Wednesday, October 7, 2015

When Beta Knows Best

Many indie authors have multiple "sets of eyes" that assist and guide them through the process of delivering the best story they can, but I'm not one of those authors.  There are some authors who have several cold readers, a plot/developmental editor, a copy editor, a proofreader, and then finally a spouse or dear friend. For good or bad, and several very good reasons, I have just never attacked my craft that way.  Apart from my own set of eyes, I have employed only the addition of two additional professionals.  My beta (such a small word for what she does) and a freelance editor. They actually read the content, making amendments and comments, but I have several dear friends who I bounce questions off.

My muse is always working (if I feed and nurture her with David Gandy photos, brownies and chocolate,) so I'm never at a loss in my formula of writing.  I'm laughing as I type that because I have no formula - no outline - only a mere direction and my muse works with my fingers when I sit down before the computer.  

there are many authors who outline but ... *Stands, places hand over swelling heart, proudly declaring,* "I am a seat of the pants author," but I couldn't do it without said beta who has been with me since Denial of Conscience was born and posted on A Happy Assembly. New in our relationship we danced around each other, trying to find the right blend of what we both wanted to give and receive. Four novels later, we have it down!

I thought of this blog post after I recently went on a Love Boat TV binge one afternoon. One of the plot lines was a buff Lorenzo Lamas as a would-be matador and his girlfriend's abhorrence to the whole idea of it: the cruelty, the taunting, the traditions, the family honor, and the symbolism. That got me thinking about Denial of Conscience and the steady influence and guidance of my beta when I wrote the original Chapter 19.

Days  after The Love Boattelephoned my beta with a very silly question about "What would Nikki say...?" Nicki is the "Lydia" character in my upcoming novel, Villa Fortuna.  She - Nicki, not my beta - is ballsy, and as my Elizabeth states with disapproval but acceptance, has a mouth like an open sewer.  Nicki has New York sass and says what's on her mind with a thick Bronx accent, and although loved dearly by Elizabeth, Nicki is also the quintessential stereotype of everything Elizabeth despises. She is Italian-American as though out of a reality TV show.  Think: Nicki in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Snooki in Jersey Shore.

So here was the question I posed to my BFF beta. "Would Nicki say "pu@@y" or "va-jay-jay?" She's not a "lady bits" type of girl and "vagina" is more Elizabeth, definitely not Nicki's lingo."   We went back and forth and finally decided on what we decided on. :)  Yes, my beta knew best.  She usually does, and I trust her for not only *ahem* important questions (LOL) such as this but the big stuff, too.

You see, my muse is an obstinate, headstrong girl and when she writes in Technicolor and sees the scene the way she sees it and wants it, there tends to be no stopping her.  That is what happened in Denial of Conscience, and thank goodness BFF was there to say "Um, maybe you should go in another direction. Bullfighting is a touchy subject. I see what you're doing and know what you are trying to say, but you might get some push back on this one."

Ah, push back. Those of you who know my stories, know that I push the envelope with ODC.  Hell, I made Mr. Bennet and George Wickham evil Nazis in My Dearest Darling, and imprisoned Darcy in a Francoist concentration camp in The Very Thought of You. But this was different and I'll let you decide.

Leaving out the explicit naughty bits (just refer back to your copy of DoC because they're in there, ;) ) you can decide for yourself with this original, unedited version of Chapter 19 - Ole.  IMHO beta knew best, once again. I replaced this consummation scene with the one located in the gazebo following the hot tango in Seville, thereby replacing the symbolism of the dance between the bullfighter and the bull with the symbolism of the sensual tango? Both are passionate and end in explosion, but had I gone in this direction then all that came afterward would have changed.  In this version, Liz would have been whisked away by Crawford, away from Darcy's protection, and who the heck knows what the muse would have concocted!

