Closer to the Edge

Happy first Wednesday, everyone…

After a lengthy absence, I’m back to IWSG, Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for his wonderful forum and outlet for writers from the timid to the confident. You’ve provided us a safe place to vent, to question and to celebrate. Click on the badge to the right to join us.

Be forewarned, this blog is not about a happy subject. danger

If you write mystery, romance, or adventure you may have reached the point where a specific scene is hard to write because of its unpleasant nature. As a no-gratuitous-violence writer, I avoid scenes like the one looming ahead of me but, the simple fact is, this is a pivotal scene. The POV’s feelings of guilt and self-doubt flood from this terrible mistake. Her actions at this moment change everything, providing tension and conflict. Without it she is two-dimensional. Through the novel she searches for redemption and when she finally finds it she’s faced with more questions than answers.

But, unfortunately, her creator was not brave:) Bumping up against the fictional rough stuff made me uneasy. It felt personal. As writers we sometimes set limits for ourselves, lines we hesitate to cross. Other writers are fearless and over the top, but I found myself dancing around this scene as if it was a cornered rat in my kitchen.

However, that said, I’ve had time to think about this since first draft. Now, in revision, I’ve decided to forge on ahead, fine-tuning the action and honoring its importance in the story.

Are you willing to get closer to the edge? If so, any advice for me?


Renegade Muse

Suddenly, after months of silence, my surly muse, Juan Reyes, deceased inter-galactic combat photographer from my first novel, dropped in unexpectedly.

kindle“OK, you’re going to have to knock this s**t off, girl. Back away from the Kindle and plant your butt in chair,” he says.

I see him standing behind me in the reflection of my tablet screen.  Juan’s bloodstained fatigues and battered camera bag are gone. This evening he’s as handsome and whole as he was in chapter one of my languishing first novel. His black dreads touch the velvet lapels of the red brocade duster he wore at embassy receptions. Vain and beautiful, his dark eyes twinkle with adult mischief.

“Netflix is great, but come on. You’ve watched movie after movie, marathons of entire seasons of House of Cards, Breaking Bad, and Orange is the New Black. Why do I get the feeling you are hiding from me? Aren’t you ever going to write again?”  He crosses his arms across his chest, assuming that belligerent stance I came to love after I wrote him into existence.

“Well, I thought I’d collect information on the structure of daring plots,” I hedge, turning toward him.

He backs away, holding up his hand. “Remember. Don’t try to touch me. I’ll be forced to deconstruct.”

Then he grins, fishes in his pocket and produces a red and white cigarette pack. Slowly, he peels the gold strip from the cellophane wrap and tosses the crumpled plastic over his shoulder.

“I love this bad habit. Perfect for someone already dead.” He takes a leisurely  puff, gesturing to me. “Want one?”

“Not as much as I used to,” I admit.

“Good. Now, you must break a second dangerous habit. Procrastination. It frustrates you. Constructive screwing around fills you with doubt. Letting others entertain you allows you to obsess about the merits of the first chapter of Lies and Legends without completing a damned thing.” He sighs. ” I mean, really. How many old episodes of the X-Files can you watch?”

I frown at him. “I gave up waiting for you.”

“Oh, please,” he sighs and frowns at me. “This is not about us. I thought you understood most writing you do without  me, using only your iron will and relentless sense of humor.”

Juan’s sudden mood swing startles me and so I wait.

He paces back and forth, irritable and uncharacteristically nervous, his duster rippling behind him. “Do you think you’re the only one with problems?”

I haven’t seen him so distressed and sullen since I forced him into celibacy in chapter twenty-one.

“We muses, we are in great demand now.  We are so busy we are literally running up our own backsides.” Giant sigh. “There is simply not enough time in the infinite universe.” He gestures toward the open windows.  “Do you have any idea what’s going on out there?”

I shrug. “I try not to think about it.”

“There’s an emergency in this world. Muses have been called.” He glances at the TV chattering in the living room. “Do you ever watch the news?”

“Only if I’m forced at gunpoint.”

“Well,” he says, lighting another cigarette with a flame at the tip of his finger, “at this juncture in time our calling is much higher than handing out prize-winning ideas to artists. World leaders, generals, politicians, religious figures – they all need inspiration more than ever.”

I stare at him.

Juan shakes his head. “I know what you’re thinking, but it isn’t true. We don’t try to influence one side or the other. Muses are always neutral. Our job is keeping the stream of human thought moving. Without us nothing ever changes.” He wanders toward the French doors, glancing out into the darkening sky.

I follow him, staying a safe distance. “So you aren’t necessarily a force for good?”

“Your species’ interpretation of the inspiration we send shapes everything for better or worse.” He leans against the door frame, his back to the stars edging over the horizon. “Some of us don’t care for  our new duties, I can tell you that. Most of our assignments are too morally ambiguous.  It’s a tremendous burden.  Personally, I yearn for the good old days when all I had to do was whisper in the ear of some distressed writer.”

He looks at me, a conspiratorial glint in his eyes.  “Some of us are thinking about making a change.”

“A creative revolution, a literary first strike, artistic anarchy?” I ask.orion

As Juan fades in front of me, I  see  Orion rising  through his wavering form.

“Perhaps. You’ll just have to pay attention. Get rid of that damned device, stop checking your email, quit surfing. Start writing. Changes are coming. ” He winks. “You  don’t want to miss them, baby.” He blows me a kiss. “Oh, and thanks for listening.”

“I’ll send you my bill,” I whisper to the darkness.

What changes are coming for your writing?

j-dub1980(THANK YOU FOR 100k+ Views) / Foter / CC BY-SA

Mike Licht, / Foter / CC BY



In Holly Liesl’s wonderful How to Revise Your Novel forum, someone posted a question for discussion that I’ve haven’t been able to get out of my mind.

What recurring themes show up in your writing?

As you can imagine, the answers ran the gamut from beautiful to beastly, from twinkling to twisted.

My particular theme is moral ambiguity, and it affects all of  my characters. I make them deal with those inevitable times when dark vs light = grey, when they find themselves on the left side of right. Are they bad people if they make a morally ambiguous decisions?

What does it take to make a person step into the light — or not. I’m talking about more complicated issues than black and white “Come over to the dark side, Luke” tales. I’m speculating on how people grapple with the conscious choice to pursue a path that is not ethically correct but is expedient at the moment.

I love this theme. I use it with humor in some stories and with horror in others.  I see it everywhere in life, and it adds a layer of conflict to my fiction I couldn’t get any other way. It fascinates readers because we’ve all been there.

Another theme I use is the semi-happy ending. To me, a happy ending isn’t always necessary. Certain genres depend on happy endings but my genre, whatever it is, does fine without hand-in-hand, off into the sunset stuff. Even though I’m writing fiction and science-fiction at that, I want to push my characters to their limit. Readers want to see what characters will do and wonder if, in the hero’s shoes, if they would do the same.

Rewrite update: Chapter Ten in the hopper.

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