Well, I’m more than half-way through my first official NaNoWriMo novel, and I’ve clocked in at 59,185 words to date. My original idea called for 60,000 words, but I think I’ll be closer to 65 K when all is said and done. I’m writing for Suspense Squad with the Ignite imprint as part of the Entangled Smack Down activity, and expect the novel will be done within a few days. I’m not sure how I’ll manage my mandatory 1667 words per day after that when I start revising and editing, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out. I have a novella to finish for the end of the first week of December, so maybe they’ll let me count those words–after all NaNoWriMo is all about counting words, right?
My NaNo book,tentatively entitled Echoes of the Past, is a paranormal/romance/suspense, and I hope to be able to submit it to a publisher once it’s done. This picture is one of the Lake of the Mountain in Prince Edward County, Ontario. The various legends surrounding the lake are what gave me the idea for the story. John and I visited the Lake of the Mountain Resort and had lunch there on Labor Day weekend, and I thought it would make a great setting for a book. I spoke to one of the resort’s owners and got her blessing–any publicity is good, right?
Believe it or not, that little lake is two hundred and sixty plus feet above Lake Ontario. The water level never changes, yet it empties into the Bay of Quinte through a small waterfall and has no obvious source of water to account for the constant water level. When you consider rainfall, evaporation, etc. it really is a mystery. Add to that, it’s suppose to be bottomless. One legend says it has its own version of the Loch Ness monster; another claims it’s a lake sacred to the gods of the Mohawk people, specifically the Three Sisters–Corn, Beans, and Squash–who lived there. Toss in a story about the ghosts of doomed lovers, and it’s the stuff books are made of.
There will be a book contract awarded as part of SmackDown, but while I’d like to walk away with that prize, there are a lot of talented writers competing for it. As of today, my team is in third place. I’ve done well, only missing one day of writing, but I hope I made up for it today. I managed over 5K words, and that earned me a couple of bonus points. If I can do as well tomorrow, it’ll help my team a lot.
So, to all the others out there who are working on NaNo, may you have lots of words.For those who prefer to read, I’m posting my first chapter for your enjoyment. Let me know what you think.
He lay on his side on the animal hide, his head propped up on his elbow, watching her sleep. He’d have to wake her soon. The sun was well-passed its apex. Someone would come looking for her. How long did she think her excuse of being out gathering roots and snaring rabbits would last, especially when she had little to show for the time they’d been together?
He looked down at the naked woman slumbering beside him. She was tall and lean, with copper skin that glowed. Her ebony hair was spread around her head. Her features were fine, her lips lush, begging to be kissed, and her almond-shaped brown eyes with the flecks of gold, added to her exotic beauty. She was unlike any white woman or the Nanticoke squaws he’d known in the colony before he’d fled Washington’s armies. He loved this woman! It was craziness to remain here, but he couldn’t leave without her. She’d cut his bonds and helped him escape. She’d saved his life and hidden him from her people. The odds of getting caught increased with every visit she paid to his secret grotto, but she was a drug he couldn’t resist.
He reached for her, ran his hand down the side of her torso. Her skin felt alive beneath his hands. Her nipples puckered in anticipation of his touch. Her eyes opened, and she smiled. She reached up to him and pulled him down. His lips met hers with a hunger that never seemed to be assuaged. His tongue delved into her warm, willing mouth, and he felt himself harden to the point of pain.
The dreamscape shifted, and he was running through the brush trying to escape something chasing him. Twigs and branches tore at his clothing. A thorn bush raked his face. He knew if he were caught, it would mean his death, but he wasn’t worried about himself; he worried about her. He ran farther away from his haven. It was important they not find it. If he weren’t caught and brought back to the village…There was a chance they could use it until they could flee the island. Had she gotten back to the others? He slowed his pace; through the trees, he looked over at the far side of the lake and saw her standing there on the beach with the women. They were pointing and screaming, but she stood still, wrapped in the woven blanket she’d shown him not two hours ago. He didn’t dare stop to get a better look. He knew she’d made it back, and she was safe. His heart thundered in his ears, his side ached, but he increased his speed. The pursuers were getting closer…
Tony awoke with a start. His heart pounded, and he was covered in sweat. His breathing was ragged, and it seemed as if the room lacked the oxygen he needed. It wasn’t hot in the room, but his body felt the way it did when he’d finished a particularly grueling cross-country race. He got up, went to the window, and opened it slightly, hoping the night air would cool him. He concentrated on slowing his breathing. He noticed Aaron’s car was back, parked beside his.
