WIP: The Devil Makes Three

Just to prove I am still writing things – a snippet from the work-in-progress, a Southern gothic horror novel. Who likes a haunted house? The “he” is Jacob McGuinness, a rich and famous Irish horror writer. The place is an abandoned plantation house that’s been abandoned since a mass murder took place there in the 1840s. Jacob, poor soul, is thinking that he might buy it.

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Half a mile in, the drive curved sharply to the left and broke free of the taller trees. He stopped the car and took his first long look at Rosewood.

The house stood at the top of a hill with what must once have been a magnificent sloping lawn laid out before it. Now it was covered with the same kind of scrub pine and underbrush as lined the driveway, but the effect was still quite striking, like something out of a movie. The house itself seemed remarkably intact. From his vantage point at the foot of the hill, he could almost believe it was still habitable. The white paint was worn gray, but the lines of the structure seemed solid.

It was much bigger than he had expected, a Greek revival rival for the massive country estates rich Englishmen had been building in Ireland at about the same time Rosewood was built, the early Victorian age. With its massive columns and round east wing, it looked more like a public building than a family home, some great parliament or temple more than a farmhouse. Looking up at it, he had to remind himself to breathe, and his heart was pounding. Imagine the labor that went into that, he thought. Slave labor, like the pyramids, no doubt. But he didn’t feel righteously indignant; he felt sad, almost angry. How dare anyone abandon such a beauty, whatever might have happened there? How could they have left her to die and disintegrate alone?

The drive forked at the top of the hill. The branch leading to the back of the house was completely overgrown, and a rusted farm gate hung on newer, shiny chains across it. The other branch looked fresher, as if the brush might have been cleared from it once or twice in the past decade. Jacob drove slowly around to the front of the house, the V8 engine in his rented beast rumbling like a dragon’s snore. He parked in front of the steps and got out.

The dry grass was as tall as his hips and brittle with autumn frost where it was shaded by the shadow of the house. Up close, Rosewood was no less grand but much more obviously deserted. There was no path worn through the grass, no footprints in the thick, mossy mud caked on the steps. He could have been the first human to approach the house in centuries—the first living thing, for that matter. The high grass and scrub should have been a haven for mice, rabbits, even quail, but he didn’t hear a sound or see a single stir of movement. The whole place was as dead still as an empty tomb.

So why was the front door standing open?

He stood at the foot of the steps, leaning forward to peer through the shadows. The clouds had thickened; it was as dim as twilight on the porch. “Hello?” he called. No answer. He was half an hour early for his appointment with the real estate agent, and there were no other cars parked out front. Anyone inside would have had to either fight the gate and brush to pull around back yet leave no sign of their passing or else hike in from the road on foot.

He walked up two steps, his own work boots leaving clearly discernible footprints in the mud. “Is someone here?” Between fluted Corinthian columns, the open doorway yawned at him in silence.

He crossed the porch with purpose, boots clomping. The thick wooden door was massive, at least eight feet tall. It seemed to be intact, and the lock was unbroken. No one had forced it open. He touched it lightly, and it swung back further, hinges squealing like a cheesy sound effect.

He stepped into the vast empty cavern of the front hall. Directly in front of him was a grand, curving staircase, and more columns were set in perfectly straight lines leading up to it. Floor to ceiling windows lined the front wall. They were shuttered from the outside, but gray light filtered in between the slats. Turning to look at them, he didn’t see a single pane of glass that was broken or even cracked; every window was perfectly intact. Each was hung with great velvet drapes, sagging and blackened with age and dirt, but also still intact and still tied open as if to let in the sun. The floor was bare wood and strewn with dead, crumbled leaves over a thick coating of dust—again, no footprints.

Double doors stood open to his left as he turned back to the staircase. In the shadows beyond, he could make out a long dining table still covered with a cloth. Moving closer, he saw a massive sideboard still set with an elaborate silver service, black with tarnish but otherwise untouched. Who would just abandon such a thing? Looking at it, he realized his mood had turned. A feeling of dark oppression seemed to have gathered around him like the clouds outside, pressing down on his psyche like a moldering pillow might be pressed over his face.

He had felt this way before. On their honeymoon, he and Gloria had gone to Spain. Touring the dungeon of a castle where heretics had been walled up to die, he had lost himself completely, sobbing uncontrollably and fighting off anyone who tried to touch him. Poor Gloria had been covered in scratches and bruises by the time she’d managed to drag him back outside into the light.

