Remember in FIGHT CLUB when Brad Pitt (let’s face it, more of you have seen the movie than read the book) asked How much can you really know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight? I’m may be paraphrasing, but you remember the line.

Well, the same goes for artists. I’m not saying whack someone across the face with your keyboard, but I am saying you need to challenge yourself. All artists do. It’s where we find out exactly what we’re really capable of, and where we’re able to raise our standards and our skill level.

Because how much can you really know about yourself as an artist if you never challenge yourself?

What I used to do, back in the days of snail mail submissions with self-addressed stamped envelopes and cover letters was, every so often I’d scour the upcoming anthologies that were taking submissions, many of them themed anthologies, and I’d write a short story to those specific guidelines. And the guidelines were always vague enough they left it open to many different interpretations, but just specific enough you knew pretty much what they were looking for.

Personally, I think some of my best short stories came from these writing challenges. “Working for the Fat Man”, “Maggie Andrews Gets the Facts” and “Terrible Thrills” to name just a few.

One of my earliest writing challenges came after I’d already written the first draft. It was a short, simple, somber story about a man gaining closure after visiting his wife’s grave. The story was called, aptly enough, “Closure”. But I always knew the story was no big deal, would maybe never be published, but that was no reason not to try to make it the best it could be. And with a story this short and simple, well simple was the key word. So I went back and challenged myself to make it as simple as possible. And the best way I knew to do that, with this story, was to eliminate every multi-syllabic word I found. What resulted was an even SIMPLER story that didn’t lose any of the detail or emotion, and told itself in nothing but single syllable words. It’s a detail I doubt many readers would pick up on, but it’s one that stands out to me.

Or there’s the challenges my ex-wife used to hand me, when we were married. Sometimes she would come up with an idea she thought would make an interesting story, a twist on a familiar theme, and I’d write a story from that. Stories like “Birth Day”, “Family Name” and “Luck of the Draw” came about this way.

Now, I know some people are intimidated by the word “challenge”. So let’s change our vocabulary. Instead of a challenge, consider it a mere prompt. And everyone likes a good writing prompt, right?

Writing challenges, or prompts, are an excellent way to motivate yourself when you want to create but have no idea where to start. They’re great exercise in flexing your creative muscles, and a sure way to keep your mind and your creative skills in top form, and every worthwhile artist I know uses them. So the next time you sit down to write, or paint, or whatever, and the drive is there but the ideas are not, try a challenge, a prompt, whatever you want to call it.

Some of my favorites are to write a sequel to your favorite story (book or movie doesn’t matter). If you listen to music while you create, write a story using the same title of the first song you hear, or one using a random lyric from the last song you heard. Rewrite a familiar story from a different perspective. Write a story using only 100 words.

There are any number of challenges and prompts out there, and plenty more you’ll come up with yourself as you get more practice using them. I’m curious to see what you can come up with. Now go out there and make some art.

 

My short story “The Garden” had a very strange origin, with inspirations from Guns N’ Roses and Georgia O’Keefe equally.

First was Guns N’ Roses and their song, “The Garden”, which gave me a title and, for over a decade, a mood. I started the story in mid-2006 and worked on it for a week or so before realizing the couple hundred words I had were going nowhere and amounting to nothing, so I abandoned it, knowing I would get back to it later.

The first incarnation was about a boy walking through a meditative labyrinth who … something something magic and something, I never really figured it out.

And I did a TON of research on walking and labyrinths and meditation, took a lot of walks myself, hoping to get into the headspace for a story about walking, but it just never happened, nothing came to me, there was no story.

Then one day, years later, I saw something about Georgia O’Keefe and her particular style of art (flowers were made to represent a certain part of the female anatomy) and I had a vision in my head of a guy being seduced by a beautiful woman in a garden, only there was no woman, he was being hypnotized by sentient plants. From there, the story pretty much told itself and I wrote the first draft over a couple of days.

The names of the characters, Gordon, Randy and Bobby were he names of the guys I hung out with around the same age I imagined Gordon to be in this story. Gordon Bennington, Randy Collings, and Bobby Fairchild. The name Mya means “great one” or “mother”.

