Thursday, February 23, 2017

Beautiful People: February 2017 ~ Kang-mun and Belleza

It's time for Beautiful People again, hosted by the great Cait and Sky.  This Valentine's edition features the main couple from my recently completed novel: Queen Beauty and the Beasts.  Meet Kwon Kang-mun and Belleza Rivera, the Diva Duo as my friend Lauren calls them.  Instead of answering the questions the usual way, I did something a little different and answered them with snippets, because it's been a long week and I'm tired and this was an easy way to do it. :D

How and why did they meet?
Belleza had danced into his life- literally- singing and pirouetting out of a room with a broom in hand, right into his pathway as he left after another midnight session.  The vivacious sparkle of her voice and its emotional range caught his attention at once.  She had apologized for disturbing him, showing the correct respect, which was unusual in a foreigner.  The next night he had listened from hiding, recognizing an unpolished gem in her voice.  Bored and jaded as he was, the idea of teaching her roused him from his apathy and he had approached her before he had time to change his mind.

What were their first impressions of each other?
She had condensed the story; giving the correct answer without adding the details that still shimmered golden in her memory.  How for the first two weeks she had not seen Kang-mun and didn’t know who it was that tutored her, just that he was a marvelous teacher who knew music inside out.  When she did find out, the fact that he was ZODI’s lead singer didn’t impress her as much as his complete mastery of music and what he had shown her how to accomplish- taking something raw and refining it into a result that others beyond yourself would understand; which was the ultimate aim of a singer.

How would they prove their love for each other?
She knew only one way to answer it.  In two steps she was behind him and brought her arms up to slide gently around his neck.

He froze, hands falling away from the keys and his shoulders stiffening under her touch.

“I am not leaving, Angel,” she whispered tenderly.  “I am staying."  Her voice fell until it was barely even a breath in the heavy stillness of the room.  “I won’t leave you.”

He shuddered under her words and touch.  For one fleet, startling second she had a glimpse of the power one person could wield over another.  She did not understand it then, nor would she for some time, but the memory of that sensation would never leave her.

Wonderingly, as if he didn’t believe his senses, he raised long fingers to her arm, brushing it with feather-light touch and then again when she didn’t pull away.  She rested her cheek on the top of his head.  He leaned back into her slightly, just enough to feel that she was really there. 

“There might not be an answer, you know,” he said after a long moment of silence, during which he rested his hand on her arm, the touch sending tiny tingles through her.  “At least not one that you can find.”

“I don’t believe that,” she said quietly but confidently.

He made no reply and his hand fell from her arm.  Desperate to reassure him, she reached gentle fingers up and ran them down the side of his face, where the edge of the mask touched his hairline.

He caught his breath with another shudder and as her fingers slid down his jaw, something wet dropped on them.

A tear.

Instinctively she knew that it was a tear of hope.

What would be an ideal date?
“I have a request for you, Bella.”  Kang-mun motioned her to join him in the back of the elevator.  “Do you think that you could handle going out to dinner with me and Lorena and Anna?”

A shiver of startled apprehension ran up her spine, as if hearing a call to battle.  “Yes, sunbae, I can.”

His hands came up to frame her face as he looked deeply into her eyes.  “You’re sure?  It’s going to be hard, Beauty, but I think it’s going to help us.”

“How?” she questioned.  “It seems like it can only make her angrier.”

“It’s not her I’m thinking of,” he explained.  “I suspect Anna is holding out on me, that she has a plan, too, and this could force her to show her hand.”

“So that you can deal with it on your terms, not when she’s ready to spring it?"

He grinned and brushed her nose with the tip of his finger.  “Exactly.  I’ll be right next to you the whole time.  Think you can handle it?”

Battle fever surged in her veins.  “I can do it, Angel.”

Is there something they emphatically disagree on?
“Wait a minute,” Belleza piped up when he paused again.  “You can’t make me a queen in this, sunbaenim.  That’s not fair.”
It seemed as if every single person around them stifled a gasp; unsure of whether to look at Kang-mun or not, they settled for watching Belleza with wide eyes as she frowned at him.  Slowly he turned to look at her.  She had the distinct impression that could she have seen his eyebrows, they would be raised to their fullest reach.  “Excuse me?”
“Oh, I’d love the part,” she assured him.  “You’re a genius.  But it’s not fair to give me the part of a queen when everyone else is just going to be a princess.”

