How To Start a Rewrite

I need to print out the original for reference. Compile a PDF. I should use that junk paper that’s already printed on one side. How many sheets do I need? Load the printer. Print the first chapter. Neatly jog and staple, vertical, upper left corner. I will need my index cards outline. The pile could get scattered, best to use paperclips or a rubber band. Oh look, the foam from an earbud disintegrated in the desk drawer. It made a real mess, must clean now. Hmm, no suitable rubber bands. I wonder what’s on these memory cards? Ah, a bookmark! I can always use another bookmark. Danielle’s business card. It’s her old information. This roll of Lifesavers is ancient. I forgot I had this tape measure. Another bookmark! Not enough paper clips. I don’t recall what this key unlocks. Is this battery still good? Maybe I only need the early part of the outline right now. All these books on the desk are too close, I feel cramped. The compile didn’t keep the proper formatting. The music is a little too loud. Recompile? Switch to headphones so I can concentrate? (Now that I’m getting serious here.)
This could make a good blog post. I should write it down.

NaNoWriMo excerpt – #3

Rough draft, the protagonist, experiencing a triggered memory flash of an unfamiliar event and a girl she doesn’t know…

Her palms were slick red, almost black in the moonlit woods. Droplets pulled at her skin as they let loose and fell to the pine needles and dirt. The sound of the rushing creek filled the air around her, barely audible over her pounding heart and desperate breathing.

Twigs snapped behind her. Needles and branches brushed on someone or something coming toward her.

A girl stumbled from the trees into the break. She wore ragged jean cutoffs. Her plain black t-shirt was torn from her left shoulder down the front far enough to expose the brightness of her white bra. Dark hair was matted to her face. She dripped sweat as she panted. She bent forward resting her hands on her knees. She looked up at Lissa. “Spence, what the fuck happened?” she asked when she saw her friend’s hands.

“I don’t know,” Lissa answered, still trying to control her short, quick breaths. She held out her hands, palms up, like she was trying to give them to the other girl. The other girl backed up, shaking her head in refusal.

“She was like that,” Lissa’s voice trailed off as she turned her head slightly, looking toward a small tight grouping of trees.

“Like what?” the other girl asked.

“I tried to help.”

“What the fuck is going on?”

“I was too late,” Lissa started to cry, adding to her breathlessness. She pointed to the trees, a trickle of dark liquid snaked down her wrist. She wiped at it with her other hand, smearing more of the stickiness on her forearm. She let out a sob.

“Is that blood?”

Lissa nodded, tears streaming down her cheeks.

(Part of) another random scene

Lucas looked at the place where Irene’s left pinky and ring finger had been attached to her hand. The skin was discolored, shiny patches surrounded by scaly flaking skin. She rested her hand on the table. She was sensitive about it, but never hid the hand. Her mutilated hand was the only exposed evidence of the ordeal.

Lucas thought about the word “ordeal.” It sounded like a cop, doctor, or school teacher type of description. An easy label, for someone who hadn’t endured what the victim had. The word sanitized it, made it more acceptable and appropriate for polite conversation. Each time he heard somebody use it, he’d picture himself smashing every tooth out of their fucking face. But he’d continued to hold himself in check, straining to keep the tremors in check. Every bit of this new disease, caged anger and frustration, would travel through every nerve, muscle, and bone of his body on an unrelenting search for release.

People would see the missing fingers and think it was the extent of her injuries. Lucas had seen the rest, just once, when she had a momentary lapse and left her bedroom door open. Hundreds of scars from small cuts and stab wounds covered her torso.

NaNoWriMo excerpt – #2


Another rough draft excerpt from my NaNoWriMo project:

Luna slid the hallway door open, it led to the the bedrooms and the master suite. She heard giggling and the murmur of a deeper voice. The sweet, pungent aroma of marijuana filled her nose. The giggling stopped and the murmur changed, quieter, urgent. The sounds and smell were coming from Simon’s room. He should have been at school.

She walked down the hallway. Simon’s door cracked open as she passed. His eye peered through the opening. Beyond him, Luna caught a glimpse of a girl she didn’t recognize, sitting cross-legged on his bed, wearing only panties. The girl’s long brunette hair draped over her bare breasts.

Luna kept walking as the door clicked shut. She dropped her purse on the bed in the master suite and opened the door to the walk-in closet. The closet was about twice as long as it was wide. The mirrored wall opposite the door made it seem larger than it was. The left side was filled with business suits in black and varying shades of blue and charcoal. Some were jacket and pants, most were jacket and skirt. The floor beneath the rack was a jumble of high-heeled shoes of every color imaginable.