The Garden

Gordon showed up at the back of the Rogers farm like Randy’d told him to, but his friend was nowhere to be seen. Randy’s bike lay at the edge of the woods where the property stopped, and there was his jacket among the flowers. The Rogers had a good twenty acres and this far back from the house, Gordon knew they wouldn’t see him and come out to run them off. Then again, there was a garden back here that looked pretty well-tended, so who knew? He wasn’t even sure this far back was considered their property at all. He hoped not, if what Randy told him was true.

Gladiolus, tulips, Madonna lilies, daffodils, hyacinths, begonias all reds, yellows, whites, pinks, blues and oranges. Gordon didn’t know the names, but they smelled good. Hidden among these, half-buried, were several larger bulbs that could have been watermelons except they were grey.

He called out, “Randy!” several times, but got no reply. He must have wandered further
into the woods. Gordon sat down on the jacket and was about to call out again when something got his attention, something lumpy under his ass. He felt and found Randy’s jacket pocket. He reached in and pulled out something slick.

This was what Randy told him he’d been doing up here the past few days.

Gordon had no idea what the flowers were called and the bigger bulbs in the ground were an equal mystery. But Randy had told him the leaves were edible. More than that, they’d given him one hell of a high. No after effects, either. He’d chew a few leaves, lay back, and before long he was in the middle of one of the best trips of his life. Gordon found a plastic bag with a rolled bundle of leaves in Randy’s jacket pocket. Maybe he was going to take them home and try to smoke them. But surely he wouldn’t mind if Gordon had a couple for himself. After all, this was what Randy’d called him up here for in the first place.

He pulled two, then took a third from the rolled bundle, slid the rest into the bag, then back into the jacket. He looked at the leaves and wondered how they’d taste. Bitter like grass? He sniffed them, and it was a familiar scent, but he couldn’t place it. They were dark red and shaped like hearts.

He called out, “Randy! Hey!!!”

When he got no reply, he put the leaves in his mouth and chewed. Almost as soon as the chemicals in the leaves touched his tongue, but surely by the time he’d swallowed them, the leaves took effect. He lay back in the grass, staring up at the brilliant blue summer sky, cloudless and crisp. His head felt thirty pounds lighter. His fingers tingled and, he realized, so did his toes.

Whatever this stuff was, Gordon would have to thank Randy as soon as he figured out where he was. For now, he wouldn’t worry about it, he just wanted to ride this wave.
If he lay still enough, he could feel the blood rushing through his veins, into his brain. He could hear it pumping.

His vision swam and suddenly he felt himself sink into the earth, into the grass and flowers, and he felt their leaves tickling and trying to wrap around and drag him down. Gordon tried to sit up and scream, but the flowers had become thick vines and his puny strength was no match. His heartbeat raced and he thought he might be sweating but if that were true, the sweat burned his skin like acid and the sky turned purple overhead and a shriek echoed inside his skull and then, before he could fully comprehend what was happening . . . it stopped. Gordon sucked in a huge breath, shot up from the ground, clutching his chest.

He sat there, panting and being glad he was alive when he heard a noise. A high, lilting sound. He looked over and saw something in the trees. She was tall with long blonde hair. Her face was that of an angel. Finally he managed to catch enough breath to say, “Hello?”

She stepped out from behind the tree. She didn’t say anything, just giggled again. Her walk was fluid, as if the structure of her legs were free-floating, more for motion than support. The sight of it had a strange effect on Gordon’s equilibrium and he had to look away for a second. She glided closer, giggled again, and Gordon asked, “What?”

“Nothing,” she said after a moment. “You just looked funny laying there all splayed like that.” Her voice reminded Gordon of rainbows and butterflies. Who was this girl? “What are you doing here?”

He hesitated, reluctant to tell her about the leaves or his quick but intense trip. At least, he thought it was quick. The sky did look a little darker.

He started to get up, found his legs too weak, and he fell again with a grunt.

The girl giggled again.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself,” Gordon said. “Help me up.”

“What for?”

“Because I have to get up,” he said. “I was up here looking for my friend. Hey, have you seen him? Bout this tall–” (he held a hand just an inch or two above the top of his own head) “long black hair? Wears glasses?” She shook her head.

“Probably wearing a Chiefs cap?”

She shook her head again.

She shrugged and sat next to him on the ground. Gordon was surprised to see her just drop down onto the grass because she was dressed in a long white sundress and the way it shone even in the lowering sky, Gordon knew she was about to stain it. He didn’t want to stare, but it was hard to take his eyes off her. Gordon knew who he was and knew this girl was beyond his reach. She’d see that in a minute and get up and walk away.