 “I’ll make you whatever I need to for the purposes of the story,” he informed her, eyes narrowing.
She scowled rebelliously at him.  “Your fans are going to hate you and hate me even more.”
“They’ll forget about it when they become absorbed in the story,” he said dismissively.
She could not very well put her hands on her hips while seated in an airplane seat but she did so anyway, elbows crooked forward so she wouldn’t bump into Chul-soo who sat beside her.
“Oppa, I would love the part and you’re the best musician ever, but if there is a queen role, it should go to Dahae-unni.”  Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Shin-woo grinning.  The plagued torment.
“Who precisely is writing this, you or me?” he demanded, firmly but without the anger she had expected

List 5 “food quirks” they know about each other. (Ex: how they take their coffee, if they’re allergic to something, etc….and feel free to mention other non-food quirks!)
“I wonder what happened to make her so evil in her soul?”  Belleza clasped her hands under her chin and stared thoughtfully at him.

“Woo-sung will tell you that evil is a disease that slowly rots anyone who consistently chooses it,” Kang-mun said and shrugged.

She looked at him and shook her head, smiling fondly.

“What?” he asked, pitching his voice lower.

“You say it as if you don’t believe it, and I know that’s a lie, sunbae.”  She leaned closer and patted his hand where it lay on the arm of the chair.  “Go ahead and try to convince the rest of the world that you have a twisted soul.  You don’t fool me.”

What’s one thing they know about each other that no one else does?
Some people possessed a core of living flame, a belief in love and goodness and truth that was so powerful it could not be other than Divine.  God might have abandoned him, but if there was anything he could do to stop it, he would give himself to preserve that sacred fire in her.

What’s one thing that they keep a secret from each other?
Kang-mun growled and everyone stepped back as the growl grew louder and fiercer.  He yanked off his pants but his anger was pushing the shift too fast to save his shirt and it gave way with a savage ripping sound.  For six blinding seconds the lawn flashed into light as bright as noonday, highlighting a dark gold lion with black mane and the snow leopard emerging from the form of a man.  The lion roared and the leopard snarled back, circling to the side.

How would their lives be different without each other?
She decided to ask the less important question first.  “Why do you look pleased when I sass Kang-mun?  I shouldn’t have done it in the airplane this morning, not in front of everyone, but why did you look pleased?  I was disrespectful.”

“Yes, you were,” he agreed, a grin tugging at the corners of his lips.  “But you make Kang-mun come alive and that’s why I like to see it.”

She tilted her head quizzically.  “What do you mean come alive?”

“In case you haven’t noticed, Kang-mun is a rather difficult person to get along with,” he said dryly.

She giggled.

Woo-sung sobered.  “He’s had it harder than any of us and he has a hard time believing in any hope.  For us sure, but not for himself, because he blames himself for what happened.  It’s a long story,” he added at her confused look.  “I’ll tell you at home sometime when we can be truly alone,” he whispered.  “You’re so vitally alive, Bella.  You don’t know how not to be.  So when you sass him, when you stir him up, you remind him to live.”  He grinned now.  “It’s a great thing.”

Where do they each see this relationship going?
“Mmm.”  Another short silence fell, broken by him asking, “What will you do when the curse is broken?  You’ve put so much energy into breaking it and figuring us out.  But what about you?"

The question startled her.  “I... I never thought about it,” she admitted in surprise.  She considered for a moment.  “I’ll go back home.  Keep singing.  I... well... I don’t really know what else.”  She shrugged and pulled the blanket closer about her.

“And Joon-tae?”

For a few seconds she wasn’t certain she had heard him correctly.  But what she could see of his face was now too casual, obviously a controlled expression instead of the natural one he had held until then.

“I honestly don’t know, oppa.  Do you... ah...” she faltered and dropped the words, finally settling for saying, “I just don’t know.”

And a random one because I like it:
His voice cut across all others.  “During the intervening time, Rosita, will you please take Yo-han into the music room and attempt to teach him how to properly waltz?  His so-called skill at that dance is an abomination, as you might remember from dancing with him before and his hybrid waltz-foxtrot-cow shuffle.”

His cousins broke into laughter, except for Yo-han, who was glaring at Shin-woo because he was laughing the hardest.

“Dad’s going to school,” Shin-woo jeered.

“Dad’s going to whip your butt at wrestling just as soon as school is done,” Yo-han retorted.

