Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Long Time Ago, In An Office Far, Far Away...

Actually, our old house is only a few hundred yards away, but it certainly seems like a long time ago that I sat down to write McWife in that draughty, upstairs, back room.

I’m going to take a few days and a few posts to take you through the story of McWife (which is by no means over!). It’s a convoluted tale, but I think it's interesting enough to make a good read, and instructional enough – although possibly in the ‘terrible warning’ rather than the ‘good example’ category – to be of use to people. With each new post, I’m going to try and find an excerpt you’ll enjoy, and that I’ll love to post.

But let’s get back to that small, creaky old office.

I remember I had an old chair that I’d rescued from a skip – it was bright, lime green – and every time I moved it there was a distinct danger of one of the wheels falling through the loose floorboard. The room wasn’t that bad, though, as long as you didn’t put your hand on that section of the damp wall... unless you wanted to spend the next hour picking horsehair plaster out of the keyboard. One Christmas, my in-laws gave me an all-in-one fleece jumpsuit. I used to type wearing gloves.

But it was summer 2001, and blessedly warm, when I first sat down to get that story out of my head and onto paper. Unusually for me, I started with the beginning. But that was the last scene I wrote in order. It was a scene that had been playing like a piece of silent movie in my head for months, and since I’d been dabbling with member online reads at eHarlequin.com’s community boards, I thought, “there could be a book here...”

I had a day job (I still do!) and would write whatever snippets or scenes occurred to me, as and when I could. That summer I was working at a satellite office nearby, in the converted granary of an old country estate – the house was long gone, but the stable block was there, and the barn, and the piggeries falling into ruin behind a discreet veil of nettles and brambles – and I used to take my laptop outside at lunchtime and sit on the grass, typing madly. There were bats roosting in the toilets, and down in the hidden ice-house by the car park, and on summer evenings the bright, brittle dragonflies danced round the yellow flag irises at the edges of the lake.

I would write in notebooks by the river, and on the back of receipts on the train, and in evenings in that draughty office, with the cats vying for pride of place on my lap.

I still write in lots of different places, and still find I’m most productive outside, but that first book was unique in one special way. I’ll never write another like it.

How was it unique? Because I was convinced I wouldn’t finish it.

Up to that point, I had a terrible track record for finishing things, for following through on things I wanted to do for me. I’d never stuck to a diet or exercise regime, my spinning wheel, though beloved, was gathering dust in a corner. There were abandoned embroidery projects, and half-finished home-improvement schemes all around me.

So I said to myself, “I’m having fun.” I thought, “I don’t have to finish this, it’s just for me,” and I simply enjoyed myself.

Oh, and how I enjoyed myself! I've put one of my absolute favourite snippets below to show how much...

I enjoyed myself so much it came as something of a surprise to find I almost had a finished novel on my hands. I started editing the front end, pulled together a query, and submitted it to the Fabulous Leslie Wainger at Silhouette on the 12th December 2001.

Now, I love Christmas, so what with the all the preparations for the festive season, and trying to finish the MS, I almost forgot about the query. After all, everyone knew you had to wait ages to hear back from a publisher, right?

On December 31st, just as the old year was in its last gasp, and the New Year was drawing its first breath, I received a request for the full MS.

I may have screamed. I know Husband complained I'd damaged his hearing.

Next Post - Revisions, Rejection and the 'Nearly There' conspiracy.


Excerpt

Jenny slowly lifted the clutch, releasing the hand brake. At first the wheels gripped, and she felt the car sway on its springs as it began to bite into the turf and climb back up the bank. Kier started to heave at the pole, trying to rock the Rover back and up. Tentatively, she stroked the gas pedal, just feeding a little more through to those slowly turning wheels.

Without warning, they started to slip, not spinning wildly, because the four wheel drive and diff lock wouldn’t let them, but sliding inexorably forward towards McAllister. At the same moment, he shifted his position, trying to get more leverage. Then suddenly his feet went out from under him, and he disappeared from view under the front of the vehicle.

Jenny yanked the hand brake on again. Sickeningly, the SUV lurched and slid forward for a moment, splashing back into the beck, but then it held.