So he was taken by surprise when she turned and said, “What’s your name?”

“Gordon,” he said, feigning indifference by looking into the trees for Randy.

“Mine’s Mya,” she said. “Do you live around here?”

He shrugged. “Close enough, I guess.”

“What are you doing up here?”

“Looking for my friend,” he said. “I already said that.”

“Well,” Mya said, looking around. “Doesn’t seem like you’re looking very hard.”

“His stuff’s right here,” Gordon said. “He’ll be back to get it.”

“What if he doesn’t come back?”

“Then he’s gonna lose a jacket and his bike,” Gordon said. “Because his bike’s just over there and I’m not taking them both with me when I go. Maybe the jacket.”

“What if he’s never coming back?”

“Uh-huh.”

Gordon wished she’d stop talking to him. This kind of attention from someone this beautiful was making him uncomfortable.

“What if he’s dead?” she asked.

Get the rest of the story in my short story collection THE DICHOTOMY OF MONSTERS.

You ever get halfway through a particularly long and challenging manuscript only to realize you’re bored? Not bored with the story or the process, just … your mind needs something else to ponder for a minute. Not a week, this isn’t one of those times where you need to take a week off and work on something else. Just a day. Maybe an hour so you can recharge. You don’t want to stop writing for the day, though, you just want to work on something different.

Diversity is important. Variety, as Morris Day said, is the spice of life. At these times I have a list of alternative things I could work on just for a minute, something to kick start my brain, put me into writing mode, but not bog me down in the same thing I’ve been working on for the past three months.

Reviews. I love writing movie and book reviews. They’re a quick way to force you to organize your thoughts, you’re getting to praise something you love, or learn from something that didn’t quite work, and you’re getting your fingers limbered up and your mind focused, ready to get back to work. Sometimes writing something that isn’t the thing you’ve been working on, even for an hour, is enough to make you miss the real work.

Blog posts are another alternative. Sometimes I’ll take a minute to post something quick, like what I’m currently reading, or the posters to any movies I’ve recently watched. I actually haven’t done this in a while, but once upon a time it was a regular thing. Back when I had more time to watch a lot of movies and whatnot. Or you can talk briefly about what you’re working on. No details, but a few words on what research you find yourself doing, just enough to tease.

Have you updated the CTAs (calls to action) in your books lately? This is another quick little job you can do when you need to get your mind on something else for a minute.

Something I love to do when I’m bored looking at the same page for the past two days is CLEAN MY DESK. You know your desk is the messiest part of your house, admit it. And it’s much easier to work on a clean desk. If you’re bored with your current work in progress, take the day off from it and clean your desk. And your office while you’re at it. And your inbox.

Sometimes I’m not bored, I’m just tired. I need to step back, take 20 minutes and rest. I often find when I do that, I can come back to it, maybe not wide awake, but not dozing off mid-sentence, either. Set a timer and close your eyes, the world isn’t going to end. And if it does, at least you didn’t have to see it coming.

And the last suggestion for when you’re bored working on the same manuscript every day: work on it anyway. Seriously, sometimes the best work I do on something is when I really don’t want to and I make myself get the words down anyway. I don’t know where the reluctance to work comes from, maybe I’m only bored with it because I know what comes later and I want to hurry up and get to a particular scene. But that’s not going to happen if you don’t write the damn thing. So the only thing to do is shut up, put my head down, and power through whatever downtime scene I’m on so I can get to the fun, exciting one behind it.

There you go, 6 tips to help fight boredom when you want to be productive but just can’t face that same story AGAIN. A quick diversion will keep you working, keep you productive, but give your brain and eyes the break it needs without convincing you that abandoning it altogether is the only option.

Now stop reading blog posts and get back to work. Slacker.

(THIS WAS ALSO POSTED AT WWW.MIDWESTCREATIVITYCOACHING.COM)

What do you like better, writing, or having written?

Me too.

Having written something is always so much more enjoyable than actually writing it. The work is hard, the after is the reward, and are we not a reward-based culture?

So having written is always favorable to writing.

But we can’t have written without doing the writing. So we have to get started. And I don’t know about you, but for me it’s always the beginning that’s toughest.