Chapter Nineteen - Ole

It being the off season for bullfighting, the Real Maestranza de Caballieri was only half full, but Crawford had insisted on arriving early to the Plaza de Torros, the bullfighting ring. He was adamant not to miss the parade, the paseillo, which ushered in the anticipated bugle sound of commencement. Surrounded by the white and yellow gold façade, the impressive 250 year old structure concealed the Plaza at its center, the chapel and the vast museum below the stands. 
It was hot, too hot in the sun where Crawford insisted on sitting in order to be as close to the ringside barrier as possible. Liz lifted her long hair behind her and then twisted it into a knot until it stayed at the back of her head. She fanned herself with the program he handed her. It didn’t matter, the perspiration still dripped between her breasts as the sun beat down upon her. 
Conversation between the couple was kept at a minimal while Crawford became engrossed in the two-hour cultural artistry and brave demonstration of bull taunting and subsequent viscous killing. He thrived on the blood spilled by the picadors on their horses as they stabbed the banderillas into the bull’s neck. Given the conversation at the hotel and the now savage look in his eyes, Liz was thankful for the silence between them.
Although she had been given specific instructions by Darcy, she didn’t want to tempt fate. She was ill-equipped to handle what she suspected was lurking below Crawford’s charming façade. Much like the bull before her, attack was never far away. Teasing her companion or playing coy could be very dangerous, and he had already alluded to the fact that he assumed her duplicity.
With each new young bull that came into the plaza ring, vibrant pasadoble introduction music played on the overhead speakers. Liz sat at the edge of her narrow stone seat to view the bull in the ring until the novice torero entered with his team. 
As the fight commenced, she became lost in the colors, the Spanish music, and the dance between the torero and the torro. She deliberately blocked from her vision the acknowledgement of the obvious cruelty to the animal, instead, focusing on the actions and power struggle taking place in the ring before her.
The bullfight was how she felt her whole adult life. The torro represented her inner voice’s struggled for supremacy and the torero was her stiff, unyielding, controlling façade denying her sub conscience’s victory, taunting it with her daydreams, sketches and romantic orchids.
The powerful lunges and sweeping arm movements of the torero fascinated her. They were erotic expressions. The way he arched and bowed his back while puffing out his chest in defiance to the charging bull was a seductive dance. His masterful artistic manipulation of the scarlet cape set against his ornate sequined suit of lights spellbound her each time the brilliant sunlight caught the costume’s gold reflective threads. 
She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, enraptured by the symbolism as the passion coursed through her veins. It stirred her with desire, seeing Darcy and her in that sensual dance of struggle and danger, only who was the bull and who was the torero she did not know. A snap of the bullfighter’s cape snapped her reserve inside. She needed release from the escalating craving. She needed Darcy – now.
Darcy sat on the opposite side of the ring, watching Liz through his monocular. It surprised him to see her riveted by the bullfight. His reaction to the corrida de torros, which was not his first time in attendance, was thrilling, enjoying the danger of it all. Given his career, the fight caused his blood to rush in excitement when the crowd shouted olé in the final throws of victory. He enjoyed getting lost in the passionate power play at the end, which, to him represented the perceived conquest over evil by good. Wasn’t that after all what he did as an assassin?  When the blood flowed, the high ensued. It wasn’t the bull that lay dead, it was the cocaine trafficker, the arms dealer, the terrorist extremist - it was eventually Wickham, Crawford, and Al-Hanash. He was the torero, the matador, the bringer of justice and the dealer of death.
The bugle sounded and the music changed when the next part of the fight commenced with the banderilleros entered the arena holding their short colorful paper trimmed sticks. Their posturing to the music, and the music itself, reminded Darcy of his and Liz’s tango, and he became lost in the memory of that night at the dance school. Lost in his daydream, the plaza before him became a vast empty circle of dirt, all he saw was Liz on the other side, flush and fanning herself in the heat, looking as resplendent as the sunlight. 
He, too, became heated remembering how he held her on the dance floor and how his thighs brushed against hers when they moved across the wood, fighting yet desiring. They were the bull and matador, both burning in seductive passion to conquer the other, both struggling to maintain control yet both wanting nothing more than to charge, triumph over and then hear olé with passionate release.
