By some strange miracle, November has been an immensely productive month for me, in spite of #NaNoWriMo. I amaze myself at how much time I’ve found to blog and work on my fiction, while still attending meetings and completing client asignments.
Last week, I finished editing the final book of my series. I started on re-editing the first book the following day. I have also gone from blogging just once per week on here (usually on Fridays) to publishing posts up to 3 times per week. I guess, once you get me started, I keep going.
So. Bloody. Hard.
I would be lying though, if I said I didn’t have nights when I didn’t feel like working on House Arrest. Nights when I much preferred to edit my novel, reply to comments from you guys, or scroll through social media.
I’ve tackled this by essentially telling myself I have no option but to commit, and move forward. One of my quirks is that I refuse to accept failure, especially when success is entirely in my hands. The second big one is that I must finish whatever I start — this is at once my virtue and my vice.
In this case, with the final and hardest stretch of #NaNoWriMo creeping up, it’s a virtue. I’m less than 6,000 words away from the finish line, and I know I’ll make it, no matter how hard it gets. Even better, I’m scheduled to be done in a few days, if I keep up my pace.
Even so, I plan to keep writing all the way to the bitter end of November, and will finish the first draft of this novel, come hell or high water. It will take a lot of revising and additions to the plot to make it worthy of public eyes, but one day I’ll get around to it.
As soon as the first draft is done, I’ll be going back to the genres I’m more comfortable in ie suspense thrillers, murder mysteries, horror, and paranormal.
The next book I plan to work on is from a fan-fiction series I wrote as a teenager. It originally included my favourite rock stars as vampires, witches, and gypsies, set in Old World Britain. I plan to keep the main plot, but reinvent the characters.
The Unedited Excerpt
Unfortunately, that’s not the book I’m working on, now. Instead, I went way outside my usual domain to write science fiction. It’s been good so far, though I struggle through the technicalities, and bringing life to an AI.
Also, it’s really hard for me to write a book without killing people. It was Chapter 20 before I finally had the exquisite pleasure of murdering a character, albeit a minor one. If you’ve read my short stories, then you should not be surprised by this statement.
In any case, here is an unedited excerpt from my #NaNoWriMo project: House Arrest. This is from Chapter 3. I’m currently working on Chapter 23.
It was Cara who had first stumbled upon the petit manoir for sale.
Max had taken an instant dislike to it, the second she jumped out of the car, arms spread in a voila gesture, excitement lighting up her face. They had spent the first year of their marriage living at the labs, until her insistence on a need for privacy had compelled them to move into a flat nearby.
Now, with a second baby on the way, she had pointed out the obvious: a two-bedroom house was no longer large enough for their family. While he could agree with that, did she really need five, plus a master suite on a third floor?
“I’ll be fine with whatever you choose,” he had told her, more to get out of house-hunting than because he had actually meant it. And that day, he felt she had punished him sufficiently for failing to show an interest in something that was obviously important to her. To fight with her over her choice, while she was high-strung on hormones, would have been salt in the wound.
So, he had climbed out of the car, kissed her on the cheek, assured her she had made a lovely choice, and walked in with her. By the time he walked out, he finally meant the words. It was the AI that had sealed the deal for him, and the large glass wall at the back of the house, overlooking a small cherub continuously pouring water from his bottomless bowl into a large pool.
After Cara passed away, he had upgraded the smart home’s AI to Johanna. Johanna had not only been programmed with Cara’s voice and accent, but also with her personality quirks. It had helped him cope, had helped the children cope, with the heavy loss that had settled over them like a thick blanket of darkness.
“We’re here,” Max told Ben, disconnecting him from the Bluetooth.
“I can’t see,” Ben lamented. “Can you hold the phone up?” he asked. “I want to see.”
Max did as he asked, turning the phone to landscape mode, and very slowly moving the phone from the left to the right of the house.
“It’s beautiful,” Ben decided. “Is this my new home, Max?”
“That depends. Do you still trust me?”
“Yes, yes, I trust you!” He sounded excited. “I can manage a house,” he insisted. “I haven’t seen Chloe, since she was fourteen.”
“She’s not fourteen anymore,” Max lamented. And the way she keeps her distance, you might think she’s not my daughter, either.
“Good day, Max,” Johanna greeted him inside, opening the door and shutting it behind him, as he hung his lab coat on the rack. There were voices inside the kitchen. No doubt, Jenny, his second-born, had started supper.
