I Won NaNoWriMo Now Where Is My Book?

Anyone who writes 50k words within the 30-day time period (i.e. the already hectic month of November) is eligible to “win” NaNoWriMo. The site requires you to validate your novel by copying and pasting everything you’ve written into a magical box.

It’s okay. Once your novel’s validated the site forgets whatever it saw, so nobody’s stealing your ideas. Besides, there are no original ideas. I mentioned (the highlighted, glossy parts of) an idea to a couple of friends in front of someone else who said, “Oh! So it’s JUST like Shirley Jackson’s THE LOTTERY?” Um, no, totally NOT like that. Kudos that she knew Shirley Jackson was the author, but I digress.

According to an array of reputable sources, including Writer’s Digest, a novel in the genre of general literary fiction is somewhere between 85,000 and 100,000 words. Depending on your genre and intended audience though, your novel might be slightly longer or much shorter.

If you just finished NaNoWriMo for the first time, then you might be thinking, “But I wrote 50,000 words!” So you did. Good job! And now it’s time to write the rest of the book.

While writing my current NaNoWriMo winner, a cozy mystery, ONE SQUASHED VICTORY, the characters revealed the ending scene, how the book will wrap up, and the plot for books two and three. But I still have about 27,000 words to go before I can say the first draft of the novel is really done.

Even after I write those words, there’s still a lot to go as outlined in “Revisions, Bloody Revisions,” a Midnight Ink blog post by Tracy Weber. Some authors the book, send it to the publisher, and from there it’s on your shelf or e-reader. Tracy uses a 14-step process. Mine is at least 14. (Does she mention drinking copious amounts of wine and coffee while crying on the dog’s shoulder because it’s 3:30 A.M. and everyone else is asleep?)

So there you have it! While finishing up this book, HAUNTED WOMEN OF THE APPALACHIANS (my NaNoWriMo “win” for both 2013 and 2014) is on the verge of dropping into the hands of my benelovent beta readers. It’s only slightly less terrifying as the day I put my sons on the school bus for the first time. Wish me luck!

Do you have any questions for me? Any comments on this topic? I’d love to discuss them with you in the comments section below!

Don’t You Forget about Me – A Short yet Poignant Dramatic Story

This is my first attempt at the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. The story had to be less than 1,000 words with the following conditions:

Genre – Drama
Location – Copy shop
Random Item – Bottle of maple syrup

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments!
Don’t You Forget about Me

