NaNoWriMo 2016

I haven’t updated at all until now about my progress for National Novel Writing Month 2016, mainly because it went so smoothly. I reached 50,000 words on November 13. A record for me, by the way.
I don’t know why the words came so freely this year, other than I had a solid idea in September and fleshed it out (notes, not an outline) in October. Some things that had happened in my past had long been waiting for a way to express themselves, and it turns out the idea for this year’s NaNoWriMo was the perfect medium.

Some Characters Return

In 2012 I wrote a piece of flash fiction, which was well-received on a site where I posted short fiction in response to a photo prompt. The flash fiction piece was about a young woman hiding the body of a baby in the wall of a half-finished house. Almost every commenter said, “You have to tell the story of how that happened.”

In November 2012, I did, and the result was Supreme Madness of the Carnival Season, a literary novel about a successful author (so, not autobiographical) and her husband who find a baby’s bones in the wall of a room they’re renovating. The author, who’d suffered a stillbirth some years before, wants closure for the abandoned baby and sets out to find who put the baby in the wall.

The novel’s working title was “Amontillado,” from Edgar Allan Poe’s story, “The Cask of Amontillado,” which involved burying someone alive in a wall. As the story moves back and forth in time between roughly present day and 1944, the author has to face reality about her life and her marriage, but the twist comes when she discovers whose baby ended up in her wall.

I intended for it to be a standalone, but as someone who beta-read the MS pointed out, I left something hanging.

For NaNoWriMo 2016, I brought some of the characters from 2012 back, put them solidly in 2016–more or less–and had a new secret dumped in the lap of the author, another mystery for her to become involved in.

This one is more of a “real” mystery–I think–though like Supreme Madness the death in question occurs some years before, it’s pretty obvious who did it, but there’s a twist at the end.

This year’s working title is, Mournful Influence of the Unperceived Shadow, taken from a line in another Poe story, “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Yeah, I have a Poe thing. In fact, he watches over me as I write.


Edgar Allan Poe, watching from his perch atop my bookcase. 🙂

Hitting a Brick Wall (No Pun Intended)

I’ve met (exceeded) the word count goal for NaNoWriMo this year (60,521 words) and have been working on winding up the story. I’m down to the last few chapters and scenes, and for some reason I’ve put off drafting them. I know where I want the story to go, I know the ending, but I’m stalled at getting there and didn’t know why.
The recent turning back of the clocks means I’m waking at 0630 (really 0730 to my brain), a time just before dawn when there’s some light in the sky–enough to wake me–but it’s still quiet before neighbors get moving off to work. The last few days I’ve used that time to lie in bed, run through the story thus far, and think about how to get to the ending.
This morning I realized I was putting off writing the ending because I abhor stories where the resolution is that the female protagonist is in danger and has to be rescued by the male protagonist. This isn’t a new thing. I’ve always hated it.
When I write my spy stories, my female protagonist never hesitates to face danger because, hello, she’s trained to deal with it. This year’s NaNoWriMo story features a strong woman, but she’s an author and former English professor–not a kick-ass heroine. The male protagonist is a former Army Ranger turned private investigator.
Ideal set-up for the dreaded, female-in-trouble, man-comes-to-the-rescue ending, right?
That, I realized, is why I hesitated–no, couldn’t summon the wherewithal to write it. I would be going against my authentic self as a writer. And with that epiphany, came the ideal solution to the dilemma.
What is it, you ask?
Wait and see.
Yes, I’m evil that way.
P.S. If you want to read some excerpts, go to my Facebook Author Page or to my Instagram account, paduncan1.

NaNoWriMo 2015 – Day Nine

I know you’ve heard the expression “phoning it in,” meaning you’re so detached or uncaring you do a superficial job at work or relationships or, in my case, writing. My NaNoWriMo word counts were good over the weekend, but all I could think about was a snarky email from someone with whom I serve on a volunteer board. I’d sent an email without his “permission,” and I found my psyche back in freaking middle school. So, my writing probably reflects that attitude, but that’s the whole point of NaNoWriMo: You write now, in the moment, and you refine it later.

Then, bless Facebook and its endless streams of memes, because one resonated with me today:

The only people who are mad at you for speaking the truth are those people who are living a lie.

Keep speaking the truth.

You see such things sprinkled all over Facebook, and, mostly, they make you want to gag, but this? This brightened my day. I wish I’d seen it on Friday when I got my ass chewed as if I were an adolescent.