For a split second she sat there, heart hammering in her ears, imagining Kier crushed under the wheels, under the bumper. Seeing in her mind’s eye his blood swirling away downstream, turning the beck red, then pink. Her vision blurred, and she saw last night’s dream again, smelled for a moment hot blood and hot metal.

Not again, please.

She bit hard on her lip, until the she tasted blood and the pain spiked through her head, galvanizing her to action.

Jenny snatched at the door handle, threw herself out the car. She slipped and stumbled on the wet ground, falling to her knees, trying to scramble to her feet again just as Kier reared up out of the beck, water pouring off him.

She stopped where she was, on her hands and knees, absorbing how wonderfully alive he looked, sweeping the water out of his eyes and gasping for air. His clothes were plastered to him, marking the play of lean muscles over his ribs as his chest heaved.

The sun briefly slid out from behind the scudding clouds as he ran his hands over his head, shaking the water from his hair. The golden light of early day caught and shimmered in the droplets as they flew and she was transfixed by it, achingly grateful she didn’t have to watch another man die today.

......


Jenny felt that little shivery change of balance in the vehicle around her. That was the only warning. Then, ponderously, without a hint of effort, the mechanical beast pulled herself up the bank and on to level ground.

Jenny braked gently, and stopped.

She looked out through the windscreen, across a distance of ten yards or more, at Kier in the beck, bowed over, not even looking at her.

Her breath caught.

Time slowed, eddying and swirling around her like the water around McAllister’s legs. Driven into two streams for a fraction of a second.

Jenny was aware of the feel of the steering wheel under her palm, the rumble of the engine happily ticking over, of the track stretching away in the rear view mirror. Of Kier, out of breath and momentarily out of action, there in the stream in front of her.

Her captor in front of her. Her freedom ticking over under her hands.

She hung suspended, not breathing, hardly aware of her heart beating, and watched as McAllister straightened, and lifted his head to meet her gaze.

Her mind was screaming at her. Move! Get out of here! But she stayed just where she was.

If she had been able to read the expression in those eyes, if there had been a hint of threat there, of command, she might have fled. But there wasn’t. He just looked tired. Almost defeated.

Jenny reached out her hand and turned the key in the ignition.

And Kier surged out of the beck in a rush of water, closing the distance between them. He wrenched open the door.

In the silence as the engine died, she could hear the rush and gurgle of the water passing. Hear the ragged tear of Kier’s breathing.

Staring straight ahead, she wondered why she hadn’t run.

He stepped in to her, lifting his hand toward hers. “Get out of the car, Jenny.”

She swivelled on the seat, ignoring his hand, and pushed herself off it, expecting him to back up as she did. Mistake. Too late she realised he wasn’t moving, and she was already sliding off the seat, her legs tangling with his, her body sliding down his. He didn’t move a muscle, except to brace his hands on the door frame and cage her in.

Afraid to tip her head up, she stared ahead of her. At rivulets of water trickling over the skin of his neck. Running together, pausing in little beads, gathering in the hollow at the base of his throat, then disappearing into the few hairs that showed at the opening of his shirt.

He was soaked, and where they touched; thigh, chest, her shoulder to his arm, the water was soaking into her clothes. It should have chilled her, but the heat was rising off him and enveloping her, liquefying her bones. Making her want to lean into him and take more of it.

The moment lengthened, drew on, until it was stretched thin and tight.

She saw his the muscles of his throat contort as he swallowed, following the smooth movement of his adam’s apple with a fascinated eye.

“Nice driving,” he said, stepping away.

4 Comments:

At 8:56 pm, Blogger Jessica Raymond said...

OH yum...

 
At 2:18 pm, Blogger Sela Carsen said...

My heart actually sped up. Stunning.

 
At 5:49 pm, Blogger Gabriele C. said...

No wonder that one eventually snared a publisher. Very nice snippet.

 
At 3:44 am, Blogger Danica/Dream said...

I have ALWAYS loved this story. I am so glad you sold it and didn't give up. (And I'm so sorry I haven't been over to congratulate you. I feel like a total jerk and terrible friend. I haven't been anywhere lately, and I'm sorry for that).

 

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