Monday, November 29, 2010

Letting it Flow

So, NaNo is almost over. Can I first ask why it’s still called NaNoWriMo? I mean, doesn’t that “Na” for “national?” If people from all over the world are participating, shouldn’t it be International? Anyway, I digress. NaNo is almost over. If you are like me, it already is. I hit the 50k mark and that was it, job done. Sure I kept writing but I no longer counted my words. That’s the way it is with me. Have a goal, reach it, be happy. Maybe I should be concerned. I mean, what, if anything, does the fact that I don’t go above and beyond the call of duty say about me? (g)

Regardless of all that, I’m glad I joined. I liked working toward the same goal alongside my friends. It was fun to get daily reports from them, hear the griping, and share the inspired clips. It also taught me things about writing.

One big thing that hit me was the difference between plotting out a story and letting the plot flow organically. When I say this, I’m talking about nuance not the big picture. That is to say, plotting would entail setting up each scene, writing out (or thinking out) what is going to happen from points A thru Z in specific detail. Letting a plot run organically is about knowing the skeleton of the story but letting your characters take you down that road without making them do what you want them to do.

NaNo is about getting words down, thus it is about speed. I found that when I had to just sit down and write, write, write, I had to know my characters enough to trust them. This was a bit like method acting. You go deep into character and just let them loose. A funny thing happens, however, once you let those guys out of the box. They don’t always want to go where you plan for them to go.

This kind of talk can come off as a bit of writing hoo-ha, I know. But go with me for a minute here.

If you fall deep into character and really let them develop into fully fleshed people, you’ll find that certain actions don’t make sense anymore. For instance, I intended to have my two main characters, Monday and Hunt be outwardly cold toward each other for quite a long while. They would go about their business, needle each other, and generally dislike each other until, well, they didn’t. (g) For some reason, I wanted their relationship to be about restraint, show the isolation in their lives and the way they reflected the world in which they live, and, blah, blah, blah…

Because Hunt and Monday did not agree with that directive. They instantly started sparring. Yes, they needled each other but it became WAY more sexual than I intended. So much so that suddenly Hunt’s crying, “Road trip! Off to France we go. And, by the way, would you fancy a shag?” And Monday’s biting her lip to keep them off of Hunt. What? But I didn’t want them to go to France. I needed them to do this, that, and the other thing so that this and that can happen. Dang it! But when I tried to force the issue, the scenes suddenly felt disingenuous. Why?

Forcing my heroes to do certain things, make certain choices didn’t work because that was now out of character for them. If they don’t believe it, I don’t believe it and, guess what? The reader won’t believe it.

Forcing a plot can be a subtle thing, one you might not even notice until the work is all done. For instance, when working on my last story, my agent had the temerity (bg) to ask me, “Why is your character doing all of this?” What do you mean why? Because he is, because that’s how the plot goes. Err…no. Actually, that was the whole point. Why WAS he acting this way? If his actions aren’t in keeping with the person he is, then I am telling a lie. Sure on the surface what my character was doing seemed perfectly logical. Believable even. Only when you looked at the story as a whole, stepped back from it, there was this glaring hole. And that hole was clear, why had he made this certain choice that leads him to all this trouble? Ah, thank you, dear, wonderful agent for sparing from going out with egg on my face.

The solution was actually simple. I just had HIM tell me why. I went deep into character and thought it through from his POV. He knew why he acted the way he did. Thus it was a matter of going back, fixing scenes that didn’t work and then the plot was sound.

Now with this new story, I created characters that were so initially restrained they were like steaming kettles just moments away from blowing their lids. Which really, when I think about it, works much better as an analogy for the world I’m creating anyway. There is no way they are going to act the way I planed, thus no way certain plot elements are going to work. But that’s okay. A better story will come out because it will be a truer story.

And that is the point of organic plot flow. Sometimes, by letting go, not over-thinking things, you allow your subconscious mind to work out and pick up wonderful avenues and deep nuances that you were unaware of having. Letting go, trusting your characters to choose the path they need to choose can be a wonderful thing for your story.

I knew this before. Hell, at some point in every story I write the characters finally say, enough, you’re going at this all wrong, let us step in and fix this mess. (g) But when participating in NaNo, I really felt the strength in this approach because I was forced to turn off that external editor for the sake of time and speed. And what a fun this it was to see my new story unfurl in ways I couldn’t imagine.

So. What about you? Did NaNo show you any unexpected insights into the writing process?

AND, because we’re still in the sharing month (g) a tiny exchange in which I get to know my characters a bit better:

And then they were gone. Simply gone. She blinked at the spot where he and Lazarus had been. Nothing but a puddle of blood, the smear of a handprint. Gone. A disjointed laugh broke from her lips. Gone.

“Pull it together, Monday!”

She inhaled sharply at Hunt’s command. He slid down the wall, clutching his gun. Dust and glass sparkled in his mussed hair. His sun-browned skin was white with powdered mortar, streaks of sweat running in dark rivers over his lean cheeks.

“I’m almost out of ammunition.” His mouth moved. She watched it, fascinated by the softness of the wide bottom lip. “We’ve got to get out now or end up like Peter…” He frowned. “Are you hearing me, Monday?” Blue eyes squinted as he drew near. “Say something rude so I know.” He snapped his fingers an inch from her nose.

She straightened and swatted him away. “Ass.”

His teeth flashed, white and gleaming amongst the dirt. “Good.” He glanced about. “The exit is blocked.” END

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NaNo Weekend Wrap Up- Week 4

Here we are for our final NaNo weekend wrap-up, and there are just two more days to go after this before it's all over.

So, how has your week been? Are you all done, or still racing toward the finish line? Have you burned out yet, or did you pace yourself nicely?

We'll be back with a final NaNo wrap up on Wednesday, but for now, we'll reflect on our last week.


After reaching my 50K in week 3, I took week 4 pretty easy. I managed to reach 60,000 words by Friday, and I was really enthusiastic about attending the last two write-ins for my local area this weekend, where I planned to make a last minute sprint for the 70K mark. It was all lining up nicely, too- at least plot-wise, with eight scenes to go before I reach the end of the bits I wanted to finish during NaNo. Energy wise, I was feeling the burn. If it was a choice of staring blankly or writing, one was a lot more preferable to the other.

And then disaster struck, quite literally, on Friday afternoon. As you've heard, my toddler has been sick on and off this month, but she'd been much better this week. Ha. Anyway, I'll spare you the details, but suffice to say she scored a direct, full-on, full-frontal hit on my beloved Macbook with one of her patented barf fountains.

Hysteria, people. Hysteria.

Time, plus my brother, who's an Apple "Genius" technician, will tell whether the computer itself can survive. At this point it's doubtful. When I rang Apple, they told me to call my insurance company and tell them it was a write-off.

The data, on the other hand, should all be fine. Said brother is organising to transfer everything from the hard drive to my external drive early this week, and then we'll see what happens with the actual machine. It likely means a shiny new computer for me- which would be awesome, if we could afford what insurance won't cover, which we can't. But never mind- we'll work it out, because we have to. I'm too far along in this process to stop now.

As to snippets, at least 30000 of my most recent words are trapped in limbo on that hard drive :(

But on the upside, I did send an enormous chunk around to the ATWOP ladies and a couple of other friends last week, and I can access that, at least. I've posted snippets from most of this chunk on the Forum, but I have one or two unrevealed patches I can share.