And today I was much happier with what I wrote, all 3,365 words of it. Oh, it still needs badass editing, but at least it flowed easily and seamlessly. I wasn’t forcing it past negative feelings put in my head by someone living a lie.

Today’s word count brings my total to 27,502, well past the halfway mark on Day Nine. It’s kinda downhill from here, in a good way.

We’ve had angst and tension and multiple does of sappiness, so today we have our female protagonist being a bit of a badass herself in this excerpt:

“I’d like my desk,” Mai said.

Roisin scurried from behind it, and Mai thought she might like being in charge once she turned twenty-five if so few words could get people scurrying. Mai seated herself at her desk as O’Saidh came in with the tea tray, which she settled on a butler’s table near the desk.

“Shall I be mother?” she asked.

“Leave it for now and sit. Both of you,” Mai said.

The two Irishwomen exchanged a glance but seated themselves in the matching chairs before the desk.

“How was your stay with Sir Travers?” O’Saidh asked.

“Why would you think I was staying with him?” Mai asked.

“Well, the lovely dinner, and then you were gone. I just assumed…”

“Will there be an announcement soon?” Roisin asked.

“An announcement of bloody what? My engagement to someone I’ve been seeing for six bloody weeks?” Mai said.

“You’ve known him a lot longer than…”

“And hated his guts. If you’d delved deeper on him, and I know you looked, you’d have found he’s practically tapped out, keeping up appearances, and looking for a wife who could bail him and his father out of their shady deals,” Mai said.

Roisin’s spine stiffened to the point Mai thought she heard a crack. “Actually, I did know that, but his family is a good one…” Roisin said.

Mai laughed, and Roisin frowned.

“What?” Roisin asked.

“Nothing. Watch the news in a few days. We’re not engaged. We were never going to be engaged. I’m twenty years old, and I’m not interested in providing heirs yet. Enough about Travers Brent. Now, on to why I’ve called you here.” She shifted her gaze to Finnoula O’Saidh. “I’m going to ask you a question, and I expect a truthful answer. If you’re not truthful, I’ll be able to tell, and in the mood I’m in right now, you do not want to lie to me. Understand?”

“Of course, but…”

“A few days before I was supposed to go to Paris for my birthday, did Alexei Bukharin call here?” Mai asked.

Finnoula and Roisin again looked at each other. “Finnoula!” Mai said. “Don’t look at her. I asked the question. You answer me.”

Both women blinked, though Mai could see a hint of a satisfied smile on Roisin’s lips.

“Did he?” Mai asked.

Finnoula clenched her own fingers until her knuckles were white. “Yes, he did. You weren’t here.”

“Did he leave a message for me?”

“Yes, he did.”

“Why didn’t I get it?”

Finnoula didn’t break eye contact, and that made Mai’s anger ease somewhat. “Because I threw it away,” Finnoula said.

Mai looked at Roisin. “That came from you, I suppose,” Mai said.

“No,” Roisin replied. “It was Finnoula’s idea, but I supported it.”

“Why was it any of your business?” Mai asked.

“Because you are our business, in every iteration of that word,” Roisin said. “Your mother would want someone to keep you from making such a mistake.”

“Why? What’s wrong with Alexei Bukharin? He’s not Irish?”

“He’s shady, for one thing,” Roisin said. “I know that when I see it, and he’s much older than you. He’s Russian, for God’s sake.”

“Actually, he’s an American,” Mai said.

“Well, worse.”

“Here’s something every O’Saidh needs to understand,” Mai said. “I’m my own person. I decide whom I sleep with, and if it turns out to be a mistake, it’s mine to make and learn from. Inform the rest of your family that where I’m concerned, they need to remember you bloody well work for me. It’s not the other way around, and, by God, if this interference in my life doesn’t stop, when I turn twenty-five and claim my CEO birthright, I’ll find some way to unravel the O’Saidhs from the Maitlands, if it costs me every penny I have. Am I clear?”

Roisin didn’t hide her admiration at all. Well, damn, Mai thought, if throwing a hissy fit would have accomplished this earlier, what was I waiting for?

“Of course,” Roisin said, echoed by Finnoula.

“Finnoula,” Mai said, “you’re going back to Ireland with Roisin. Roisin, send someone else to be my personal assistant. If this one doesn’t work out to my satisfaction, I’ll hire someone from a service.”

“That won’t be necessary, Mai. Someone suitable is available,” Roisin said.

“Actually, why don’t you send me several possibilities, along with resumes. I’ll decide,” Mai said.

Roisin smiled even wider. Bloody hell, the woman was proud of her.