Keep the Ideas Coming Two: Try Something Completely Different


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Keep the Ideas Coming Two: Try Something Completely Different


You may feel in a rut for new writing ideas, but a great way to give your creativity a boost is to do something else creative – but totally different.


basket weaving

There’s actually a merit badge for this.

Photography. Painting. Dancing. Piano. Even if you aren’t creating through writing, anything that flexes your mental muscles will keep your brain working and active. These new pathways in your brain will often unlock ideas that were hidden when you actively hunted for them. Knit or build a model or put together a puzzle. Build with Legos or blocks with your children to keep your mind working. Going on a hike or bike riding gives you exercise while clearing out clutter and stress.

Writing something completely different helps just as much. Are you a fiction writer? Try writing poetry about a scene in your current or a past work. Write newspaper copy about a current event, or an event in your story. You don’t have to concentrate on quality for these pieces. This effort is to take your mind out of the familiar and tackle creativity in a different way.

Your focus may be writing, but writing isn’t the only way to be creative or to find ideas. Make sure your mind gets variety, and you’ll be surprised how well your trove of ideas starts to fill.

Chapter 8 (b) (first draft)


This is my first draft of Hunters Chapter Eight (b) for comparison, and for an example of the extent of changes during the editing process.

Not as many changes here. As Hinge’s first reveal, I kept to an ethereal, otherworldly feel to his descriptions and clarified his (still unique) speech style in future drafts. I also clarified blocking, plus changed the ending to better clarify what was happening and to be less cheesy. You can check out the current version of Chapter Eight (b) here.

Back to Hunters

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Chapter 8 (b)



Air raid sirens howled in the darkness. The glow of fires traced the shattered skeletons of the city on the horizon. Shapes of planes blotted out the stars splattered across the clear sky.

Over the bombs and sirens, I could barely hear the cries of the crippled old man I fucked in the alley.

I thrust down on him and felt his hip snap. His lips frothed blood from a broken rib that had punctured a lung. The pain didn’t even touch his mindless eyes. Rough and palsied hands, caked with the same dirt and ash and shit that coated everything, scraped over my skin.

His scream was wet and grating and he collapsed. Clarence Berkshire’s paltry soul ebbed, scoured of hope by Verdun and poverty and misery. Left was a husk of dried meat and leathery flesh as decrepit as the soul it had held.

“Fuck!” I hurled the body into the rubble-choked street. Its flailing limbs twisted the scarves of smoke and fog that drifted along its path. It landed on the cracked cobblestones and I stared at it, willing a German bomb to immolate the worthless sack of shit. Dust settled. Klaxons blared. Nothing happened. I screamed with frustration and pulled my dress back down over my legs.

“The likes of him to time lose all their savor.”

The melodic voice, thickened with a Spanish accent, melted over me. I spun around.

Hinge stepped from the shadows of the alley. His deep chocolate eyes smoldered beneath a carpet of curled shoulder-length hair. A thin moustache and arrow of a goatee framed generous lips. Despite the filth and destruction around him, his voluminous white shirt, velvet vest and pants were immaculate.

A mix of lust and fury smothered my frustration. I rushed at him. “Where have you been?” My fist smashed into his jaw. He didn’t react. No mark on skin the rich color of milky tea. His mouth remained in a pitying smile. I screamed and hit him again, desperate for a reaction. “You left me for weeks.”

His slender fingers clutched my neck before I knew he moved. I gagged as he lifted me from the ground.

“You hold such passion in your rage, my love.” He drew me close and nipped at my lower lip before pulling away again. The heady scent of his body filled my nostrils, stabbed into my brain, moments before he threw me into the wall of the alley.

I barely felt the impact. I launched myself from the cracked facade and slammed in to him. In moments our bodies were tangled on the ground, nails clawing flesh, mouths biting and sucking and devouring. His laughter drowned out the raging blitz around us.

“You hunt the souls of those already dead,” he said when he pulled his mouth free of my breast. “Why hunt the dregs of life when feasts await?”

“This is my feast.” I struggled his pulsing cock from his pants and tried to take him into me.

He gripped me by the chin and hauled me up to face him. “Mi amor, this is no what I mean.”

I struggled against his implacable grip. “Let me go.”

He held me close, tantalizing just beyond physical contact. The hellish flames in my body seared with need. He kept laughing, and I struggled harder. To beat him or fuck him I would decide when I reached him.

“Ravenous desire makes you a beast.” Excitement and reproach filled his words in equal measure. He shoved me away and flowed to his feet with preternatural grace. His fingers flew over his clothes, fastening buttons, brushing away dust. In moments all trace of our passions had been erased.