The smoke was a thick blanket settled across the road, and as she came to the homestead gate, Bessie was whickering nervously, shuffling about, throwing her head in the air.

In the end, she slid out of the saddle and tied the reins to the gatepost. She let herself in and walked cautiously through the soup, not able to see more than a few feet ahead. The acrid taste of incinerated trees burned at the back of her throat and made her cough, and as she walked on she realised that the ground beneath her feet was getting hotter.

So hot, in the end, that she had to stop and back up a few places, swallowing her fear as she looked down at the mess of charcoal that lay across the path. Fragments of ash fluttered in the wind like so many tiny grey ghosts, rolling over one another as they chased across her shoes.

She heard a crunch on the path ahead, and as she looked up the figure of a man emerged.

Her heart leaped. Walsh was her first thought. And then he came closer, and with a flood of relief, she saw that it was Tom.

She ran to him, calling his name, hoarse, and he caught her in his arms.

“Oh, Kitty.” His voice cracked. “It’s all gone.”

She closed her eyes. His waistcoat was rough against her cheek. “I know.”

She’d known it from the minute she walked through the gate, deep down. All those little ghosts were her past, leaving her behind. Stopping a moment to say goodbye, and then gone.

“It’ll be all right. You’ll see. We’ve still got…”

She stood back at the same moment. “Edenvale.”

Not just Edenvale. Bill. Jim. The fire had come from up the hill. And if Golden Valley was gone, then…

“Come on.”

Tom took her hand, grimly determined, and pulled her back toward the gate.


I'm still on a roll, managing to get something written every day. Lately I've been exploring more of Carrie's point of view, something I should have done earlier in NaNo because Carrie just flows forth, fully formed and talking. I might have made 50,000 words, had I stuck with her.

Waiting for Nathan

By early afternoon the men had returned to work at the winery and I had put away the lunch fixings. I was alone in the house, nerves strung tight with anticipation and anxiety. Finally, in the futile hope of distracting myself, I climbed the stairs to my attic studio, my haven under the eaves of the upper floor, and tried to concentrate on a watercolor painting.

It was warm in the attic room, even with the slight breeze from the window near the old farm table where I sat, brush in hand. I considered the painting before me, not really convinced I wanted to paint. Twirling the brush absently, I followed the lines in the painting, the twisted and gnarled branches of a vine, not really seeing any of it as my thoughts continued to skip, like the needle on a scratched record, to Nathan.

His leaving had left an empty place here just as surely as Rob’s disappearance had. Rob’s was final, an irrevocable leaving. Nathan’s was not and his self-imposed exile was noticed, but never spoken of. Both had left the family bereft, splintered like the weathered posts in the vineyard.

Mostly, I wondered if he hated me. Me, the girl he once had nothing but the softest caresses for, the one who had lit up his dove-gray eyes with happiness. Would he now look at me with contempt, with hurt, with apathy? Much as I wanted to see him, I dreaded it, dreaded what I would find in his eyes.

I put a stop to such over-emotional thoughts and tried to concentrate on the painting. I squinted critically at my work-in-progress, a watercolor of an Alicante Bouschet vine in fall-foliage colors of reds and purples. It was incomplete, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing. Maybe I should try to add a few touches to the leaves, or fill in some of the—

“It needs more burnt umber with a touch of vermillion, don’t you think?”

A touch of vermillion? His old joke, his same warm voice full of humor. I recognized it before I saw him and relief flooded through me as I turned in my chair to see him standing against door jam, smiling at his own joke.

Like the years had never separated us, I replied, “Nathan Rivers you have a pathetic lack of artistic talent.”

It was my stock reply to any of his so-called artistic suggestions for my work. He laughed then, just the same as always, a laugh like a good whiskey warming me to the core. Before I knew what I’d done, I was out of my chair and hugging him fiercely.

Just as fiercely he embraced me, his body hard and lean, smelling of soap and of himself. I stepped out of his arms just about as quickly as I’d flung myself into them, suddenly embarrassed at being so intimate.

“You don’t have an artistic bone in your body,”

“But you’ve always had enough for both of us.”

“It’s a good thing.”

We regarded each other then. Me, studying him like he was one of my painting subjects, measuring the height of him, the firm line of his jaw, the tiny lines at the corners of his eyes. He was still the Nathan I remembered, but with a flint-like edge, as if life had hardened him.

My scrutiny finally unsettled him and he walked past me to the table, picking up the watercolor and pretending to study it.

“I interrupted you,” he said. “What are you painting?”

He knew perfectly well what it was. I’d lay good money on the table that he also knew exactly which vine, in which block of vines, it was. It was a granddaddy vine, older than anyone could remember, thick at the base, gnarled and twisted, one that put on a stunning display of colors every fall.

“That old vine near the stone barn, remember it?”

He nodded at the painting. “It’s a masterpiece.”

I raised my eyebrows at that bit of overstated generosity. With a hint of irony I said, “I can’t be flattered by a man with a criminal lack of artistic sense.”

With a brief smile, he set the painting back on the table. My little joke faded into the warm air around us, leaving nothing but the sound of a buzzing fly against the window screen.

“It’s good to see you, Nate,” I said quietly, my throat tightening. “It’s been a long time.”

At last his eyes stayed on mine, letting me search their depths. But there was nothing to be found within those sea-gray eyes; nothing but deep, unfathomable mystery. He would not let me in.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Home Stretch

Hey, fellow WriMo's, are you feeling the burn? Most of us here at ATWOP have mentioned feeling it: the inevitable burnout that comes with such a concentrated effort. Happily, three of our ladies have raced across the finish line well ahead of the deadline and declared themselves Winners on the NaNoWriMo website. Congratulations Kristen, Rachel and Claire! If anyone should have WriMo Burnout, it's these wonderfully prolific ladies.

Even so, I'm trotting along behind these racehorses like a little pony, coming in at just over 30,000 words and feeling the burnout too. I started NaNoWriMo with the intent of finding out how fast I could write and I've learned that yes, I can write fast. I'm just not that fond of what such speed produces. But I'm very pleased to have an additional 30-thousand words in my work-in-progress and a whole new sub-plot as well. NaNo, in that sense, was worth every bit of the pressure.

What about you? Feeling the burnout? Still excited about writing? Ready to take a break and hit editing-mode next month? Whatever your frame of mind, congratulations on taking NaNo by the reins and riding with it. In that sense, we're all winners.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Losing the plot

Not the novel plot, the plot plot. As in, going crazy.

I was thinking about human behaviour on Saturday, as I vacuumed the house. I'm intrigued by human behaviour of all kinds, but in particular I'm fascinated by the ways in which people respond to adversity, or challenge, or a shocking surprise, or everything going off the rails.

What interests me is how differently people respond. And I do believe that's because one's response to extreme situations gives no room for considered and measured reaction. In an instant reaction, you have a person showing their true colours. What makes them tick. Exactly who they are.

And it occurred to me, as I hoovered up dust and crumbs, all the while plotting war and mayhem, that this is what makes human behaviour and adversity together such excellent fodder for fiction. You see, because of the unpredictability of human response, your characters can react in unlimited ways when things go wrong. If their car breaks down, they can do anything from kick the tire, to murdering the nearest passerby- and as long as you give them credible reasons for that response, you as an author can do it.