To the right, a row of white shirts and a few cocktail dresses hung above a built-in padded bench. A shelf above the clothing was packed full of boxes and more shoes.

Luna stepped to the end and picked up a gym bag, a promotional gift in a plastic wrapper which she tore off. She looked the bag over, trying to remember where she got it. She couldn’t.

She looked at the mirror, admiring the blue suit tailored to accentuate her figure. Her impeccably shined high heels sunk into the the high-pile carpet. She shook her auburn hair free as she loosened the tight bun. The soft angular lines of her face sharpened in the shadows of her hair.

She kicked a shoe from her foot at the mirror. She was about to kick the other when she heard Simon behind her.


She didn’t answer. She didn’t turn, instead her eyes locked with his reflection in the mirror. He looked panicked.

“Mom, I can explain.”

She stood uneven, bending her ankle side to side, driving the lone high heel into the carpet. “Go back to your room.”

“I can explain.”

“Go.” She pushed harder on the shoe.

“What are you doing here, shouldn’t you be at work?”

“And where are you supposed to be?” She jerked as the heel snapped. Simon flinched.


“Right. Go, now.” She turned and faced him. The lines of her face grew sharper as the muscles tightened.

Simon glanced at the gym bag and turned and left, leaving the master suite door open like he’d found it. His bedroom door clicked shut.

Luna kicked the broken shoe from her foot and undressed, dropping the jacket, skirt, blouse, and camisole on the floor. Freed from the skirt, she squatted next to the bench and slid open a panel. She moved aside two shoe boxes, revealing a safe. The keypad illuminated when she pushed the star key. She entered her code and the lock unlatched. Inside there were two neat stacks of banded bills, ten bundles. The bills were hundreds, crisp and new. She dropped them in the gym bag.

NaNoWriMo excerpt

Heat from the candles warmed her face as she leaned over the cake. The tang of sulfury smoke mixed with sugary vanilla filled her nose. A camera flashed off to her side, momentarily brightening the dim single bare incandescent bulb lighting of the dining room.

Chocolate was her favorite. She’d requested chocolate when asked what kind of cake she wanted, but she knew it was a plain white cake beneath the white frosting. Again. Even yellow cake would have been better.

She’d made her wish and blew, but the stupid candles wouldn’t go out. Everybody around her laughed as she blew and blew, but each time the thin green candles would relight. The camera flashed again, somewhere behind her. The laughs floated and danced, living beings, circling her like evil clowns in a macabre fun house. She blew harder, but the candles magically burned again. Black flecks of ash from the candle wicks sprinkled the undecorated frosting. A tear ran down her cheek.

Her dad noticed and stopped laughing. He locked eyes with her. His face took on a look she knew too well, a combination of pity and disappointment. He licked his thumb and index finger and pinched and held the wick of one candle. He repeated this until all of them were extinguished. The camera flashed again.

“Stop the goddamn flashing,” she yelled.

Her mom, whose laugh had changed to a sporadic self-conscious giggle, froze. “Lissa, watch your language.”

“It’s always that goddamn flashing, always,” Lissa said. “If I ever get my hands…”

Her mom’s hand flew faster than Lissa could react. Lissa was caught by a full open hand slap across her face. Her cheek stung and burned as blood rushed to the surface.

As Lissa stood up, her chair tipped backward and fell over, bouncing on the worn wood floor. Lissa swept her arm across the table, pushing the cake onto the floor. It landed top side down, breaking open. She stared at it for a second, taking in the sight of the white cake beneath the frosting before she ran out of the room. Her twelfth birthday had turned out just as bad as all the rest.


I’ve been waiting for seven weeks to find out if I’d be accepted to a novel writing program through a northern California university. I received notification yesterday that I was accepted. They only accept “about 30 students per cycle” to this two-year program. I was doubtful I would get in because of the odds.

Seven weeks of ups and downs, optimism and pessimism, waiting and endless indigestion, finally over. The last 34 hours or so have been filled with relief, celebration, elation, disbelief, and nervousness.

Thanks to my family, friends, and coworkers for listening to me drone on endlessly about the waiting. Thanks to everybody that I cornered and forced to hear about my acceptance. Thank you to Mark E. and John R. for your support and references.

Now it’s time to get to work.

