NaNoWriMo Complete!

I finished my 50,000 words on Tuesday, 21 November 2017. This is the third time I’m managed the feat, the first time I’ve finished before 11:45 pm on 30 November!

The story is full of holes, I’ve got continuity issues, but it is fun to be able to take my time to write the climax (which isn’t terribly climactic at this point), and the epilogue without the gun of the deadline at my head.

A Rush of Cochineal Daily Lines Day Fourteen

Claire took a long sip from the shot of Bunnahabhain, setting the glass softly on the table. “That’s what I’m talking about,” said Claire, as she began. “So Laura and Samantha meet Pete, and Kevin starts bringing out his pictures for them to look at, the gatehouse is now a rush rush for Samantha, pictures for the gatehouse, and while Kevin is pulling out the racks, he notices that Pete and Samantha are nowhere in sight. So Kev takes a step out to see into the main gallery, and they’re in a corner snogging like teenagers in a back seat.”

“I don’t care,” shrugged Dex. “He left me, he told me we could still be friends, I found Mark, end of that story.”

“Don’t interrupt,” said Claire. “Laura got all huffy, particularly because Pete said something about her weight, Kevin didn’t quite catch, but she bought three of Pete’s landscapes. Then they all left and Pete has Samantha’s number.”

“Poor Pete,” said Dex.

“I know,” said Claire, “he’s punching way above his weight with her.” She took another sip of her Scotch. “Is that really sparkling water?”

“Yes, are you going to be okay to drive?” asked Dex. Claire’s phone rang, and she saw it was an extension from the Historical Society.

“I’m okay to walk,” said Claire. “Did I tell you Kevin wants to see your dog pictures?”

Dex groaned. “He’s Pete’s gallery,” she said.

“He could be yours, too,” said Claire as she lurched on the uneven brick sidewalk. “You should just wear dog show shoes,” said Dex, steadying her friend.

A Rush of Cochineal, Daily Lines Day Thirteen

“Yeah, well, Steve has more than a million invested in the mansion’s renovations,” said Laura. “A half million on the construction, and another half in the decorating. Those custom doormats cost $500 a piece, when you add in what our logo cost.”

She pulled open the door to The Cupola, laughter from the bar audible. “So, I think he feels he owns part of it now, too.” I wish he owned whatever is dropping tiny hankies all over my house, she thought. Those were something she would never share with Samantha, not after that nightmare.

“What did you mean ‘good at first’?” asked Laura. Sam assessed the men at the bar, making note of those who turned their heads to look at her, and chose two seats, between a silver haired man in a beautifully tailored dark grey pinstripe and a Giorgio Armani closer to her own age. Neither was wearing a wedding ring, though she knew from experience how meaningless that was.

“At first?” asked Sam, smiling at the Armani she slid onto the bar stool. “Mezcal margarita,” she said to the bartender as he approached. “Just a coke for me,” said Laura. “I can’t afford another DUI.”

“Last night,” Laura sighed, “when you screamed? You said it was ‘good at first.’”

“Oh, right,” replied Sam. “At first, I was dreaming of Mark, I was wearing the red velvet dress in my portrait downstairs.” She shivered, remembering how his hands felt on her body. “Then I was wearing a black silk dress, and I turned into Matilda. That’s when I screamed.” She turned to the Armani and asked, “do you believe in ghosts?”

Armani smiled, glancing downward at the cleavage exposed by the unbuttoned two top buttons of her red leather sheath. “I do,” he said, “I’m Josh, and you are?”

Daily Lines, Day Eleven

Samantha shrugged, tossing her hair, copper highlights glinting in the sun pouring in the morning room windows. “Bryan was beginning to be a bore,” she replied. “I thought it was better to get out of the city. The city was beginning to be a bore.”

She stared out at the trees, now almost completely golden. “Besides, I saw those pix of your party, and I found the talent pool out here more exciting than what I was experiencing in Wilmington.” Her brown eyes glinted avariciously.

“You mean you’d worked your way through all the reasonably attractive unmarried men in Wilmington,” said Laura.

Sam sighed. “Married men, too,” she said. “Who was the guy with dark hair you were sitting with? If I can’t pry that skinny shrimp’s fingers from Mark Wright, he might be fun.”

Laura laughed, “You’d make a habit of taking her cast-offs? That’s the guy she broke up with a year or so ago. He’s an artist. Painted the landscape beside the kitchen door, it’s our back meadow.”

“You’re kidding!” said Sam, finally moving her gaze from the trees and desolated garden outside to her sister. “Maybe she should move to Wilmington.” Her sister snorted. “She used to have six dogs, or so Pete told me. I pumped him about her, when I found that she was the woman Mark Wright was seeing.”