The unexpected reaction is what I love to find in stories. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was full of twists and turns and behaviour that I didn't see coming, but at every turn, she set it up beautifully, so that the extremes were believable.

I guess I've been pondering this because the last few days of NaNo have been spent writing scenes that I've avoided for quite a while- those featuring Bill in a mental hospital in 1916 after the war breaks him completely. Toss together betrayal, seeing his best friend die in front of him, shellshock, and a whole lot of other factors, and I was prepared for Bill to do almost anything.

But I must admit, I didn't see it coming when he got up and jumped out the window of his second-floor hospital room to escape the voices in his head (snippet below).

And this is precisely what I love about writing. First, finding unexpected reactions. Secondly, the dance it takes to work out what on earth happens next, and to show why this piece of behaviour made perfect sense in context.

I have another one of these scenes to write next- that in which Bill arrives home at the farm and sees Kit, Len and Jared together, mistakenly thinking they've become a family in his absence. I forecast even more unpredictable behaviour there- and I can't wait to see what happens next. Hopefully this will translate to my readers feeling the same way when they pick up the book.

In NaNo news, I'm about to break 60K, and I've officially verified myself as a winner today. Hurrah!


[Mental Hospital], France
June 1916

“Morning, Private.” The orderly bustled in and ripped open his curtains with no warning at all, making him squint against the glare. He didn’t move a muscle, just kept on staring at the doorframe.

White paint. White paint. White paint.

The bloke chattered on, making a right nuisance of himself. “Nice day out there. Maybe we’ll take you for a walk later, hey? A little turn around the garden?”

Bill sat. Stared. White paint. White paint. If he looked hard enough, he could see the brushstrokes. He concentrated on blocking out the noise, just trying to get a little peace. Peace was so hard to come by, and when it went, look out. It was impossible to get back, not without a fight and a syringe full of darkness.

The orderly made up the bed and snatched up the water jug, not much bothered that his patient didn’t talk. He was halfway out the door when he stopped and turned back. “Oh, I almost forgot.” He reached down into the deep pocket of his tunic and pulled out a string-wrapped bundle of paper. “One of the boys from your company brought this by. Said it had your name on it.”

He held it out, but Bill didn’t move. It didn’t take long before he set it on the dresser instead. “Suit yourself.”

The door swung shut behind him.

White paint. Silver knob.

Sooner or later, they’d be back to take him to breakfast. Get him dressed. Do all the things he couldn’t bring himself to, most days. He stared hard at the back of the door, trying to keep his concentration. Tough going today. Every now and again some inconsiderate bastard would make a noise - a cough down the hall, a passing conversation down below in the garden- and he’d start to lose focus.

White paint. Silver knob. White paint. Silver knob.

If he repeated it enough times, he could train his mind into thinking that was all there was in his room, beside the bed and the chair and himself. Sometimes he even managed to keep the whispering at bay.

It was getting to him this morning, though. The harder he tried to focus, the louder the hissing got. He picked up the chair and shuffled it back, right to the corner so he could see the whole room at a glance. Only problem was the door was too far away. He shifted his stare to the dresser instead.

Dark wood. Brass handles. Six- no, eight drawers. Letters. A bundle of letters.

He felt the first tingling of panic as he groped for the right combination that would save him this time. Too much choice was a terrible thing. It let the voices sneak in while his mind was grappling for the next thing to grab.

Dark wood. Brass handles… “Bitte lach miss leben...”

“No,” he whispered. He squeezed his eyes shut. Dark. Dark. Dark.

“Meine Frau. Mein kleiner Sohn.”

When they came, all he could do was be as firm as possible. “I said no.”

But it was too late. He should have kept his eyes closed, but it was like they opened all on their own, and there he was again, bloodied, beaten and begging. The German.

"Bitte. Bitte.”

He got out of the chair, but the man was between him and the door. He had to get out. He had to, before the rest of them arrived. He turned to the window. Mistake. A cold hand landed on his shoulder, and he spun back and slapped it away, then staggered back. The man was right in his face. His eyes were palest blue, washed out, and there were tiny flecks of blood splashed in a neat arc across his cheekbone.

“Leave me alone. Leave!”

“Meine Frau. Mein kleiner...”

“I heard you the first time!” He turned back to the wall, put his forehead against the cold plaster. Felt the fingers on his shoulder again, heavy. The room was colder, colder, and the ripples of dread were spreading out across his shoulders. He held his breath as he shifted his gaze, just slightly, to see the bed, and then all the air left his lungs in a sob.


Unlike the others, Tom never talked to him. He just lay there, always the same, staring out at the ceiling with his blank eyes and his mouth hanging open and the great hole in his neck.

The only thing that peeled his eyes away was a movement caught from the corner of his eye. When he glanced across, there was a Turk standing there, just a couple of feet behind the German, who was still pleading and going on in his native tongue.

He covered his ears, but they kept talking. More voices, more. He couldn’t stand to look at the rest; the men who were filing into his room, now, like they did whenever he lost it, packing in around him until there was hardly room to breathe. All the men he’d killed. Every last one of them. When they had him surrounded, pressing all around, he could hear them in the hallway. All the ones who didn’t fit. The rest.

That was usually when he started screaming, and eventually the doctor would come and knock him senseless again. Chase them all back to the shadows, where they belonged.

Today, though- today they hadn’t counted on him being back against the wall like he was. They couldn’t get around him. And just a few short steps sideways, pushing his way through a couple of cold bodies, shuddering as he went, and he was at the window. He ignored the babble of shouts as he looked up at the panes. The latch was bolted, but he didn’t much care.

He snatched up the chair and hefted it for a moment, considering his options. A few well-placed knocks to the latch and he could swing the whole thing open without too much trouble.

But that would take time, and as they crowded against him, knocking into him from behind, he knew he didn’t have that.

He elbowed his way back through them, just a couple of paces, and then he lifted the chair over his head and hurled it straight through the glass.

There was absolute, blissful silence from the men for a few seconds as glittering shards fell like rain, tinkling on the floor, and then someone- the kraut, probably- howled in his ear. He stepped forward, slippers crunching in the mess, and pulled himself up on the windowsill, ignoring the sharp pain as his hands met broken glass.

He pulled himself up and closed his eyes, breathing in the fresh air. Flowers. He could smell flowers, cut grass. The sun was warm on his face.

And then a cold hand closed around his ankle, and without any clear thought to compel him, he let himself fall forward and down, through the momentary freedom of the whistling summer sky, and into blackness.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Make A Date!

Your girl, Tuesday here. Sorry for my radio silence! Things have been a bit nutty on my end.

1. I've been really sick. Long story, gross details that I know you don't want to hear, but suffice it to say I haven't really been up to snuff for a good week now. I'm hoping I'm coming out of it, but I'm not really sure yet. LOL.

2. I have family in town. Staying with me, in fact, and my life has been turned a bit topsy-turvy for the week.

Sick+family+writing=NOT HAPPENING.

I've been sitting at the same word count for a good 8 days now. Bah. NO GOOD. But as I told the ladies, I'm just happy to be writing. Sure, I wanted to hit that 50K, but I knew it was a serious outside shot when I began. That said, I'm happy with what I have... still hope to get some quality words in before it ends, and yeah... writing is what counts, and NANO definitely got me tapping the keys again.

