He pressed his full, warm lips against mine so hard that my words of protest were stifled. And then he was swiftly gone, slipping down the dark tunnel and disappearing into the shadows.
You cannot leave, I think, my soul weeping for him. They will catch him surely, and they will know what he has done. To think the king would show any sympathy would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening.
I must stop him. The thought rings through my head more clearly than anything I’ve ever known. Whatever the cost, I must stop him.
I don’t hesitate, but rather, I plunge into the darkness after him, feeling along the walls, heading straight to the dungeons of the castle.
To the tip of the earth and the blackness of the sea, I will fight for you. I will chase you, here and now, until my legs can go no further, and I will scour the lands of my next life, until my very breath is stolen from me. You warm the air in my lungs, and you’re the thought that opens my eyes each day – to see that shining hair catching the light of the morning sun when all other hope has gone away.
It was hot the day we met. You had a thin line of sweat above your brow, and I remember thinking you tasted like the ocean when we kissed.
One too many margaritas under the sun is what happened.
You were riding your board along the shallow surface of the water close to shore, and I was lounging under an umbrella because I didn’t want to risk frying in the sun. I remember seeing you fall – that’s when you caught my eye. You went crashing into the sand, rolling, and then you hopped back up with a broad smile on your face as your friends laughed and jeered.
You shook it off, sticking your surfboard nose-first into the sand at a sharp angle, then floating over to the nearest drink shack.
That’s when I got hit with the volleyball.
I cursed loudly, sitting upright and rubbing the top of the head where it’d smacked me. I remember feeling dizzy, but my greatest concern was that I’d spilt my drink all over myself. The guy who came to get his ball didn’t even apologize, and I was glaring at him as I cleaned myself up. I didn’t even see you walk over.
“Here you go,” you said, extending your arm towards me with an oversized margarita in hand.
I’d been drinking mojitos, and I was pretty sure what you were offering me would give me a brain freeze that would amplify my already aching head.
I tried to wave you off, but you sat down in the sand, drinking from one margarita while you held the other, keeping it ready for me, though you didn’t pester or insist.
I asked your name and you said Josh. Of course, it would be Josh. You were like a walking cliché – chiseled abs, golden hair, bronzed skin, and shockingly straight, pearly teeth that went well with your dimples when you smiled.
I told you my name was Amanda, but it wasn’t. You decided to call me Holly instead, and I liked that you thought I looked like a Holly. I liked that you knew by the way I said Amanda that it wasn’t my name.
I liked you.
We stayed at the beach all day, and I remember being surprised that the sky was getting darker – and even more surprised that we were surrounded by empty cups that, at one point, held a variety of margaritas. We tried every flavor.
You had talked someone into sharing some steak kabobs with us earlier, but I remember feeling hungry then. Famished, actually. You asked me if I wanted to find some cheeseburgers somewhere – that your car wasn’t far.
You were so gloriously beautiful with the wonderful topic of food leaving your lips, and I suddenly found my face very close to yours. I’m sure I’m an expert at timing, but it was nice, nonetheless, that you didn’t flinch away when I smooshed my lips against yours.
You laughed a little, telling me I was tipsy even though you hadn’t moved your lips from mine. Your lips felt rough, like you were dehydrated, and I remember thinking I wanted to lay in the sand and kiss you, so everything felt rough like that.
But then you hoisted me to my feet, helped me gather my things, and lugged our stuff to your car. Your friends were leaving too, and you called to them to grab your board, eliciting more jeers when they saw you were with a girl.
You asked me if I had a phone – whether I wanted to call someone – and I sent a text to my roommate. You opened the passenger door for me, and I slinked towards the seat, but I was worried about the sand.
You came up behind me then, subtle and sweet, and you curled an arm around my waist. “It’s okay,” you murmured into my ear. “I’ll clean it later.” You tossed a towel across the seat anyways to make me feel better, and I turned and kissed you again.