The thunder of paws on the hardwood floors told him a certain someone wasn’t about to wait for him to make it to the kitchen. Donut skidded around the corner, narrowly missed slamming into the wall, and pounced on his master.
“The kids need to learn responsibility,” Cara had insisted, though at the time, Chloe had been an only child. “A dog will teach them.”
Max hadn’t been a fan of dogs, but when Chloe had gazed up at him with her big blue eyes, a little German Shepherd in her arms, he couldn’t say no. Just like the house, Donut had grown on Max. He was a part of the family now. He could no longer envision them without him.
As was his custom, Donut tailed Max all the way into the kitchen.
Otto, his youngest, ran to him first. “Dad! You’re home!”
“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” Max asked, bending to give him a hug.
“Shouldn’t you have been home by 5?” Otto quipped.
Max smiled. He had his mother’s sharp wit, and equally sharp tongue. “Yes, sir,” he admitted. “I just got a little held up at work today. It’s been a tough day.”
He was about to thank Jenny for starting the dinner, but it was Chloe’s cerulean stare that arrested him from behind the stove. Max had forgotten how much his two daughters resembled each other – how much they resembled their mother. Jenny had her mother’s brown eyes, and Chloe was a few shades darker than her sister, but in every other way, the two were almost identical.
“Chloe, I didn’t know you were here.”
She was about to reply, when Jenny wandered into the room, her eyes glued to her phone. She hugged her father, pecked him on the cheek, and then climbed onto one of the bar stools by the island counter.
“I have an announcement best made in person,” Chloe told him.
Max immediately envisioned the worst. Was she pregnant? Had she finally seen the sense in his offer? Was she going back to college? Cara would have turned in her grave to know that Chloe had dropped out.
“I’ve seen enough of technology to know it’s dangerous,” she had told him. “I want no part in it.” And that had been the end of her degree in programming. She had moved into communal living with a group of artists, known for nothing better than throwing rave parties in the woods. “I’m an artist now, Dad,” she had insisted. “Maybe one day you’ll understand.”
It had been two years, and that day had not come.
“Has Otto eaten already?”
“I made him a sandwich when he got home,” Jenny answered, with her eyes still glued to her phone.
Max wished she would tear her eyes away from it more often. The more she looked at it, the more she frowned. The more she frowned, the less she resembled her mother, and the more she began to take on his haggard appearance.
“Dad!” Otto was already pleading. “It’s Thursday. I only have one more day until the weekend, and after that it’s summer break. I can stay up for another hour.”
“No, you cannot,” he said, picking up his 8-year-old son and throwing him over his shoulder. He then walked into the large living area with the L-shaped couch, beanie bags, panoramic TV, and the steps up to the second floor.
Otto continued to argue with him all the way, but eventually admitted defeat when Max opened the door and set him down before his bunk bed. The bottom bunk was his work desk, currently littered with a model of a pirate ship he had spent the past few weeks putting together.
Max ducked under the top bed, while his son scrambled up the ladder, and took a look at his work. Otto had already finished the lower half of the pirate ship, but still needed to fit the forecastle, gun deck, quarter deck, gallery, and his Captain.
“I’m almost done,” Otto told him in German.
“I can see that. You’re doing a great job.”
He beamed. “Thanks, Dad.”
Cara had been adamant that the kids should grow up to be trilingual adults, and Max had been only too happy to agree. Cara herself didn’t speak a word of German, and there were times when he missed conversing in his native language. Thanks to her, he now had three people at home who filled that need.
Max ducked out from under the bed, and climbed a few steps up the ladder.
“Pretty cool that Chloe stopped by, isn’t it?” Otto asked him. “We hardly ever see her anymore. Is it going to be like that when Jenny goes to college?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
Otto seemed to consider that for a moment. “I’m pretty sure I would come home every weekend to see you, Dad.”
Max smiled. “I’m pretty sure you would, too.”
Otto was darker than his sisters, with hazel eyes, and unruly, spiralled curls that shot up from his head in all directions, defying most efforts to contain it in a ponytail. Only Jenny could ever achieve that miracle. Yet, no one ever mistook Otto for someone else’s son. There was an uncanny resemblance they shared that could not be disguised by race.
“Copy and paste,” Cara used to tease.
“Will you be home early enough to help me finish the ship, tomorrow?” Otto asked.
“Yes,” Max assured him. “I’ll be home at 5PM.”
Otto rolled over, pulled his bear from under his blanket, and held him close. “You said that today, and yesterday, Dad.” He yawned. “But I still believe you. I know you’ll try.”
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