws to the surface.  In a story or in real life, it’s how those flaws are dealt with in the external battles that keep readers (and writers) on the edge of their seats and reading or writing until the transformation happens. And sometimes the transformation is simply the acceptance of self. In fact more often than not, the internal battles are characters’ struggle to move beyond denial and accept who they are. Often that involves coming to the understanding that someone else, someone they have come to care about, has also accepted them and values them for who they are. Isn’t that really what love is all about?

 

 

The Tutor Blurb:

Struggling writer, Kelly Blake has a secret life as a sex tutor. Celebrated sculptor and recluse, Alexander ‘Lex’ Valentine, can’t stand to be touched. When he seeks out Kelly’s advice incognito, the results are too hot to handle. When Kelly terminates their sessions due to what she considers her unprofessional behavior, Lex takes a huge risk, revealing his identity to her at a gala exhibition, his first ever public appearance. When Kelly helps the severely haphephobic Lex escape the grope of reporters and paparazzi, rumors fly that the two are engaged, rumors encouraged by well-meaning friends and colleagues. The press feeding frenzy forces Kelly into hiding at Lex’s mansion where he convinces her to be his private tutor just until the press loses interest, and she can go back home. They discover quickly that touch is not essential for sizzling, pulse-pounding intimacy. But intimacy must survive the secrets uncovered as their sessions become more and more personal.

 

Buy The Tutor Here:

 

eBook:
Totally Bound Publishing
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon AU
Amazon CA
Amazon DE
Barnes & Noble
iBooks UK
iBooks US
Google Books
Kobo

Print:
Totally Bound Publishing
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

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.

 

Jane Riddell Shares How to Get Your Words’ Worth

I’m very pleased to have editor and novelist, Jane Riddell, at my place today. Every writer has nightmares about not giving their babies the best possible editing, and nothing. We certainly want the best for our readers. Knowing my own angst about giving my book the best editing, I jumped at the chance to have Jane on my blog so that I could pick her brain for some ideas that might help both writers and readers at the end of the day. And so that she could tell you all about her wonderful new book on editing, Words’ Worth. Welcome, Jane!

 

book-cover-guide-a-4-smallKD: Jane, what inspired you to write a book about editing?

 

JANE: When I began editing my first novel, Daughters of the Lake, I had a small list of things to check for but found myself constantly adding to it. The more I learned about writing, the more things I felt required checking. It felt overwhelming, so I decided to put my checklists into table form, so that I could tick things off when I’d done them. It also meant that I didn’t have to follow a particular order in my checklist because I knew exactly what had and hadn’t been done.

When finding myself longing to explain my system to any writer who’d listen, it became obvious that I should turn it into a book and hence Words’Worth: a fiction writer’s guide to serious editing was created. It’s a small guide – 54 pages – but more comprehensive than it looks at first sight. I continue to use this method of editing my novels because it works, although it takes time and can be tedious.

 

KD: Tell us a bit about yourself, Jane, and about your other books.

 

JANE: I came to writing seriously quite late in life. For many years it was a hobby, something I fitted in around work. When we planned to move to France for three years (2006 – 2009), I knew I wouldn’t be able work there with such limited French. A month or so before we left, on a wet Saturday afternoon at the gym, walking on a treadmill and listening to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas singing Dancing in the Street, I had a defining moment.: I thought ‘I’ll give writing a go.’ And I haven’t looked back. Interestingly, it was only during our second year in Grenoble that I was able to tell people I’m a writer, without that critical demon in my head accusing me of being a fraud.

My first novel was Daughters of the Lake, a contemporary family drama set in Switzerland. The idea came for this while I was on holiday in Brunnen on beautiful Lake Luzern in Switzerland. It’s told in four viewpoints – the mother’s and those of her three daughters. I think that at a subconscious level it was inspired by Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac, although the plot isn’t at all similar.

Chergui’s Child is my second novel, and it’s about a woman who receives a large inheritance from her aunt, and also a revelation which changes her life. It’s set in London, Morocco and the south of France.

I’ve recently completed a novella – The Bakhtin Chronicles: Academia, about a Russian cat who comes to Edinburgh to final-cover-for-final-cover-for-daughters-of-the-lakestudy creative writing and struggles with literary theory. The inspiration for this came from my own experience of failing to understand the relevance of French philosophers and literary critics to writing, while I was studying for a Masters in Creative Writing. It was therapeutic after a miserable academic year.  Doubtless some will consider me mad when they read it, but as all writers know, insanity is a good personality trait. I plan to publish Bakhtin some time before Christmas.

 

KD: What is the biggest editing problem you think novelists have?

 

JANE: Eliminating unnecessary words. A big chunk of Words’Worth is devoted to this. Strong, descriptive verbs don’t require adverbs. And sometimes verbs are surplus: ‘I’m going to have to’ can be shortened to ‘I’ll have to’ without sacrificing meaning. People don’t ‘begin to laugh’, they simply laugh. By deleting words that can’t justify their space on the page, it’s possible to lose thousands of them. And I do – in each novel…

 

KD: If you could give just one piece of advice to writers to make their editing tasks easier what would it be?

 

JANE: Have checklists rather than keeping in your head everything that needs to be done. Allow enough time for the editing process – it may take longer than writing the first draft did.

 

KD: Tell us a little bit about your next project.

 

JANE: When I’ve finished my current novel, I plan to write a second version of Words’Worth, this time targeting business writers. And I’m considering writing another Bakhtin novella, perhaps about working life after university, or perhaps about a writer struggling to promote his/her work.

 

KD: Do you, as a writer, have editing shortcuts that make your life easier? If so, what are they?

