Just Let It Burn

Diesel, darling. It burns slower and hotter. Gas goes up in a flash and hardly makes an impact.

 …said one of my closest friends and fellow writer, RC Murphy, when describing how I should feed the flames of my writing prowess. I’m not exactly sure where I’m supposed to find this metaphorical accelerant and I’m definitely not sure if I should pour it all over my carefully laid plans. One thing I am sure of is that R.C. Murphy is a damn genius and there hasn’t been a single piece of advice that she’s extended to me that hasn’t made me a better writer or person in the process. That being said, I took her advice to heart this past week and the results have been utterly amazing. Not finished book amazing, but more like powering through five chapters in as many days amazing.

From the prospective  of a new-ish writer and someone who has yet to finish a single novel, I can admit that it can be extremely disheartening to try and write a book, only to continue running into obstacles that prevent you from progressing, rather it be writers block or just plain ole laziness.

I have been working on my first novel, Bound, since Feb 2011 and I must say there have been times when I just wanted to close my Microsoft Word document, delete all my saved files and simply forget that I was ever foolish enough to think that I was talented enough to write my own novel. I mean, really, I legit deleted my entire manuscript, threw away all my notes and tried to forget that there was even two men in my head screaming to be heard. That turned out to be the best thing I could have done.

You see, my very first manuscript (all twenty something pages of it) was complete shit. Yeah, I can admit it. That thing was shit. And not just regular shit, but the kind of shit you have after a whole lot of Mexican food and sriracha. I had completely gone against everything I had been taught by my amazing writing group (shout out to R.C Murphy and Sandi Bischoff!) and almost destroyed an amazing tale of betrayal, love and redemption.

This is where I believe that bit about diesel and gasoline comes in.

You see, when I first began writing what would become Bound, I was going through Basic Military Training. I was sneaking to writer here and there on corners of napkins and in secret notebooks, but I wasn’t giving my boys the time and attention they need to share their story with me. In all honesty, I think my motivations to simply write a but to say I did was where I went wrong. I was, in essence, pouring gasoline on a fire and hoping it would burn forever, and what I got was a big explosion of shit.

After much internal debate, some guilt tripping and tough love from R.C Murphy and finally escaping BMT to get back to freedom, I decided to pick things up and give it another go with my boys. The right way. And what do ya know, those two little jokers got to jaw jacking like two Mean Girls at a debutante. That when the chapters just started basically writing themselves, the stories falling in line like good little duckies. I believe it was at this point that my writer’s mind figured out what worked for it (which accelerant, that it).

Long story short, we all write at our own pace and it is simply bad practice to judge you progress based on the progression of others. I made the mistake of trying to apply someone else’s methods to my own works and it blew up in my face, but thankfully I have a great circle of writers who are not afraid to tell me when something is shit or when I need to get my head out of my ass. Hopefully you all have that or will some day. In the meantime, find your accelerant, and let that bitch burn.

-QuamaineB

Late Night Phone Call.

Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz.

The female rolled her face into a well-used pillow, pulling the soft, white down alternative duvet over her head in hopes of drowning out the source of that obnoxious noise. It could be her annoying teammates playing a prank or her alarm malfunction. It could be a million and one things, but her half-sleep brain couldn’t be sure. The one thing she knew for certain was that anyone bothering to call her after eleven pm and before six am knew damned well not to expect an answer.

Not before she could shower and brush her teeth, and certainly not before First Cup. Anyone stupid enough to approach her before the sweetness of chamomile tea touched her lips invited serious scorn.

She rolled over with a sigh of relief, her room divinely silent once again.

“Thank Go-.“

Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz.

The phone. That goddamn cellular phone. The same goddamn phone she constantly reminded her handler she neither wanted nor needed. Telepathy made technological solutions like cell phones obsolete for people like her.

Throwing the covers off her head with a curse, the female snatched the infernal device off the nightstand, “This is Talat.”

