I love my birthday – it’s myyyyyy day. James and I agree that birthdays are the most important holidays. We went and bought me some books, then went to a fancy bakery that does the kinds of cakes I think of as BD cakes and got slices of Black Forest, and this evening we’ll be going to a fancy hotel buffet for dinner. It’s better than you’re imagining, being a buffet and all. Indian food lends itself very well to being kept warm in that buffet kind of way…I just hope they have that Malabar Fish…Mmmmmmm!

On this, my thirty-third birthday, I’m also celebrating the successful completion of the NaNoWriMo Competition. This is my page on their website. (Dead link) Now, the goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. That makes it a rather short novel, since the standard novel length is 80-100K, but it is still a shitload of writing to get done in one month. I finished at 76,386 words. Pretty cool, right?

I wrote most days, getting a ton done when I knew what I wanted to say and not much done when I hadn’t figured out what happened next. Duh, right? Well, I hadn’t thought about that part very much before we started. I finished my last go-round on my first manuscript on October 15th and sent it to a small, select group of people who seemed interested in reading it (avoiding any people who responded to the idea with the deer-in-the-headlights look). That gave me about two weeks between finishing that one (for the moment) and beginning the next one. ‘Cause that’s the rules, see. You can’t start before the 1st.

I spent two weeks pulling my vague idea together, doing a bunch of research on the careers of the main characters, some of the points I was thinking about covering, and the backgrounds of the MCs. One large part of the plot line is that the action ties into the process of building an eco-friendly house. So I worked on pulling together all the information I could find on green building and running it by my expert adviser – Harold Rhodes. He’s wonderful – really thoughtful and insightful, and an expert in the wild and woolly world of contractors. He’s also married to my mother, though calling him my step-dad feels kind of weird since he’s younger than my own husband.

If I hadn’t spent those two weeks creating character sketches and backgrounds, researching construction methods and timelines, and writing and rewriting a synopsis, I can’t imagine having been able to write much at all. It’s amazing to me, but it seems that a lot of NaNoWriMo people just sat down and started typing. Wow. I’m not that creative.

My novel’s not quite finished. I’m planning a real full MS, and I think…I think I have about 15,000 more words to write. I should be able to toss that off by Friday. Heh.

Here’s the synopsis of the book’s beginning, though it will probably change in revisions. This takes you a little more than halfway through the book. This version of the synopsis ends when the book starts the downhill, momentum-gathering sleigh ride toward the grand finale.

Root of the Lilikoi Synopsis

by Dena Hankins

Construction project manager Kerala Hilma is new to Hawaii, skeptical of the allure but drawn by the boom in work. She chooses to work for Malama Construction, the mid-sized, family-owned kind of company she likes, and starts work within a week.

Tired of the glass office, CEO and solar power engineer Ravi Dietrich needs some R&R and R&D. A dedicated scientist, he’s wilting in the corporate hothouse and rarely making it to the ocean to soak his saltwater soul. He blends experimentation with time off by planning an off-grid model eco-vacation-house. A killer deal on waterfront land sends him to Hawaii from California to bring the dream to life.

Malama Construction has no history in green building, so the boss gives the Request for Bid to the new girl with her fancy Ivy League education. Though Kerala submits a bid several hundreds of thousands of dollars higher than her competition, Ravi hires Malama as general contractors on the strength of Kerala’s impeccable research and demonstrated commitment to building to his specs.

Kerala hears that the Kama’aina (locals) will try to protect what they believe is the site of an ancient burial ground. Kerala is hardheaded and not in the least superstitious, so she takes the rumors as an indication of possible difficulties with local workers.

Ravi and Kerala strike sparks off one another and enjoy a flirtatious relationship when they’re not arguing details. They observe the boundaries of professionalism through the occasional visits for planning and design meetings. As she and Ravi refine the plans via email and phone conversations, they get to know each other without the pressure of their undeniable attraction, developing a strong mutual respect.

Kerala is beset by permitting problems, bumbling suppliers, and a community of sub-contractors that won’t even bid on the work. She gets the crew working on deconstructing an old hotel for recyclable building materials while she shouts, finesses, and bulls her way through the obstructions.

After a perilous slide down a hillside rigged to collapse, she finds evidence that her problems have been sabotage. She calls on her two best men, Kekipi and Jack, to help her find the wrongdoer. But the men seem to have a secret.

Ravi flies in the next day, ostensibly to help sort materials from the hotel deconstruction. He has come to warn Kerala of a pattern he’s seen in her reports – he wants her to watch out for sabotage! Kerala is impressed by his analysis, but not by his insistence that she let him move in to protect her. The desk jockey protecting the construction worker? Preposterous. Their fight escalates beyond polite words, and the heat is intensified by their smoldering physical awareness. They achieve a fragile détente, but settle nothing.

Days later, Kerala is run off the road while walking her dog. She gathers Kekipi, Jack, and Ravi at her house, bringing them up to date and asking a distraught Ravi to stay with her after all. Kerala challenges Kekipi with his suspicious behavior and he explains that he was involved with a Hawaiian separatist group when he was younger. The work disruption follows the pattern of his old community, but he promises that they aren’t behind the physical violence to her personally and explains, worried, that the separatists he questioned are also worried about the rogue.

After Jack and Kekipi leave, Kerala indulges herself by throwing down a sensual gauntlet that Ravi knows she can’t back up, bruised and tired as she is. As she expects, Ravi declines to take advantage of her upset state of mind and sleeps on her Laz-e-Boy recliner. Ravi gets his revenge by planning a long, slow, painful mutual seduction.

Ravi suggests that Kerala quit, which would remove the barriers to their relationship while also ensuring her safety. She is outraged at the idea of slinking away from a project in which she’d invested so much energy. She is determined to get the upper hand and insists that they work together. Ravi, frustrated once again, moves forward with his plans to bring them to a peak of need and finding the breaking point. Finally, their sexual pressure explodes in furious lovemaking.

The situation explodes when they dig up a lilikoi tree for replanting and find a body in the ground nearby. The Hawaiian Island Burial Council and the state Historical Preservation officer arrive quickly, but so do the police. When the body is analyzed, far from being one of ancients, this body is only a decade old. The story comes to light that a previous owner tried to build on the same land but disappeared, and his estate discontinued the development.

Sure enough, Kerala’s crew has improperly exhumed the previous owner, who doesn’t seem to have died of natural causes. Now there’s a murder to match her accidents and the string of sabotage. The only good thing about this find is that Ravi can’t point the protective finger at Kerala any longer. He seems to be in danger as well.


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