“You and I are meant to feast on pleasure,” he continued. “Yet you slave yourself to sustenance,”

“We don’t have a choice.” I wrestled my dress back into place. “There’s nothing but old men left. The young fight on the mainland. The women cower in shelters! I can’t survive like this.”

“You hunt the prey that life already drains.” He held his hand out to me. “Come with me to truly sate your hunger.”

I glared at him, but couldn’t sustain my anger. I slid to his side and draped his arm over my shoulder. My head barely reached his chest. “Show me, my love.”

He smiled and kissed the top of my head. “Tonight you do no starve. Tonight you dine.”

 “And for dessert?” I bit loose the buttons on his shirt, ran a tongue over his smooth, hard chest.

Hinge grasped my hair and tore my head up to face him. “For that you need the strength entire you take.”

I grinned and tugged at his hand. “Then what are we waiting for?”

Tranquila, mi querida, queda cerca.”

The sirens bounced from the buildings and piles of rubble we passed. Fog rippled like a pool beneath our steps. Shapes, some holding torches against the darkness, darted in alleyways and between buildings, but Hinge held me each time I started to move toward them. Finally he drew to a stop next to a long, relatively intact building with rows of boarded windows that ran the length of both stories. Black ivy twined over its cracked facade. An empty shadow where a sign once hung stamped the brick above the wooden doors.

I started to speak, but Hinge pressed a finger to my lips. “Do no ask. I will no spoil the secret.” He flowed up the steps and pressed his fingers against the door. With a push they sighed open.

The musty entry beyond sagged with age. Years of traffic had scoured permanent ruts into the floor. Bulbs flickered through wire cages and thick films of dust. Torn notices and pictures kept tenuous hold on the walls. Dust trickled from the ceiling with each thunderous explosion.

On the floor lay sprawled several bodies of women wearing hoods and black robes.

I stepped over the first of the corpses and grimaced. “You brought me to a monastery?” Each sister lay in a glistening slick of blood. Their souls had not been consumed. They had simply been killed.

“No, my love, this is no nunnery.” Hinge swept past me. His steps avoided the bodies and blood without any apparent effort.  He beckoned for me to join him.

I weaved around the slain sisters as I followed. The doors along the hall were shut but for one that led to a chapel. A carved crucifix with a bleeding Jesus towered out of the shadows over the rows of pews that faced it. Hinge sped past on the far side of the hall, not even sparing it a glance. He stopped at the set of double doors at the end of the hall and waited for me to reach his side. He gave a deep bow as if unveiling a masterpiece and swept the doors open.

The bar of light from the hallway sliced the darkness ahead. The feet of metal beds and scarred trunks studded the edge of the light. Sheets and bedclothes rustled, stirring the air. Dozens of eyes blinked to life like stars in the darkness.

“I have returned, queridos hijos mios.” Hinge flicked on the lights.

The dormitory lit up. Children, both boys and girls, dirty and unkempt, cheeks hollowed from hunger, were sitting up in their beds. They stared at us with eyes at first vacant and blurred with sleep. Then the gazes darkened with other emotions. They began to rise from their beds, moving slowly toward us.

Hinge strode forward on his long legs into the midst of the orphans. “This is the feast I promised, mi amor.”

Their hands grasped at his shirt, ran over his body as he passed his palms over their heads as if blessing them. “The young possess a purity unparalleled. Even orphaned, life has yet to sour them.” He took a young boy’s head and guided it down. The youth eagerly pulled my master’s pants open. “They will no longer cry into their gruel. Tonight we save them from their misery.”

“An orphanage,” I mumbled. The vitality screamed from them. Young. Powerful. Pure. The air vibrated with the power of their souls. I took several steps forward, then stopped.

Hinge cocked his head to the side as more small hands pulled his clothes away, small mouths ran over his flesh. “Does not their innocence enflame your hunger?”

“They’re too young,” I stammered. My hunger seethed. I took another step toward the orphans, then backed away. A disquiet that I didn’t understand stirred at my core.

“Only some of these have not yet flowered.” He shrugged, then closed his eyes and threw his head back as the orphans fawned over him. “That is a barrier for me no longer.”

One girl neared him. Black hair flowed down to her shoulder blades. Even from behind I could see womanhood had not yet touched the slender body under her white gown.

Hinge took one look at her and for an instant agony swallowed his expression. He turned and batted her away. “I give you her to whet your appetite.”

The girl turned toward me and glided forward. A wooden crucifix hung from a leather string between the shadows of her nipples. Lust consumed her blue eyes. The delicate lines of her features were elegant, smooth. Beautiful. I wanted her.