One thing I'm taking away from this entire thing is that scheduling writing time really does work. I know, DUH, but how many of us sit down to write and get distracted by a million outside things going on around us? I know I always have the best of intentions, but yeah.. I try to multi-task. Stop to throw a load of laundry in... do the dishes... take that quick phone call or write that short email. Do enough of those small things and your writing time has suddenly gone POOF before you have any words accomplished.

Well, I LOVED the write-ins I attended during Nano. Why? Because I knew with 100% certainty that for those specific four hour blocks of time that writing was the ONLY thing on my docket. And for whatever reason--be it the energy of sitting in the room with a group of writers, or be it the fact that there weren't any other distractions around me--I got my ass in gear the moment I sat down in front of the keyboard. There was no meandering around trying to "warm up" with a few hands of solitaire or my personal favorite, Mahjong. No, I simply sat down and started writing. And I kept writing -- the entire time.

Sure, I clock watched at times. "Oh hell... I still have two hours to go?? What can I possibly write next?" But the fact is, knowing I had set aside that specific amount of time helped me to keep things on track. And when things got REALLY tough, I could say to myself... you only have such and such minutes left. You can pull this out.

So yeah, even after Nano ends, I plan on scheduling little personal write-ins -- somewhere away from home, somewhere that makes it "formal." If I have to block time to trick myself into writing, by golly I'll do it.

What about you? What are you taking away from Nano?

Friday, November 19, 2010

NaNo Weekend Wrap- Week 3

Here we are again- is it just me, or is this month ripping by? I just cannot believe three weeks of it are already gone.

I also can't believe my daughter is turning 2 tomorrow. That blows my mind a little bit.

And what else blows my mind? The fact that after 20 days of NaNo, I'm sitting on just over 54,000 words. Kristen's broken through 50,000, too. Rachel's not far behind her. And Jen and Susan are still bringing it steadily too.

Here's how our week went.


I got utterly wiped out by bronchitis this week. I spent the last seven days sounding like an escapee from a tuberculosis ward. The disadvantages of this were- well, many. But the unexpected advantage was that I got to rejig my working hours for the week, and do them from home. So, after three-and-a-half hours of typing up notes on historical documents (which, being unable to sleep for coughing, I was getting done by 10am), I was free to go write for the rest of each day, child-and-other-distraction-free.

I got 4000 words on each of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and those took me right up to the point where everything (literally) blows up in my story. On Friday, I just couldn't stop. I ended up with around 7700 words for the day to (technically) finish NaNo in just 19 days, and reach 54,000. I estimate another 26,000 words are needed for me to finish the novel, but with a clear weekend next week and two local write-ins I can attend, I wouldn't put it past me to manage that by November 30th...

Watch this space!

In the meantime, it's been a torturous week for my three. I've posted all kinds of heartbreak and tragedy in my snippets at the Forum, so I thought I'd post something else here- a small piece of Kit and Bill watching the passing out parade of the soldiers going away to the First World War. Amongst them is Len. Writing this scene was a wonderful experience- I found four historical newspaper articles describing different parts of the training, and one that described this very parade in minute detail. I referred back to it often as I wrote, and I love what came out of it. In case you're interested, you can read the moving original article here, including this unbelievably portentous paragraph:

The circumstances of their lives had plainly been, largely, a preparation for the sudden emergency of war, and physically they represented the flower of the State's manhood. Folk of every calling, of every estate in life, looked down from crowded balcony upon the brown amorphous stream of men, who, whether born to wealth or poverty, had now but one common calling- that of risking and that of meting out death, and to do so unflinchingly with the carnage of warfare; to do so, not as they would, will, but in the way they were told and on a battlefield where they and their strength would be but as a bucketful of water poured into a river.


For the first time, she noticed the people thronging about in Wellington Street, and she leaned down over the balcony to get a closer look. The width of the boulevard was oddly free of automobiles, carts and horses, and across the road in [Forrest Chase], there was a crowd twenty deep. Out the front of Boan’s, all massed in front of the stately white columns of the store, packed in against the shopfronts- there must have been hundreds of them.

A murmur began in the east, a rolling whisper of voices that surged toward the sea. The vibration carried up to her, and a flicker of excitement ran through her veins. What had they seen?

She looked around, but nobody else seemed interested in the doings of the crowd. No, everyone else in the station was crowding around the internal balcony, looking down to the tracks, and as she made her way across, she felt the rumble in the floor that signalled a new locomotive arriving. Deep within the tunnel, the steam whistle shrieked.

The engine pulled out moments later, sleek and black, filling the air with rattling noise that blocked her mind completely. Carriage after carriage followed, a dozen, perhaps. The brakes squealed, and the noise began to die as the great wheels came to a complete stop.

In a moment, the station master had blown his whistle, and the doors flew back.

Soldiers. They came from within, a steady stream of men, all dressed alike in their smart khaki and boots, guns across their shoulders. The breath flew from her chest at the first glint of golden hair, but then she saw another, and another. Light and dark, short and tall, there were hundreds on hundreds. Not a chance that she’d be able to spot Len amongst them. It didn’t stop her craning to look.

She was concentrating so hard that Bill’s hand in the small of her back made her jump with fright.

“Sorry.” He leaned in beside her, talking over the engine rumble. “They say this is just the first of several trains- it’s a parade.”

He tugged at her elbow, and she let him drag her away from the young men on the platform, back to the other balcony. “But why?”

He shrugged. “Show of power. A reminder that the Aussies are coming.” He pulled her back against him and leaned over her to point down at the road. “Impressive, when they’ve only had a couple of weeks to come together.”

The first men were wheeling out of the station in lines of four, marching in time like a well-oiled machine to the rat-a-tat-tat of a kettle drum. Row upon row, turning smartly out into the street, marching off toward the river in the east. Here and there, a feeble wave of a Union Jack greeted their passing, but by and large the crowd had gone eerily silent.

Someone shouted a coo-ee, and a bugle blared out, but after that, not much else. Just the swish and stamp of a thousand marching feet, and somewhere amidst them, Len.

A woman beside them at the rail snorted loudly into her handkerchief. “So brave! Ah, look at them.”

“So stupid,” Kit muttered, under her breath.

Not quite under enough, because she caught Bill looking at her sideways. The other woman went on. “They are the finest of the fine, those young men. The ones for whom the bell has tolled. Those brave few who were ready, willing and able to leap to the cause at the very first.”

She threw a barely disguised glare at Bill, and Kit felt him stiffen. “They’re very noble and all. We’re a lucky country, having so many to go fight and so many to stay and run the joint.”

She snorted into her handkerchief again, which seemed to be as eloquent a reply as any.

The shifting khaki backs now stretched all along Wellington-street and around the corner at the [hotel] into [Barrack]. The flower of the country’s manhood, she’d seen them described in the paper, and that beneath a photograph of three of them wrestling on horseback, like a pack of kids gone wild. She supposed the flower of manhood was not particularly sensible. Of course, a sensible soldier was far more of a danger than one who’d walk willingly toward the enemy guns with no regard for his safety.

No regard at all, especially for those he left behind.