There are so many possible ways to start any and every story, it’s like a kid in a candy story lined wall to wall with all the best chocolates and gummies and whatever you like, but you’re told you can only pick ONE.

So that one has to be just perfect, doesn’t it?

Welllllllll. See, this is the nice thing about beginnings in writing. They’re just a starting point, but 9 times out of 10, that beginning is going to change by the time the story sees publication. NO beginning is ever perfect the first time through, because at that point we’ve only got the vaguest idea what direction or tone the story is going to take.

I can’t tell you the last story I wrote that didn’t have at least one or two false starts attached to it. Sometimes you just need to work your way through the story and see where it leads, then go back afterward and make adjustments to the beginning so it falls in line with the rest of the work.

There’s no shame in it; sometimes going back and re-working the beginning is a vital part of the process, especially in a longer work where the distance between the beginning and ending is greater.

But sometimes that false start is all kinds of wrong and doesn’t even convey the story you want to tell. That’s fine, too. My short story, “The Foodies of Mars,” I started writing that with only the vaguest notion of what the story was about, and for several days I wrote a solid beginning before trashing it the next day and starting over, because while those false starts could have worked okay, they weren’t the story I wanted to tell.

So I started over, with a completely different angle, point of view and main character, a different location, trying out story openings like school clothes, just waiting til I found the right combination that made the perfect first day of school impression.

Every story has to start somewhere, but don’t feel bad if you don’t nail it right out of the gate. That’s natural and doesn’t reflect on you as a writer at all. It’s much easier to go back after and fix a beginning than it is to keep working the front end of the story and never even getting to the back half.

Just GET STARTED and KEEP WRITING.

 

(THIS POST WAS ALSO MIRRORED ON MIDWESTCREATIVITYCOACHING.COM)

Back in the days before self-publishing made submissions irrelevant, I used to love submitting to themed anthologies, mostly because I loved the challenge of writing something specifically for those guidelines. One such anthology was called Vile Things, and the guidelines listed a number of old horror anthologies to turn to for inspiration. It just so happened, I had one of those anthologies, GREAT TALES OF TERROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL, edited by H. Wise. So I leafed through the book and stopped on a story called “Caterpillars” by E. F. Benson. All these years later, I couldn’t tell you a thing about that story, but I know where I got the title and the idea for this one.

First I had to get the background details right, so before I even started the story I researched Thalidomide babies and discovered such a condition CAN be genetic. Time to get started.

For main character inspiration I only needed to look to my mother. She had a finished basement with basically a small one-room apartment down there and one day when I went over there I saw the basement was full of someone’s junk. Not her junk because it wasn’t there last time I’d been over, so I asked where it came from.

She had a cousin who had been out of town for years and years and was coming back to town and had decided he was going to be staying there so all his stuff was now in the basement. I’m not sure he ever actually showed up to stay, but his stuff was definitely there.

Check, I thought, one deadbeat cousin who needs a place to stay and comes into this weird situation he doesn’t understand with this Thalidomide baby.

What next?

Well, he has to be forced to deal with the girl, and what better way to make sure he can’t beg off and hide out downstairs or at his buddy’s house than to have the parents vanish in the night, glad to be free of this burden.

But what kind of parents would do such a thing to an innocent girl? Hey, who said she was innocent? What if there was more to this girl than just an absence of arms and legs?

Like what?

I remembered King’s THE DARK HALF and Thad Beaumont’s undeveloped conjoined twin. Holy crap, what a creepy image if, on this girl’s back, there was a whole other girl. One with little nubby limbs she could use to skitter around the house late at night, legs like a caterpillar.

At the time, I was reading SILK by Caitlin R. Kiernan and I think a lot of it went over my head, but I remember something about a pretty girl and spiders and I thought what if this girl coughed up spiders and spun webs.

This would totally freak this guy out, let’s see how he would handle it.

While all of this was going on in the story, though, I also had to tell the story of this innocent girl who just wants to live as normal a life as she possibly can. And having a daughter of my own who means the world to me, it wasn’t hard to write Jessica as a real person. And from there, he relationship between her and the main character developed naturally and, if I do say so myself, quite wonderfully. I’m very proud of the work I did in this story with those characters, and with how dark and creepy it got in the last third.

To this day, in my opinion, Joon is one of the most unsettling characters I’ve written, and I’m happy to have done so.