This time you let me. Your breath was like warm strawberries as your lips parted, and you leaned me back against the car. I couldn’t get enough of you, and it was dark enough that no one noticed us. I bit your lip and pressed myself into you, letting your hands roam over me, squeezing gently. I knotted my hands into your hair, and when you cupped my ass and lifted, I gasped, my eyes popping open in surprise.
You grinned at me then, pulling back and shaking your head. “Food,” you reminded me. “And then I have to take you home, please.”
I knew you meant alone. That you wouldn’t be joining me in my bed, even though I could tell you weren’t quite ready to be done with me. But that’s what we did. You bought me a cheeseburger and drove me home, helped me carry my things to the door, and asked me to meet you at noon the next day.
And it was just my luck that something came up, and I never saw you again. I didn’t make it to the beach the following day, but I went every day for a month after that, hoping I’d see you. And I was disappointed every time.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I looked up from an appetizer at dinner three months later, and I see you making your way through the front door of a restaurant, especially since we’re two towns away from where we’d met. And you can understand the absolute panic I felt when I saw the girl next to you, recognized her as the best friend of my date, and realized we were about to be on a double date.
But based on your expression, you’re not panicked at all. No, you seem devilishly pleased that things turned out this way, and your attention seems to be pinned to me as you find your seat across the table.
Misty wisps of clouds and a world of stars stretched above them. Ana rolled onto her side, studying Rhen as he stretched long on his back.
He was different here, away from the city and the busyness of daily life. The anxious energy had left him, and he seemed utterly still. It was a calmness that consumed, effecting everything around him. Even her. She had thought their meager friendship had been irreparable, but now she wasn’t so sure.
A tiny grip inside her, the tightening of her core when he glanced at her and lifted a brow, made her consider that they could be more. Maybe their incessant bickering was because they weren’t supposed to be friends at all, but something far more important. After all, the reason she pestered him so much about taking breaks from work was because she cared. Maybe the reason he teased her relentlessly about Jon was because he knew she deserved more – someone present.
“It’s rude to stare,” he murmurs quietly, but he turns his face towards her, pinning her with his gaze.
Ana turned away, rolling swiftly onto her back and twisting her fingers together in front of her stomach. “I was just thinking,” she muttered, though what she was thinking wasn’t something she cared to share at all. “The stars are brighter out here,” she rambled, trying to stifle the flutter in her belly. “There’s so many of them. I’ve never seen the sky like this.”
Rhen pushes onto his elbow, turning towards her, and he rests his cheek on his hand. “There’s starlight in your eyes.”
Ana dragged her gaze to him, the breath freezing in her chest.
His eyes searched hers, uncertain, but when she didn’t flinch away from his scrutiny, he rolled towards her, stretching an arm across her.
She suddenly couldn’t keep her hands to herself, and she wrapped her fingers through the hair at the back of his neck as he brought his face to hers. Their lips met without timidity, like they had done this a thousand times before, and she felt herself becoming alive beneath his touch as his large hand cupped her waist.
Everything about him felt so big all of the sudden. His hands, his shoulders, his leg as his knee came between her thighs, so he could settle himself over her. Or maybe she just felt small – fragile like the situation they had just thrust themselves into.
Her hands clawed at his back and shoulders greedily as his heavy weight eased on top of her, his forearms pressed into the blankets on either side of her head. She could feel herself shifting beneath him, her body quickly slipping out of her tightly reined control, and she wondered, would it always be like this now, or would it end when they went back to the city?
She knew it before she’d even walked out onto the pier. She could feel it.
But he had promised. No matter how much he hated this little town, no matter how stuck he felt – she didn’t think he would actually leave her. Not again.
She let her feet carry her cross the planks of wood, but her vision glazed. She hardly let herself see the people scattered about – some fishing, a couple linked arm-in-arm as they grinned at each other, a mother giving her child cotton candy from the busy vendor. None of them seemed important. None of them wore his smiling face.