As our eyes met, she moaned. Her lips parted. A small red flower of blood bloomed on the crotch of her gown.

I inhaled and fought the temptation to wrap her in an embrace. The unfamiliar disquiet built.

“She looks like… my sister?” I said. Emotions bobbed from the murk of confusion swallowing my mind. “My daughter? I don’t-”

“You have no sister, nor a daughter with your youth. I find you on the streets alone.” Hinge tugged aside the bedclothes of the boy in front of him, exposing pale flesh crossed with switch marks and bruises. The other orphans began to disrobe of their own accord. “What gives you pause? I feel your building need.”

I leaned down on one knee and took her by the shoulders. Her heat, her smell, her beauty beckoned me. She leaned forward, and our lips met. Before I could stop myself I pulled her thin body close. I felt the heat of her body, her beauty, her eagerness, her soul. Her virgin mouth was delicious, her memories childlike and innocent and pure and holy Christ my hunger screamed.

Something was wrong. I clenched my jaw and pushed her away. I needed her, I lusted for her, yet my mind seethed with half-recalled dreams and faded memories. What was stopping me?

What had stopped Hinge? The sight of her had pained him.

My eyes fixed on the cross at the girl’s neck. He had kept his distance from the chapel, too.

“Get to the chapel,” I hissed, and slipped the cross from around her neck.

“But I need you,” she whispered. “Take me, please.” She moved again to kiss me. The beckoning fragrance of her blood and pheromones and excitement pounded at my will.

I snarled and shoved past her, thrusting her toward the doors. “Get to the chapel!” I roared to her, to all the children in the dormitory, and charged. They scattered as I crashed into Hinge.

My momentum carried him to the back of the room. Beds and trunks careened in our wake. We crashed into the rear wall just as another bomb blast split the air. The orphanage shook.

“What the fuck’s happening to me?”  I smashed him to the floor, rained down blows with my fists. My skin was black, my nails talons of fire. “What did you do to me?”

His voice still rang with mirth. “I do no know from where it comes, this rage.” He started laughing. His clothes were in a tangle around his waist and ankles, and he made no effort to right them. “I give you willing-”

I clenched my fists together and crashed them into his face. Unbridled. Bones crunched under my knuckles.

Hinge roared. His own demonic form took hold. A blazing palm slammed into my chest. I flew off him and tumbled over the mess of the room. Bed frames bent under my impact.

“What don’t I remember?” We were both back to our feet at the same instant. Our eyes seared into each other.

“I do nothing to your memory,” he said. His voice was no longer musical. It was fury.

“Why does this feel wrong?”

“Your sin is much too great for this to bother. They are no different from your victims past. And death, it is a blessing for these children.”

More explosions ripped the air, marching closer, sending dust and splinters raining down on us. I ignored them. “Do I have a sister? A family?”

“I find you on the street alone with nothing. I take you as my own and give you all.” He spread his arms and started to advance on me. “Yet in your doubting moment now you fight me. Let stop this foolishness and come to me.”

His engorged cock throbbed with fiery veins. I felt the erotic pull of the pleasures he had given me, nearly fell to my knees. So much death and depravity through the years. This was little worse than my other sins. Yet I had never taken a life so young – so innocent – as these. And the thought of doing so revolted me to the core, from some memory or past I felt but didn’t remember.

The windows exploded inward. Jets of smoke and fire spilled around us. The ceiling started to collapse. The foundation buckled under us. I turned invisible and charged over the heaving ground.

“What did you take from me?” I drove my claws at his chest.

He caught my wrist as if I were still visible and slid to the side. With the same motion he flipped me over and whipped me into the broken floor. My back wrenched. His hand kept a grip around my hand. He lifted me from the ground and hurled me through the curtain of fire and debris falling around us.

I sailed until I slammed into the remains of a wall. The wall collapsed on me from the impact. The world tilted. Flames blistered my skin. My invisibility dissolved. I struggled free of the debris just as Hinge’s fingers clamped around my neck again and hauled me off my feet.

“I do no suffer doubt from my own daughter.” His fingers squeezed. “I never think my child would dare defy me.”

I felt him crushing my neck, and I gagged. With the last of my strength I lifted my hand and opened my palm.

He released me with an anguished cry. I landed hard on the rubble, holding the crucifix in my trembling fingers like a shield.

Voices behind me gasped. I looked back to see the orphans huddled together, black with soot. The remainder of the wall between the dormitory and the chapel had collapsed when I hit it. The pews smoldered, broken, and the chapel cross lay at an angle but intact behind them.

Hinge started to laugh. He held his hand out toward me and the crucifix, fingers splayed, and began to stagger back.