There was no denying that they were fine specimens, one and all. Broad shoulders, tall and strong. Sun-browned forearms and serious faces. She couldn’t envy the enemy facing this lot. She’d known no Australian boy who liked to lose a match, and these looked like the sort who always won. That was Len to a tee.

They watched on until the first of the lines returned down [William] street and came back toward the station, and then Bill tugged at her arm. “We’ll go across the bridge. The station master said we’d be leaving as soon as the last of their trains was gone.”

She followed him, walking over the top as the boys came through beneath, straight back into their carriages. No smiles, no laughter, no chat. Just determined marching, following orders. Going where they were told, when they were told, with no regard for their own thoughts, feelings, safety.

No regard.


As he passed beneath the bridge, a movement caught his eye, and he glanced up.

He’d have thought he was mistaken if it wasn’t for the boy by her side; the pair of them made such a distinctive couple, with her so small and golden, and him so tall and broad.

But there were men behind him, men in front, men all around, marching on, and he couldn’t fall out of line for a moment. The most he could do was look back over his shoulder one more time as she walked away, holding his brother’s hand, and then he was ducking inside the carriage, into shadow, alone amidst half a company, and on his way to war.


Like Claire, I tipped the 50k scales this week. Funny what scenes of angst can do for your word count. I had a bit of a slowdown before these scenes because I kept stopping to ponder plot. Probably not something you want to do during NaNo. But it is hard to avoid. So I concentrated on bits that while yes, it propels the story forward, they don't contain clues of key plot points that slow me down because -well, I haven't yet figured them out! Will these scenes stay in the final product? Who knows. Then again, regardless of NaNo, I always hack scenes out of the story during editing.

Anyway, Claire threatened death and ungodly acts of torture if we didn't get our butts in gear and add some snips to this thread. As I am scared of Claire (hehe), here is a snip from this week.

In which my hero, Simon Hunt, in a pique of sexual frustration and having had a raw fight with my heroine, Olivia Monday, has gone and picked a fight with some religious zealots (three rather large brutes). He might have won had Monday not walked in on the scene. As it is, Hunt is fairly beat up here.


Pain. He couldn’t get past that. His world was pain. A constant throb of it that blotted out everything else. His face was pulp, every breath sending in a fresh wash of agony. The salty sharp taste of blood lay thick on his tongue, turned his stomach. He shuffled beside Monday. The floor beneath him was hard, solid, and oddly swaying. He tried to see but it was a no go. His eyes didn’t work, just a red haze was all he could manage to see.

She shifted beside him, the sound of a door opening. “Here now, inside.”

A steady arm guided him. His world tilted and he fell into softness. It comforted, the act of being put into bed, but it did nothing to ease the pain. The back of his head exploded in white light and agony. Perhaps he made a sound because Monday was back, shushing him. Cool, rough hands touched his hot neck, shoulder. He turned toward them but they drifted away.

Yellow light pressed against his lids, soothing somehow.

Her heels clicked against the floor and then came the low murmur of a male. A man in the room. Simon struggled to rise but his limbs didn’t work.

A man’s blunt fingers touched his brow. Smooth fingertips. A professional man. He flinched away but they held firm to his chin. Light shined in his eyes too brilliant for him to focus then went away, leaving him in darkness.

“Stitches…need my case… bring the lamp…yes…” Words drifted in and out. Simon struggled to hold onto the thread of the conversation but it slipped through the holes in his mind.

A burning warmth spread over him and then a sharp tug at his brow. He groaned, felt the soft touch of Monday’s hand on his shoulder. It was her hand. He knew it by the way something inside him eased whenever the contact came. Tug, tug, pinch, pinch. His brow throbbed. Lip too. He might have smiled. It’d been worth it. That unbearable rage was just bearable now. Another sharp sting found his arm.

“Give him…Ward off infection…. And for the pain.”

Ha! Pain was good. This sort anyway.

Monday said something proper. At least he thought she did. He struggled for a breath and found a weight pushing down on his chest. The door opened and shut and then silence.

Her skirts rasped against the bedding. He turned his head but could only see the red darkness.

“A fine mess you’ve made of yourself.” She touched his forehead and suddenly he ached, deep inside his chest. It drew so tight he felt he might implode. He said nothing and she moved away. The loss made his throat close.

The ice cold came out of nowhere and he sucked a sharp breath. It pressed against his eyes and mouth with gentle firmness. “Keep it on,” said Monday.

He lay still, let the cold seep into his throbbing, raw flesh. It eased into the pain, pulled it back a measure. Around him came the sounds of fabric moving, something clinking, a glass perhaps? A tug at his feet told him his shoes were being pulled off. One then the other. The simple task made the lump in his throat swell.

The light near him dimmed and with it came a comforting silence, like a cocoon about him. He stilled, listening to her move. Another tug at his waist gave him an idea what she was about. His trousers slid free with a crisp yank, leaving him in his smalls. Cool air hit his thighs. Had he any strength, he might have made a better showing at this moment. The pain was too much for that. It threatened to pull him down. A wave of it pulsed over his flesh, over his face and he couldn’t think.

“Simon.” Her sweet breath was on his check. She never called him Simon. The sound of his name from her lips poured liquid warmth through him, battered his tender heart. “You bloody idiot.” It was a whisper he barely heard.

A soft mouth brushed the corner of his lip. So soft. He moved, struggling to ease the ice pack off his eyes. He wanted to see her. He needed to. Low light seeped in. He blinked, wincing, and the haze shifted into a shape. Dark eyes shining and wide and very close blinked back at him. The creamy oval of her face, the petal pink moue of her lips made themselves known to him. She hovered above him, her hands at the buttons of his shirt. She studied his face, didn’t like what she saw there.

He looked at her mouth. That round puff of sin. His head lifted a fraction, the muscles along his torso straining. It was as far as he could go. She glanced at his mouth. She knew what he wanted, didn’t want to give it. She hesitated, frowning. He simply stared, demanding. Please.

With an indrawn breath, she relented. Her lips touched his, so light and soft that he whimpered. He wanted more. She drew away then came back, a gentle kiss. Not even a kiss. A caress. But his arm was working now. He clasped a hand to the back of her head, his fingers sliding into silken strands. Claimed her mouth. Slow, warm, easy. A sound escaped him as her tongue touched the gash at the corner. Ah, but it soothed him, hot and slick. Soothed him straight to his cock. Holding her there, he explored, his mouth molding hers like a thumb to warm wax, shaping her lips, parting them. The tips of their touches touched. He felt it course down the length of him. What had they fought over? He didn’t care. He wanted. What did anger have to do with want? She worked around the gash on his lower lip, easing and nipping, so lightly his head spun. There was no sound, just this, just their breathing, the rustle of her skirts and the slide of her hair over his fingers.

She pulled away, not far. Her breath came in soft bursts against his skin. Heat slowly grew to a boil in his gut. He sought her mouth but she was busy unbuttoning his ruined shirt and his lips grazed her smooth cheek. Her hair was fragrant and clean, lose strands of it tickling his neck. He captured her lips again, the kiss just as soft, just as needy. She made a small noise that inflamed him, her mouth molding his once more, taking little tastes. His shirt fell away. He suddenly cursed himself for being too weak to do more than move his lips. Dizziness threatened. His head fell back against the pillow. Just as well. She’d moved away.

