Seven 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 my 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!
I 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.
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.
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.”
“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?”
“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.”
“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.