“So my Tricia also finds my weakness,” he said between spasms of laughter. His obsidian and fire demonic form faded. “This will no save you from my wrath forever.”

“You won’t ever see me again.” I stood on shaking legs, still holding the crucifix, and resumed my human glamour.

“With your sin I can no fathom how you hold a cross and feel no agony.” He kept chuckling, quieter now. “I swear you will regret this night, mi hija.”

“Never again,” I repeated.

“We shall see if that is true, my love.” He dropped his hand and bowed to me. “This night I gift you life, but know that it is mine to take whenever I but choose.”

The smoke and flames swirled, and he was gone.

I watched the empty space where Hinge had been until the stirring of the orphans roused me. I turned to them, trembling.

“I won’t hurt you,” I said. My voice was hoarse. “Stay close to the chapel. Help will come soon.”

I looked over the imploring faces and saw the girl who had approached me. Her hands clutched her gown to cover the stain on it. Shame colored her cheeks. I untangled the leather cord from my fingers and held her cross out to her.

She pressed her palm flat against my hand. Her blue eyes again met mine, but this time her gaze was clear.

“I think you’ll need it more than me,” she said.


I shook myself, my hand clutching the wooden cross that still hung around my neck.

No doubt remained. Hinge was in Seattle. And I would have to face him again.

“I’ll need to know if this keeps happening,” I said softly. “I’ll leave you a way to contact me if….”

My voice trailed off as I looked up at Grayson. He was slowly walking around the room, staring at a spot just over my shoulder. As he moved, his own reflection writhed over the steel behind him. He was the only person standing in the room.


“Grayson. Look at me.”

Grayson gasped and tensed. His eyes snapped into focus on my face.

I took the clipboard from the nearest cart and scribbled a number across the page. “Call this phone if more anonymous kids start showing up.”

He swallowed. Sweat curled down from his temples.

“I am not going to hurt you. But these deaths will keep happening. The police can’t stop it. I’m the only person that can.” I gestured with the clipboard at the bodies. “Can you call this number if more bodies show up?”

Grayson swallowed again and nodded. He made a squeaking sound, but formed no coherent words.

I nodded and dropped the clipboard onto the floor. My boots squealed as I started toward the doors.

“What are you?” He asked. His voice quaked.

I stopped and bowed my head.

“I’m not sure I ever knew,” I said, and pushed through the doors.


Chapter 8 (a) (first draft)



This is my first draft of Hunters Chapter Eight (a) for comparison, and for an example of the extent of changes during the editing process. You can check out the current version of Chapter Eight (a) here.

Back to Hunters

Back to


Chapter Eight



The street artist slashed his charcoal stub across the sheet with the precision of a swordsman. Fat drops of water, rustled by the damp breeze from the trees overhead, popped against the umbrella that sheltered him. He sat back for a moment and adjusted the lamp above his easel to examine his work.

“Are you done?” I asked. The street lights around us were flickering to life in the encroaching dusk.

He picked up the smoldering joint resting in a cracked Bob Ross mug that served as an ashtray. “You can’t rush it,” he said, holding his lighter to the tip and taking a deep drag. His voice squeaked as he held in the smoke. “Especially not with a slice like you.”

I tugged a crumpled twenty from my jacket pocket and thrust it toward him. He rolled his eyes. “Or maybe you can.” His words washed a cloud of foul smoke over me. He stabbed a last few marks with his free hand, then whipped the sheet from his easel. He handed it to me and took the bill in the same motion. “Suit yourself. Price is the same.”

I glanced at the drawing. As I had requested, the rendition was more realistic than his displayed art selection of cartoon motifs and exaggerated features. The bruises across my face were nowhere to be seen. I had slept for hours after getting home, and the rest had made more difference than I expected. I smoothed my tangled hair before folding the drawing into squares and slipping it in my back pocket. The artist winced but said nothing, filling the air around him with a nimbus of pot smoke.

I turned my attention to the glass and concrete office building across the street. A large gold police shield flashed on the building’s doors. I searched the street to make sure no one was watching and snapped invisible.

At this hour the lobby was empty except for two security guards, one watching the nightly news and the other reading a tattered novel. The one at the television looked up as the doors opened on their own, followed by a breath of cool wind. He grunted and returned his attention to the program. I walked around the metal detector, scanned the display of offices and floors of the building, and found the King County Medical Examiner. Neither guard reacted when the elevator chimed and opened. I was used to people, even guards, giving little heed to doors and elevators misbehaving.

Getting in the building was never going to be the problem, anyway.

I dropped my invisibility as the elevator doors opened. The click of my boots on the laminate roused the man behind the desk. He closed his laptop and pushed his bifocals down, clinging to me with his gaze.

