How Does Your NaNo Grow
By (little) words and (pitiful) chapters, all in a (paltry) row.
So, National Novel Writing Month! I’m kind of sucking at it this year. We’re officially at the mid-way point, which means I should also be at the mid-way point, ie: 25,000 words.
And I’ve written a grand total of 13,000.
I’m not giving up, but I’m probably not going to win. The very competitive side of me says BOO! to that. But the practical side says that even getting to 25K—which will be one completed novella of the two I had hoped to finish—isn’t all that shabby.
I’m working on Eat Your Heart Out, the novella sequel to Creature Discomforts. My favorite line so far…
“That smells …” Like garlic and ragweed had a pungent swamp baby.
The second round of NYC Midnight popped into my inbox Friday night. The prompt: horror. Which … You guys, I am a wuss of epic proportions. Epic. I have only ever seen two scary movies in theaters: “Blair Witch Project,” because I was young and stupid; and “Cabin in the Woods,” because I support Joss Whedon in all he does.
So, yeah. I had 48 hours to write 1,000 words with the prompt horror, animal crackers, and an outdoor music concert. Knowing my incredible lack of horror street cred, I was actually pretty happy with the intensity of this. We’ll see what the judges think…
She didn’t even see the monkey until it hit her straight in the eye. She slapped one hand over her face and fumbled with the other—grasping, reaching—but the animal cracker slipped through her fingers. The monkey landed with a splat in the mud and ground to dust underfoot.
It was the final night of the High Valley Music Festival, and she was one of the holdouts, one of the last big fans who didn’t wuss out, pack up and drive off still hungover. The other stages were abandoned; the last beer tent had already gone dark. The field was a slurry of mud, the trampled memory of grass, and a slop of liquid she didn’t want to think too hard about.
Animalia was deep into their set. The jarring bass line thrummed through the frenzied crowd, and the screaming lyrics could be felt through bones and teeth. Bodies were thick and close around her, a tang of sweat stinging her nose.
An elephant soared overhead, a rhino and another monkey just behind. Up on stage, Animalia raged on as roadies dressed as devils shot the crackers out of cannons. She jumped, arched, but missed. All around, concertgoers crunched on the treat. One tangle-haired guy shook his head and sprayed a shower of ground up cracker and spit over the crowd. She tried not to make a face as a wet splat of it hit the side of her head.
The band played on, and the crowd surged as one. Heads thrashing, hands clenched in fists like the music made them want to fight and tear.
It was just one song later when she felt eyes on her. Somewhere to the side. She looked away from the stage and straight into the face of a guy staring at her through the crowd. She tried to look cool dancing, but if the guy enjoyed it, she couldn’t tell. He was just staring. Chin tilted down, looking up through a fall of dark hair. A tremor rippled down her spine, but she shook it off and concentrated on Animalia. They were playing her favorite song.
Except it wasn’t her favorite song. Not anymore. It descended from shrieking highs to something steady and low and dark. Pulsing. Whooshing. Like blood in veins. She glanced around to see if others knew this new song. More eyes on her. Heads turned, watching. Every second, more people twisted away from the stage. Went still. Her world collapsed to music and tracking eyes.
She tried for a laugh. No one laughed back. Only stared. Features blank, eyes on her. She spun in a slow circle. Every single face was turned to hers. She laughed again, but it died high and thin in her mouth. Behind her, the music throbbed. A beating, black heart.
She backed away, threading through the crowd. All heads turned to follow her steps. She tried to keep steady, tried to keep her head low. Her boots slipped. She reached out a hand to catch herself and felt something sting down her arm. She wrenched her head up. A girl close by had scratched her.
Walking still. But faster now. The crowd thinned, the air cleared. Sharp and cool with fall. The valley was absolutely dark, the surrounding mountains a wall of solid black. Across the cramped valley, everything was still. Abandoned. Dark food tents and empty beer pavilions. Over the thumping beat of Animalia, the valley had gone silent.
A rumble vibrated up her shins. She glanced behind. The entire crowd was following, their steps slow and constant. Their eyes on her. The music had settled almost into a march, if a march was accompanied by ear-shattering shrieks. It set her nerves jittering, her mind reeling. Bile crawled into her mouth and pooled at the back of her teeth.
Fight or flight. She took off, heels pounding into mud that sucked at her boots. She wove through the empty food tents, her breath sandpaper against her throat. She dodged a medic tent and burst into a copse of trees. Even darker here, the night like velvet, the air like silk. Trees shivered around her, the last leaves quaking on their stems. She raced toward the bit of gray ahead and exploded from the trees into a field of tents. They were dark humps of canvas and nylon like the backs of sleeping beasts. She whispered for help, but it cracked in her mouth. Nothing. No one. It was all abandoned. A ghost town of tents and tipped-over coolers.
The music echoed all around and shivered against her skin. Faster, harder, almost like the keening of a predator. She slipped and fell hard to her knees. Her vision was blurry and her mouth thick, but she crawled forward through the muck toward an open tent and crawled inside. Knees to her chest, fist shoved in her mouth. Her heart hammered against her ribs, like it was going to crack right through them.
A scream built somewhere in the distance. It shattered around her, like metal scraping together, gears grinding. It was utterly inhuman. And then the howls of a hundred other hunters answered. Echoed all around. She bit down on her fist to quiet her own terrified shriek. She tried to remember herself, remember her name. But all she could remember was fear.
Crack. Crack. Her heart against her ribs. But then ripping. The tent tore apart under the hands of a hundred men and women. Fingernails dragged down her skin, teeth ripped into the soft meat of her arms and legs. Crack. Crack. Her ribs splintered under their hands. She tried to cry, but only blood bubbled from her mouth.
The animals bent over their prey, tearing and ripping. They shrieked their delight, they squealed their hunger, and all around the field came alive with replies. Screams split the night, echoed across the valley. And up on stage, Animalia played on.
Review: Clockwork Princess
My review of Cassandra Clare’s final entry in The Infernal Devices series is up over at A Book and a Latte.
I certainly didn’t hate the book. I mean, there are beautiful dresses and well-mannered gentlemen involved, and I’m nothing if not a Victorian (cat) lady at heart. But … Let’s just say I think I’m done with the Shadowhunters. I kind of wish Ms. Clare would be too.
Check out the review! Agree? Disagree? Leave me a comment over at A Book and a Latte.