5kFriday WIP Words

I’m trying to work my way up to writing 5,000 words every Friday. With my current work schedule, Fridays have become the writing days. I’ve never yet managed more than about 4,000 words in a single day, but I’m hoping with practice, I can exceed that and get to the 5,000-word mark.

As part of this, I thought it might be fun to give you a peek into what I’m writing every Friday. Right now, I’m hard at work on Incarnate, which is the first novel in my historical urban fantasy series, The Reapers. Here’s a sneak peek at the scene I’m working on today.

“So,” he asked, “should my sergeant expect to chase you around London for the remainder of the day or can he bring a newspaper and catch up on his reading?”

The opportunity at misdirection was too good to let pass. “Oh, I should think he would be quite safe in bringing a newspaper. I expect to spend the remainder of the day communing with the spirit world in preparation for your séance.”

As she spoke, Elodie skirted a well-dressed elderly woman walking a small, mangy-looking dog in a red sweater.

“Why, Miss Capshaw,” the lady exclaimed as Elodie passed her, “how delightful to run into you.”

Elodie drew up short. Lady Beckwith. Of all the abysmal luck.

Plastering a smile to her lips, Elodie swung around to greet her former client. “Good morning, Lady Beckwith. What a pleasant surprise.” Well, at least the surprise part was truthful.

The dowager countess looked from Elodie to Inspector Ross and back again. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your gentleman friend?” she asked, a sly edge to her tone.

Elodie managed not to roll her eyes. “Lady Beckwith, this is Inspector Ross of Scotland Yard. Inspector Ross, this is the dowager Countess of Beckwith, a client whose case I recently completed.”

“Inspector?” the elderly woman repeated, sounding slightly disappointed by this news.

Elodie nodded. “Yes. We’re working on an investigation together.”

“I would hardly characterize what we are doing as ‘working together’,” Ross muttered.

Elodie shot him a murderous glare. He grinned back. She pressed her lips together in a frown. He shrugged.

“As it happens,” Lady Beckwith went on, seeming blithely unaware of their silent conversation, “I got your letter regarding my case just yesterday, and you were quite right; the condition of my boiler was quite appalling. We are fortunate we were not all blown to kingdom come, so I really must thank you.”

“Well,” Elodie said, relieved to discover that her findings had pleased the woman, “that is excellent news. And now, if you’ll excuse us—“

“Oh, please, Miss Capshaw. I couldn’t help overhearing you say something about doing a séance for the inspector.”

Please, don’t say it.

“But I am sure you told me you don’t do séances.”

Too late.

Ross looked at her, eyebrows raised. “Is that so?”

Elodie closed her eyes, her stomach sinking. She could hardly claim she’d never said such a thing to Lady Beckwith in the woman’s presence. Equally, she could not deny the fact that she had agreed to do a séance for Inspector Ross when he was standing right there and knew the truth. She had best think fast, or she would be well and truly buggered. But then, the truth—or something very close to it—was always the best approach.

“It is true that I don’t do séances under normal circumstances,” she admitted, “but that is because I know where the spirit resides. It is always easiest to contact ghosts directly in their own environment, and a séance is not necessary.” As she spoke, she warmed to her explanation. It just might work. “But when it comes to spirits whose whereabouts are unknown, as in Inspector Ross’s case,” Elodie continued, “a séance is the only way to reach them, and so I am making an exception for him. I do hope you understand, Lady Beckwith.”

“Oh, but Miss Capshaw,” Lady Beckwith exclaimed, beaming with delight, “that is excellent news!” Her dog, sensing his mistress’s excitement, emitted a high-pitched yap. “You can use a séance to locate my dear, departed Lord Beckwith.”

A Snippet from INCARNATE #sixsunday

I’ve been working on Incarnate this week, trying to get through the first act (my books generally lay out in thirds, like a play). In honor of Six Sentence Sunday, here’s a snippet from Chapter Four:

As though sensing its impending doom, the chicken emitted a plaintive squawk from its small wire cage as Elodie passed through the old Victoria Park Cemetery gate and into Meath Gardens.