“Henry, would you mind terribly if I went downstairs to the museum. It is so hot; I don’t think I can take the sun much longer without getting heatstroke,” Liz asked.
Crawford looked her up and down, noting the sunburn to her cheeks and perspiration clinging to her chest.  “Don’t be too long. The matador will be entering shortly for the tercio de muerta.”
Liz didn’t know what the heck the tercio de muerta was, but she was damned sure she didn’t want to see slaughter. The bullfight had an all together different connotation to her, and it sure as hell didn’t end in death … more like life, specifically rebirth with the flood of repressed passions flowing in the arms of one man - her bull, Darcy.
Upon hearing the exchange between Crawford and Liz through his ear receiver, Darcy rose post haste. Two at a time he climbed the deep stairs, which led to the entrance of the Real. Nearly running to the opposite side of the Plaza, he almost collided with Liz when she exited the grandstand.
She giggled, noting the flush to his cheeks. His hair was askew and his smoldering look and dark eyes seemed to have spark and flame behind them, an intensity that left her unsure if it was the temperature outside or something entirely different. Whatever it was it matched what she was feeling.
Darcy said nothing, but took her hand in his and led her down the steps to the closed museum. Similar to the day he rescued her at Longbourn, with heavy, purposeful strides, he was a man on a mission, trying almost every locked door down an empty hallway until finally one gave way to opening. With ragged breath of anticipation, he strained with desire. The blood lust of the fight, the heat of the sun, and the glorious vision of the woman he loved glistening from sweat in her lovely yellow sundress was more than he can handle. Iceman had systematically melted into a puddle at her feet.
The unlocked door led to the darkened maze of small galleries, which held various collections of bullfighting paintings. Liz’s heart beat rapidly in eager readiness of what Darcy was thinking and planning on doing within these restricted rooms. She thought nothing of restriction only of the dangerous thrill of freedom, the collision of bodies, heart and heat, and the craving that was raging through her blood. She needed satiation.
Through the maze, he found his way to the last and the smallest room. They couldn’t see the Goya’s hanging from the wall, nor the beautiful depictions of bullfights rendered on canvas. The only thing they could see was red – emotion, passion, and the challenging vibrant cape of the matador calling them out in an exotic, intense, erotic rhythmic dance that was all their own.
Ignoring his cut lip, Darcy pinned Liz against the wall and kissed her hungrily. His mouth branded hers with fire while she declared the same ownership with matched intensity. Scorching lips and tongues resembled the taunting and driving spears of the picadors.
“I have to have make love to you, Liz.” 
“Yes.” she panted. Her hands eagerly and anxiously unbuttoned his shirt, sliding them over his smooth chest. The shirt dropped over his broad shoulders, falling to the floor.
Just as anxiously, Darcy dropped both straps to her sundress, baring her full breasts and the glistening perspiration upon her body. Cupping her with both his hands, his mouth continued to plunder hers intensely. His thumbs brushed desire against her taut nipples, causing her to arch her back like the posturing of the matador, only she was melting into him. There was no rigidity in her body only succumbing to his touch, which burned and controlled her. 
The dangerous brazen public coupling, the darkened room, the heavy breathing, the moans of pleasure added to the eroticism of the moment. It was torrid and steamy. The urgency made it aggressive and charged, and Liz loved it!  Above in the grandstand, she could hear the cheers from the crowd, but ignored it. They only thing she focused on was Darcy whisper, “Let me make-love to you. Now. Here.”
(see book :) )
The crowd’s cries of olé at the conquering of the bull traveled to the lover’s erotic coupling in the darkened museum. When finally the pressure built in both like the release of a tightly coiled rope, together they came crashing with controlled cries amidst explosive shakes and tremors. Darcy, remaining sheathed inside Liz, wrapped his arms around her waist and hugged her close against him. 
His kisses to her neck and shoulders were tender and gentle.“I have to hear it, Liz; tell me what you feel for me.”
She leaned her head against his and closed her eyes when she spoke softly into the darkness, “I love you, Fitzwilliam.”  She didn’t see him smile in the darkness.
Her legs, he could tell were jelly below her and about to give way from the intensity of their lovemaking; he held her tightly to him and said, “I’ve got you babe… I am never going to let you go.”