“Can I help you, miss?” He straightened his green smock to hide the paunch it did little to conceal. A fringe of gray hair ringed his glistening pate. His nametag said Grayson. He had yet to look me in the eye. “Are you lost?”

“No.” I stopped at the edge of his desk. “I’m looking for someone.”

His eyes refused to lift from the curves of my body. He smiled broadly, displaying teeth stained by coffee. The indent of a wedding ring stood out on his finger. His nails were chewed to the quick. Sweat gathered on his upper lip, stirring to life the sickening spice of his cologne.

“I’d say you found someone,” he said.

Desire already held him in its grip, and I had done nothing proactive. I could brush my fingers against his cheek, stare into his eyes, and his will would crumple. It would be that simple to get what I wanted.

Instead I pushed a hundred dollar bill across the desk toward him. It was the last cash I had, but it was worth the expense. My next victim had better be loaded. “I’m afraid a friend of mine might be here.”

Grayson stared at the bill, then looked back up. Our eyes finally met. “We would have notified the family if-”

“I’m actually looking for many people,” I clarified, pushing the hundred closer to him. “I just need to see the bodies. Or see that they aren’t here.”

A look of apprehension displaced the desire in his gaze. The change unsettled me. “Who are you looking for?”

“Have any unidentified teenagers died recently?”

Grayson’s face settled into a grim cast that unsettled me even more, as if whatever worried him had been confirmed. “Are you a reporter?”

I shook my head.

“You look too young, anyway.” He stuffed the bill in his pocket and stood up. He motioned for me to follow him through the double doors behind the desk.

I pushed through the doors in his wake. Florescent lights arced from the gleaming floor and cabinets of the room. I paused for a moment, staring at the multitude of warped reflections in the stainless steel surfaces. Nothing for it but to depend on inattentiveness. I took a step into the room, then froze. The doors swung back on me and I stumbled forward.

Six corpses in the middle of examinations rested on wheeled autopsy tables. Grayson did a silent circuit around the room as I stared, pulling out at least as many more body drawers. Similar corpses occupied each one. All of them cold, gray, undamaged but for the autopsy incisions.

Bodies just embraced by the transformation of puberty. None over thirteen at most. Bodies not just dead, but empty. Bodies ripped of their souls.

Fuck. The edges of my world started to crumble. The smell of antiseptics and Grayson’s cloying aftershave faded. The air grew colder, deader.

And carried the flutter of a scent I hadn’t smelled in decades. Memory swelled. I could smell him on all of them.

Grayson pulled out the last drawer and gestured at the room with an air of futility. “The media would go crazy if this got out. I don’t know how it’s stayed quiet so long.” He gnawed at the nail of his middle finger. “All of them John and Jane Does. If you know any of them, we could use some help identifying them.”

“When did this start?” I could barely form words.

Grayson shrugged. “A few weeks ago. They’re from all over. These are just in King County.”

My body trembled. “It’s happening in other areas.”

“They have at least this many in Tacoma. A couple more in Snohomish. If it weren’t so spread out and happening so fast, we’d be thinking serial killer.” He walked among the gurneys, his eyes darting from the bodies to me. “None with an apparent cause of death, no identification, no one asking about them….”

He might have kept talking, but I lost his voice in an encroaching silence. I stepped closer to the nearest body. She was the only one not yet scarred by an examination. Her blonde hair spilled down her shoulders and over the edge of the table. Acne concealed under makeup, breasts mere bumps under the autopsy sheet, face peaceful in a death so thorough it left nothing of her behind. I could smell her even in death, faint but newly blossomed. Mixed with the dark, intoxicating scent I dreaded.

A delicate golden cross lay askew at the hollow of her throat. It flashed in the colorless light above. I couldn’t tear my gaze from it even as the crush of bombs shattered the air around me.



Chapter Six (first draft)



This is my first draft of Hunters Chapter Six for comparison, and for an example of the extent of changes during the editing process.

Tricia has much less reflection on Sebastian’s news in this version, and has a much more selfish motivation. I changed both in future drafts to reflect the fear Hinge’s presence inspires, and her genuine caring for Sister Rosie. You can check out the current version of Chapter Six here.

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Chapter Six

The Cursed


I strode invisible through the homeless camp beneath the downtown I-5 overpass. Vagrants huddled in a motley collection of tents and sleeping bags, sheltered beneath the shadow of the freeway. A few gathered around bitter fires of whatever they could find to burn. The torn cyclone fencing around the camp rattled against the breeze, dripped from the sheets of mist falling from the cold sky.