She let herself drift to the very end, and she sat down, letting her feet dangle high above the water. She had been so sure he would stay. Now, she just felt stupid.
Humbled again, it would seem. She would be stuck in this sorry little town forever. Without him. Again.
She waited until the sun started to go down, sitting at the edge of the pier for almost half an hour. Then, when there was little left to do, she pushed herself to her feet and made her way back towards the parking lot.
She was lost in the flow of people, nearly to the start of the pier, when she heard a familiar car lock beeping. Her head jerked up in alarm, her eyes widening in disbelief.
And there he was. Running towards her and shaking his head, his arms half-lifted in a shrug of apology.
She didn’t even hesitate to run to him, and a grin stretched across his face just before he wrapped his arms around her, picking her up and spinning around.
“I couldn’t go,” he says, the words muffled by her hair. “I couldn’t leave this stupid town after all.” He laughed, and when he looked down at her, his eyes were bright, without any sign of doubt.
“You’re staying?” she asked, still disbelieving. “You know all the reasons I can’t leave.”
His eyes softened, and he slipped a hand into her hair, lifting her face to his. “Then we’ll be stuck together,” he says, and he brought his lips to hers, tasting of sun and love and kept promises.
He was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. We locked eyes in passing, and even the rising sun seemed like a dull warmth compared to the heat of his gaze. He’d been there all night, lost in the mass of others along the beach who’d stayed to enjoy the bonfire, and it wasn’t until it was time to leave that I’d stumbled across him. It didn’t seem fair.
Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I let my eyes drift to the car park over a hundred yards away. I catch sight of him just as he pulls himself into his light blue jeep, and he turns in my direction.
I look away quickly, but it’s too late. He’s caught me staring. I’m about to plop down in the sand instead of continuing the trek to my own car, but I hear the sound of his engine starting, and I’m relieved the lingering embarrassment will be gone soon. I wait for the sound of his car to fade away, but I’m alarmed when I realize he’s getting closer.
My head shoots up in surprise, and I see him driving across the sand. I shift nervously on my feet, but he pulls up next to me and slows to a stop.
He flashes a wide smile, cheeks dimpling. “You too tired for breakfast?” he asks, pinning me with an unwavering gaze.
“What?” I ask quietly. I’m hardly audible over the rumble of his engine.
“May I take you to breakfast?” he asks, but this time his brows pinch forward as if he’s concerned he misread the obvious signals.
Unable to find my voice, I nod, blinking in surprise.
His wide grin returns, and he reaches down, nodding towards my hefty bag. I pass it over hesitantly, knowing it’s heavy, but he takes it easily and places it in the back. He watches me as I circle around the front of his jeep in a dazed state, still unable to process that this is happening, and he reaches across to open the passenger door.
“I like pancakes,” I say as I plop into the seat.
“Perfect,” he says, laughing, and he steers us towards the road and city that awaits us.
As a writer, I feel it’s important to read constantly, but as a writer with very limited time, it’s hard to give up those precious moments of free time to reading. However, I’m making an effort this year to read more – read more popular books, read more books by friends that deserve more recognition, read outside my typical genres, and read books set in other countries that celebrate other cultures and show parts of the world that I’ve never experienced.
My reading goal is pretty hefty (at least for me) at a book per week. I know some of you surpass this number easily, but as a single mom trying to pursue a career in writing, that’s a pretty big number! We’ll see what happens, but I know I can do it with the right focus.
Whatever your goals are, I hope wonderful books find their way into your lives. Happy Wednesday and happy reading!
If you’re looking to heat up your winter with an adult (18+) romance, check out my series, The Pell Playhouse, available in paperback and FREE with Kindle Unlimited.
Is it determined by time? Is it determined by word count? Are you trying to do a little more than yesterday – or more than last week? Are you keeping track of a larger goal to reach by a later point?
No matter how you break down your goals, it’s good to have a predetermined point to reach to tell yourself, “I did it!” Goal setting can become daunting – especially during the first few weeks of the year – but when you set small, attainable goals, it can be such a rewarding feeling to meet them.