A smug smile passed quickly over Samantha’s lips. “Yes, but for how long is going to see her?” She sipped her coffee, the glint back in her brown eyes, a look that Laura knew all too well. Samantha wanted something, she was planning to get it, and Laura had a suspicion that something was Mark Wright. She sighed. As much as she liked Mark, she would never go further than a foot on his leg at parties, and she knew Sam was prepared to go much, much further.

“Has he ever been married?” asked Sam. Her silk wrapper fell open, exposing her cleavage in the fuchsia nightgown. “Domesticity?” she pondered. “Thrills? I wonder…”

“I don’t know,” said Laura, “he dodges every personal question I’ve thrown at him. You should start with Pete Werkhiser. Rebound him.”

Sam tapped her beautifully manicured finger on the table. “What time do you think Mark will be here?” she asked. “I want to be ready.” She rose from her chair, moving to the wall of windows, turning to look at Laura. “Let me know when he gets here, I’ll be up in my room, writing.” Sam watched trucks with a yellow diamond logo pull around the back of house, meeting her brother-in-law briefly, then move down the gravel to the gatehouse, a black Jeep Wrangler bringing up the rear. She smiled, mentally choosing the outfit that Mark might find most appealing. But he’s going to be involved there for hours, she thought, and I want him up here, in this house, much better setting.

“Where’s a good place to run into Pete Werkhiser?” asked Samantha. “Unless you can arrange an introduction.”

Laura didn’t answer immediately. “Well?” asked Sam. “Should I just wander around West Chester, and check out the locals, hoping to meet him?

“I’m thinking!” said Laura. “You want the meet-cute or the introduction? I can arrange both.”

“Introduction,” replied Sam, “those accidentally on purpose things have a way of biting me in the ass.” She thought of Mark Wright doing exactly that, and smiled, thinking ‘I’ll have to wait for that pleasure.’

Daily Lines, Day Nine

Darcy was ecstatic to be freed from his mud room prison. After greeting Dex, jumping like a kangaroo on his hind legs, he turned to Mark, nailing him in his most sensitive area. Practice made Mark’s response automatic, and the dog hit his protective hands instead.

“Darcy! Not there! For god’s sake, not there,” Dex said, laughing. “I’ve got this down, now,” said Mark, opening the door to the yard. The whippet ran outside, making circles, decreasing in speed till he found just the right shrub. Mark stood behind Dex, his arms around her waist, nuzzling the back of her neck. “He’ll be all right outside for a bit, now, won’t he?” asked Mark. “Long enough,” replied Dex.

He kissed his way around her neck, turning her to him as he progressed, lifting her onto the washer. She raised her head, and she felt his kiss warm her down to her toes. “Oh, Mark,” she sighed. “Let’s go upstairs.”

“No, here,” he said, pulling his shirt over his. “Now.”

Daily Lines, Day Eight

“Where’s Mark?” asked Claire. “Out there,” replied Dex, pointing down the hill. “With Samantha.”

“Not done, Ed,” said Claire. “Let’s go look at the gatehouse!”

Laura sighed. “Really, isn’t Mark capable of assessing the project without a crowd?” she asked. “I thought you wanted to see that portrait again.”

Dex strode to the glass door, out onto the ravaged lawn, Claire on her heels. She hoped Dex could rein in her temper when she got to Mark, she worked hard to get those two together, and she wasn’t going to watch all that effort go up in the smoke from a Dex Cranford explosion, and from the look on Dex’s face, Mount Cranford was going to blow.

“Dex, wait,” she said, catching up, grabbing Dex’s arm. “Don’t be mad at Mark, from the minute that woman saw him, she was salivating like a dog at dinner time.”

“From the moment he saw that portrait in the drawing room, he was in another world,” said Dex. “And then he saw Samantha, who looks exactly like the portrait, and he’s off with her? I’d say he’s flattered that she’s that obviously attracted to him.”

“Laura will put a stop to that,” said Claire. “She’ll think she has a prior claim on Mark.”

“I have a prior claim on Mark,” said Dex. “Or I thought I did.”

Daily Lines, Day Seven

“What seems to be project for us, Laura,” asked Mark.

“Oh, I’ll show you,” said Laura, taking his arm, drawing him away from Dex.

“It’s outside, but there’s another issue, in the tower, the woodworking contractor thinks the railing isn’t up to code or something,” she stopped at the doorway to the morning room, flooded with cool northern light streaming in the wall of windows opening to the terrace that filled the fourth side of the house, light filtered only by the branches of leafless trees.

“What a perfect room for an artist,” said Dex.

“That’s what I’m hoping,” said the woman seated beside Ed at the dropleaf table off to the side of the room. She smiled, saying “and this must be Mark. I’ve heard so much about you, Laura thinks you’re a genius.” She raised her hand to Mark, who took hold with both hands. “I’m Samantha, but you can call me Sam.”

Dex inhaled sharply. The woman at the table was the twin of the woman in the drawing room portrait.

