I didn’t make it to 50,000 words this month nor did anyone in my NaNoWriMo MOOC. I don’t feel badly about this because I do have 13,000 words, or more than half of the opening act of my novel. The project is a sequel to Love Comes Later, which was released in paperback last month. Never a dull moment around here.
What happens now? I get people to read. Because so many of my books are deeply rooted in culture, and increasingly cultures that are not my own, I need a special kind of beta reader: a cultural “expert.” I have that word in quotes because this expert doesn’t necessarily have a PhD or publish in a particular area. Rather they are cultural expert informants: they are the characters I am writing about in their real lives.
That means this week I have sent my first 7 chapters into the hands of female Qatari university students because the main character of the sequel is Luluwa, a twentysomething fashion major who notices a strange man lurking around her family compound.
I’m biting my fingers until I hear back from my three teams of beta readers. But that’s what makes writing so exciting: you engage test readers to tell you what you got right and what you can improve on.
Stay tuned! In the meantime, if you haven’t read the original, get on it. Once the jinni shows up in the sequel, it will write itself!
The saying goes: “If not me, then who? And if not now, then when?”
That’s how I feel about the month of November. There’s a lot going on in my life and I bet yours as well. Grants, grading, and novel writing. And that’s only at work, not counting the children, the husband, the friends, etc. etc. etc.
I’ve not been to bed before 2 a.m. in quite a while. Mid October to be exact during our last vacation.
Why? Why do this to myself? To write a scene like this: the moment at the heart of the first part of my novel, when the stranger who has been appearing to Luluwa, the main character, reveals himself.
What do you think – are the sleep less nights worth it?
NaNoWriMo 2013: Work in Progress, somewhere in Chapter 8
Luluwa sobbed, her eyes alighting on the photo of her sister. She had never felt alone with Fatima was alive; she always had someone to listen and give her counsel, someone patient, kind, loving, maternal, everything their mother was not. Her shoulders shook with the force of her fatigue. “Come back, Fatoom,” she said, her voice breaking. “Come back.”
“She can’t,” a man’s deep voice answered. “She can’t.”
Luluwa raised her face, meeting the eyes of the man she had seen in the courtyard. He was sitting on the bed beside her. She sat up in a rush, scrambling away from him, in her haste falling off the edge of the bed. This is a dream, a dream, a dream, she thought, clutching the edge of the bedspread. Wake up!
A head of curly black hair peered over the edge after her. The eyes, the irises not red but amber, peered over at her.
“How did you get in here?” She whispered.
“Same way you did,” he said. He smiled and the whiteness of his teeth blinded her. “Well, I walked through the door.”
She followed his gaze to the closed door. “If anyone finds out you’re here,” she said.
“Like that man in the kitchen who was yelling at you?” The stranger’s eyes turned dark, smoldering.
She could smell something burning, like chicken left in the oven too long. “Abdulla will be furious,” she said. She sat up, hoping this was the moment in the dream that he would dissipate. Luluwa willed herself to wake up in a pile of sweaty sheets.
“I’ll go if you want me to,” he said.
“Yes, yes, go.” She stood pulling him up with her from the edge of her bed. The instant she touched his skin she gasped. The heat emanating from his arm scorched the inside of her palm as though she had grabbed a pan too quickly from the oven. She fell back against the wall, cradling her right hand.
“Sorry,” he said. He hovered over her.
The feeling of heat drew closer and she averted her face, the warmth causing a flush to spread across her cheeks.
“I’m doing it again,” he muttered. “Sorry. You can’t come that close to me yet. I have to learn to control it.”
“How?” She asked. “How are you doing that?”
He gave her a small smile. “I’m not like you,” he said.
“If Abdulla calls the police, they’ll find out an Indian was in my room,” she said. “All hell will break loose. They’ll deport you.”
He laughed. The sound wasn’t musical but she couldn’t say she had ever heard anything like it.
“If they try to remove me before I want to go,” the skin around his eyes crinkled. She realized he was older than she had thought at first glance. “ Yes, as you have said, hell will break loose.”
Another rush of heat, warmth trailing up her arms, causing all the fine hair to stand at attention, the back of her neck growing sweaty. She felt drowsy, which didn’t make any sense, because wasn’t she already dreaming? He hovered over her again, lips close to her neck.
“Are you a vampire?” She breathed.
He laughed, again a sound warm yet eerie, drawing her further outside herself so she felt as though she were hearing her own voice from a spot on the ceiling.
“Nothing so modern or western as all that,” he said. Or did she hear him think it? Luluwa was having a hard time figuring out where his arm ended and hers began.
“I’m a jinn,” he said.
“What’s your name?” She asked, entranced by the rings of fire that had appeared in his pupils.
“You can not speak it in any of your human tongues,” he said or more like sighed, a whisper into her mind. “But it sounds like Javed.”
She shuddered, her body overwhelmed by the heat of him, sweat beading across her forehead.
“You came to punish me?”
His laugh echoed in her head, reverberating in her ears.
“No, my darling,” Javed said, his breath caressing her skin like a touch. “I came to save your grandfather. And I fell in love with you by mistake.”
She fell into him, her knees soft, her palms stinging at the direct contact with the skin of his chest. She couldn’t draw away, though the heat was increasing, the feeling now like a thousand stinging nettles.
“Careful,” he said, pulling away her hands, the touch of each of his fingertips singeing her wrists. “Don’t get to close to me.”
“Or you’ll burn me?” She lay back on the bed, like a doll, her limbs devoid of her will.
“No,” he said, hovering over her, his eyes now glowing flames. “If we’re not careful I will possess you. And then we’ll have real problems.”
Sitting at my keyboard, wondering if I should start on the day’s count for NaNoWriMo. Last night, around this time, while cleaning up my hard drive, I stumbled across the 2012 NaNo folder. Yes, being the nerd-overachiever that I am, I clicked, to see how I compared with myself 2012.
Turns out, I’m on par with that self of last year; on November 19th, 2012 I had 10,000 words. Compared the lofty standards of NaNo I was woefully behind. And I did finish about a week behind that year. The novel I hoped to release by Christmas was out on December 20th.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking, what was going on in 2011? The amazing thing about technology is I can tell you. Without spells or wishing wells or time machines.
That manuscript, which became the novel Saving Peace, had 28,000 words on November 19th. Also planned for Christmas but it wasn’t released until January 8, 2012.
I could mix in a few stories about our two children, how the first one came late and the second one early but I have to get back to my word count.
I am woefully behind on my sequel to Love Comes Later, that unlike the other NaNoWriMo projects before her, has no release date.
Like a good mother (or writer) I won’t give up on my baby.