What could have possessed him to come here now?

He had decided to go back outside and wait for the real estate agent when he noticed the footprints on the stairs. Someone had tracked some dark liquid on the pale wood, something dark brown, almost black, like paint . . . like blood. Moving closer, he kicked away a thicker scattering of rotten leaf matter and saw the prints led away from a larger, darker stain on the floor of the hall just at the foot of the steps . . . blood soaked deep into the wood.

“Bollocks,” he muttered aloud, but the hair on the back of his neck prickled, and his flesh turned cold. Surely it was a fake, a prank, something staged for a camera or to frighten some dupe in the recent past. No real bloodstain could have lasted so long. But then if the story he had read of Rosewood’s abandonment was true, who would have been left to clean it up?

Without stopping to think any further, he followed the prints up the staircase, trying not to notice how perfectly his boots matched them as he walked. As he climbed, the prints faded out from full shoe shapes to smears to mere smudges at the top that led a few steps down the hall to the right. The man with bloody feet had climbed the stairs for a reason.

His heart was aching in his chest, and tears stung his eyes. Wallpaper hung in tattered ribbons on the walls, and the floor was scarred in two straight lines down the middle where a carpet runner had been ripped up. The smell of dust and rot was closing in on him and making him feel sick. He imagined he could smell the blood; surely he must be imagining it.

He followed the smudges to the right then around the corner; he seemed to know exactly where he was going. He turned a glass doorknob at the end of the hall and went into a small room at the front of the house. The drapes in here were silk, some pastel color gone gray, and the shutters were open. Going to the window, he looked out over the second floor gallery and down on his own rental car parked below. It looked so solidly vulgar, so real, it made him smile. Gloria had been right. He’d been crazy to come here, mad to think of buying such a place. When the real estate agent showed up, he’d tell her he had changed his mind. Just as he was deciding, he heard the sound of motors coming closer, two cars coming up the drive. It was fate.

He was just about to turn away from the window and head back downstairs when he smelled something else. When he smelled her. Over the damp, ancient rot of the dim, cold house, he smelled the cleanest white cotton being warmed by the summer sun. He smelled soap and the lightest hint of lavender, and clean, sweet skin underneath. He felt the warmth of a woman’s presence, soft hands touching his back. He braced his hands on the window frame, holding himself up. His knees had gone weak. The feeling of oppression dissolved like a mist in morning sunlight, and wild joy seized his heart. There was life in Rosewood, not just death. He wasn’t mad to come here. He belonged here. She had called him to come.

End of snippet

My Brain Wants To Be In A Hair Band

tennant&piperSo I just made a quick outline for a story I’m about to start about a warrior angel, and I just realized it reads like the song list on a heavy metal hair band album from around 1986:

Demon Hedgehog Rocks the Suburbs

Rock Paper Lizard Scissors Spock

Capture at Gilly’s

Motel 6

Learning to Fly

Learning to Fall

Give It Up

Redemption

And yeah, that’s my inspiration image at the top.  xoxo Lucy

So was it worth it? A NaNoWriMo Wrap Up

Vamp Notebook 1So I didn’t make it.  I wasn’t even close.  The goal was to write a complete 50,000 word novel in a month.  Accepting for the moment that 50,000 words is in fact a complete novel, I still didn’t do it – I got about 30,000, and I think I’m about halfway done.

But here’s the thing.  I’ve got 30,000 words that I didn’t have on Halloween, half a book I hadn’t even conceived when the leaves started turning.  For me, that’s HUGE.  It usually takes me nine months to a year to write a first draft of a novel, most of my novels being about 100,000 words long, and that’s not including notes and research and what little bit of outlining I do.  With this one, in a single month, I’ve gotten it well and truly started, gotten the exposition out of the way, gotten the characters far enough into their relationships with one another that they almost talk for themselves, gotten the spring of the plot wound up tight, to borrow a metaphor from Jean Anhouilh, ready to unwind.  And it’s only taken me a month.  And I would never have done that if I hadn’t been trying to do a NaNo book, busting my way past my own doubts and second guessing and natural laziness to just get those words written down and counted.  Every time I wanted to quit or felt like I just didn’t have the time or energy to write, I would think of my word count and keep going – just a couple hundred, then I’ll go to bed.  Get up an hour early, and I can bash out my first thousand before I leave for work.