The reek of smoldering trash, sodden clothing and unwashed bodies assaulted me. The wind, rather than driving the odors away, churned them into a repulsive soup. But I followed the faint scent of coffee and perfume through the camp until the woman I sought came into view.

Police Chaplain Rosangela Marinha do Carmen crouched on the trash-strewn and mossy gravel in front of one of the homeless men. To most, the steady vibration of traffic would drown out the words she spoke to him.

I could have stood yards away and still heard them, but Rosie’s warm presence always drew me close. I stood just a few paces back as I listened.

“Are you positive I cannot offer you a ride to the shelter?” Her Brazilian accent melted her words together in a graceful waterfall of sound. The gentle voice was striking coming from such an imposing woman. Her hair, black streaked with gray, was pulled back in a bun, and her snug uniform held no decorations other than her name, badge and a cross stitched into the collar.

The man shook his head but said nothing. The wind gusted, drug the morning mist under the shelter of the overpass and took the man’s breath with it in an erratic stream. He pulled his torn blue sleeping bag closer at his neck with skeletal fingers. The slate gray light from the overcast sky muted his already lifeless colors. His callused hands were caked in grime, his cheeks beaten to a rosy shine by the elements. His yellow and bloodshot eyes swiveled aimlessly in their sockets to avoid her gaze.

She smiled sadly and pulled a black thermos from the bag hanging at her hip. “Well, at least let me offer you a cup of coffee. It will not be as warm as the shelter, but it will ward off some of the chill.”

A river of steam poured from the thermos as she filled a paper cup for him. The richness of its smell rolled over me on the wind. More than for her ministrations, more than for her caring, the homeless knew Pastor Rosie for her coffee.

Life touched the man’s eyes as he cradled the cup close to his face, inhaling the scent before taking a sip. Rosie twisted the thermos closed and set her dark hand on the man’s greasy tangle of hair. Her massive grasp could have picked him up by the skull.

“I’m no believer,” the man said. His voice sounded like rocks tumbling over metal.

Rosie laughed. “That is fine. You do not have to be.” She pulled him close and whispered words in his ear even I couldn’t catch. He shuddered, fell against her shoulder, and she held him for several moments before patting his back and standing.

“I will be back tomorrow if you decide the shelter is a better place to sleep,” she said. The man didn’t reply and clutched his coffee in his trembling grip. Rosie turned away, her boots crunching over the gravel and brittle weeds.

My heart leapt at seeing her unharmed. Though Hinge was in Seattle, he had done nothing to hurt her. Again the suspicion tickled my thoughts that Sebastian was fucking with me.

Even though I couldn’t think of a reason why he would bother, I had to confirm his story. If my old master was indeed here, it was inevitable he would harm my lone mortal friend.

“I need into the morgue,” I said.

“Mae de Deus.” Rosie spun with an alacrity I would have thought impossible for her. “Tricia. I did not see you. What are you doing here?”

“You’re always at the homeless camps. It wasn’t-”

“Your face!” Her expression darkened. “What happened to you?”

I looked away. Once she pointed them out, every ache I had been ignoring started to groan. The marks of the Andrasi fight must still look terrible. “I’m fine.”

“How did you get hurt?” Her thick hands touched my bruises with surprising tenderness. “We should get you to a hospital.”

Her touch was warm, welcoming, but I jerked away from her examination. “I said I’m fine. It was just a bar fight.”

“You got into a bar fight.” She said it without reproach. I heard the reproach anyway. She had never asked how old I was, though I didn’t look old enough to drink. Then again, she had been my friend for almost a decade.

I shoved away the concerns that followed that thought. I wouldn’t deal with my eternal youth until she brought it up. And I had no idea what I would tell her when she did.

“You should see the other guys,” I said.

“Guys. Plural.” Her eyes widened. “Did they rape you?”


Her eyes stayed fixed on me. I looked her straight in the eye. “They didn’t rape me. I’m fine.”

She didn’t break her stare for several moments. Then she shrugged and started walking toward her car. She pulled the thermos back out of her bag. “You could probably use some coffee. You do not look like you have slept since the… bar fight.”

I shook my head and matched her pace, took the offered cup. “Do you ever run out? It’s like loaves and fishes.”

“Except with coffee and biscotti for Seattle?” Rosie’s big, embracing laugh warmed me to the core. “I have an urn in my squad car. Coffee is the only way to get most of the homeless to talk to me anymore.” She nodded to indicate the homeless camp.


“I used to be able to overcome the uniform. They are suspicious of police. But lately it seems I am gaining the reputation as an angel of death. Some of those I talk to have been disappearing. The worst of them.” She crossed herself with a movement so natural it seemed like second nature. “With the lives they led, it is no surprise that ill became of them. But even the worst sinners deserve the chance for redemption.”