“Layla, it’s Yaya.I need your help.”

Layla Talat shot up in the bed, the fear in the voice on the other end of the line snapping her to razor sharp alertness even as her heart constricted in unease. Not just from the fear that was almost tangible to Layla’s empathic senses, even though the phone, but because she and Atiya Talat had not spoken in nearly four years.

Ever since Layla’s younger sister began dating that cheating dog of a man.

“Yaya, slow down, take a breath,” Words spoken in a calm rooted in a well of serenity deep inside that required constant maintenance achieved through hours of mediation every morning. Today that pool of tranquility rippled, the storm of Atiya emotions an undeniable force. “What’s wrong? Has something happened to mom?”

She hated asking that, wished she hadn’t needed to, but worry was as a part of her as an arm or leg, and when it concerned her family, it was downright irrational.

She should have never left home, not with her siblings scattered to the winds, her mother left to pick up all the broken pieces left behind. Regret a lump in her throat, Layla forced herself to allow her sister to speak.

“No, mom is fine,” A hurried, almost impatient response. Unsurprising considering Atiya’s strained relationship with their mother. “It’s John-Paul.”

Layla’s fingers tightened on the small device in her hand, her lip curling even as she resisted the urge to hurl it across the room in frustration. Of course she’d called about that no good bastard. Why else would her little sister contact her after four years of the cold shoulder, of shutting out Layla’s every attempt to reconcile their differences? God forbid Atiya be an adult and actually address the real issues. Layla loved her sister but, for all her patience, the urge to choke her mother’s youngest child remained tempting.

Wanting the best for you baby sister wasn’t a crime. Being as stubborn as a mule just to avoid being wrong should be.

Layla kept her tone neutral, managed to keep the distaste she felt simply talking about the bastard from coloring her attitude. Atiya was no empath, but she possessed a degree of sensitivity, could hear the minutest shift in emotional nuances in the voices of others. “What has he done now?”

“It’s not his fault, it’s mine.”

Layla rolled her eyes as her sister did what she did best. No self-appreciating woman would ever make excuses for a man. Let alone a man who continually and blatantly stepped out on her multiple times. More importantly, no man worth claiming would allow his woman to take blame belonging solely to him. “Tell me.”

“I’m pregnant, khahar.”

The phone dropped unceremoniously from Layla’s hold. Sitting there in the tangle of white linens in only a t-shirt clearly meant for a man far larger than she, her long, ebony hair a wild mane, Layla stared blankly into space, her mind attempting to make sense of the declaration. Joy and love, anger and annoyance, a firestorm of emotions devastating the calm she’d managed to hold thus far.

God, she wanted to scream, to cry. It was a cruel irony that Atiya would receive the one thing Layla ever wanted and yet always denied.

“I’m happy for you, Yaya,” Empty, forced words as Layla returned the phone to her ear. And she was, truly. Jealous? Yes, positively, but happy nonetheless. If she couldn’t have children of her own, she would at least have a niece or nephew to spoil. “But what does that have to do with John-Paul?”

Silence from her sister, a thousand things going unspoken.

Here it comes, Layla thought bitterly. I was right, he screwed up again.

And wasn’t that absolutely fucked up? That she wanted to be right, to hope that John-Paul stupid ass finally showed Atiya the dog he really is? The betrayal would break Atiya’s tender heart, destroy her sweet innocence, but rather sooner than later. Before the child was born, before it was too late for Atiya to start over and still find love with a real man.

“John-Paul wants…” A sharp exhale, the sound of sniffling, of tears. “He doesn’t want the baby. He says he already has enough on his plate, that he can’t afford more children. Layla, he has a family.”

Fury an incandescent flame in her veins, Layla switched on the visual for the comm device and waited for Atiya to accept the request. The distressed face that appeared a moment later splashed winter cold water on her temper, a worried big sister left in its wake, helplessness a heavy weight on her chest.

