WRITER AND REALITY WORKING TOGETHER
It's midsummer, this means that my writing has taken a back seat to my family, vacations and visitors. Still, I fiddle with my books, look at fellow writers' blogs, and scheme my September plan of attack. Do you have a plan of attack? Here's mine.
Mission Statement: Write books that entertains, inspires, and encourages spouses to hug and kiss each other, parents to laugh and play with their children, friends whisper kind words to each other and strangers to exchange pleasantries and practice charity and goodwill.
The Five Year Goal: Twenty published novels. Hundreds of blog posts. Travel books.
Market and Focus: Female audience (except for my brothers and cousins who read my books) over the age of thirteen. Predominately well educated, older women who are looking for something to read on the plane or on the beach or who need an escape. My books are the equivalent of a bath without water—a totally immersing, relaxing, mood enhancer. My books are meant to be shared with anyone, including but not limited to, grandmothers, daughters, priests and yogis.
Competitor Analysis: Continue to watch and learn from fellow writers by lurking on online writer forums, groups and blogs. Scrounge good ideas.
Strengths: (Why I Will Be Successful): Limitless time, discipline and an incredible imagination. Support from family, friends and writers’ groups.
Obstacles: Limited budget. Discouragement. False expectations. A profound hatred and fear of self promotion.
Promotion: At least one hour a day, five days a week. This entails blogging, querying review sites, guest posts, newsletters, give-aways, contests, book trailers, how to guides, sprinkled with a select few personal forays where I actually have to leave the house and interact with humans.
Writing Schedule: Four hours a day, five days a week with a weekly goal of 10k words, drafting. That equates to a first draft in six to eight weeks, depending on the length of the novel. One month, same daily schedule, for editing and revisions. Goal: three to four books published a year. A summer vacation. A Christmas break.
Conclusion: In a world swimming with entertainment, I will provide wholesome, witty, and romantic escapism for my family, friends and any who may find me and my books.
And how am I doing so far?
This year I published:
Beyond the Hollow (January)
Stuck With You (June)
And will publish:
Beyond the Pale (Fall)
The Witching Well (a novella in a clean romance anthology that will be the beginning of a time travel romance series.)
Anywhere Else (a short story in the Hugh Howey Indie Anthology)
Here’s an excerpt from my work in progress, The Witching Well. (This is not the first scene, but so far, it's pretty close to my favorite.)
Her body hummed with energy and she grinned in the darkness. She found the rhythmic motion hypnotic and soothing. The clip-clop of the horses…
Celia eye’s popped open. She sat in a carriage. An obese woman draped in satin and furs sat directly in front of her, snoring, her mouth ajar.
Celia’s own mouth dropped open. She sat up and took note. Same putrid pink dress. Same pinchy shoes. But the wedding, Mia, her mom and grandmother? All gone. Replaced by a grotesque snoring thing wearing a satin tent.
Celia ran her hands first over the velvet seat cushion, then the burnished wood walls, and finally the black, smooth drapes. It all felt real.
But she must be drunk. Or hallucinating. Had she had too much champagne? No. That drink! That Corban person! He must have put something in her water! But it looked like water. It tasted like water. Celia ran her tongue over her teeth, trying to find an after taste, or a hint of something.
She drew back the curtain and peered into the dark. A brilliant, star studded sky gazed down on her. No street lights. No lights at all, except for the one bobbing on the front of the carriage. Leaning forward, she craned to see the driver, but saw nothing but a horse’s butt and its swishing tail. As if the animal knew she was watching, and he didn’t appreciate her stare, he lifted his tail to poop.
Celia sat back with a humph and crossed her arms over her chest. The putrid pink dress had a bunchy bodice, giving her a va va voom that, when she first saw it, made her complain first to Mia and then to grandmother.
“It’s her wedding,” Grandma Geneva said. “If she wants you to dress like a cat, you better get used to whiskers.”
And in the interest in peace in the family and not wanting to upset her mom, Celia bit her lip about the dress and vowed that when it was her turn to marry she would do it on the courthouse steps.
And Mia would have to wear a clown suit.
Complete with a red nose.
Celia closed her eyes and let the rhythmic sway of the carriage lull her back to sleep. When she woke, she’d be at home. In her bed. And she’d never have to wear this dress again.
Celia’s eyes flew open. She sat up straight and glanced at the woman across from her. The woman snorted and nestled her double chin into her fur collar. What was that sound? Was the carriage breaking beneath the woman’s weight?
Was it gun fire? The carriage lurched, stopping so quickly that the portly lady slid off the seat.
“What the devil?” the woman moaned, righting herself. She gave Celia a cross look, as if Celia had knocked her off the bench.
“Gunshots!” the woman hissed. She pursed her lips, yanked off an enormous emerald necklace and shoved it at Celia. “Hide this.”
Celia stared stupidly at the jewels. If they were real, she could use them to pay the lease on the shop! Wishing she had a pocket, her mind scattered over options. In her bra? No. The stones were too big and the bodice too tight. Not knowing what else to do, she lifted her skirts and tucked the necklace into her lace garter. She patted her skirts back into place just before the door flew open.
“Stand and deliver!”
Deliver what? And how could she stand inside of a carriage? Celia, crouched on her seat. Slowly, she lifted her head and saw nothing but the silvery end of a gun pointing at her forehead. None of this is real, Celia told herself. It’s the champagne speaking.
“Come, come ladies,” the voice spoke again. It sounded familiar. A chill went down her back.
The man stepped out of the shadows and his gaze met hers, but not an ounce of recognition glistened in his eyes. She thought she knew him, but since a mask hid half his face she couldn’t be sure.