“I don’t like this any better than you do,” she muttered. Once every six to eight days for fifty two years, and she still hadn’t got used to this part of being an incarnate ghost.

The clock must be nearing half-nine now, as the sky had passed from golden pink to inky purple. Soon, the last few visitors would straggle out of Meath Gardens and into the night. Although the grounds had not been an active cemetery for a very long time, most people were superstitious enough not to hang round the place after dark and those who did were generally insensate enough with drink or opium or both not to notice a plain, petite woman in black pouring the blood of a freshly butchered chicken into the ground over one of the gravesites.

Also, in case you missed it, the entire first chapter is now here.

The Evolution of a Cover

Those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably already seen at least one version of the cover for my forthcoming Edwardian-set urban fantasy (you can read the first scene of the book here). I’ve been positively giddy about the art for this book ever since Nathalia Suellen agreed to do the work for a price that was within my price range.

Nathalia’s work came to my attention a few months ago when Harper Collins “cribbed” the art she had previously sold to LK Rigel for a book titled Spiderwork to use on an Alex Flinn book; they’ve since changed the cover, but the story can be read at Dear Author. As I was perusing Nathalia’s portfolio, I didn’t really expect to find anything that would be appropriate for my books because she specializes in artwork of a fairly “fantastical” variety and most of my stories are pretty solidly grounded in the real world. But then I came across this image:

Immediately, I thought of INCARNATE, an urban fantasy set in 1902 London that I’d written about 15,000 words of. This picture immediately made me think of the book’s heroine, Elodie. I loved her jaunty pose and the eerie city in the fog. The dress and top hat seemed perfect for the period as well as for the character. I loved it so much, I actually mocked up a cover based on it, just because I had to SEE it with my name and book title on it.

I contacted Nathalia almost immediately and was crushed to discover that the artwork in question had been done on commission and was not available for sale. My heart broke, because I was sure that was the end of it. But then Nathalia offered to do the cover from scratch for me, and I jumped at the offer. Even though the book was well short of complete (and still is), I couldn’t let the chance slip by, especially since I’m convinced Nathalia is so talented, her work is going to be out of my price range before much longer. (When the major publishers get a gander at the cover she’s done for me, I think they’re going to be beating down her door!)

The basic parameters of the cover were set by the original piece I’d been interested in. The female model would have a black dress and a top hat. The color palette would be primarily black and sepia. I turned the project over to Nathalia and waited with great impatience to see what she would come up with.

The first draft came in mid-October:

I was floored, but there were a few minor problems. First and foremost was the fact that the heroine of INCARNATE has dark hair and the cover model here is blonde. I also thought it would be nice to have something in the background that gave a sense of setting, so I suggested a recognizably London city-scape would be good. Finally, Beverley Kendall felt that the model’s face is perhaps a trifle too pale, and when I thought about it, I agreed. I sent Nathalia my list of changes and waited.

When the next version came and I opened the file, my heart literally skipped a beat.

I was stunned. Just floored. If the first version was wonderful, this was beyond my wildest dreams. It perfectly captured the mood I wanted for the book. There were just a few MINOR issues, mainly that I wanted my name to be bigger and I realized that in addition to the tagline, I needed something on the cover to indicate the book is the first in a series. I figured this would just be a matter of changing type sizes and moving some stuff around, and that the next version would look almost identical to this one.

Um, wrong. Because Nathalia upped her game AGAIN:

Can I say WOW? Just holy ZOMG WOW!

Now, of course, I’m feeling a lot of pressure to make sure the book I’m writing lives up to this amazing cover. As I mentioned up-thread, I’ve written the first 15,000 words (about 20% of the story), but I still have to complete The Lesson Plan, which is already more than a month behind schedule due to my new second career as my children’s chauffer. I’d love to be able to say I know exactly when the book will drop, but the truth is, I don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver, so I’m going to guess it’ll be no later than fall of 2012, with my fingers crossed for summer.

Wish me luck!