Simon closed his eyes, tried to regain his strength, tried to push past the pain. It was too consuming. His stomach turned over. He pulled a deep breath and his nostrils burned. Christ.

The tinkling of water made him stir. Monday was back, her mouth swollen and rosy, her cheeks flushed. I did that. Satisfaction swelled hot within him but he could only lay in heavy helplessness. She took his hands, cleaning them with light pats, making small sounds of distress when she got to the knuckles. He knew they were pulp. Each gentle pass made him flinch. His fingers curled over hers, trying to hold onto her, keep her there. “I’m sorry.”

Had he said it aloud? She didn’t respond and his heart pounded against his bones. What was he sorry for? He couldn’t seem to remember. She eased out of his grasp and his hand fell limp against the bed. Alone. END



Well, as of today I have cracked the 50K mark! And I've actually finished up my Sunday with just a smidge over 54K in total.


Seriously. I'm usually such a slow-poke of a writer, I can't quite believe what I've managed to write in just three weeks. Goes to show what I can do when I quit with the procrastination and get down with the writing. :-P

I'm getting close to finishing all the new scenes I have to write to complete draft two of my WIP, and I hope to be completely done come the end of December. It's quite exciting to think I may have something that resembles a proper book by the end of the year!

And now, the snip.

It's in the POV Isabel's love interest, Sebastien. He and Isabel have had a few adventures by this point, and a real love/hate relationship is developing between the two of them. They grate on each other, but at the same time they find each other intriguing, attractive ... but both have various deep, dark secrets and issues in their lives which, to each of them, make a relationship not only out of the question, but a down right complication they could both do without.

Here is Sebastien, trying to get that girl out of his hair ... and look out for the nod to one of the ATWOP ladies, too.(g)


Before his aunt’s ridiculous bob-bon of a coach had stopped, Sebastien was out of the door and making straight for the wall of her town house. He pressed flat against the bricks, between a gap in the ivy, his tall frame hidden by the shadows. Who knew who could be peering down from the upper windows, waiting, watching, armed with a hundred words with which to lash him - or more breakable ornaments and a deadly aim. The thought of another skirmish with his sister made even the tips of his hair ache with weariness, and deciding that on occasion, retreat was as noble as attack, he edged, cat-like, along the side of the house to the servant’s entrance and slipped inside.

The warmth of the darkened kitchen enveloped him. He could smell bread, and rosemary, and the mouth-watering scent of [roast beef]. The cook, poached by his aunt from [name of top restaurant], had made [] for dinner, it seemed. A pity no one had been here to appreciate his talents.

Aunt Georgette, the only member of his mother’s family he and Adele had ever met, had made the siblings a gift of the town house and its servants upon the death of their parents. Married to an Italian count and constantly abroad, she had quashed their protests with the assertion that four Parisian residences were one too many for any contessa to manage; they would be doing her a favour by taking the “little” one on [street] off her hands.

Moving through the dark, smooth tiles beneath his feet, he made his way to the hearth to build up the fire. He was bone tired, but the tumble and crash of thoughts in his head meant sleep was likely to evade him.

The doctor was wreaking havoc with his sanity.

He threw a log on the fire, poked up the embers around it. He’d never met anyone quite like her. She was fearless. Intelligent. Stubborn. Infuriating.Tweaked at her cuffs with an annoying frequency ...

And she thought him capable of harming a woman to protect his own skin,

The blood pulsed at his temples and he threw the poker into the copper kindling tub with a clang.

How could she?

Well, be fair; your words, your actions, have made her conclusion a logical one; one that you did nothing to quash.

He slapped a hand upon the brick mantle.

Because I could not!

He drew a rasping breath and jammed his hands into his pockets, watching the embers flare as his own heat died. Slowly, he eased his aching body into a kitchen chair.

She is beautiful, and she does not know it.

The scar upon his left bicep began to throb, and he splayed his hands upon his thighs, pressing down against hard muscle and flesh, resisting the urge to scratch the echo of the old wound.

She is trouble.

And he’d had enough of that this past year to last him a life time.

Behind him a matched flared, and every one of his muscles tensed.

He closed his eyes. “If you have come to -”

“Relax, mon frere. Your sister could not be prised from Madeliene’s. You are safe.”

Emile. Sebastien moved to stand, but his friend, lamp in hand, pushed him back down.

“Sit. You missed dinner. I will cook for you. Nothing of the caliber of Monsieur Alexander, but then, beggars cannot be choosers.”

“Emile, no, I -” The canine growl of his stomach made a lie of his protests. Emile busied himself with riddling the stove.

“How is she?” Sebastien asked.

“Ah, her fur is on end, but you know your sister, that will be over within a day. Tomorrow, she -”

“Not Adele. I mean Claire.”

Emile threw him a confused look. “Who?’

“The … child.” Sebastien stretched his legs before the fire. “Well, she should have a name, shouldn’t she?”

“Your mother’s name?”


Metal clanged. “It is nice. And she is fine. Asleep.”

“We will have to find a proper cradle for her. I don’t like her sleeping in that drawer.”

“She will be fine. Olga is with her.”

He sat up with a jerk. “Is the woman sober?”

Emile swung round, skillet in hand. “Of course! What has gotten into you, eh?” He peered at him more closely. “And what have you done to your jacket?”

Sebastien brushed at his lapels, rumpled and ruined. “That would be Doctor Knight.”


Emile turned, placed the skillet on the stove, began cracking eggs upon its cast iron lip.

Sebastien's fingers twitched. “Ah? That is all you can say?”

“There is more to the story?”

Sebastien scrubbed a hand through his hair. “She took me to see a midwife. It is possible that …” He swallowed, unable to form her name on his lips. “It is possible that Claire’s mother gave birth to her there. The silver charm. It was hers.”

Emile’s shoulders worked beneath his shirt as he jiggled the pan. “I know. I recognised it when the doctor showed it to us at the warehouse. What did you discover?”

“The midwife could tell me nothing. Nothing at all.”

Egg sizzled on the stove. Emile added a splash of milk to the mixture, a pinch from the bunch of parsley left in a water jug, then reached for a spatula [chk].

“Why do you want to find her? Curiosity?” His voice was light. “Revenge?”

Sebastien’s eyes locked on his friend’s ruined hand. The void where there were once three fingers, now only a pink seam of a scar. Emile held the spatula to his palm with his thumb, working the egg to and fro with brisk, deft movements despite his injury; movements that slowly ground to a halt. Emile turned. Followed Sebastien’s gaze. His face turned an angry shade of red.

“Non. I forbid it. Not for that. Never for that.”

“Emile -”

“It is my choice, eh? Mine.” He thumped his chest with his fist. “If there is anything to be done, then that is for me to decide. Not you.”

Sebastien lowered his eyes. “I am sorry. Believe me, I did not seek her out for that.”

“Then why?”

Suddenly, he was not sure. It had been an urge, an impulse. If he had found her, what would he have done?

“I just wanted to see her … “ That was the truth. “To tell her to keep quiet. About Claire. About everything.” He hunched forwards in his chair, chin in his hands, thumb stroking the stubble as he stared into the fire. “The orphan story will work. It has to.”

Emile gave him a long, hard look, before turning back to his skillet. “You’d better be careful. Claire may not the only thing to blacken your name in Davignon’s eyes.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s very pretty.”

