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

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.