If it’s November, it must be National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and if it’s NaNoWriMo, I must be participating. Of course, I am!
This is my eighth NaNoWriMo. My first one was in 2008, when I still had a full-time job. A full-time job, which sent me on travel for thirteen of the thirty days in November. Somehow, I managed to write just over 50,000 words in seventeen days. It was my first attempt at linked short stories, and it pretty much sucked.
But I was thrilled with the NaNoWriMo experience. I’ve “won” all previous seven years, and several manuscripts, which I’ve edited and revised to the point I feel no qualms sending them out to agents, are, well, waiting for me to send them to agents.
This year, I’m mixing it up a bit. I’m taking my usual spy characters and changing the back story of how they met, and, well, I guess you’d call what I’m writing a romance because I’m focusing on the relationship and not the missions. So we’ll see if I can be a romantic without my jadedness coming through. I’m calling it a “romantic thriller” or a “thrilling romance.” We’ll see.
So, word count for today: 2,903. A good start, which included a great write-in with members of Shenandoah Valley Wrimos at a local Panera.
Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote today, and bear in mind, it’s not edited:
The kitchen was a complete surprise, well-equipped and well-stocked. He accumulated the makings for a florentine omelette and set to work. Mai perched on the counter and watched him, asking questions about why he did something a certain way.
“You don’t cook at all?” he asked.
“Why? Is that a deal-breaker?” she replied.
“No. I don’t mind cooking, but what if O’Saidh were to quit?” he asked.
“The O’Saidhs can’t quit. Family business and all that. I personally think how the families are intertwined is some big, dark secret that I’ll only get told when I become chair of the board when I’m twenty-five. And I make a decent bangers and mash.”
“That’s it?” he asked, though he gave her a sidelong smile.
“I’m hell with a French press,” she replied, grinning at him. “Wait until you taste my coffee.”
“Bangers and mash and coffee?”
“Well, I’m certain I can follow a cookbook,” she said. “Enough about my lack of upbringing. So, you don’t cook breakfast for all your bed partners?”
The question was not particularly out of left field, as it were, though he wanted to answer it in a way she wouldn’t think him a total libertine.
“Only when I want to prolong the experience,” he said, and studied her face carefully.
“Good answer,” she said.
“English may be my second language, but I’ve invested in understanding the nuances. Breakfast is ready.”
She slipped down from the counter and handed him the plates before she went to the French press and strained the coffee. She poured two cups of dark, foamy liquid and brought them to the eat-in table in the kitchen. She paused before she set them down.
“Unless you’d rather dine formally in the dining room, Mr. Bukharin,” she said, her tone teasing.
“I left my tux in the hotel room,” he said. “This is fine.”
He had divided the omelettes between the two plates, and he waited for Mai to sit. The table seated four, and instead of sitting across from her, he sat to her right. She poured a generous amount of cream into her coffee, and again he opted only for sugar. The coffee was dark and strong, not at all bitter, and he liked it a great deal.
“You, indeed, are hell with a French press. I confess despite having quite the gourmet kitchen at my apartment, I have a rudimentary coffee maker,” Alexei said. “How’s the omelette?”
“Absolutely incredible.” She leaned toward him. “Excellent in bed, and he cooks. Why is there no Mrs. Bukharin?”
“Not the best kind of work to try to maintain a family life,” he murmured. He wondered if he should tell her about his son. “I, well, I was married in the Soviet Union,” he said.
“You had to leave her behind when you defected?” Mai asked, nothing except polite curiosity behind it, he could hear.
“Not exactly,” he replied.
The memory, which he could never fully repress, returned. The bodies covered in sheets lined up on the sidewalk outside the smoldering factory, the policeman flipping back a sheet to reveal a body covered in blistered flesh, parts of her hands, feet, and face cooked off the bone.
“Let’s talk about something else, shall we?” he said.
Again, her hand came to rest on his arm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to touch on something you’d rather not think about, but, for my own conscience and the fact I don’t really want to go to confession along with O’Saidh, just assure me you’re not married.”
“I’m not,” he said. “She died before I defected.”
Her hand came up and brushed his cheek, her fingers lingering for a moment, as her thumb traced his chin. Then, she went back to her breakfast. That unraveling of something inside his chest happened again, and he didn’t want to think what it meant.