His friend was being irritatingly obtuse. “Who?” he snapped.

“The doctor.” Emile flipped the omelette in the skillet with an expert flip of his wrist. “The one you have been running around with, unchaperoned, day and night. The one who dresses as a man. The one you beat up Fauconnier for.” He slammed the pan on the stove top. “For God's sake, Sebastien, for a man so concerned with protecting his reputation, you are being far from circumspect.”

“Christ! I did not plan for any of this to happen. She needed help - and to be saved from herself. You saw how stubborn she is; how could I let her go, on her own? In five minutes she would have been dead. Or worse.” Pulse thrumming he scraped back his chair, took down a plate from the shelf of the oak dresser, rattled in a drawer for cutlery.

“She’s gone, Emile. It is over.”

Whatever “it” had been. Most likely madness.

He placed the plate on the kitchen table. Emile slid a perfectly cooked omelette on to it's patterned surface.

“Bon apetite," his friend said softly.

Sebastien sighed, and managed a weary smile. “Merci, mon frere. You are too good to me.”

Pen and Paper

I found a super cool new writing tool today. It's a liquid graphite pencil. It acts like a pen - the graphite flows from its tip smooth, silky, very much like ink. But the results can be erased because it's graphite. I love it. No more broken lead. No more pencil sharpening.

I've got a fetish for writing tools. Pens of all sorts liter my desk drawers, special little oak boxes, my purse, a giant coffee mug that I use as a pen holder... I'm always in search of the next best pen. Or pencil.

My fetish for pens almost rivals my love of paper. One of my earliest childhood memories is of visiting a print shop that my father worked at. The smell of paper and ink has sunk firmly and indelibly in my mind. Whenever I smell those together, I'm five years old again in that print shop, sniffing deeply the stuff that books are made of. My love of books probably started then (although my love of stories started much earlier).

One of my favorite little notebooks was a gift from a dear friend. It's a recycled book cover, its faded blue cloth embossed in gold with the title "Book of Etiquette" and a border of flowers and leaves. The innards have been replaced with blank pages which I can remove and replace thanks to a three-ring binder-type holder. My paper stash doesn't stop there, however. Journals, notebooks, stationary, loose-leaf papers of various colors and weights, scrapbooking papers and even sample books from a paper distributor fill my office. The sample books are pretty cool - little slips of paper in luscious weights, textures and colors, even velum and foils are tucked into these books. I could get goosebumps just thinking about them...

Funny, though, for someone so in love with pens and paper, I can't write my novel using them. Much as I'd love to scribble words in a pretty journal or a college-ruled notebook, they only flow from my mind to the keyboard. So in the end, there's no real art involved, no sensual feel of a pen flowing across the page, no real idea, actually, of what a page is. There's only word count when it comes to the screen.

I suppose it only matters that I write, not how or with what tools. I still squirrel away my pretty papers and fancy pens, but my workhorse is my computer.

Even so, I'm really excited about my nifty new liquid graphite pencil. Maybe I'll try writing a scene tonight, longhand, just for a change of scenery. It might be what this NaNoWriMo-frizzled brain needs... the serenity of a creamy white blank page and the sensual feel of liquid graphite flowing across it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Yeeeehaw, we have a winner :)

I just finished my first ever NaNoWriMo in only nineteen days.

Aw yeah. How much do I rock, baby? How much??

Now that I have 50,000 words, the challenge is to see how close I can get to EIGHTY thousand words this month, since that's where I need to get to really finish. Either way, I'm stoked. I have way more than half a finished novel now- more like 3/4- and this month turned out to be exactly what I needed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The sounds of silence (and birdsong)

So, we've been quiet little worker bees this week, as you can see- all nose to the grindstone, writing writing writing.

Rachel and I have leaped to over 43,000 words- at this rate, I expect to finish quite possibly by the end of tomorrow. And once I get to my 50,000, I'll only have the extra 30,000 I'm forecasting before I'm finished. Quite possibly not going to happen before the end of November, but the end is so close I can almost touch it (yeah, I see 30K as close).

Anyway! I downloaded Scrivener 2.0 yesterday- I hadn't gotten around to the upgrade yet. And I am *loving* it, even more than the original. There's so much brilliance in it I'm going to have to write a new Scrivener Love blogpost in a few weeks to tell you.

But one of my favourite discoveries yesterday was the fact that you can now import audio and video into your document. Hurrah! I was writing a scene with Len waking up in the military encampment, listening to the sound of magpies, and I was able to pull in an audio file of birdsong and play it in the background.

Here's the great site I found where you can download Australian birdsong. And here's another, with the top 40 birdsongs in the country.

For me, the most distinctive ones that I hear every day, especially out in the bush, are these three, and they form much of the natural music Kit, Len and Bill would hear, too:

Australian Raven

After birdsong, I've moved onto battle sounds- about as polar opposite as you can get! I've also found several WWI marching songs, and the sky is the limit from here. Absolutely amazing.

Scrivener's beta version for Windows has just been released this month, too (discount available for NaNoers!). There's a free 30 day trial for either version- seriously, if you haven't tried it yet, You Must. You'll wonder how you ever wrote without it.

NaNoWriMo Has Eaten My Brain

Gah! Well, as you can see we've left Claire hanging in the breeze with the Week 2 wrap. Sorry, Claire! We do love you!

I think I speak for us all when I say our excuse is that our brains have become NaNo-fied. Seriously. I am thinking about my book so hard, so much, that it's squeezing everything else out. Like remembering to post on this blog. Like remembering to fold and stow the mammoth load of laundry that's accumulated over the last week. Like remembering to buy food.

Anyone else dealing with this?

Anyway, to make amends to Claire, if no one else, here is a snip of what's been sucking up my brain capacity (the usual NaNo disclaimers of crappy first draft writing and NaNo-stupids apply.)

[Note: Isabel is disguised as a man in this scene]

The bowler hatted man strode ahead of her, his cane thudding in the dirt, head bent to a purpose.

She padded after him, far enough behind to not arouse suspicion if he turned back, close enough to not lose him in the maze of twisting alleys. A good thing, too, for he suddenly took a sharp turn and disappeared. She followed at a trot but as she reached the corner the faint sound of men roaring carried to her on the still night air. Her step faltered. She stopped. Pressed a steadying palm to the rough bricks of the corner building. Images of pummelled flesh, dripping blood, rolled over her, threatening to make her lose the small amount of food in her stomach; then she shoved the images away, pushed off the wall and continued after her quarry. What did it matter, that she had yet another thick layer of guilt to apply to her already heavily-lacquered soul?

Ahead, the man stopped at a door that opened directly on to the street. Twin lanterns glowed on either side of it. He raised his cane, rapped three times on the wood. Mutterings ensued before the door creaked open. He stepped inside and the door slammed shut.

Slowly she approached the door. It was plain and unadorned, with no sign to give any indication as to the nature of business carried on within. No lights in the windows. What to do now? For a moment, the disaster that had been this evening almost made her feet turn and march her back to Margot’s apartment and into bed. Then she thought of Sebastien and her fists clenched. At this very moment he was probably being patched up from the beating he’d received in her name. Protecting her. Surely she could muster the courage to rap on a bloody door.

She knocked. Footfall approached the door from within.

“Who do you wish to see?” came from inside.