The old Chevy hadn’t been there when he’d gone to bed well after midnight. The storm had intensified, and he’d wondered where Aaron and Lindsay had gone. He’d been worried they’d had car trouble and had been stuck out there on the road in this weather. He’d thought they might have decided to go into Belleville and take in that movie after all. Jackson didn’t like sci-fi, and Lissa wasn’t feeling well. If she didn’t pick up soon, he’d insist she see the local G.P.
Feeling cooler, he shut the window and padded into the bathroom. His cheek stung, and when he touched it, his fingers came away wet. He turned on the light and stared in the mirror at the ugly red scratch on his cheek. The skin was torn and bleeding. He must have scratched himself in his sleep.
Damn! I need to cut my nails.
He went down the stairs to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and took out a bottle of water. He drank half of it in one gulp. He still felt disoriented. These dreams seemed to have taken on a life of their own. In some ways, he felt like a voyeur peeking in the window at someone else’s memories. He wondered out onto the screened-in porch and looked out on the lake. It seemed to boil. He’d never seen it whipped to a frenzy like that as if the water itself was angry. He thought about the legend Joseph Brant, the Tyendinaga shaman, had told him about the lake. If there were gods living in it, something had made them furious, and he was afraid he knew exactly what it was—someone was dumping poison into the lake.
According to the story, long ago one of the Mohawk gods, Sky Woman who lived high above the land, came to earth and gave birth to a daughter. Sadly the child didn’t survive. In her grief, Sky Woman buried the child, and from the child’s body sprung the Three Sisters, Corn, Beans, and Squash, the great providers of life.
The Three Sisters chose to remain here and dwelt in the special waters of Onokenoga—the Lake of the Gods. The Mohawk people visited the lake often, making sacrifices, offering thanks for the bountiful harvest, and requesting things like plenty of fish and game. The Three Sisters answered their prayers and carried others up to Manitou, the Great Creator. There were serious penalties involved for those who violated the sacred waters.
Tony sighed. Although he wasn’t a fan of mythology, he’d always been fascinated by the lake, and the story of the lovers, Tayouroughay and Gowanda, had touched something deep inside him. The Mohawk maiden, with the beautiful eyes and raven hair, was the chief’s daughter. She was a beautiful, kind, and caring woman and every brave wanted her for his own, but she’d fallen in love with an enemy named Gowanda. When her father told her the time had come to marry, he told her he’d chosen Annosothka to be her husband, but rather than marry a man she didn’t love, Tayouroughay fled her village and threw herself into the lake. Gowanda drowned trying to save her.
Tony stared out at the roiling waters. For as long as he could remember, he and his family had travelled from Toronto to spend two weeks at his Uncle Pierce’s cottage near the Sandbanks. When Tony was fifteen, the first winery on the island opened, and his parents had decided a tour was in order. They’d found the Lake of the Mountain by accident, and Tony’s fascination with the place had started. They’d come back each of the next five years until his mother’s death and his dad had found the memories too painful. By then, Tony had been in university and between working, running cross-country, and his studies, he’d had no time for summer holidays and visits to nostalgic places.
He checked his watch. Being awake at two in the morning was a nasty habit he needed to break. He’d been having these unusually vivid dreams ever since he’d arrived at the resort, but they’d been limited to exquisite, erotic fantasies. Tonight’s dream had started that way, but it had somehow transitioned into a flight for his life. Dreams usually had meaning that had nothing to do with their content. This research project into the source of the water in the lake meant everything to him personally and professionally. He was afraid something would happen to ruin it. That explained being chased, but it didn’t explain the sexual fantasies—those he could explain without a dream interpretation manual.