Random fiction

I do a bit of free writing/journaling to keep things going. Once in a while when I’m doing that, I get some sort of vision that triggers a scene that has nothing to do with any of my many unfinished novels. Don’t know where this came from, where it might be going, but I enjoyed writing it. I felt like sharing it.


“Stop,” Cyd shouted again as she rounded the corner into the alley. Her shoulder brushed brick as she took the corner too tight. The sound of rain hitting brick, concrete, and puddles muffled her command. The stolen purse was swinging in the thief’s hand. Cyd was losing ground, he was getting away.

The alley was dark, the only light was an old incandescent flickering under the small overhang of a service door the thief was nearing. Cyd’s wet clothes weighed her down and every step she took sprayed more water on her jeans. The only places she was still dry was inside her waterproof boots and under her short-cut leather jacket. She’d tossed aside her umbrella when she started pursuit of the thief. Wet, cold, and one, or maybe three too many shots of tequila, she just wanted to climb into her warm bed. She was between cases so there was no reason for being out at 3:00 AM. The thief was nearing the door with the light. If he made it through the door, she might not ever catch him.

She unzipped her jacket as she ran. She took the revolver from her shoulder harness and clicked off the safety.

“Stop.” This time wasn’t as loud as before. Cyd slowed, stopped, took aim. There was a flash like lightning and a loud crack filled the alley, bouncing off the rain-soaked walls. The thief tumbled to the ground under the light in the doorway. Cyd looked around. The alley was empty, buildings rising three or four stories on each side. They were old sweatshops, abandoned, or at least unoccupied at this time of night.

She walked toward her attacker, gun held ready. She couldn’t believe she had hit this guy. She was accurate at the shooting range, but it was dark, raining, he was running, and she’d been drinking. She would have never lived it down with the local cops if she had reported her stolen purse. It was tough enough being a PI and getting on the good side of the cops, but they were notorious for breaking balls.

The rain slowed from fierce to steady. She neared the door. The body looked like a couple of half-full black plastic trash bags dumped in a puddle. The light from the doorway reflected like a sky full of stars off the shiny material. Cyd saw no movement. Her heart pounded beneath the leather jacket. Water dripped from her nickel-plated revolver leading the way. She hunched down and poked the tip in the back of a shoulder. No movement. She squatted, closer. Keeping the gun trained on the mass of shiny blackness, she grabbed a shoulder and pulled the body over.

Her heart stopped. For a second, she thought it wouldn’t start again. When it did, it was with the hardest, fastest pounding she’d ever felt in her chest. The face she saw was that of a young girl, 14, maybe 15, tops. Blonde hair stuck to her face, matted in the rain, surrounded by a black hood. The girl’s left eye was missing. Instead a red, pulpy mass hung from the socket. If that side of her face was covered, she’d look like one of those teen magazine models.

Cyd turned her head and threw up next to the body. The sight and smell of the vomit made her queasier. She looked at the face of the girl again. Her shock fought against her alcohol haze. She turned the girl’s head and pulled the hood back. It was some kind of rubberized plastic, it felt tacky, even in the rain. The shiny surface belied the feel of it. Cyd ran her fingers over the back of the girl’s head. There was no wound. She sat down, not caring about the puddle beneath her.

Cyd looked around the alley. It was dark and quiet, except for the patter of the now light rain. The gravity of the situation started to creep through her mind. She’d shot a purse snatcher. Worse yet, she’d shot a teenage purse snatcher. She had drawn her weapon, issued no warning that she was going to shoot, and fired. All while she was most likely legally drunk. Fuck! Over my stupid, fucking, purse!

Cyd flinched when she heard a click behind the door. She looked up. Another click and tiny beam of light shown through a hole in the door to the right of the handle. She tensed and lifted the gun from her lap, pointing it at the door. The little hole was the sole focus of her attention. She moved closer, around the body. The wood of the door was splintered around the hole. Small pieces of wood dangled around it. She looked closer. The hole was about the size of a .38, the same as her gun. And it looked fresh.

The door opened.

For the Writers

I always thought writers had to be tortured souls in order to create anything of value. Anything that anybody would want to read. I eventually talked myself out of that notion. Today I had a different thought. I don’t think writers have to be tortured to create, I think writers are tortured because they have the need to create. Let me expand on that. The need is deep, it’s irresistible. In my case, I kept coming back to it after years of denial and suppression. The “tortured soul” comes not from life’s challenges, but from the self-doubt. The need to create followed by the absolute notion that everything you churn out is as vile as fly-covered pig shit rotting in the sun. It’s that feeling that anything you put on paper feels simplistic, shallow, juvenile, and vapid. That puddle on the sidewalk has more depth.
This isn’t a plea for pity. God no, don’t pity the fool that thinks they have enough talent to write something that anybody wants to read. No pity needed. Indeed, the true writer pounds the self-doubt into the ground while they march forward. We torture ourselves, creating something better, something worthwhile. Without self-doubt, it would be a world full of mediocrity, filled with dreck you would never want to read. Thank God for self-doubt.