She was careful to lower her voice before she answered; the change in register was made with ease, thanks to Jean’s earlier attempts to strangle her.

“I must see … “ Who? He wouldn’t be so stupid to use his own name. She racked her brains.

“Who do you wish to see?” Impatient now.

She crossed her fingers and thought of their dog.

“Monsieur Rex.”

Silence. Her heart sank. Then the door creaked open and she was in.

An elderly man, some kind of bowed and decrepit servant, led her up a flight of dark stairs, candles in sconces casting pools of light at their feet. They reached a small anteroom, surprisingly elegant in its appointment, with wallpaper of green peacocks, a soft rug, a fire in the grate.

“You are to wait here while I confirm your credentials. Give me your name - not your real one, mind,” the old man was quick to add. “No matter Monsieur Rex’s invitation, we don’t want to know who you are.” He grinned toothlessly. “Just as we do not want you to know us.”

The answer came easily - he would recognise it, and it would serve as a warning shot across his bow.

“Monsieur Izasmell.”

She waited, seated upon a leather tub chair, legs spread apart as would a man, tapping her fingers. The servant returned and he nodded. “You may join.”

She stood. Join? Join what?

The answer was apparent when she stepped into the next room. The curtains were thick and drawn tight. Bees wax candles in a glittering crystal chandelier attempted, with limited success, to provide light above the centrepiece of the room - a round table covered in green felt, with the images of every card of the deck painted upon it. Markers were placed upon five of the painted cards; five well-dressed gentlemen sat around the table’s circumference, glasses of cognac within reach, their faces obscured by the darkness and the miasma of cigar smoke that curled to the ceiling.

But she had eyes for only one man. Bowler hat man; Monsieur Rex. His sandy hair and brows were dyed dark, his moustache shaved off, but he was, unmistakably, sneeringly, her brother. Lewis William Beaufort Knight.

He raised his blue eyes to hers. The left one twitched at the corner, the only evidence of his discombobulation; other than that, they betrayed nothing.

“Monsieur … Izasmell.” The name with which he had tormented her as a child croaked from his mouth. He cleared his throat. “Have you the requisite coin?”

She pulled Legrande’s pouch from her pocket and tossed it in what she hoped was a manly fashion to the green felt. The thud it made left no doubt as to the richness of its content.

She saw Lewis’ throat ripple as he swallowed, the avaricious gleam in his eye as he stared at the pouch.

“Very good, monsieur,” he murmured. “You may take your seat.”

Friday, November 12, 2010

NaNo Weekend Wrap- Week 2

We're about to reach the end of Week 2 of NaNoWriMo for 2010.

How are you chugging along? Still with us? Still sane? Or just getting started, perhaps?

We heard a lot about Week 2 being the hardest week, for a variety of reasons, and though I don't know what weeks 3 and 4 will hold, I think most of us can agree that Week 2 was no basket of cherries. We all kept on advancing from where we were last weekend, and Rachel and I both broke the 30,000 word mark. But compared to the pace of the first week, we all had a slowing down (with the possible exception of Susan, who is gunning it).

Here's the week's wrap up from each of us at All The World's Our Page.


I didn't see it coming, though in hindsight I certainly should have- a daycare virus that wiped out my toddler for six days, and at the end of that six days, came for me, too. My word production for the week dropped from 18,000 to 12,000, and more than half of that came in one day- Thursday- when I had a blissful day off work, with no child.

At this stage, I look like racking up four zero days in this week alone.

And yet I'm still sitting on 30,000. How about that? This, I think, shows the immense value of getting out of the gates, fast, and building a good strong buffer. Taking the chance to write when you can, because you never know when life will get in the way on other days.

As an adjunct to writing so fast, of course, I've gone face-first into a plot wall that I just didn't see coming. It's going to occasion (sob) another huge shift in the story, and it's giving me the same stomach-squirmy feeling I got earlier in the year when I decided to let Len live. But look at how well that turned out. My problem at the moment is the speed of it all. I'm rocketing through so fast that I have to consider the ramifications of this plot shift right now- RIGHT NOW!- and my brain has gone into screaming hysterical mess mode on me. I'm actually glad I've hit my second forecast zero day, baking and decorating a detailed cake, so I can catch up and work out What Comes Next.

Okay, my snippet for the weekend. This is the start of what's likely to be the new first chapter of the whole shebang.


It was a perfectly ordinary morning until Len walked in and declared war.

He banged through the screen door, bringing with him a gust of rain-tinged air, and slapped the newspaper down as she turned to face him. He had his arms folded, one eyebrow up. The same deadly glare they’d been giving each other for a fortnight.

“It’s war.”

She planted her hands on the other side of the kitchen table, forgetting her half-finished scones, and glared at him. “What do you mean?”

His eyes were glacial. “Can’t read, teacher?” He flicked the newspaper with his fingers. “What is says right there. We’re in. And I’m going.”

She glanced down at the broadsheet, folded open to the news pages. Big, bold letters glared back at her, and she read them out. “European War. Germany Challenges Britain. Dominions support the motherland.” She looked up at him and repeated the rest. “Australian troops mobilising.”

“Mobilising. That’s me.”

Something like panic hit her in the chest. “You can’t.”

He unfolded himself, stretched to his full height. Sunlight streamed through the window behind him, lighting up his hair in gold. “What’s to stop me? You?”

There was flour all over her hands, halfway to her elbows. She wiped them on her apron. “Don’t be ridiculous. You have responsibilities. The crop is almost in, and…”

“Bugger the crop.” His voice was hard as flint. “It’s not mine anyway, is it, thanks to dad. And I’ve got nothing better to do.”

If only he’d been wrong about that, but it was true. “That doesn’t mean we don’t need you here.”

He moved fast, as quick as she’d ever seen him at full-forward, ducking around the corner of the table before she could take two steps back, hemming her in against the stove. “What do you care, anyway?”

She stared up at him, forcing herself not to look away, even as his eyes burned into hers. “I care about the farm. This place. I care about your family.”

His hand came up. Brushed her cheek. “And me?”

She hardened herself. “I don’t care what you do otherwise.”

His fingers lingered for a moment before he smiled and turned away. “Then it’s settled. I’ll be off tomorrow.”

She watched him go, stalking across the room. When he got to the door, she called out after him.

“Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why…”

He stopped. Turned, slowly. She made her way across the room, met him halfway. Searched his face, pushing down the anger. “You could be killed. It’s not a game.”

“I’m not afraid.”

No, of course he wasn’t. It was out before she could stop herself. “You’re too stupid to be afraid.”
He laughed. “You’re the expert.” He turned away again.


He spun back. “Maybe I finally decided to listen to you. Maybe it’s time I went away and never came back. Maybe it’s time I went and died in a hole.”

Her own words stung, coming back at her. “Maybe it’s time you grew up.”

“Oh, I’m all grown up.” The bluster was back as he swaggered over. “I can show you if you like. Or…” He clicked his fingers in the air. “I forgot. You’d rather I’d never existed.”

She was summoning her breath to give him a serve when the door banged open again, and Bill came in. They both turned to look at him at the same time, and he stopped, halfway through kicking off his boots. “What?”

The tension in the room was thick as jam. “Nothing.” She let out a breath, brushed her apron down. Went over to him and kissed his cheek. “How’s it looking?”