I don’t know what comes out of the cocoon at the end of the story, so don’t ask. Use your imagination and decide for yourself.

And now, the first scene of The Caterpillar:

IT WASN’T MY FIRST CHOICE, and I was pissed at my parents and my sister for saying no, but whatever. So when I came back to town I wound up staying with my cousin Judy and her husband Jeff in their basement. I don’t think they wanted me there, more likely they were just too polite to turn me away. I showed up on a Tuesday and hauled what I could in through the garage to the basement, then parked the moving truck in front of the house so Jeff could have the driveway and went inside to thank Judy, again, for letting me stay.

I heard a door close down the hall and then Judy appeared, emerging from the dark with a towel in one hand and an empty bowl in the other. I’d forgotten about their daughter. Jessica was ten and we’d never met. But I knew about her.

She was a second-generation Thalidomide baby. According to the FDA, only 17 American children were born with Thalidomide-related deformities. Jeff’s mother had been one of them. While another article, published in DRUG SAFETY, assured the drug did not cause further defects, and yes Jeff had been born normal, Jessica suffered from Amelia, which meant she’d been born with no limbs.

I followed Judy into the kitchen, thanking her, as she put the empty bowl in the sink and laid the towel on the counter.

“No,” she said, “it’s okay. You get settled. It’s good to have you home.”

I wondered how sincerely she meant that. I’d been in Florida for ten years, involved in a number of businesses, all of which had failed. I had a moving company, owned a miniature golf course, a bar, a skateboard shop, just to name a few. I had good ideas, just bad luck. And maybe bad business sense. So after a decade of failure, I decided it was time to come home and just live a life again where I wasn’t dodging creditors all the time or watching my possessions being sold at auction to pay my debts. Not to mention the cost of living is a lot cheaper in the Midwest.

I returned every few years to attend reunions or show off my success for a weekend, but I always left before my cash ran out or the bill collectors tracked me down. I never stayed in town long enough for the cracks to show. And I rarely kept in contact with any of the family. So it came as no surprise when I detected reluctance in Judy’s tone. Not to mention I’m sure she and Jeff had enough problems with Jessica without worrying about me in there, too.

Just a couple weeks, I reminded myself.

Judy said to make myself at home, asked if I was hungry. I was, but I said no. I commented on how they had a nice house. She said thank you. Then I returned to the basement to start unpacking.

To read the rest of the story, you can it as a standalone ebook HERE.

This is a blog post I’ve wanted to write for some time, or at least one like it. But I have a ton of short stories and never know where to start. So today I left it up to my team, emailed them and asked which story they would like to read the backstory on. The first answer was for one of my favorite stories called “Cunt”, but that’s a pretty personal one and one I’m not comfortable sharing. Luckily, the second answer was for another favorite, probably my very favorite, called “Monday”. So here it is.

“Monday” was originally inspired by the first line in the song “Working for the Fat Man” (which also inspired another story with the same title) from the band The Escape Club. The line is “Every day is Monday in the house up on the hill.”

For half a decade at least, I carried that line around, knowing there was a story in there if I ever just made time to write it. But the first time I tried, it was a story about a guy who winds up on a crew building a house and every morning when they get to the site, they find all the work they did the day before has been undone, and the job turns into a neverending race to get it built before the end of the day when the work is undone all over again. It wouldn’t have been a bad story.

But it wasn’t THE story.

So I scrapped it and started again. I’ve no idea where the final version of the story came from, I only know I sat down one early morning while it was still dark out and wrote the opening scene of Maddy waking up and getting her day started. Maddy’s morning routine was pretty much the same as my morning routine, so the writing went pretty easy that day.

The part about “every day is Monday” informed the opening about waking up with déjà vu, but I didn’t know with that first scene where the story was going. So I kept writing. I talked about the people across the street who insisted on parking in front of Maddy’s house because at the time I had some neighbors who always parked in front of my house–the orange Mustang, however, belonged to the people who lived across from my mother although I don’t know if they ever parked in front of her house; I just thought it was a noticeable and obnoxious car.

And then, somewhere mid-scene, I realized what Maddy was about to do and the shape of the story, if not the key to it (that calendar page), came to me.

I hesitated a bit, thoughts of “Groundhog Day” in my head, and not wanting to tell a story that had already been told, but damn I was enjoying the writing of this one, so I kept going.