And now I know it works.  Now I know I can do it.  I’m so deep into this book, I can’t abandon it; I gotta see how it comes out.  And if I can do the first half in November, I know there’s no good reason why I can’t get the rest done by the end of the year.  So watch this space – I’ll keep you posted.  I might not be able to write a book in a month, but maybe I’ll do it in two. 220026

 

And now for something much more fun – a WIP snippet!

Here’s an little unpolished gem from the story I’m typing up for a vampire erotica anthology – nothing too explicit, just a little sexy.  The name of the story is “The Artist.” 

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            Francesca twisted the chopsticks into her hair then jabbed the points into the knot to hold it in place.  Her eyes never left the still-damp painting on the easel before her, and any observer could have seen from her face she wasn’t pleased.  “That is a gimpy leg.”  She took a long slurp from the icy bottle of Jaegermeister she had just taken out of the freezer to help her burn the midnight oil.  “If I’m supposed to be so fucking talented, how did I paint that gimpy leg?”  She set the bottle aside and reached for her palette, poking the remaining gob of fleshtone there for viable moisture with a delicate, blue-nailed finger.  “Yech . . .”

            “Actually,” a voice said from behind her.  “I don’t think it looks so bad.”

            “Yeah, well, you’re crazy,” she retorted, unalarmed.  She picked up a brush and wiped it clean before attacking the offending limb with a fresh coat of background – another lost cause.  “And a liar.  Didn’t you say your dick would rot off if you didn’t get to see Heavyside with everybody else?”

            The laugh was friendly, even affectionate, but the sound made her scalp start to tingle – that was definitely not her guy.  “He didn’t actually say that, did he?”  She turned around to find the dark-haired stranger with the scary bedroom eyes standing right behind her.  “What is it I’m supposed to say?”  It was the guy from the window before – correction, the gorgeous guy from the window before, the one who had given her the willies in a thousand different interesting ways.  Only now he was smiling.  “Pardon me, miss, but you seem to have mistaken me for someone else.”

            “So I noticed.”  She backed way, suddenly painfully aware that she wasn’t wearing anything but underpants, socks, and a sweater.  “Who the hell are you?  How did you get in here?”

            “Don’t ask.”  He held a palm up in front of her face in a theatrical gesture that should have been ridiculous but somehow just wasn’t.  “I’m tired, Francesca.”  His voice slid around her like a slowly unfurling skein of silky spider’s web, making every word and every gesture seem not only reasonable but beautiful, a consummation devoutly to be wished.  His hand . . . the artist in her was fascinated by it, the perfect curve of the muscle below his thumb sweeping up to the shadowed center where every line crossed, fingers curled in ever so slightly, pale and delicate but strong, with a powerful man’s wrist, too thick for her to reach around with her fingers, should she ever work up the guts to try.  So that’s what a hand looks like, she thought with perfect clarity, but nothing else seemed quite real.  “Don’t ask me to explain.”  He reached slowly for the chopsticks in her hair and slid them out.  “Don’t send me away.”

            “Don’t worry.”  She laughed, and all her questions and anxieties fell away as easily as her long red hair fell down her back.  Slut, she scolded herself with a merry inner laugh as he took a step closer and her breath caught short. 

            His hands came down on her shoulders, holding her body fast a few scant inches from his own.  His face came closer and closer, those eyes crashing over her like a velvet-dark wave, drowning her perceptions until the lids suddenly fell shut, an angel’s lashes on his cheek, brushing her cheek as his lips brushed over her own, so cold and soft.  “What are you?” she asked as the cold, soft mouth slipped up over her cheek, her eyelids, thrilling flicker of tongue as he tasted her skin.

            “Do you care?”  He caught her nose ring between his teeth and gave it a gentle tug before he backed away and looked into her eyes.

            Why aren’t I afraid? she thought, reaching out slowly to lay her hands against his chest.  She needed to prove to herself he was solid, that he was really there.  I should be really, really afraid.  “Yeah.”  She looked up at his face again.  “I think I really do.”

            He kissed her mouth again, his hand closing gently over her wrist and guiding her hand to the opening at the throat of his shirt, sliding it inside.  His flesh was like living stone, the muscle cool to the touch with no heartbeat underneath.  She gasped against his mouth, flinching, and he broke the kiss.  “Don’t be scared.”  His eyes were serious . . . and changing . . the black was fading – no, dissolving – no, burning up in a green-gold glow.  “Are you sure you want to know?” 

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End of snippet – stay tuned for the rest!