The woman in his dreams was the stranger who walked along the beach every now and then. She was beautiful and exotic, the way he supposed a Mohawk princess would look. He’d always preferred women who didn’t look like carbon copies of others. He was a collector of sorts, and his apartment teemed with paintings and sculptures of the type of women who attracted him. He’d paid a small fortune in July for a reproduction of Botticelli’s Venus which had used a First Nations’ model. After the letter from the Dean telling him he’d been granted tenure, it was his most prized possession. The woman in his dreams was always naked, with her hair unbound, and the same shy smile of his Venus.
The first night he’d arrived, he’d had trouble sleeping, and when he’d gone out on the porch like he was now, he’d realized he hadn’t been the only one awake. A woman, a blanket wrapped shawl-like around herself, strange since the night was unseasonably warm, her hair in a long braid down her back, walked along the edge of the sandy beach. She moved southeast toward the edge of the lookout. He’d gone outside to get a better look at her, maybe say hello since the light on the tree house would illuminate him, but she hadn’t come back that way. He assumed she’d walked behind the house, and he’d missed her. He’d looked for her during the day, but he hadn’t seen her. He’d figured she’d left the resort.
The next night, his imagination and libido had taken over, and in his dreams, he’d not only introduced himself, they’d had mind-blowing sex. The things he’d done to her… Thank God he woke up before his body finished responding to his fantasy. He was a little old for shot spots on the sheets!
Tony had gotten up, frustrated as old hell and gone downstairs as he had tonight. Unlike now, the water had been so still, it had looked like a mirror reflecting the stars on its surface. It was as if the water and the heavens were one, and he felt suspended between them. He’d heard the sounds of animals scurrying in the brush nearby. He saw bats swooping overhead. An owl hooted, and he shivered. Just as she had the previous night, the woman walked along the beach from the marshy area to the north. He called out to her. She turned at the sound of his voice and stopped. He was about to run out to her when he realized he was naked. He hurried inside, grabbed his swimsuit, and went out again, but she was gone.
Tonight’s storm was one of the worst he’d ever seen. The rain was coming down in sheets. Thank God the kids had made it back. He was about to go inside when a flash of lightning, the first he’d seen tonight, illuminated the beach. He blinked.
What the hell?
The woman was there, wrapped in her blanket, walking along the beach as if all hell wasn’t breaking loose around her. She’d get sick out there like that. He ran to the door. It didn’t matter if he was going to get soaked, he needed to catch her. He raced across the short expanse of grass, looked up into the rain, but he was alone. She’d vanished. The wind screamed in his ears and whipped the skeletal branches of the trees around him.
For the first time he wondered if Steve the bartender was right, and he was seeing things. Wet through, he walked back through the rain toward the tree house. He noted the light go off in Jackson’s room. That guy must have pulled an all-nighter again. He wondered if his student had ever noticed a woman on the beach.
Tony went inside, stripped off his wet clothes, and tossed them in the kitchen sink. Naked and shivering, he climbed upstairs and went into the bathroom. He took a hot shower to warm himself and then dried his shoulder-length hair. He really should consider getting it cut. It was a pain at times. He grabbed a clean pair of boxers out of the drawer and fell into bed. Between the news Lindsay and Aaron had given him today, and the nightmare, he hoped he’d get some sleep.
The sound of frantic pounding on his door and Jackson’s voice yelling incomprehensibly woke Tony from a sound sleep. He looked at the alarm beside the bed. It was barely after eight. He tried to focus on what the boy was saying.
“Professor Steele! Wake up! Please wake up? I don’t know what to do. They’re dead, professor, they’re dead!” Jackson was hysterical, his voice laced with panic.
The words didn’t seem to make sense, but suddenly, they jolted Tony into full consciousness.
What the hell? Dead? Who’s dead?