I wrote that opening scene on day one, then came back the next morning and wrote the next full scene. I wrote the story over five days, each day pretty much just repeating what I’d written the day before, then going back to edit some details (I admit I got a lot of the structure for the recap sentences from the SAW movies, the short, clipped way they do the recaps in the end when the big twist of whichever installment it is reveals itself) and add new ones. By day two, I still don’t think I knew the thing about the calendar as the stuff about Maddy’s grandmother didn’t happen until day three. By day two I was still just enjoying the process and having more fun writing anything than I had in a long time.

By day three, when I wrote the part about her grandmother and the calendar, the whole thing came together in one rush of information and the next three days writing became crystal clear.

I have similar thoughts as Maddy sometimes when I have deju vu, trying to remember why I feel like I’ve done something before, and then trying to remember if the outcome had been good or bad and, if it was a bad, how do I change it? It doesn’t happen quite as often now, but once upon a time, it was ALL the time.

But from there, it was just a matter of getting Maddy closer and closer every day until she reached her goal, solved the puzzle of the déjà vu, and was able to bring the story to a close. It was really quite simple, in the end, and I can’t believe every story isn’t that easy to write.

A few key details, all the Ms. Maddy, Monday, May. All on purpose.

“Monday”, along with a lot of other stories are available in my collection THE DICHOTMOY OF MONSTERS here. Now, here’s the first scene of “Monday”:

Monday

C. Dennis Moore

 

She woke with déjà vu, as if she’d been dreaming about waking, and then lay there staring at the ceiling for a minute before managing to climb out from the covers. In the bathroom she emptied her bladder, brushed her teeth, and took some aspirin for her headache. In the kitchen she replaced yesterday’s filter with a fresh one, scooped coffee into it, filled the water reservoir, then turned on the pot. The red-orange glow indicating the thing was on only increased her anticipation of that first cup.

While the coffee brewed, Maddy walked into the living room, past the chair, glancing at the clock on the cable box once to see it was now 8:18, then went to the front window and stared outside. The sight promised a warm May day, and she contemplated a walk before changing her mind; going out would mean getting dressed, and Maddy was perfectly fine in her pj’s, thank you.

She stood there and watched the woman across the street, whose name she’d never bothered to learn, pull her ugly orange Mustang back into her driveway after dropping her two kids off at school, get out still looking half-asleep, and trudge into her house. Maddy had never bothered to learn the woman’s name because when they moved in, for about the first month, the woman’s husband used to come home from work at night and park his truck in front of Maddy’s house. Maddy had her own driveway, but it was the principle. She’d hated them right away. That was last year, and the man hadn’t parked there since, but that first impression had tainted Maddy’s opinion.

In the kitchen, the coffee gurgled, telling her it was done brewing and ready for drinking, so she turned and headed back to make that first cup.

Maddy’s sugar and powdered creamer were kept in similar-looking plastic containers and she had a habit of telling which was which with a shake. The creamer was silent while the sugar sounded like maracas. A hearty sprinkle of creamer and four scoops of sugar, a stir, five times clockwise, five times counterclockwise with three delicate taps of the spoon on the edge of the mug. The spoon went to the ceramic cradle beside the coffee pot and Maddy grabbed her cup and went into the spare bedroom where her computer monitor displayed a series of interweaving designs in various colors until she sat down and nudged the mouse to deactivate the screensaver.

Four new emails awaited her, including a notice she had accrued $5 in Borders Bucks from the book store, and a “get-to-know-me” survey from her friend Anna, which Anna should know very well Maddy was not going to fill out–and scrolling down to the line which read “Which of my friends is least likely to respond”, Anna had entered Maddy’s name.

“Good thinking,” Maddy said out loud.

But she perused Anna’s answers, then the list of other addressees to whom Anna had sent this particular email, always curious about the outside ties people form from their core group.

She sipped her coffee, then, as it cooled, took bigger gulps until the cup was empty. As she stood from the chair, she noticed her desk calendar. Monday. Déjà vu again, but it was only her dream resurfacing for a moment to remind her and suddenly Maddy felt very uneasy, but couldn’t pin down what it was that caused the feeling in the first place. That déjà vu, that dream. Whatever it had been.