It’s Better This Way

I’ve been sitting out on the deck, enjoying a glass of wine. It isn’t a place I usually go at nearly 1:00 a.m. The air was still, thick, and cool. The yard was dark, it took a while for my eyes to adjust, to pick out the shapes of the trees. No moon, but the sky was full of stars. They were easy to see despite being in the city. Well, a suburb anyway. I looked around and my mind turned to how I would describe it all. It’s a preoccupation now, the thought of how I would describe the world with the written word. It’s not a bad thing at all. It doesn’t take me out of the moment, instead it enhances it. I see and feel things I may have overlooked when my mind wasn’t in tune to what was right in front of me. All of this got me thinking about how I feel about writing, again. Which isn’t unusual these days. Another introspective moment.

I don’t remember the exact moment, how old I was, or what the context was, but I recalled something my dad told me at least a few decades ago. I believe we were talking about what I wanted to be or do when I grew up. I remember him telling me to find out what I was good at and do it. That one statement stuck with me. It was so simple of an idea that I thought it must be true. And for the most part, maybe it is. But I know I will pass on slightly different advice to my daughter. I will tell her, very often, to find out what she loves to do, and do it. There’s a world of difference.

I’m not ripping on my dad for what he said. I think it was great advice. He didn’t want his son living in a cardboard box under a bridge and scavenging through garbage cans behind restaurants for his next meal. I can’t fault him for that. It was good advice for immediate returns. And I earned immediate returns. It set me up well. I stood on my deck in my lovely suburb at nearly 1:00 a.m. and thought of how nice I have it. I can’t deny it. And then I thought of how unsatisfying and empty of a trip it’s been to get here. I don’t like what I do. I don’t come home at the end of the day and feel like I do something I enjoyed. It’s quite the opposite. I never get up in the morning thinking of how I can’t wait to get to work. Never. Call me spoiled and out of touch, I don’t care.

I took two days off of work before the 4th of July holiday. (I’m in the USA.) These last two days were meant for staying up late, watching DVDs or the DVR, going for long walks, and sleeping late. None of that happened. I stayed up maybe an hour late each night. I was up and out of the house early. I went to breakfast, and then I went to a place I like to write. A quiet little tea shop. Emphasis on quiet. I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I was excited to get up and get going each morning, it wasn’t a chore. I didn’t dread the day. I wanted to do what I love to do, not necessarily what I’m good at. I could do this every day. I could be excited to work every day.

For the writers that read this, I’m well over 5000 words in five days. Plus this rambling mess. Do what you love to do. Cheers!

Say it with me, “I am a writer”

I was buying wine Friday night. I got carded. I told the cashier that I was flattered, considering I’m old enough to have children that are of legal drinking age. I got over my initial burst of pride when he put on glasses to check my ID.

He rang up my purchase and told me the total due was $19.70. While I swiped my card and cycled through the screens on the keypad, he reminisced about how good of a year 1970 was for him. He mentioned music and some songs in particular. A pleased look took over his face, along with a smile. Not the overdone, comical, huge ear-to-ear type of smile, but one of those smiles you get when you don’t even realize you’re smiling.

We were just about done with the transaction when I blurted out “I’m writing a novel that is set in 1970.” It was out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying. I’m not one to bring up my writing with people I don’t know. I stick to discussing it at school, with family and close friends, on my blog, at writing festivals, or at my writers group. I don’t wear it on my sleeve.

He started asking me questions about my story. My transaction was complete and there was a line behind me. I had put myself in an uncomfortable position. I felt like I was being interrogated by the police, shackled to a table with the bright light shining in my face. “Confess! Or else.” I gave him some vague details. As I did I noticed that the woman in line behind me was leaning in with her head turned and tilted to hear what we were talking about. I took my bag and left the store.

As I walked through the parking lot, I realized that I had just admitted in public that I am a writer. The amazing part was that nobody heckled, snickered, or pointed at me and laughed. They showed interest instead of laughing at me and my silly dream.

I am a writer.