by Kiersten Hallie Krum
Recently, I finished writing the first book in my Castle Haven Spies series. (Don’t judge; it’s only a working title.) Five years from the moment I joined RWA in 2008 with the set determination to become a published author to the time I sent the completed, polished manuscript out on submission. It was a long, involved con and I made a lot of mistakes in those five years, had a lot of delays, a lot of missed opportunities, a lot of life interfering, a lot of dark, depressed moments, a lot of stupid, bloody moves. But I didn’t stop and now I’m faced with a hurdle I haven’t had to leap in five years.
I’m writing a new book.
What writing process I have is cobbled around moments of brilliant epiphanies followed by days and weeks of “how the hell do I pull that off?” struggle. I’ve woken from a dream and spent hours pouring that story out on the page only to set it aside for years and I’ve stumbled home from a night out, scribbled incomprehensible lines down on a scrap piece of paper towel (once on the top of a pizza box) only to be able to make no sense of it in the morning. Every writer has stories like these, mad bursts of genius that must be recorded before the fickle Muse skips away laughing again. A true “pantser”, I am usually first struck by an idea for a specific scenario or conflict and like a junkie on a fast high, pour out the scenes in a writing exsanguination. The rest of the novel slowly comes to shape around those ideas layered in with characterization as people are harder for me to make real than turning points.
But not this time. This is something new: the first time I’m writing the second installment in a series. This time, it’s planned. This time I start with the characters sketched out and waiting to discover their immediate futures. I’ve new locations to be research in absentia (given that I’m not travelling to St. Petersburg any time soon), the bare bones of a plot, a basic idea of the internal journeys, and an overarching series story arc waiting to be navigated. It’s a personal Jenga tower of strategically balanced pieces that I’ll bungle in and out of place when one wrong move could collapse the entire project.
It’s freaking me the hell out.
Because this is no longer a whim, a dream, a some-day-I’ll-write-that-book good intention. This is serious shit. This is what it means to be a professional writer. This is travelling on faith that the first book, and indeed the series, will sell and I’m not wasting my time writing the second (and eventually, the third) book of a series that may never be good enough to publish, because I may never be good enough to publish. This is when every doubt, every fear, every workshop, every instruction, every do or don’t do rises up to jenga with my head. Too much cliche, too overdone, too unoriginal, too long, too short, too pat, too little, too much.
This is starting from scratch.
With a bang.
The wooden door to the Edinburgh club’s second-floor bedsit exploded back into the thin wall. Deidre MacPherson kissed the floor before she’d fully registered the intrusion. A naked man followed her down from the narrow bed. A very big, very naked man. He crouched over her, his wide hand pressing her into the planked floor so her bare breast mashed against the rough wood. There was one startled second of hesitation before noise engulfed the small room. Deidre screamed as shards splattered from the walls and covered her head while gunshots collided her past into her present with horrific repetition.
Pots of foundation and plastic slats of eyeshadow and blush peppered the air as bullets ripped the makeup stand to shreds. The man yanked the flimsy bed on its side and dragged it before them. Seconds later, the gunman shot up the mattress popping puffs of cotton into the air. There was too much fog in Deidre’s head to make sense of the chaos, like she’d drunk the worm and danced it too. Vague images from the night before filtered through. The sear of hot lights. The hard chair between her spread thighs. The soft itch of feathers on her shoulders. The large man in the front row fixated on her every move.
I remember him.
He’d stalked her through the club, breaking down the dressing room’s reinforced door as though it was tissue to prowl past a buffet of half-dressed dancers without acknowledgment. She’d led the way up the backstairs, breathless with arousal, absurdly glad to have left most of her clothes on the stage if only for speed’s sake. His belt was undone by the time they’d crossed the upstairs landing and he’d bent her over the bed and shoved deep inside before the door had closed behind them.
Oh yes. She remembered.
Two loud coughs erupted above her head followed by a heavy thud. Deidre glanced at the gun in her lover’s hands through the crook of her elbow. “Stay here,” he ordered and didn’t wait for her agreement before moving for the door. Disregarding the splinters surrounding her, Deidre rushed to put her back to the wall as he stepped over the dropped body and covered the distance in three steps. A second intruder burst across the threshold. Deflected, her lover’s gun went off aimlessly. The two men erupted into hand-to-hand combat so quick and vicious, Deidre could barely discern the motions. She scrambled for the broken bedside table and snatched her sgian dubh from its shattered drawer. The fight was fast and dirty and, in the end, no contest. Her lover dropped the second body to the floor, broken neck at an unnatural angle. Naked, panting, and with an erection that would make Dionysus himself green with envy, he took in Deidre’s armed and ready and equally naked form with a hot, battle-charged look that flooded her sex with moisture.
He took those three steps back to her, crowded her against the wall, and pinned her knife hand against it next to her head. The blade dropped to the floor as her legs spread to accommodate his hips. With barely a hitch for position, he was in her, banging her hard and fast and without finesse, making her scream and moan for the entire twenty seconds and six thrusts it took him to make her come. He bit the side of her breast. His free hand slipped between them to tease circles around her over-sensitized clit. Deidre struggled for balance and found it on his shoulders. Behind him, she saw the bodies of the men he’d killed, men who would’ve kill them, and spiralled up again. Clutching tight she rode him, rising up and down on his erection until the haze in her brain shattered clear from the most intense orgasm of her life. Her lover grasped each globe of her rear and pounded her against the wall as his orgasm burst into her body unhindered.
Eyes clenched shut, Deidre fought off reality, unable to deal with the last wild ten minutes much less the last ten hours. But the strange man who’d shared her bed, saved her life, and blown her mind with amazing sex had no such difficulty. He kissed her, hard and with declaration, the seal on a deal she hadn’t known they were negotiating.
“We’re in it now, Drea.”
Excerpt from THRILL ME ©2014 Kiersten Hallie Krum
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