What do I do?
What do I do? I use my Sundays to set a weekly goal (usually my weekly goals are pretty consistent because I break down my year goal into months, then weeks), and then I adjust my goal for the day each morning to make that weekly goal attainable by the end of the week. I also try to reach that weekly goal ahead of time, so I’ll have less work at the end of the week when I want to relax.
At least, that’s what I usually do. If I’m completely honest, the beginning of this year has been a whirlwind so far, and some nights feel like I’m working backwards with how sluggish my brain has felt. This week, I felt like I finally had a break through and have gotten back into my regular flow of writing. Hurray!
So, what was different?
I usually determine my writing goals by setting a specific word count, or if I’m editing, I’ll set a number of pages, chapters, or sections.
This week, I told myself I was going to work on things for at least an hour each night. Having a stopping point that was determined differently from my usual stopping place was so refreshing, and it had taken so much stress off my mind that I could actually write! Such a great feeling!
What should you do to get out of a slump?
Try changing how you set your goals!
If you usually write for a certain amount of time, choose a certain amount of words instead – or vice versa. It’s surprising how much it can free up your mind. You might be shocked by exactly how much stress you’ve put on yourself without even realizing it, and you can always switch back to your old goal setting ways when you’re needing to switch it up again.
Thanks so much for reading, and I’m wishing the best for you on your writing journeys! Don’t forget to love your writing as you work – it’ll shine through in the finished product!
If you’re looking for a hot, steamy romance series (adults, 18+), check out The Pell Playhouse series, on Amazon – FREE with Kindle Unlimited and available in paperback. I’m currently working on book three every day, and it’s getting closer and closer to being complete!
Hope you’re reading some good books and having a happy 2022!
Writing Prompt: Write a short fight scene between two characters, where neither of them say anything negative to each other.
“You’re faster now.” The sweat leaked from his brow as he circled her in the sand. His blade hung low, nearly drawing a line in the ground as he held it behind him, aggression abandoned.
“You’ve gotten stronger,” she replied, but there was a hint of regret within the playful banter. “You were always stronger than me. I’m happy to see that I’ve yet to surpass you.”
“Perhaps we could step back – return to our training days.” It was a long shot, and he knew it. He could see it in her eyes. The determination. The harsh pursuit of the path she’d chosen – the path he should have chose.
“It’s not too late,” she whispered, barely audible over the whisper of winds against the sand. “You would not be an man without loyalty if you turned against a corrupt king.”
Her blade was still gleaming with the blood of his men, crimson dripping into the white sand. Yet there was hope in her eyes – the same hope he’d seen in her face when he took her in as a young girl.
“You have become everything I hoped you would be,” he said, his voice wavering as the words caught in his throat. “Do not hold back, child. I will give you my best, now.”
Understanding shone in her eyes, and her lips pressed tightly together, her face paling. Then, she lifted her blade and shifted her feet, ready.
Their blades came together swiftly, a dancing clash of metal that sang through the day. She was the perfect mirror of him – a student that studied her master to religious extent. The footwork; the angle of his blade. Nothing was foreign to her. So when she made a lethal swipe for his midsection, half a pace faster than what was known, she knew he would fall. She heard the impact as he fell to his knees, and she dared not look over her shoulder.
“Rest peacefully, father,” she said, eyes fixed on the castle before her. “I will right the wrongs of this kingdom in your name.”
There was a soft moaning sound and a thud as he fell into the sand. “You have made me proud, fierce child,” he said, the words strained with effort. “He keeps a dagger on his hip.”
She listened to his last sigh, the way his breath caught and shuddered. There was silence, and she bowed her head, processing the loss. Then, she lifted her attention to the gates ahead, filled with new purpose and loathing.
The king would pay for this one. Yes, the king would pay, indeed.
I think my writing, in general, is less dialogue-heavy than this scene, but I might be obsessed. Is it okay to love your own writing?