“My lady.” He swept his arms in a low bow.
“Who are you?” Celia gave the gun another glance. It looked real enough.
He lifted one eyebrow and the corner of his lips, a slow and lazy smile, but continued to point the gun at her forehead.
The emeralds pinched her thighs. She couldn’t look at them. She couldn’t adjust them. She couldn’t call his attention to them in anyway.
His gaze traveled over her horrid pink dress and stopped at her mid-thigh, as if he could see through the layers of sateen and frilly slip to the garter smashing the emeralds against her leg.
“May I be of assistance?” Again, that trill of recognition tingled over Celia. She knew him. Somehow.
She shook her head, knowing she couldn’t touch him. If she touched him and he was real, tangible, then she would…well, she didn’t know what she would do. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before.
“Are you mute?” he asked, cocking his head at her. His grin deepened. “Or is my charm rendering you speechless?”
“Have you considered that maybe I’m put off by the gun you’re holding to my head?”
“Ah, so you can speak after all. Pity that. I do love a quiet woman.” He placed his hand on his heart. “Please, my dears, join me.”
But Celia refused to budge, and since her companion stood behind her they stayed in the coach. She stood, staring at his mouth—the only part of his face she could see—other than his eyes. She found his eyes and lips hypnotizing. Her gaze traveled from one feature to the next, wondering which one she liked the most.
He’s a highway man! Her inner voice of reason told her. And a figment of your imagination!
“I’m sure you understand this is not a social call.” His gaze flicked over Celia and rested on her va va voom bodice. “Not entirely. Although I do enjoy mixing business and pleasure.”
“Where’s Eddie?” the woman barked over Celia’s shoulder. “What have you done with Eddie?”
The woman leaned over Celia’s back, and Celia’s foot caught on the door’s lip. She would have tumbled and fell if the highway man hadn’t shot out his arm to steady her. His hand tightened around her and in one fluid movement, he lifted her out of the carriage and placed her on the ground.
She stood, breathless and warm from his sudden, brief contact. Her breath came in ragged huffs.
A snapping twig drew her attention to three men standing in the shadows. They stood as silent and watchful as the trees. All three had weapons drawn.
“Where’s Eddie?” the woman barked out.
“Have you hurt the driver?” Celia asked, her voice catching in her throat.
The highway man flicked his head toward a cluster of trees. “He’s unharmed, except for, perhaps his ego.”
“What is your name?” the woman whispered.
“My name?” Celia asked.
“Not your name, you goat head! I know your name.”
Celia wondered what her name might be, or her role, or position. Was she a maid? A paid companion? A relation? She shivered, and told herself that she needed to wake. This dream had gone on too long already. She should have woken as soon as she saw the gun. That’s what normally would have happened. Nightmares typically ended with a major scare.
She tried pinching herself. It hurt, but not enough to wake her.
The woman fixed her attention on the highway man. “Who are you?”
“Why would he tell you that?” Celia asked, a little stung at being called a goat head.
The man chuckled. “You do not need my name, but I need your valuables.”
Quiet descended and Celia noticed for the first time the clamor of crickets, a hooting owl, and a nearby tumbling river. Country night sounds, usually masked by the roar of constant traffic on the parkway.
He waved his gun at the woman. “That ring, if you please.”
Celia watched, wondering what the woman would do.
Slowly, the woman climbed from the coach.
The horses stamped their feet impatiently, and shook their reins. For a second, Celia thought about jumping on a horse and riding away. But then she remembered that she knew nothing about horses and getting one loose from the carriage might be tricky. Besides, even if it wasn’t real, that gun looked like an actual gun, which meant that the bullet might possibly feel real, and she didn’t like pain—real or imaginary.
The woman drew the ring off her finger. “I have a reticule in the carriage,” she told the man. “If you’d like, I’ll give it to you.”
The man snorted a laugh. “Not likely.” He waved the gun at one of the henchmen, his gaze never leaving the two women. “Search the carriage. Tell me if you find any hidden pistols.”
Celia slid a quick glance at the woman, wondering if she was cunning or just stupid.
The second man passed by. He smelled unwashed and earthy. The woman reached out and shoved Celia into him. “Take her!”
The man stumbled under Celia’s sudden weight, but the highway man caught her in his arms. One arm drew her to him and held her close. She felt safe there, although she knew that she shouldn’t.
“Hold her hostage! Kill her if you must!” The woman clambered into the coach, and slammed the door.
Celia fought to breathe. She knew she had to leave, she knew that staying pressed up against the strange and dangerous man was stupid. He had his hand on her belly, his fingers splayed across her. He smelled of cloves and when he spoke, his breath warmed her.
“That was most unkind,” he said, sounding surprised and disapproving.
The second man scrambled after the woman, and flung open the door. Amid the screams, the carriage rocked back and forth.
“I won’t harm you,” the highway man whispered, his lips brushing against her hair.
Celia glanced at the gun. In the moonlight it looked very real and very lethal. Almost as devastating as the man holding her in his arms.
He shifted, bringing her in front of him. In one quick moment, he captured her lips.
Celia’s knees buckled. Her thoughts raced back to all those Regency romance novels of her grandmother’s that she had read as a girl. Georgette someone. Hideous, Horrendous, no, Heyer. Yes, that was it. Georgette Heyer. What would Georgette call this? A seduction? A ravishing? Oh my gosh! That was it! She was being ravished by a rake!
Wake up! Her mind screamed. No more kissing!
Oh, but it felt so good. So very, very good.
Panic gripped her. Breaking lose, she ripped off his mask.
Corban West stood in the pool of moonlight, gun dangling at his side.