I covered my reaction by taking a swallow of coffee. Hot and smooth, no bitterness. I couldn’t help but smile. I had no idea how she brewed it, but it was incredible coffee.

She must have seen my expression as I drank. She smiled. “My husband used to say I needed to drink water as well as coffee to survive. I never saw the point.”

“He must not have been from here.”

“He was born here.” She frowned. “Even if he moved right after the divorce, he would still be more a Seattleite than me.”

Passing traffic and the hiss of rain filled the silence. I knew hints of her life before we met, shadows of her history, but she was seldom more open than me about her past.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I said. It felt unfamiliar, awkward to ask. I tried to keep the distaste out of my words and failed completely.

She waved a hand. “What’s there to talk about? I don’t blame him. I doubt Joao has fond memories of me, either, or Eduardo any.”

I heard sadness edging words that were dismissive on the surface. More silence followed. The mist draped us as we passed out of the freeway’s shadow into the open.

“I need into the morgue,” I repeated, as much to break the quiet as to press my immediate need.

“Oh, meu filha, why do you need to go there? I haven’t set foot in the place since my days in homicide. Before we met. What reason would I have to take you?”

“You’re police. Can’t you just go when you want to?”

Rosie laughed again. “Why would anyone want to go to the morgue? You have to sign in, they want to know what your business is-”

“But you could take me if you wanted.”

She shook her head. “I don’t have a reason to be there. Or to bring a civilian.”

“You must still know people from your time at homicide.”

“Well, of course, but….” She kept shaking her head. “I’m not going to take you into the morgue.”

“Why not?”

She stopped walking and turned to me. “Why do you need to go there anyway?”

“One of my friends is missing,” I lied. “I want to make sure she’s not there.”

Rosie looked at me sidelong. I didn’t lie to her often, but she gave me that same look every time I did. She started walking again, with a pace fast enough that I had to jog to catch up. “She would be ID’ed if she died.”

“I doubt it.” I started to dig the lie deeper, then thought better of it. “This is just something I have to do.”

“Does this have anything to do with the fight last night?”

“No.” At least I didn’t have to lie about that.

We had reached her car. She stopped and turned to me with her arms crossed. I felt like a child under her gaze, cowering before a woman as immovable as a statue. “You have come by my apartment for years just to chat. We talk morality and spirituality for hours. You seem genuine in your desire to become a better person. I thought we trusted each other and were truthful with each other. But you show up today in ripped clothes, bruised from a fight, looking like you were up all night, and all you say is that you want to get in to the morgue.” She set her mouth in a determined line. “Tell me the truth about what happened to you last night – and why you really want to go – and I’ll find a way to get you in.”

I could only hold her stare for a few moments before looking away. Even if she didn’t see through any lie I gave her, I couldn’t do it anyway. I had the ability to break her face into a jigsaw puzzle before she could move, or seduce her to my will, but doing any of that to her was as impossible as lying.

“I did not think so.” She tried to hold her glare, then her features softened. “You do not look as bad now that you are in the light.”

“I told you, I’m fine.”

She sighed. “You are always welcome to come by my apartment. I’ll make some coffee and we’ll talk. But no morgue.”

I looked down at the ground, sorting my thoughts, then nodded. “Right.” I turned to walk away.

“Oh, no, we are not ending like this,” Rosie said, and reached out to me. I let myself melt into her embrace.

“You know I am always here for you, yes?”

I nodded. In her warm grasp, the weight of my worry, even the aches of my injuries, seemed to evaporate. If even for just that embrace.

She gave one last squeeze, then released me and opened the car door. “Can I give you a ride anywhere?”

The morgue, I thought. “No,” I said.

“Then go on and stay out of trouble,” she said. “I will see you soon?”

I nodded. She smiled again and slipped into her squad car. In moments I was alone in the lot with the Seattle mist surrounding me.

The click of my boots on the pavement fell dead in the rain around me. I needed to get back to my lair to change, drag a comb through my hair, at least look as presentable as possible. I never wanted to use my powers outside the hunt. I had wanted Rosie to help me avoid confrontation while getting into the morgue. And fuck, I wasn’t even sure the place would reveal anything. But I had to get in there to follow the only lead I could think of. If I confirmed Hinge was here, and I didn’t find a way to track him, I feared the next late night discussion at Rosie’s apartment would never happen.



Amp Up Your Conflict Four: Throw a Rock at the Planet


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Amp Up Your Conflict Four: Throw a Rock at the Planet

A great way to raise the stakes in your story is to add something that’s beyond anyone’s control.