If you don’t love it, how can you expect anyone else to?
Originally, I did not think my response would include so much dialogue. I read once, that if your scene can happen without dialogue, let it, and I’ve tried to follow this rule. Whatever was coming to my mind at this point definitely did not follow this rule, and I think that’s okay. Sometimes, you just have to follow your heart… or your mind… or instinct.
What did you come up with? Give the prompt a go! It’s a fun challenge!
It’s here – November! An entire new month, or an entire new chance to reset your goals from the month before if you didn’t quite meet them. Maybe you weren’t even halfway to achieving your last month’s goal because it just seemed so overwhelming.
If your aspiration is to be an author, it’s easy to get discouraged when you see endless indie authors producing several books a year (or traditional authors signing an astounding number of contracts!). You’re still struggling with your initial draft while your social media friend announces her tenth book. If they make it seem so easy, why is it so hard for you?
The good news is, regardless of skill or talent, to finish a book, you really only need a solid plan to make consistent, forward movement. Below are some tips and strategies to help you finish that pesky, overwhelming first draft of your current work in progress.
Determine/Estimate Approximate Word Count
If you’ve never written a book before, you might be completely baffled by this step. Isn’t it about telling a story rather than meeting some minimum word count requirement? Yes, it is, but determining a word count goal will allow you to see your progress and set goals to reach by a time of your choosing. A quick search will show you the breakdown of average word counts for different genres. You might even notice that many people have made charts with this information – and it’s all slightly different numbers. That’s because word count expectations for different genres are just a guide, not a rule.
A lot of first time authors will find it easier to meet a smaller goal, but if you’re dreaming of writing an epic fantasy, there’s nothing stopping you from exceeding those average word count expectations. Just keep in mind that editing should shave off quite a few space-filling words, so your sentences flow smoother. Don’t get discouraged if your word count shrinks! You may even need to eliminate scenes completely if you find they disrupt the flow of the story.
Pick a date that you would like to complete your first draft by, and calculate minimum word count per day.
Now, if you have Scrivener as your writing software (it’s what I use!), you can enter in your word count goal and draft completion date, and it will calculate it for you. It will even adjust the number of words that need to be written that day if you decide to skip a day or two. But if your writing softward doesn’t have that tool, it’s easy to calculate yourself.
Pick your day, choose what days of the week you’re going to write on, and find out how many days you are planning to use as writing days between now and your goal date. (Maybe you can only realistically write four days a week.) Divide your word count goal by the number of days, and that’s how many words you’ll need to write on each of your writing days to meet that goal.
You should be able to tell relatively quickly whether that’s an achievable and realistic goal. You may need to adjust your finishing date if your minimum daily word count is too high – and that’s okay! It may feel like a race, but slow and steady is a safe way to keep yourself from giving up or getting overwhelmed.
Set a time of day.
Whether it’s the morning, evening, in the middle of the day, or split between times, having a specified time of day for writing will help you be more consistent on a regular basis and moving steadily towards your goal.
If reaching a specific word count goal is difficult or overwhelming, choose an amount of time to write instead.
Different approaches may seem daunting to different authors. Perhaps a word count goal makes you feel stressed. Instead, set a timer for a pre-determined amount of time, and write that entire time. Once the timer goes off, give yourself an additional ten minutes to finish up, if possible, and then stop for the day, so you won’t feel overwhelmed or burn out. The goal is consistency. An hour every day will get your further than sporadic days of three to four hours, especially if you go for long periods of time between those lengthy spurts.
So, if you’re noticing dozens – or hundreds – of other authors are reaching their goals, just remember, you have the ability to be one of them, too. Find consistency in your writing life, and you will quickly see a change in your productivity. You’ll be reaching those goals much faster!
Thanks for taking the time to read, and good luck on your writing journeys!
If you’re in the mood for a “spicy” romance series (18+ audience), check out my series on Amazon by clicking here. It’s FREE with Kindle Unlimited and also available in paperback. Happy reading!