Bess Sanderson put her full weight into opening the door leading into the copy shop and huffed her way inside. “Hello? Hello!” She trudged to the counter, the handles of her black vinyl purse draped over her forearm. In one hand she clutched a school photograph and with the other she reached out to ring a tarnished silver bell. When no employee appeared, she rang the bell again, and then six more times.
A disheveled-looking young man emerged from an office behind the counter, crumbs stuck to a spot of maple syrup soiling his slightly askew, narrow necktie. The fashion accessory leaned toward a name badge bearing the name Ian in capital letters.
“Hello there.” Ian smiled and slid the bell down the counter until it was just out of her reach.
“Young man, I need your help,” Bess blurted. “The police won’t help. I tried the post office but they sent me here.”
“I see.”
“It’s my son Elvin,” she continued. “He’s gone missing. I need something to put all over town.” Bess laid the photo face-up on the laminate countertop and used her fingertips to push it toward the young man.
“This is a recent photo?” Ian asked, studying the sepia-toned image.
Bess nodded. “Yes. He’s seventeen on his last birthday. He’s a few inches taller than his daddy. About five-seven. His daddy, that is. Not him. He’s taller.”
Ian dutifully took notes on a piece of scrap copy paper, “mhmm’ing” and “ahh’ing” where appropriate. Finally he lay the pen down. “I can design something and have the copies for you in about fifteen to twenty minutes, if you don’t mind waiting?”
“Hmph. Don’t have much choice do I?” Bess leaned on her cane and dragged her feet across the floor to one of two chairs against the opposite wall. Settling into the one closer to the window, she hugged her purse to her chest and sighed.
***
Ian ducked into the office and snapped up his mobile phone from the top of the desk, sending last week’s work orders to the floor in a flurry of pinks and yellows. He accessed the device’s contacts screen and scrolled through the names until he reached his sister’s. With more force than was necessary, he punched her profile picture with the tip of his index finger.
When the receptionist answered, he asked for Moira by name and wasn’t surprised at being placed on hold. The strains of a classic rock ballad, slowed down and played by a full orchestra, droned in his ear. He recognized the Simple Minds song from a 1980s movie about a group of teenage misfits spending a Saturday in detention together.
As he waited, Ian collected the rest of his breakfast into its original cardboard container and dropped it into the trash. The French toast sticks, even with the individual serving of butter-flavored maple syrup, was a far cry from his grandma’s recipe, but it wasn’t bad by fast food standards.
“Moira Davenport. Can I help you buy or sell a home today?”
“Hey, Moira. I need you to come down to the shop. She’s back.” Ian winced at his sister’s dramatic sigh. “Please, I’ve taken her back home the last three times. It’s your turn. I can’t keep closing the shop to do this.”
“No Ian,” his sister replied. “I told you, she’s your problem.”
“She’s our grandmother. Have a little compassion.” As Ian presented his argument to his sister, the words tumbled from his mouth, leaving behind an empty cavern of awkward silence.
Moira finally responded, her voice low and strained. “Look Ian, I can’t have compassion for someone who spent her whole life physically and verbally abusing her children. You saw how she treated dad the whole time he was fighting cancer. All that money she has, and she couldn’t give one dime to help get him into that clinical trial.”
“Moira, c’mon. She isn’t like that now. Since dad died she’s really gone downhill,” Ian reasoned.
“No. Just because she conveniently forgets to be a total bitch doesn’t mean I get to forget she was one, and you shouldn’t either. I’m not leaving work early. The kids have little league tonight and it’s my turn for snacks. I have responsibilities, and you do, too. Sign the damned papers so she can go live at Haven Care and we can move on with our lives. Everything’s ready. You just need to make the call.”
Tears sprang to Ian’s eyes. Even if Moira hadn’t ended the call, he couldn’t argue with the facts. Their grandmother’s dementia was taking over their lives, and they weren’t equipped to handle it. Because they had no other family to rely on, they were running out of options. With great reluctance he picked up the phone, dialed the senior living center and arranged for someone to collect his grandmother.
Ian fixed two cups of coffee and carried them into the front lobby. He took the empty seat and passed a cup to his grandmother. “Here you go Mrs. Sanderson. Your copies will be ready soon.”
“Why thank you.” His grandmother sipped the coffee and closed her eyes. When she opened them, she smiled. “Mmm, it’s perfect. My grandson makes me coffee just like this.”
“I’m glad you like it. Can I get you anything else?”
“No, no thank you.” Bess smiled, her expression vacant. She asked, “Do you have a grandmother?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Ian gulped, but the lump of guilt stayed lodged in his throat.
“She sure is lucky to have a grandson like you.” She patted his hand, politely ignoring the spot of maple syrup on his tie.
“Oh, I have your picture.” Eager to change the topic, Ian pulled his father’s photo from his shirt pocket and offered it to his grandmother.
Bess frowned. “I’m sorry. This isn’t mine. Perhaps you’ve confused me with someone else.”
Ian returned the image to his pocket. “Oh.” It was all he could think to say.

Birds of a Feather – A Short and Sinister Romance Story

This is my first attempt at the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. The story had to be less than 1,000 words with the following conditions:

  • Genre – Romance
  • Location – Aquarium
  • Random Item – Jalapeno Pepper

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your comments!

“Birds of a Feather”

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at quarter-past twelve, Archibald Monroe took a seat inside an auditorium at the aquarium next door to the bank where he worked as a loan officer. The Birds of the Rainforest show was his favorite exhibit and in the past seven weeks, he hadn’t missed a single performance. The show began promptly at 12:40 p.m. but arriving early gave him time to scarf down his lunch – a cardboard container of jalapeno poppers from a food truck parked outside the glass and steel structure.

Archibald preferred the exotic birds over the mysterious sea creatures within the multi-story building, but thought none of them compared to their handler, Deirdre Carlin. Her pouty lips, dark lashes, and mane of glossy, auburn hair captivated him, but he was most impressed with her well-toned physique. She looked the picture of health.