Dad had better get going or he won’t be done in time to do anything,” Kang-mun said firmly.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Roses, Lions, and Tangos: Snippets of Queen Beauty and the Beasts - Part One

A startling realization came to me in the dark hours of this morning.

I have not yet posted a single snippet of the book that consumed me heart and soul for the last months.  *gasp*  Today, I remedy that.

The door opened slowly and each paused to glance up.  Belleza gasped and the ladle from her hand clattered to the floor as she rushed to her father’s side, frightened by the face set in lines of gray worry far older than his real years.  “Papi!  What happened?”  Her brothers clustered around, easing their father gently into to a chair.  He put his arms up on the table and dropped his head heavily on them.  Something fell from his grasp and hit the floor softly.  Franco stooped to pick it up and held it out to Belleza.

“Here, sis, the rose you wanted.”

She took it, eyes and lips widening wonderingly.  The heart of it glowed vibrant red, darkening through the petals out to black edges that curled outwards tightly, as if protecting themselves from the elements.

* * * * * *

A lion faced another large cat across a grassy lawn.  They were too far away for Belleza to distinguish what kind of cat the other one was.  Several men stood nearby, watching them as they stalked in a circle, snarling and growling.  One of the men motioned with his hand and both cats turned on him for a second.  He laughed, actually laughed, and the cats returned to their circling.  The lion roared and the other cat snarled a reply.  Mesmerized, Belleza could not tear her eyes away, forgetting that her light was still on and showed her in clear relief against the glass.

* * * * * *

“Aren’t you a morning person,” someone mumbled from a heap of blankets on the floor.

Ki-ha nodded toward it.  “That’s Shin-woo.  He hates mornings.”

“You do know it’s almost afternoon, right?” Belleza asked the blankets incredulously.

Shin-woo’s head emerged to glower at her for a moment and then he burrowed back into the pile.

* * * * * *

“Hey, Bella, is Papi home yet?”

“How many times must you be told not to slam the door, Franco?  No, he’s not back yet.  Is the fog still thick?”

“Sí, ugh.”  Her eldest brother cut in.  “And Franco’s not driving ever again.”  He straddled a chair and shook his head at the youngest brother.

“Hey!” Franco protested.  “It’s not my fault the GPS gave the wrong turn.  I’d like to see you try to drive under those conditions.”  He threw his baseball cap at Lautaro.

* * * * * *

Shin-woo’s mask fell to the floor with a soft thud and her gaze followed it downward, noting the beautiful copper tracery on the black velvet, the smoothness of the underside, how the contours custom fitted to his face and his alone.

A growl drew her eyes back up and she silently screamed into the hand that came up to cover her mouth in instinctive reaction.  A tiger stood where Shin-woo had been a moment before, baring fangs at Lorena.  Frantically, she looked around the circle of young men.  Where each member had been standing, they were now hunched over and amid the sounds of tearing fabric and strange creaks and pops their bodies were actually transforming into... wild cats.  Kang-mun alone remained human but there was a terrible knowledge in his eyes as she automatically looked to him, searching frantically for answers.

* * * * * *

Calmly, she reached out and yanked him up.  “If you don’t dance with me, you’ll be in trouble with your grandmother.”


Belleza gave him her charmingly smug smile.  “Because she told me to make sure all of you danced tonight.”

Startled, he turned to the old lady for confirmation.  She nodded slowly and then chuckled at his groan of betrayal.

“Stop fussing,” Belleza ordered.  “One would think I told you that I was going to put you in front of a firing squad for practice.”

“I think I’d prefer the firing squad,” he complained, which earned him a smack to the shoulder and a flick on the forehead.  Still muttering, he spun her quickly and led off in a modified waltz, incorporating his own steps and forcing her to follow his lead.  If he hoped to confuse her, he was disappointed for she rose to the challenge, easily keeping up with him.

* * * * * *

Kang-mun threw back his head and laughed at the same moment neon purple lightning struck straight down the sky to their left. 

All of them except for Shin-woo shuddered at the inhuman aura the light gave him.  Min-jo groaned and muttered, “Not the demon laugh.”

* * * * * *

That’s it?  Chul-soo had to have heard wrong.  “Nothing else?  We don’t have to, well, kiss you or something?”