Like it matters now anyway, she thought, and realized that was right. Whatever caused that feeling, it was a moot point at this juncture.

She put the cup in the sink, then turned off the pot, always wary of a stray spark setting the house ablaze, but didn’t bother dumping out the remains she hadn’t drank, and got a glass of water.

She had a bottle of pills in her purse, and now she took these out, dumped the contents onto the coffee table, and counted. Twenty.

She tried to swallow three at a time, but that was too much. She settled on swallowing two at a time until they were all gone. Then she set the near-empty water glass back on the coffee table and leaned back into the couch, staring out the front window. She had no idea how long it would be, but it was a beautiful May day. The clock on the cable box told her it was 9:02. Outside the sun sent down brilliant orange rays and the grass had never looked greener, she thought. Soon she found her eyes heavy, her chest thick, and it was a little harder to draw the next breath. She slumped over, groggy, wondering what day it was and how long she’d slept. Then her eyes closed and she fell over.

While I didn’t get a LOT of words done today, I got some important ones done. Only about 400 of them, but I put a lot into those 400 as I was trying to describe a thing, a time, a place in the world of the story that doesn’t have substance, or location, nor does time pass there.

So that was an experience. But I think I managed it alright.

I need to go through my Prolific Works (formerly Instafreebie) stories and change the CTAs in them since I downgraded my account from paid to free yesterday. I just can’t justify–never could, really–paying $20 a month to FORCE people to sign up to my newsletter whenever they download one of my FREE books, and then have 70% of them never even open the thing, let alone buy any books.

I do get some really good engagement with my readers on there now, and I love it, but I’m not really seeing the money I make every month coming from newsletter subscribers, therefore that $20 a month could very well be better spent elsewhere.

So I need to change the CTAs in those books to saying something like if you liked this story and want more, please sign up for my free weekly newsletter at, and then give the URL for the sign-up sheet.

And that should also eliminate all the people who unsubscribe claiming they never signed up in the first place. I assure you, you totally signed up. I gave you a free novel, and in exchange you gave me your email address. It even says it on the website. But that’s okay, they only came for the free ebook anyway, they clearly were never going to buy any of the other books.

Hopefully I can get to changing those very soon.

Writing goal for the day: Add another 1000 words to The Third Floor 2.

Writing total: 1008 words, bringing the book to 3020 words in the first 3 days.

Not bad. My goal for the first week is to get the prologue written. That’s what I’m still in the middle of, but I will definitely finish it this week and when I get back to the book in three weeks, I’ll be starting chapter one and the main part of the plot. But first I have to finish the prologue.

No worries, everything is on track.

Also, yesterday I had to do research, image searching “guest room décor.”

Today’s writing goal: hit 2000 words on The Third Floor 2.

Final total: 2012 words. Goal met.

I had trouble getting these words out, and honestly considered quitting for the day when I was only halfway there. When I went down to get a new cup of coffee, the kitchen floor was soaked. I had the tap running at a slow drizzle because it’s supposed to get down to 4 degrees in the next 24 hours and I didn’t want the pipes to freeze, and somehow all the water backed up into the dishwasher and started leaking out. No idea how or why, but I turned on the dishwasher and it all drained away immediately, so that’s good?

But this roadblock almost made me pack it in for the day and do something else. But I was halfway there and am I really the kind of writer, or do I want to be the kind of writer, who lets a stupid thing like that keep me from reaching my daily writing goal?

Of course not. So I finished the days words and added another 12 with 2 minutes to spare before my lunch is ready.

For the past good long while, my Saturdays have been spent not doing a lot of specific work.  Maybe catching up on emails or edits when I needed to, but I never felt really productive on Saturdays.  Now, I don’t get every Saturday off–not many of them, in fact–but for this year I’m making a new Saturday plan.  If I have it off, I’ll do a movie review and a blog post for the Midwest Creativity Coaching website.  If I have to work on Saturday, I’ll just do the blog post.  Sunday is still set aside for my newsletter and plans with my kids.

It’s late Saturday night as I write this, so the newsletter is still to come, but I did get my review and blog post done today.  And you can read them here:

Movie review: MOTHER’S DAY MASSACRE

Blog post: WHEN SETTING YOUR GOALS, REMEMBER TO BE SPECIFIC

Next week I start work on the next Monsters of Green Lake book: THE WITCHES OF GREEN LAKE.