Ana is thrilled to welcome Ines Johnson to HWH.
Ines writes books for strong women who suck at love. Aside from being a writer, professional reader, and teacher, she claims she is a very bad Buddhist. She sits in sangha each week, and while others are meditating and getting their zen on, she’s contemplating how to use the teachings to strengthen her plots and character motivations.
The first time I tried to write a book it took me one year to write the first three chapters because I agonized over each word choice. Now, I believe in fast drafting. Vomit the story onto the page without a care for comma placement. All told, it takes me about six months from the first drafted word to the final polished manuscript.
I take three to four weeks for the first draft, which I call The Dirty. I let The Dirty breath for as long as I am able to be parted with it -usually a week or two. Then I come back and Sweep up the grammar, spelling and plot holes, which usually takes another three to four weeks.
Next, I send The Swept draft out to my trusted critique partners. When it comes back I Clean it up for another three weeks focusing on my weakness, which is setting.
I’m a screenwriter, and so for years, setting only consisted of a Scene Slug. For example:
INT. BEDROOM -DAY
The Director would take it from there. But fiction readers seem to like more details, so I’m constantly working on giving them more setting description.
Finally, I send The Clean manuscript off to the copy editor for two to three weeks. When it comes back I Polish up all the commas and rethink my overused words. Then I hit publish, and start all over again!
My current release, "Pumpkin: a Cindermama Story" was written in 30 days as a part of NANO WRIMO. Since then its gone through two revisions, beta readers and a copyeditor. I was still trying to upgrade my action verbs as it was uploading to Amazon! Old habits die hard I guess!
Single mother Malika “Pumpkin” Tavares lost faith in fairytales after she fell for a toad. Town royalty Armand “Manny” Charmayne has been searching for his soulmate all his life, whom he’ll recognize at first sight by a golden aura, that only he can see, surrounding her person. Manny doesn’t see gold when he meets Pumpkin, but the more he gets to know her the more he considers defying fate, if only he can convince her to take a chance on love again.
Pumpkin turned and stopped in her tracks. Not because of the near collision, but because of the Adonis who stood before her. Tall and lean with dark, thick curls atop his head. But it was his eyes that arrested Pumpkin. They took her back to her teen years, watching Donnie Simpson on Video Soul; or farther back to Smokey Robinson doo-wopping with The Miracles. They were a pale gray. And he smelled... edible. Like fresh baked, butter croissants sprinkled with earthy spices.
"Excuse me," he repeated, with a slight Southern drawl that was more refined than lazy. He prolonged his vowels just enough to let you know he was Southern, but the consonants he pronounced perfectly. "Are you Heather?"
And of course, he was looking for someone else. "No, my name is Malika."
He looked at her and squinted. Then his eyes rolled past her up the steps of the Department of Family And Child Services building. "Oh, sorry. I thought you could have been one of my volunteers." He stepped away, clearing her path to the entrance.
I thought you could have been one of my volunteers.
Pumpkin looked beyond him to see a voter registration table.
I thought you could have been one of my volunteers.
Part of her knew she should simply walk into the DFACS building to find her cousins and her son, because who knew? LaRon and LaTom could've let him go to the bathroom by himself and just forgotten about him —again. But another part of Pumpkin smarted. He'd taken one glance at her, paired it with her Eubonic-consonant-rich name, added it to her current location, and come away with an incorrect assumption.
"You know, I could have been yours," she said.
He turned back. "Mine?"
"I mean, I have done something like this before."
"Something... with me?"
"No! I've never met you before."
He opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, then started again. "What exactly are we talking about?"
This was not going the way she'd planned. But what exactly had she planned when she opened her mouth? Her filter malfunction needed to be repaired soon.
Pumpkin took a deep breath, clearly aware of his smokey eyes watching her with... was that wariness or amusement? Growing up in her family, she had trouble deciphering the two.
"I mean, I have been a volunteer. I've done a voter registration drive before."
Having cleared up that misjudgment, Pumpkin assumed the conversation was over. Only, he looked doubtful at her proclamation.
Pumpkin gave her internal filter a kick. In response it sputtered, "I organized it, actually." Pumpkin gave it a mental shove to keep quiet. And then, "It was very successful, actually."
"Where did the drive you organized —successfully— take place?"
"Oh," she said. "At my school. My college —university, actually. Louisiana State University."
"I know LSU," he grinned.
Good. Grinning meant amused. He had a nice grin, Smokey Eyes. Straight white teeth. Plump lips that stretched wide. Maybe a little too wide. Almost big bad wolf wide.
"Well," she said. "There's a community college with the name Louisiana so..."
"You have a problem with community colleges?"
"No! I just... I just wanted to make sure you knew... which one I meant." Pumpkin wouldn't have thought it possible, but his grin stretched even wider.
"My opinion matters to you that much?"
Definitely a wolf.
Then, in confirmation, his eyes slipped from her face and did a quick assessment of her body: the B-cups she no longer bothered to pad, the stubborn muffin top she'd given up on a year ago, the wide hips that looked voluptuous on her cousins but pear-shaped on her.
"I don't even know you," Pumpkin said. And she had no intention of getting to know him. Wolves blocked the paths of good girls whether in the forest or on the road of life. Pumpkin had no intention of getting jammed up by a man, ever again.
"Yet, within sixty seconds of meeting me," he said, "you offered to be mine."
If you rocked out to the twisted triangle of Jem, Jericha, and Rio as a girl; if you were slayed by vampires with souls alongside Buffy; if you need your scandalous fix from Olivia Pope each week, then you’ll love Ines' books.
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