Amid the snickering directed at him, Belleza laughed and shook her head.  “We’ll save that for later, if we think we need it.  The princesses usually have to kiss the princes in fairy tales but I have no idea if that’s involved here and I’m not just going to walk up to you guys and kiss you.”

“I am deeply offended,” Shin-woo growled at her.  “Not wanting to kiss this handsome face?  Have you been out in the sun too much?”

She rolled her eyes.  “I didn’t say I didn’t want to kiss you, I said I wasn’t going to.”  Speculative grins spread over the members’ faces and she realized what she had said.  Clapping her hands to her blushing cheeks she stammered, “I-I didn’t mean that... well that ...oh, you’re all awful.  Every single one of you.  Ugh.  Can we go sightsee the city now?”

* * * * * *

“Belleza, go,” Chul-soo pleaded.

Lorena was smiling in fierce glee.  She had the upper hand now and she knew it.  “Will you let them make your choices for you forever?” she asked Belleza, holding out her hand appealingly.  “Do come down and let me look at you, child.  I have a gift for you.”

Belleza’s curiosity battled with the foreboding that this was what Ji-hoon had meant when he said her life would grow weirder before it grew clearer.

“Kang-mun sunbaen-?” she asked at last.

“It would be far better for you if you went back to bed,” his answer came before she’d even finished her question. 

She made her decision.  “But possibly not better for all of you.”

* * * * * *

"First of all, which of you told Joon-tae about the Mexico story?”  He alternated his glare between Nam-san and Dong-gun.

“I did,” Dong-gun lifted his head defiantly.  “He was a liability, knowing her when she was younger, and if someone didn’t tell him, then he could have let out the secret.”

“And I supported him and stood with him.”  Nam-san said, putting an arm around Dong-gun.  “You can be mighty glad that he did tell him because he helped save our butts tonight."

“Did I say I was otherwise than glad?” Kang-mun asked, his voice neutral.  “Thank you for telling him.”

“Well, it’s a night full of surprises,” Man-se commented as Dong-gun gaped at Kang-mun.  “The Witch sees the light, the Rose has thorns, and the Dragon doesn’t flame.”

Shin-woo snickered.

* * * * * *

Kang-mun stood so suddenly that his chair screeched on the floor.  “Stay away from Belleza, Joon-tae,” he warned sternly.  “Don’t meddle in business that’s not yours.”

“Bella is my friend and all of you were once my friends,” he shot back.  “More than that, you were once my brothers.  Which makes it my business.”

“No, it doesn’t.”  Kang-mun crossed the room in two fluid strides and gripped his shoulder with fingers of iron, pinning him against the wall.  “We’re not friends anymore, and Belleza is safely under our care.  Stay.  Away.”  The command was a cross between a growl and a hiss.  “Don’t you dare cross me, Joon-tae-yah.”

He shoved back, wrenching away from Kang-mun.  “Implied threats again?  That didn’t work on me the first time, hyung.”  He had the satisfaction of seeing Kang-mun’s jaw harden even more at the emphasis he placed on the last word.

* * * * * *

She straightened.  “Deny it all you wish, but you are more like me than you admit or can see.  I was young and idealistic once, so I know exactly how to bring you down if you continue to fight me."

Belleza’s face still burned, rebellion stiffening her petite form as her chest heaved in anger, but she was silent.
“You see, child?  I will break everyone loyal to you, I will break you and I will use you to break them.  Consider now if you truly want to risk it.”  With a last superior smile, she turned on her heel and went towards the door.
“You cannot always win.”  The plain words were unvarnished by the fury stirring in Belleza, ringing with simple belief in a higher power.  Lorena halted at the door and turned to her.
“No?  Keep thinking that, chiquita.  And when you’re ready to learn why I always do win, call me.”  She indicated Belleza’s phone on the table behind her.

* * * * * *

“You’re going to dance the last dance with me.”

“Aren’t you tired out from dancing?” he demanded.

She laughed the idea to scorn.  “It takes more dancing than this to make me tired.”

“Then why don’t you dance this one by yourself?  We’ll happily sit and watch.”

She batted her eyelashes at the compliment and then pursed her lips in a pout.  “But sunbae, don’t you know that it takes two to tango?”

For three seconds no one said anything.  Then Shin-woo whistled, Man-se and Yo-han hooted and the other boys started laughing.

“You know how to tango?” Min-jo asked, surprised.

Belleza gave an unladylike snort.  “I’m from Argentina.  Of course I know how to tango.”