“He’s a man, Yaya. A stupid fucking man.” Unforgiving truth swathed in a velvet soft tone, because, while Atiya put on a good front, she didn’t take reprimand, or any form of rejection, very well. And the next words she spoke came from a place of sorrow and regret, a place another woman once faced the same problem, though she’d been given no choice.

“What do you want, Atiya?” The question a courtesy no one extended to Layla in her younger years, one she would allow no one to take from her baby sister.

“I..I think..”

Layla cut her off harshly, her tone unforgiving even as her empathic instincts reached out, ached to soothe, to comfort. “No, the time for indecision has come and gone. You are pregnant by a dog that calls himself a man, and you need to do what is best for that child you are carrying.”

Atiya bit her lower lip, a nervous habit that’d carried from childhood. Good, Layla thought, her sister should be nervous. Motherhood wasn’t all smiles and giggles and baby’s first step. Sacrifice and more sacrifice- that was the cost of being parenthood. That experience evaded Layla, but Atiya stood on the cusp, needed to be ready.

Finally, she said, “I want to keep the baby, but I know it will be so hard.” A pause, contemplation heavy in the air between them. “Will you help me? I can’t do it alone.”

Layla released a heavy breath she hadn’t been aware of holding, soothing waters of calm washing over her mind, bubbles of joy in her veins at the prospect of seeing his baby sister again. “Yes,” Immeasurable excitement in that single word. “I will be there every step of the way, Atiya. I promise.”

Don’t Throw That Away!

Throw away ideas.

According to my ball busting, kickass editor and good friend Renee Murphy, there is no such thing. I usually disagree with her, just because that is what a goddess’ second does, but in this I’m inclined to agree.

Remember that saying, “Don’t be a sore winner?” Well, Renee is a sore winner and, as a result, I’m writing this post in response to her challenge. I am to pull a detail from my last manuscript (ironic, seeing as I haven’t even finished my first) that’ll work icc_red_pen_editn a sequel. Of course, I tried to slide out of it by reminding the Editor Goddess that I have no finished manuscript, but she knows me too well. I’m always thinking ahead and she knows it.

In my first run through of my book (we’ll call it Book 1, since I’m holding the actual title hostage) I found something intriguing within the first chapter. In a flashback sequence, there is a conversation between two characters, one named and one unknown. At the time I didn’t think it important, but four months and twenty-one chapters later, I received a pleasant surprise.

Turns out that unknown was someone I had previously “met” in a scene that I wrote months before and completely forgotten about. Imagine my surprise when he came back to let me in on a few nuggets of information and one huge secret that’ll have far reaching ramifications for the entire series.

Another example is the geis I have incorporate into the series mythology. The idea was originally given to me by the Editor Goddess herself when I consulted with her about a character named Augustine, the half-demon son of a witch.

In tradition Irish lore the geis is a form of magic that can be either a curse or a gift, of obligation or prohibition, depending on the individual placing it. In Augustine’s case it is a curse, manifesting physically as a band of stylized scrollwork around both his wrists that prevent him from harming humans. His counterpart, an incubus named Jourdan, also possesses a geis, though his are hereditary.

Originally, the geis was unique to Augustine alone, but after the discovery of what would come later in the series, I realized what my mind had been trying to tell me.

All of Jourdan’s kind possesses a geis, though theirs is of obligation, not prohibition. At first it didn’t seem like a huge discovery, until I continued plotting out my endgame for the series. It was then that I realized in simply being a sounding board for me, my Editor had given me the solution I’d been racking my brain about for months.

Long story short, nothing idea/detail is insignificant. Even if you feel like that person who served drinks at in the scene is just a bartender or if they’re really the guy that ends up shooting your main character in a back alley in the sequel later.

My advice? Write every single thing down. Make sticky notes. Pin up napkins with scribbled ideas on them. Your mind is a vast and imaginative thing, and you never know if what it’s churning out is a slam dunk or not, but why risk forgetting it?

-QuamaineB