 

JANE: Not really. I plod through my lists each time. But a key point in Words’Worth is that the writer can personalise the checklists for every novel. Initially, I included checking for unnecessary adverbs and unnecessary prepositions. I don’t include these items now because searching for them rarely showed either of these and I was wasting time.

 

KD: Is there anything else you’d like to share with writers?

 

JANE: The often dispensed advice, ‘Keep going’ is fine, but only if at the same time you are working hard to improve your writing technique. This makes sense: if you made a chocolate cake that no one liked, you’d find another recipe rather than continue to use the old one in the hope of finding someone who thought the cake was yummy.

I’ve found that the best ways to improve my writing are to read the ‘how to’ books, read fiction as much as possible to see how other people write. Receiving feedback on my writing has been invaluable, but it’s important to be discerning about choosing readers.

 

Buy Words’ Worth Here:

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/WordsWorth-fiction-writers-serious-editing-ebook/dp/B01H2B9ZF0/

 

https://www.amazon.com/WordsWorth-fiction-writers-serious-editing-ebook/dp/B01H2B9ZF0/

 

Here’s a peek at Jane’s novel, Chergui’s Child:

 

Blurb for Chergui’s Child:

 

cc-front-cover-jpgOlivia is recovering from a traumatic event five years earlier, when she is summoned to the bedside of her dying aunt, Dorothy. Shortly afterwards, she learns that her aunt has left her a large sum of money and a letter containing a startling revelation. From Morocco to London to the south of France, this is the story of one woman’s journey to make her life whole again.

 

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Cherguis-Child-Jane-Riddell-ebook/dp/B00YTE9XWE/

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/ebooks/dp/B00YTE9XWE/

 

Extract:

 

Two days later as I handed a £20 note to the taxi driver, I could still visualise my aunt’s pallid, dying face.

‘Hey – your change,’ he called after me.

I took the money, scrambled up the steps and pressed heavily on the brass doorbell of the lawyer’s office.  In reception, I removed my jacket and perched on a leather armchair, wondering again why I’d been summoned.  What was so important it couldn’t be discussed over the phone?

The paintings on the drab green walls did nothing to lift my spirits: cherubs hovering round a tormented loin-clothed man; mountains tumbling into a murky lake.  My fingers drummed the armrests as my thoughts reverted to the evening before. James had arrived late, and from the window of my third floor flat, I’d watched him adjust the metal coat hanger that served as an aerial for his Citröen.  His perfunctory peck on my cheek irritated me.  When he left early, claiming a headache – from my incense, of course, not his smoking (nothing that happened to James was ever his fault) – I’d been relieved.

Exhaustion permeated me: no Dorothy, and the funeral to endure tomorrow.  Ten fifteen.  Where was the lawyer?  I flicked through a National Geographic article about Iceland, closed the magazine.  The door opposite opened, two men shook hands and one of them left, smiling at me as he passed.

‘Miss Bowden, I’m Charles Minto.  Apologies for summoning you at such short notice and for keeping you waiting.’

I followed him into a large, sparsely furnished room, sat down and surveyed my surroundings, wondering if their soothing cream colours eased the stress of divorce, financial worries and problems with neighbours.  Outside, the wind buffeted leafless trees and the sky showed no inkling of sunshine.

‘I am sorry about your aunt’s death,’ he said, smoothing back his white forelock.  The glare from his specs reminded me of my former headmaster, but the lawyer’s aura was calmer.

‘I didn’t manage to talk to her.  I was in St Albans when she had her stroke.’

‘Your father told me.  I contacted you to tell you about Dorothy’s will.’

How much more caring he sounded, using Dorothy’s name.  ‘Her will?’

He nodded, studying me with sudden intensity as if I were a specimen in a lab.   I wanted to parachute myself home, to work, anywhere.

‘She changed it the day before she had her stroke.  You are the main beneficiary.’

My pulse raced.   ‘But… this isn’t…  What about William, what about my mother?  Does she know?  Will I have to tell her?’

His eyes softened.  ‘Your aunt was adamant you have the money.  She has provided well for William but the rest has been left to you.  The figure is about £700,000.’

I imagined Mum’s outrage.  £700,000!

‘There’s something else.  Dorothy dictated a letter to you on the day before she died.  This was when she changed her will.’

‘A letter?’

He handed me the envelope.  ‘Take your time – the contents are… unusual.’

My heart clamoured for escape.  I wanted Dorothy, not her money.  I didn’t want to read a letter, I didn’t want to discuss finances.  All I yearned for, in fact, was my cosy duvet and sleep.

After peering at my name on the envelope, I opened it and scanned the letter.  Then I reread it, the letters dancing like pixies.  When finally I glanced up, the green and maroon circles on the lawyer’s tie swirled.  Struggling to breathe, I reached into my bag for my inhaler.

Mr Minto waited for a moment, then handed me a glass of water.  ‘Drink this, please.  You’re in shock.’

 

 

About Jane:Jane Riddell

Jane Riddell is a Scottish writer based in Edinburgh. For years she worked for the NHS as a dietitian and health
promoter, writing being a hobby. In 2006 she impulsively moved her family to France, and during her three years there writing became a passion.

Jane summarises herself as: enthusiastic, well-intentioned, hopelessly inadequate with technology, having a dysfunctional relationship with time and addicted to chocolate, her only vice (to date). Her partner describes her as a benign crocodile. She loves: sash windows, perfume, wild weather, photography and films. Travel is her passion, especially pet sitting in other countries. To date she has looked after: dogs, cats, stick insects, turtles and parrots.

 

Find Jane Here:

 

www.quietfiction.com.

 

Jane also offers an editing service. Check out Choice Words Editing on her website.

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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