“Not everyone from Argentina knows how to tango,” Kang-mun felt compelled to point out.

She rolled her eyes.  “Oh, fine.  I’m from the lower level of upper class Argentinian society.  Yes, I know how to tango.  Satisfied now?”

“Well, you’re not tangoing here.”  Kang-mun stood quickly and frowned down at her.

She nodded soberly.  “It makes sense that you wouldn’t know how.”

He choked and glared balefully at her.  “I know how to dance the tango.”

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Drumroll please....

Queen Beauty and the Beasts, the novel that dominated my life for the last three months, monopolized 98% of my thoughts and 99% of my energy, and caused my unscheduled mini-hiatus from blogging is.... DONE.

(Random sunset picture taken by me.)

I finished it the afternoon of January 28 with a grand total of 172,308 words, about 85,000 of which were written during January.

Yeah, so much for the novel that was only supposed to be 120,000 or 130,000 at most.

Then I promptly crashed, just as myself and everyone else around me knew that I would.  Also, I caught the nasty sore throat that had been making the rounds of my siblings.  Hence, I spent the last 2 weeks clawing myself back from the brink of half-dead.

But the book is done now.  Although not one of my most intense stories, it was one of the hardest novels I've ever written for a variety of reasons.
  • It wasn’t my usual genre.
  • It was an extrovert female main character.
  • It was a retelling of not just one but two stories: Beauty and the Beast and Phantom of the Opera.  The hard part wasn't mixing the two, it was deciding how closely to stick to the originals and how much originality I was allowed.
  • A somewhat limited POV.  Normally I do a lot of head hopping in my stories and while QBB had some of that, it wasn't as much as usual.
  • I had lost my self confidence as a writer.  It was never super high, but it had hit rock bottom last fall.
  • My soul sister had to drop NaNo, and not having her next to me through the month wasn’t only weird, it was like being used to running in double harness and suddenly you’re doing it on your own. 
  • Days away from finishing the book, I discovered that somehow I had forgotten to add a chapter to the beta document early on.  I rarely make that kind of mistake so it rattled me more than perhaps it should have.
  • I was massively stressed out about several things, and wrote the last 30,000-35,000 words over two weeks running on sheer iron willpower and nerve.  Cocktail a la Lody, my friend Mirriam called it, and I recommend that no person try it.  Ever.

I have never wanted more to both write and take a break from writing at the same time.  The last three months were very hard but the book is done and I am elated, pleased, and very happy.  I don’t know how good or bad the book is and won’t until I go back to it in 3-5 months' time.  The experience was worth every moment of the blood, sweat and tears... but I’m probably never doing that again.  ('Probably' being the key word because I don't like to definitively say 'never'.)  I'm still pretty exhausted but I'm slowly returning to normal.

A HUGE shout out and thank you to my alpha readers, who were absolutely great; especially Alisa and Kate, whose chapter-by-chapter comments identified holes and questions I needed to answer, and whose reactions kept me cackling evilly or laughing in glee.  Also to Mirriam, whose story comments and unfailing encouragement kept me going even when it was darkest.  A great, biiiig thank you to my family as well, who patiently put up with my intensity, my detachment, my absences, and my shorter-than-usual tolerance.  I couldn't have done what I did without these great people.

So, what’s next?  Well, back to blogging regularly for one thing, and I'm thoroughly ready for it.  Also, posting at least twice a week on my website/blog: Intuitive Writing Guide.  As far as creative writing goes... yes, I do have another project lined up, but I won't be ready to reveal it until next week at the earliest.

For now, it's just really good to be done, and even better to be back.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Quote Queste: February 2017 ~ Going to War

Thanks to everyone who participated in January's QQ!
Sophia White

I was too busy finishing my current novel to write a scene myself but now that my book is done (post on that coming soon) I'll have more time, and boy, am I looking forward to it!

1. Take the quote below and write a short scene based on it.  It can be a scene for a story you're currently writing, one you plan on writing in the future, or you can make up characters solely for this challenge.
2.  Post your scene on your blog, with the banner from the top of my post and a link to my blog.
3. Come back to this post and leave a link to your post in the comments so the other participants and I can read your scene.
4. Have fun!

In honor of Valentine's Day: imagine all the places this could take you- happy, sad, tragic, bittersweet, uncertain, mixed....

Happy Writing!