The title of this post is a bit facetious. Hucking an asteroid at the Earth does not make PLOT! appear, contrary to what Armageddon would have you believe. I am not a fan of making natural disasters the antagonists in your story. (This does not mean the man vs. nature conflict is invalid. The story still has to be about character, and giving your antagonist a face keeps that focused.) However, as both a setting and a crisis, natural disasters can add urgency and suspense to your story.

Think about any story set against the backdrop of greater calamity (Gone With the Wind, Slaughterhouse Five, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Postman, The Stand). All of these use various disasters like war and disease outbreaks as the setting and much of the conflict in the story. Natural disasters can add tremendous conflict and add tension to normally mundane tasks like day-to-day survival. But we still remember Scarlett O’Hara and Billy Pilgrim. It’s their struggles against these disasters that give them conflict and drive their characters. Even minor disasters like a power outtage, a flood or an unfortunate storm can drive forward a plot that doesn’t have the disaster as a central theme.

The Odyssey is popularly characterized as a man vs. nature story, and in a way it is. Odysseus is struggling against nature to get home. However, nature has a “face” through the Gods, which make it a struggle of Odysseus vs. the Gods more than nature.

Disasters (like an impending asteroid!) can crank up the tension in your story. Just remember that the disaster isn’t the point of your story. Be sure to keep your characters in the forefront and disasters can add an unexpected twist to your tale.

Amp Up Your Conflict Three: Don’t Forget The Flipside


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Amp Up Your Conflict Three: Don’t Forget The Flipside


Any narrative you write always has two stories it’s telling: the story of your protagonist(s), and the story of your antagonist as well.

A good antagonist thinks they are the hero of your story. Their motivations should make sense to them (and eventually the reader) and their actions, in their minds at least, should be the right thing to do. This still gives you depth to make them as evil or depraved as you need, but they should never do anything just because it’s evil or because it furthers your plot.

A well developed antagonist like this gives you as author tremendous opportunity to amp up tension – by throwing your antagonist some difficulty. Remember, most events in your plot are going to go the antagonist’s way. But that doesn’t mean they can’t suffer some setbacks of their own.

You can use these conflicts (a rebellious employee, or a past jilted lover) to give opportunity to your protagonists. Or you can also use them to build some sympathy for your antagonist, which adds depth to your narrative. Think Cersei from Game of Thrones. In every way she’s an antagonist, but when she’s captured and ridiculed, we feel for her. Not enough to forgive her of her past actions, and perhaps mostly satisfaction that she got what was coming to her, but at some level we have sympathy. Now our feelings toward her are more complex.

Every story has a flipside. Don’t forget that side when you’re looking to amp up your story’s conflict.

Amp Up Your Conflict Two: Make Everything Worse


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Amp Up Your Conflict Two:Make Everything Worse


 In every scene you write, always think about how you can make the situation worse. Making your moments of crisis as dire and emotionally charged as possible will keep the tension ratcheted up and your narrative moving.

It’s important that nothing ever goes your protagonists’ way. They should succeed through their choices and actions, not luck. Readers will spot luck and deus ex machina the moment it appears, and they won’t buy it. However, those same readers won’t question if something bad happens. That gives you as the writer the freedom to make the situation as awful as possible.

Start with your base conflict. Your protagonist wants to flip gender stereotypes and propose to her boyfriend. She plans a dinner at his favorite restaurant and secures the best seat in the place. But the restaurant loses her reservation. They have to wait for an hour to get a seat, which is in the back of the restaurant near the kitchen. Their waiter never remembers to check in on them, and a leak starts dripping onto the center of the table.

You have the scene set up with plenty of conflict. The night is a disaster, and not the right mood at all to propose. But now think of just one additional crisis to make the scene even worse:

Just as the leak stops and dinner is finally served, giving your protagonist hope she can salvage the night, her boyfriend’s ex walks into the restaurant with her date. Maybe they get the table your protagonist originally wanted. And it upsets her boyfriend so much she can tell he still harbors feelings for her.

Not only did you tease the readers with a satisfactory resolution and then rip it away, you also opened up new plot possibilities. Does the ex share in the lingering feelings? Does your protagonist know and like or dislike her? Is her new date the jealous type? With one additional crisis, you’ve introduced a Pandora’s box of potential conflict. You can follow all, some or none of these new possibilities, but regardless of your decision, you’ve just heightened the tension in your story.

Whenever you write a scene, always think about how it can get worse for your protagonists. Never let anything come easy for them. You’ll keep your reader turning pages, and when your protagonists do succeed, their victory will be all the sweeter.