NaNoWriMo 2015 – Day Seventeen

Back in 2008 when I decided to try this thing I’d read about, this National Novel Writing Month, where you write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days, I was still employed full time in a job which typically saw twelve- to fourteen-hour days, six or seven days a week. Still, at 1,667 words per day, I felt it was doable.

At the end of October 2008 I was assigned two trips which would encompass thirteen days out of the thirty. The 1,667 words per day became 2,941 per day, but, hey, I easily knocked 5,000 or 6,000 words for congressional white papers on a near daily basis. Still doable.

In seventeen days in November 2008 I wrote 50,000-plus words. Some days were 4,000- and 5,000-word days, but I did it.

In seventeen days in November 2015, I’ve written 50,106 words and won my eighth NaNoWriMo, but, hey, I’m going for ten. Two of those much-edited (very much-edited) NaNoWriMo novels are now being reviewed by a publisher, so worthwhile? Definitely. If you’ve been wondering if you should give it a try, do it. It’s fun, exasperating, challenging, frustrating, and just about any other positive or negative adjective you can think of.

Oh, and this year’s novel? Not finished yet. Thank goodness I have thirteen days left to clear up all these dangling plot threads. And because I wasn’t done with the angst, here’s a mind-bending excerpt. Remember, I mentioned it’s not done yet. 😉

Mai hadn’t abandoned her usual method of analysis. Her papers, maps, and transcripts were scattered about her office, and she walked among them, barefoot, sleeves of her blouse rolled up, pencils poked into her braid like pins in a cushion. Grace Lydell got to the doorway, then turned to Nelson.

“I can’t do this,” she mouthed.

Nelson moued his displeasure at her and walked around her to the open doorway. He tapped on the door.

Mai looked up, her smile bright. “Oh, dear, my boss and my boss’ boss. Whatever have I done?”

“Mai,” Nelson said. “Sit down.”

She frowned, and Nelson read her expression. She knew but she wanted to deny it.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Sit down,” he repeated.

“No, you tell me what it is,” she said.

Nelson sighed and took a deep breath. He found the news he was about to deliver as incredible as she would.

“It turns out the intell we got on that Nazi was a trap, a KGB trap,” Nelson said.

“You’re talking, but you’re not saying anything,” she said. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that he’s gone,” Nelson said.

“As in back to Russia?” she asked, though he read the disbelief. Much as he had when he’d heard the news, she was grasping for any straw within reach.

“No, kiddo,” he said. “Alexei’s…”

How could he put those two words together to tell her and himself what they’d both lost?

“Alexei’s dead,” he said.

“How?” she asked.

“Just accept that he is,” he replied.

“How?” she persisted.

“Fuck it, Mai. You know the KGB better than any of us do. How do you fucking think? They walked him into a cell in the basement of the Lubyanka and put a bullet in his head,” Nelson said.

If her desk hadn’t been behind her, she would have hit the floor on her ass. Grace finally found her gumption and went to Mai’s side, embracing her.

“I want to see,” Mai said.

Nelson shook with anger, not at her ultimately, but for the enemies he was no longer physically capable of fighting. “The KGB doesn’t send the bodies back to us,” he said. “They have ovens for that.”

“Nelson, Jesus Christ,” Grace said.

“She asked, Grace. She’s a big girl,” Nelson said.

“And you don’t have to be a fucking bastard about it,” Grace said.

At first he thought Mai was going to handle it like a trouper, but a sound filled the room, one he’d only heard once before and never wanted to again. For the British once he’d observed an IRA funeral, and the woman had made this same noise, a high-pitched, ululating wail.

Mai had sucked in a deep breath and keened for her lost love. When she had finished, her face eased then hardened into a mask he recognized all too well.

NaNoWriMo 2015 – Day Three

I’m building up a little cushion because I have to go out of town (again) this weekend, so 3,655 words today. That puts my three-day total at 9,828. Man, just seventy-eight from 10,000!

Our little romance was progressing so sweetly, I figured it was time to throw in a little angst. Here’s an excerpt from today’s work (unedited, of course):

Mai decided not to pass up the loo before the ride back to London, and when she emerged from the stall, she saw a British Airways flight attendant standing by the sinks. Mai gave her no heed and began to wash her hands; then, she sensed someone close. The flight attendant was now next to her, practically in her personal space. Mai straightened and pulled some paper towels free to dry her hands.

“Do I know you?” Mai asked, her eyes taking in the uniform and the name tag. Lots of piping, so a senior flight attendant, whose name was Pamela Higgins. Mai judged her to be mid-thirties.

“I thought I should warn you,” Higgins said, her accent the one trained into flight attendants who served first class passengers, one good enough to fool Americans or anyone else but easily recognized as affected by the English.

“Excuse me?” Mai said.

“The man you were with, Alex Burke,” Higgins said.

Alex Burke? No, wait, that’s his alias, Mai thought.

“I think you should know something about him,” Higgins said.

Mai sucked in a breath but caught her reflection in the mirror. She was betraying none of the sudden turmoil churning her guts.

“Like what?” Mai said, surprised at how calm and normal her voice sounded.

“I dated him for more than two years,” Higgins said.

Past tense, Mai noted. Dated.

“And when he’s done with you, you’re dropped like a bleeding hot potato,” Higgins said, bitterness leaching away some of the sophisticated accent. Her face had twisted a bit, but it softened. She gave a slight smile and said, “You’re so young. I never thought it was— I mean, I never realized it was because he wanted someone younger. My god, are you even twenty, honey?”

“None of your fecking business,” Mai said. “And that’s ‘Your Grace,’ not ‘honey.’” No, Mai, you’re not sounding so calm now, if you’re falling back on that bloody title to score points.

“I won’t apologize,” Higgins said. “You need to know he can talk a really, really good game, but he’s not relationship material. I found out the hard way, but there’s no need for you to.”

Mai tossed the towels, which she’d used so roughly they were now mostly tatters, into the trash can.

“Don’t you have a flight to catch, Ms. Higgins?” she said.

“I just got off one. Look, let me buy you a coffee and—”

“And what? We’ll compare notes? Not bleeding likely,” Mai said. She wanted to turn and run to her car, but for some reason she wanted the high ground. “You delivered your message. Run along,” she said.

All those centuries of class consciousness won out. Pamela Higgins almost curtsied before she left the loo, hauling her roller bag behind her.

Both arms braced on the sink, Mai took deep breaths. You knew this about him already, she told herself, why are you letting it get to you?

Because she hadn’t wanted it to be true, because she wanted to believe him when he’d asked for a chance to prove the rumors wrong.

“Silly git,” she murmured, garnering a frown from a woman who had stepped up to wash her hands.

By the time Mai reached valet parking and claimed her car, she’d already chalked the weekend up to a character-building experience. Nothing more.