Monday, May 12, 2014
The Other White Meat ... uh, serial story
(The serial story hit a wall again, so here's another excerpt of the other one with Ewan in it. Chloe, out of work journalist and would-be romance writer, is coming to grips with the biggest drawback to pantsing. And then there's a knock at the door ...)
# # #
Aramilla drew back, but only for an instant. She’d expected to see Haroun, her chaperone, at the door. Instead it was Pietro. Her heart leapt, remembering their dance.
Just as quickly, it plummeted again. Krasski didn’t know. No one must know the vampire lord’s intended bride had lost her heart to another. A common soldier in the war between humans and the undead.
“Go away,” she ordered him in a shaky voice. “I … I am indisposed. I—why am I talking like this? Nobody talks like this.”
“Never mind.” Aramilla tossed back her flaming mane like a challenge. She’d stopped being a whiny weakling several pages ago. She met Pietro eye to eye. “What do you want?”
His smirk could be taken as insult, but his eyes betrayed his amusement. He held out his hand to her. “You’ve been cooped up in this lovely cage of a room too long. Come with me. Let me show you my world.”
# # #
Chloe read back over what she’d just written. Then she read it again. Her fingers rubbed the upper corner of the page while she toyed with the notion of just tearing the whole thing up and starting over. “Dammit,” she muttered at the scrawl of ink before her. “I hate being a pantser.”
Pantsing had served her well enough last night. She’d come home from her semi-date with Dale and Ewan and written in a white heat for three hours. Leonid Krasski’s entire backstory had poured out of her—how he had found and lost his wife, his plans for Aramilla, even why he trusted Haroun, when everyone else knew the bastard was plotting to take Krasski’s empire and Aramilla both. Chloe had enjoyed the sleep of the happily exhausted. Her dreams were full of dancing vampires, and a cowboy’s brown-and-gold eyes. Last night she had loved pantsing.
That was last night. This was today. She’d awakened with the dawn, got her morning cup of caffeine (it really wasn’t fair to call it coffee, not with all the sugar she dumped in it), hopped back into bed and gone straight to work. She thought she had her characters down solid. Now, hours later, skimming back over her last several paragraphs, she prayed she didn’t have a double fistful of shit on her hands.
The problem—the disaster-in-the-making, to be honest—was Aramilla herself. Up until last night, Chloe’s FMC had been a nebulous no-brain with a tendency to let herself be helplessly buffeted by the capricious twists of the plot. Last night had changed all that. The woman who had danced unafraid with the intimidating Sergei would never let Fate or vampires or anyone else push her around. She had a brain and a backbone. She’d fight back. Nobody with that much red hair would stand for being a victim.
Chloe took a long gulp of her coffee. It slid down her throat like tepid, bitter slime. She made a face at the dregs in her cup. While she’d been writing up a storm, her trusty caffeine had gone flat on her. So, it appeared, had her prose.
Maybe it’s hunger, she thought with a stab of hope. Other than the coffee, the only sustenance she’d bothered with this morning had been a double slice of toast smeared with raspberry jam. “Carbs,” she said aloud. She needed to carb load. She focused on that and not on the daunting prospect of having to rewrite her lead character, and therefore the whole book, from page 1.
God must be a pantser, Chloe decided. That sure would explain a lot about the world.
She flipped the notebook shut, and almost at once registered the urgent stab from her bladder she’d ignored while caught up in her work. Pit stop time. She kicked off the covers and dove off the bed for the bathroom. Definitely time to go back on a solid-food diet.
She was just wrapping up when her doorbell chimed. This was followed by impatient pounding.
Several streams dried up at once—saliva, blood flow, urine. “Who the hell?” she said. Nobody knew she’d taken this apartment. It was the second floor of a two-story Victorian on a quiet, oak-shaded side street two blocks from the town’s center square. Her downstairs neighbor worked nights. She thought someone might be renting the attic loft; every now and again she heard footfalls up there, but she’d never seen anybody. Her landlady lived across town and preferred to handle business by phone. Chloe knew she’d been quiet and respectful of her neighbors and had paid her rent on time, at least for this month. So, to reiterate, who the hell?