“My sister,” said Laura. “Younger sister,” said Sam, tilting down her head, looking at up at Mark through long, long lashes.

“So, Dex,” began Claire, “I think there may be a genetic link to our Lady of the Ruby Ring. Don’t you think?”

“Laura,” said Dex, “when I asked if you knew who the subject of that picture is, why did you say you didn’t know?”

Ed looked up from the table. “Oh yeah,” he said. “I see it now.”

“Now?” asked Dex.

“That picture’s been out for cleaning, it wasn’t hung till the day before you saw it,” said Laura. She shrugged. “I don’t know. There is some resemblance–”

Samantha laughed, one of those silvery, classic movie laughs, a Norma Shearer, Constance Bennett laugh, enchanting, charismatic, and calculatingly cold.

“Oh, Laura,” she said, “I’m sure Granny Speakman would be delighted to know that Philadelphia’s next best-selling author looks so much like her!”

“Maybe it is Granny Speakman,” said Laura, “but I wouldn’t be so happy about it, she came to a bad end. I think. Our family wasn’t big on genealogy. The portrait in the hall is definitely a relative, it’s identified.”

“Who’s the artist?” asked Dex, looking out at the tracks through the gardens left by heavy equipment, crushing the perennials and small shrubs.

“You’re a writer,” asked Mark, as Samantha stood, took his arm and began to draw him from the room.

“Maybe,” said Sam very softly, bending over to speak into Mark’s ear. “I’ve sent my manuscripts to several publishers. I think my series will be the next ‘Outlander’ or Debbie Macomber. Romance, liberally peppered with mystery.” She gave him another flash of brown eye from beneath lashes. “And sex. This is going to be my writing room, but I’ll be living in the gatehouse.” She took another step toward the door.

“But that’s a wreck!” said Claire, batting the third petit pain au chocolat from Ed’s hand.

“That’s why I wanted Mark here,” said Laura, looking pointedly at Dex. “Steve wants to know if it’s feasible to renovate. And if it’s not, a replacement plan. This is a historic property, and we want it done right. Maybe you could take some pictures or something, for Milton. There’s bound to be something you can do, since you’re so useless as a psychic.”

Dex looked at Mark, to see his reaction. She had the impression that the new project at Edgecombe Hall he described to her on the way over was a minor problem with the major work already in progress, not a whole new building.

Mark and Sam were gone. She looked out the wall of windows again, and there they were: walking arm in arm, heads together, toward the derelict gatehouse a quarter mile away, near the end of the old, disused drive.

Daily Lines, Day Five

“Voodoo girl?” asked Steve, “Is that what you call her? She does seem to have what’s his name in her spell.”

“She has Peter Werkhiser under her spell,” said Laura. “He poured his heart out to me last month at the Art Association opening.”

“That’s what you do at these things?” asked Steve. “You sit with some young guy, hold his hand, listen to his life story? Anything else I should know?”

Laura waved a beautifully manicured hand as though swishing away an unpleasant smell. “Oh, Steve,” she said, “you know you’re the only man for me.”

“I guess I know that,” said Steve. “But the only man for you is sick of this house. I don’t care how long it was in your family, let’s get the hell out.”

“Dinner is ready,” announced Tiffany, the housekeeper, making Laura jump. “We’ll discuss this later,” said Laura, clopping into the hallway.

Steve caught Tiffany’s eye and smiled. “Did she find it?” whispered the housekeeper. “Do you know how hard it is to get a Siamese cat to do something it doesn’t exactly want to do? Did she find it?”

“She had to,” said Steve. “She called that ghost woman from the Red Rose Inn.”

“Mark’s girlfriend,” said Tiffany. “I guess Laura thinks she can kill two birds with one stone.”

“Tiffany!” shouted Laura from the dining room. “I do prefer my hot food hot and  my cold food cold. Are you serving dinner this evening, or do I need to serve myself?”

“Better go,” said Steve, giving her a quick hug and a push toward the dining room. “See you later, sweetie,” replied Tiffany.

I’m cheating a bit…

I started “A Flash of Cochineal” a while ago, but didn’t apply myself to NaNoWriMo in either 2015 or 2016. I have no excuses, simply a lack of will. This year, I’ve planned a little more, though what good that’s going to do, I don’t know, my characters seem to get away from me at times.

This year’s effort involves Dex, Claire and more intricately, Dex’s new beau Mark, who finds a young woman, strongly resembling the subject of a Gilded Age portrait, strangely attractive.

Each plot involves a physical location in Chester County, and for 2017 I’m using a serpentine mansion, originally built for a wealthy local businessman before the Civil War, but enlarged and updated to Victorian magnificence by a Philadelphia magnate in 1878. There’s a tragedy attached to this house, and Dex must unravel the threads from both the 21st century and the 19th century to reveal the “Flash of Cochineal”.