Tony jumped out of bed, grabbed the jeans he’d left on the chair, and hurried barefoot down the stairs to open the door. Jackson’s fist was in mid-air preparing to pound on the door again. The boy was dressed in his running gear as he always was at this time of day. A fanatic runner, he did his ten mile run each morning, rain or shine. He hadn’t let today’s lousy weather deter him. He and Lindsay hoped to qualify for the next Canadian Summer Olympic Team.
Tony noticed the frantic look on the young man’s face and realized the water streaming down his cheeks was a mixture of rain and tears. His breath came out in pants. Tony forced himself to assume a calm he didn’t feel. Something was very wrong, and he needed to be strong to support the boy in his distress.
“What happened, Jackson? Who’s dead?” His tone was abrupt, as professorial as he could make it.
Jackson pointed to the beach, to the spot where Tony had seen the woman the night before. On the beach, next to a canoe and assorted branches and other debris, there was what appeared to be a lump of rags. Fear coursed through his veins, and his heart leapt into his throat. Had he been wrong last night? Instead of vanishing, had the woman been swept into the angry water? In that storm it would have been easy for a rip current to form and pull her in.
He raced down the stairs, oblivious to the cold on his feet and the rain lashing at him as it had the night before. He knew Jackson had followed him. He stopped beside the body—no bodies. The feet were on shore, but the heads were still in the water.
“Oh my God!” he cried out as he recognized Aaron who was on his back, his face barely submerged. The head tucked under his, the body bundled inside the zippered jacket, had to belong to Lindsay. He moved toward his students, intent on pulling them from their watery grave, but Isaac, the resorts handyman grabbed his arm.
“No professor. I’m sorry, but we can’t touch them. Kara’s called nine-one-one. The police will be here shortly. I know it doesn’t seem right to leave them that way, but we have to.”
Tony heard a shrill scream just behind him and turned in time to see Lissa collapse to the ground. Jackson stood numbly beside her. The boy had made no move to help the traumatized girl.
“Jackson,” he yelled, but the boy obviously in shock, didn’t respond. Tony walked over to him and shook him. The boy blinked his eyes. He looked like a lost, frightened child. Tears continued to course down his cheeks. Tony wanted to sympathize with the boy, but he couldn’t.
“Help me get her inside. She’ll catch pneumonia out here. She’s wet right through.”
Tony looked up and saw Kara running across the grass toward them. The girl didn’t need to see the bodies. It was bad enough that Lissa and Jackson had. No doubt that image would remain with them, as it would with him, for the rest of their lives.
He called out to the girl. “Kara, come here. I need your help.” The girl turned and ran over to him, but her eyes were fixed on the shoreline.
“I called nine-one-one like Isaac said. The dispatcher promised someone would be here shortly. What happened?”
There was no point in hiding the truth from her. She’d know sooner or later.
“Two of my students have had an accident. They’re dead.”
“Follow me. Lissa has fainted. I’ll need your help getting her undressed and into bed.”
She nodded. He watched the tears fill her eyes. “She and Aaron were going to get married in the spring. Poor thing, and I think she’s pregnant too.”
Tony’s head snapped up. Son of a bitch. That’s why she’s been so sick lately. What the hell am I supposed to do now?
Jackson had lifted Lissa up into his arms and was walking to the cottage she and Aaron had shared. Tony hurried ahead of him, and opened the door.
“Take her into the bedroom. Tony and then wait for me. Kara, help me get her undressed.”
With Him holding Lissa more or less upright, his eyes averted to preserve Lissa’s modesty, Kara removed the wet pajamas and replaced them with a dry nightshirt. Tony carried the girl to bed and tucked her in. The fact that she’d yet to come to worried him.
He went out into the other room.
“Jackson, I need you to stay with Lissa. Don’t leave her. The police are on their way, and I’ll send the paramedics in to have a look at both of you as soon as I can. Whatever you do, don’t let her come down to the beach.”
He followed Kara out of the cottage. He heard the sirens.
“Go back to the office. There isn’t anything else you can do.”
The girl nodded and retraced her steps to the resort’s office. The police car pulled into the lot followed by the ambulance. Tony knew there was nothing he could do either, but he needed to know what the hell had happened.