The pounding went on, unabated.
“Just a minute. Just a minute!” Chloe leaped up from the toilet. She yanked her pajama bottoms up just far enough to cover the danger zones while she stumbled across her living room to the door. She and respectability arrived simultaneously. Skipping the peephole precaution, she flung the door open. “What the hell do you—oh.”
Dale Hancock, Stetson in hand, stood in her doorway. Just behind him, Ewan Carter beamed at her. Whatever he saw on her face quickly extinguished the beam. Belatedly, he tugged off his hat.
“Uh, hi.” Dale seemed fascinated by the number of little flowers that made up the pattern on her jammies. “We, um, thought we’d stop by, make sure you got home okay.”
“We kind of thought you’d be dressed by now,” Ewan added. A flash of his beam reappeared. Dale shot his heel at Ewan’s ankle. Ewan yelped. So much for the beam.
“I’m fine,” Chloe said. Like Dale, she couldn’t look away, only she was staring at his eyes. Those eyes, deep and dark as a mine and lit with flecks of gold, had haunted the bulk of her dreams. Let’s not forget the hands, she thought distantly, recalling the torrid “dance” between Pietro and Aramilla that had followed the scene in the ballroom. Not to mention Pietro’s lengthy and decidedly not dead—
She hopped back from the door. “Would you like to come in?”
“We wouldn’t want to put you out,” Dale started.
“Sure we would.” Ewan sidled past Dale and slipped into the apartment. He headed straight for the kitchen. “I smell muffins. Any left?”
“You shouldn’t’ve done that,” Dale murmured. “He’ll clear out your fridge in nothing flat.”
“Let him try. There’s not much left in it.” Her well of words dried up. So did his. They stood in awkward silence on either side of the threshold. Dale made no move to enter. Maybe he can’t, the thought struck her. Don’t vampires have to be invited into a private dwelling? Her heart did a double thump. But I did just invite him in, didn’t I?
Only then did she realize his stare was fixated hard on her chest. Her breasts stood at full attention, her nipples just as hard as his stare and brushing the cotton fabric. Thoughts of Pietro and his nimble hands elbowed all her common sense aside.
“Found ‘em.” Ewan emerged from the kitchen with half a corn muffin in his hand and the rest in his mouth. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you another half-dozen at the bakery. You gotta try their apple walnut. Why are you still in the hall?” he added to Dale.
Dale didn’t answer, but he did switch his iron stare from Chloe’s pajama top to his partner. Bereft of his attention, her breasts drooped again.
“Well,” Ewan said, “since Dale isn’t about to come in, guess we’d better go out. How about we buy you breakfast? Or maybe it’d be more like lunch by now.”
Without Dale’s eyes and her nipples distracting her, Chloe’s reporter’s mind finally burst through the fog. “How did you know where to find me? I never told you I was living here. I haven’t told anybody.”
“Small town.” Ewan nipped a bit of muffin. “Dale here’s related to a gal who works in the local real estate office. Wasn’t hard to locate the newbie in town.”
“I’m going to get my security deposit back. That’s not very secure of them.”
“G’wan. Lucy knows Dale and I are harmless. You should be worried about him up there.” He jerked his finger at the ceiling. “He’s a—”
“Night owl,” Dale broke in. “Gets pissy if you’re noisy during the day. Y’know, lunch sounds like a good idea. Want to tag along?”
“Sure.” No writer ever turned down free food. “Just give me a minute to get dressed.”
“Take your time.” Ewan chewed on the muffin and remained rooted to her living room floor. Dale uttered an unmistakable growl. He strode into the apartment, grabbed Ewan’s arm, and yanked him into the tiny hall. He slammed the door before Chloe had a chance to.
He’d been able to enter her apartment. That answered the vampire question. Or not, because she’d issued an invitation. A second later Chloe dismissed the whole silly notion. Dale Hancock wasn’t a vampire. He was a nice guy who couldn’t dance and was about to buy her food. The idea of a meal spread from her brain to her empty stomach, which sent marching orders to her legs. Chloe scurried back to the bathroom.