The kill of the torro and the cheers of the bloodthirsty crowd did something to Crawford; he was hungry for more and hungrier for other things.

No more than fifteen minutes had passed since Liz’s departure from the plaza when Crawford’s cell phone range. There was no caller id.
He said nothing when he pressed the "talk" button.
“So I see that you are still alive, Crawford,” Al Hanash said in his distinct slightly accented voice, only this time it was filled with disdain and venom. It was clear that his feathers had become ruffled. 
“Is there a reason you were expecting otherwise, Mr. Renaud?  We have a meeting scheduled after all.”
Renaud laughed, “Do you think me such a fool as to make deals with a dog?  You failed me, Crawford; punishment awaits you. By your apparent good fortune and Omar’s silence, I can only assume that either you killed him or whoever is following you did.”
“No one is following me sir, I am sure of it. I have been very careful; it is just the girl and me.”
“You are a bigger fool than I thought. Of course you are being followed. The woman has made you weak… unfocused. You have mixed business with the personal needs of your obsessions. Tell me, have you deflowered the Bennet woman yet?”
“Here is our new deal – noon, tomorrow in the Jemaa al Fna, number 12 – the woman, unspoiled in exchange for your life. If you defy me, I will come for you myself. If you are followed, I will kill you on the spot. I will have my eyes everywhere within the medina and I will know if you betray me. If you defile her, I will cut your dick off and shove it down your throat.”
“But... but… my money. You owe me!”
“There will be no money. Does your life not have value enough?  Food stall number 12. If you are not there, I will unleash all hell to find you.” [click]
Crawford looked around him wildly. His eyes darted from person to person looking for anyone, someone, anything that was familiar or suspicious. For the first time in a long time he was nervous. Omar was not a man that was bested easily. The Arab was fierce and extremely strong. His presence alone was intimidating. If someone had murdered him, then that someone was powerful in his own right, more powerful than Crawford could ever be.
The spectators had begun to rise from their stone benches at the conclusion of the bullfight. Liz had yet to come back and he went into hyper alert. Certainly his life was more important than having sex with Liz not to mention the fact that he would be surely dead if he lost her in the crowd. Then there was the issue of being followed. There was only one recourse and he had to seize the moment as the crowd pushed and pulled around him.
Below the grandstand, Liz and Darcy dressed and she pulled her hair back up. 
“Regrets?”  he asked.
“None whatsoever. You?”
Darcy kissed her sweetly. “None. As a matter of fact I intend on making love to you horizontally very soon.”
He smiled and handed her his cell phone. “Take this. I don’t have another throw away nor has there been time to get one. I have my Bluetooth, which is a different number. If you need me, just press number one.”
The navigated back through the maze of galleries in silence and could hear the crowd filling the hallway. “Go first. I’ll be right behind you,” he said before chuckling and pocketing her torn panties. “Try not to let your dress get caught in the breeze.”
It was only seconds from the time when Liz exited the room into the crowded hallway that she ran directly into Crawford who was searching for her. “Henry, I was trying to make my way back through the crowd to the stands. Thank goodness you came.”  Without realizing it, he had quickly swept her deep into the melee of people with intent of losing anyone who would follow them. Within minutes, they were seated side by side in a taxi cab headed, unbeknownst to Liz, straight for the airport to Morocco.
Darcy lost her and with each mile that separated them the snake’s microphone’s transmission ceased between them.

So what say you? Better as an outtake or would you have liked to see where this went?

Now, so what changed with the number of eyes on my next book? The addition of a stellar cold reader, a great lady who has followed my stories from their infancy in 2010 on AHA.  I am SO grateful to my team who helps make my novels better than my muse! And by the way - I am in search of a most obscure criteria for a cold reader: must be of Italian-American decent, from a big family, preferably a New Yorker (but would settle for N.East) and must be fluent in understanding what five, rocking pinched fingertips before your face means.  Capisce? LOL Applications are being accepted - just email me.