Unlike Vera. Vera also worked at the bank next door. Every day at lunchtime, she and Archibald shared a rickety table in the breakroom. He asked her out over its faded, laminate top. When Vera shared the news of her cancer diagnosis while sitting across from him at the same table, he half-heartedly promised to be there for her.

But that was before he drove her home from her first chemo treatment and she puked all over the inside of his Mercedes. The next day he sent her a dozen roses and a copy of the receipt for the auto detailing service responsible for cleaning the mess.

Archibald avoided the breakroom afterward, which was how he wound up visiting the bird show at the aquarium. He since went out of his way to avoid Vera at work and hadn’t returned to his former lunch venue. Not even when the bank manager mass-emailed the employees to congratulate Vera on the news of her cancer going into remission. He couldn’t risk getting emotionally close to someone that sick.

Right on time in the auditorium, the lights dimmed over the audience and spotlights illuminated the stage. Archibald devoured the last of the deep fried jalapenos, stuffed the container into the pocket of his jacket, and licked his fingers clean.

Twenty-five minutes later, after the meager midday crowd dispersed, Archibald practically bounced to the front of the stage. “Hi Deirdre! Are we still on for tonight?”

“Of course! I wouldn’t miss it.” Deirdre’s smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and her bottom lip quivered. “I look forward to something to make me smile after…well.” During the show she mentioned the passing of Bryan, her scarlet macaw.

“Yeah. Sorry to hear it. You think you’ll find a replacement soon?”

She glanced up and held his gaze. “Oh yes, quite soon. I have my eye on one which should work out nicely.”

“Great! Still want me to pick you up at your apartment?” Archibald’s smile broadened, dimpling his cheeks when she confirmed her address so he could plug it into his phone.

***

“Losing someone you love is hard.” Archibald covered Deirdre’s hand with his. They sat at the kitchen table in her apartment, empty plates all that remained of the dinner she prepared – steak, baked potatoes, and his favorites, jalapeno poppers.

She gave a deep sigh. “A macaw can live as long as a human. He should have lasted another forty years at least. Did you know they mate for life?”

“I had no idea.” Archibald leaned forward, enchanted by his hostess.

“They do.” She nodded, pulling her hand away. “And they aren’t likely to leave their mate for someone younger and sexier.”

“Did someone leave you?” When Deirdre didn’t answer, he pressed, “What common excuse for a human would leave you? I hope you don’t mind my saying, but you’re the prettiest woman I ever met. I’d certainly never leave you.”

A flush crept into Deirdre’s cheeks and she stood, clearing the dishes away from dinner. Archibald sat back and watched, his eyes taking in her form as she moved.

“So what’s your story?” She asked while stacking the dishwasher. “Surely you weren’t always single.”

“I was dating someone from work, but it didn’t work out.”

“What happened?”

Archibald hesitated only slightly. “She needed time to focus on herself.”

“How very selfish! She must not have been the one.”

“No, no I don’t think she was. You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard, finding the right person to spend the rest of your life with.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” she agreed, turning on the dishwasher. Then she turned to her guest. “Would you join me in the living room? I have a new bottle of cognac waiting for a special occasion like tonight, if you’re up for a nightcap.” He readily agreed, her cologne luring him into the next room like a hummingbird to a fragrant flower.

***

A pounding headache woke Archibald from a deep sleep. He blinked his eyes open and looked around. What is this place? He thought. Jungle? Forest? Where am I?

Just then, Deirdre’s face came into focus. Archibald tried to speak, but his voice came out in a squawk. He looked down at the feathers covering his body and screamed.

“Shh, it’s okay precious Archie.” Her fingers delicately ran over his head and down his back, causing him to shiver. She carefully removed him from the enclosure. “You’re right. It’s difficult to find the one person to share the rest of your life. When you kept appearing in the audience, I knew you were the one for me.”

Archibald stared at his date from the previous night, too shocked to speak, much less squawk.

“And now you’ve replaced Bryan, so we can spend the rest of our lives together! I love you so much, Archie. We’re going to be so happy together.”

Deirdre stepped onto the stage and waved at her audience. “Welcome to Birds of the Rainforest! Today I’d like to introduce you all to Archie, a blue and gold macaw.”