MALEVOLENT, the seventh Jennifer Blake novel, coming soon!

The seventh novel featuring police psychic Jennifer Blake, MALEVOLENT, releases March 31.

From the back cover:

The past and future collide as the fledgling Team Blake comes together to face a daunting challenge.

As Jen and her new team of psychics hunt the ghost nurse, a new and daunting entity makes itself known as Ben finds himself caught up in a massive criminal operation. Jen reluctantly accepts the mantle of leadership. She begins a new project almost as terrifying as the monsters she battles, and Jake’s demons come home as they fight to survive the most terrifying enemy they’ve ever known.

 

Watch for MALEVOLNT on March 31, and  HAUNTED, the eight novel in the series, later this year.

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And now, an original short story

Just thought I’d share this one with  you guys.  Hope you enjoy–Michael

Mr. Ruffles

An Original Short Story by

Michael Chambers

© Copyright 2016 by Michael Chambers

“All better?” Mommy said as Josie finished her glass of water. It was her last attempt at delaying bedtime, and it was already over.
“All better,” Josie said, handing her the glass.
“Okay,” Mommy said, brushing her hair aside and giving her a kiss on the forehead. “Now, no more excuses. It’s bedtime, okay?”
“Can you leave the light on?” Josie said, and Mommy smiled, shaking her head.
“Come on, kiddo. We talked about this. You know the light tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime, and you don’t get good sleep. You’ve got your night light,” she said, pointing to the plastic Tinkerbell night light glowed in the outlet. “You’re not still scared of the dark, are you?”
“No,” Josie said, shaking her head. “Will you make sure the closet door is closed good?”
“Sure,” she said with a smile. She walked across the room and gave the knob to the closet door a good rattle. “See? Closed up tight.”
“Did you check under the bed?” Josie said. “Sometimes they hide under the bed.”
“Josie,” Mommy said, shaking her head again as she sat back down on the bed. “You know there’s no such thing as monsters under the bed, or in your closet. Remember what we said?”
“It’s just my eyes playing tricks,” Josie said, not believing it for a minute. “Can I have Mr. Ruffles?”
“Sure,” she said, grabbing the worn old teddy bear from the shelf and tucking him in under the blanket with Josie. He was covered in what Mommy called “battle scars;” sewn-up rips, a torn ear, and one missing eye. He was old, and David kept saying they should get rid of him and get her a new bear, but she refused to let him go.
Mr. Ruffles was the only one who kept the monsters away.
“Can I have another story?” Josie said, and Mommy shook her head.
“Daddy already read you a story,” she said.
“He’s not my daddy,” she said, and Mommy looked sad for a minute.
“No, but he loves you just the same,” she said. “He’s Mommy’s husband now. You know it hurts his feelings when you say that.”
“It’s true,” she said. “My Daddy’s in heaven now.”
“Yes he is,” Mommy said with a sigh. It made her sad when Josie talked about Daddy, so she tried not to do it. But David wasn’t her daddy, and she wouldn’t tell a lie just to make him happy. “Now, no more stalling,” Mommy said, touching her cheek. “It’s bed time.”
“Okay,” Josie said, hugging Mr. Ruffles tight under the covers. “Good night, Mommy. I love you.”
“I love you too, silly girl,” she said, kissing her on the forehead again. She stood up and walked to the door. Josie closed her eyes and held onto Mr. Ruffles as Mommy turned off the light and closed the door, leaving her with just the night light.
“Good night, Mr. Ruffles,” Jodie said, and kissed the bear on his missing eye. “Don’t let them get me,” she whispered as she closed her eyes and fell asleep.

***

She was finally asleep, and it was time to go to work.
Josie stirred as he gently eased himself out from under her arm, but she didn’t wake. He stood up on the bed and stretched, then walked across the bed and lifted up the window an inch as the dream fairy knocked on the glass. “Evening, Ruffles,” she said as she came inside. “Back at it again, huh?”
“Always,” Ruffles said, hopping off the bed. “Bastards won’t leave her alone.” The fairy sprinkled her with dream dust, and Josie smiled in her sleep.
“I gave her an extra dose,” the fairy said. “She’ll have fun dreams all night.”
“Thanks,” he said. “I’m tired of playing with these damned things. Time to kick some ass.”
“Go get em, tiger,” the fairy said, and flew out the gap in the window. He checked on Josie one more time to make sure she was out, and went to his hiding spot behind the bookshelf. He found his sword and shield, and prepared for another night of fighting the monsters that were after his girl.

***

“Come and get it, you bastards,” Ruffles said as he stood at the foot of the bed, shield up as he waited for them to charge again. One slipped out from under the bed, swiping at him with its claws. Ruffles jumped back, and the thing stood up. It was a little taller than he was, but it didn’t scare him at all. He’d been fighting monsters since Josie’s mom was his girl. He knew all their tricks.
He blocked another claw swipe with his shield, the talons scraping across the metal. The blow knocked ruffles backward, but he stayed on his feet as it started to climb the bed. Ruffles charged, cutting it across the back with his sword. The monster fell down, making a high-pitched squeal as he drove the point of the sword through its chest.
“That the best you little turds can do?” he said, banging the sword on the shield. “Come on. Let’s do this.”
Three more came out from under the bed, and Ruffles smiled as he charged, hacking and slashing at them. Clawed hands fell to the floor as they screamed and disappeared in a puff of smoke. He checked under the bed, but there had only been four of them tonight. The ones in the closet were trapped, and at any rate he was too short to reach the doorknob. He wished Josie would trust him enough to leave the door open just one night; he was getting tired of dealing with them a few at a time. Bring ’em on, he thought.
He climbed up the bed, sword and shield handy as he stood on the headboard and watched over Josie as she slept. When the sun was starting to rise, he jumped down and ran to the bookshelf, hiding his weapons before climbing back up and snuggling back in under Josie’s arm.
Four, he thought. He’d gotten four of the bastards. Not a bad night’s work for an old bear.

***

Josie woke up, yawning as she sat up in bed and stretched. She’d dreamed about riding unicorns all night. Well, almost all night; she’d dreamed Mr. Ruffles had fought the monsters for her again. She climbed out of bed and picked up the bear, carrying him back to his special place on the shelf. “Thank you, Mr. Ruffles,” she said, kissing the bear before putting him on the shelf and going to get cleaned up before breakfast.
“Hey, squirt,” David said as she came downstairs, dressed and ready. “How’d you sleep?”
“Good,” she said. “I was dreaming about unicorns.”
“Wow, that sounds like fun,” he said as he cooked her waffles. He made her waffles all the time, because they were her favorite. And not the kind that went in the toaster, either; he made them in the waffle iron. It wasn’t that she didn’t like David; he was nice to her, and to her Mommy. But he wanted her to call him Daddy, and she couldn’t, because it would be a lie. Mommy always told her that telling lies was wrong, so she couldn’t call him Daddy. Her Daddy was in heaven because his brain had broken. She didn’t know the word aneurysm, and couldn’t have pronounced it if she did, but she knew something in Daddy’s brain had broken and sent him to be with Jesus and Grandma and Grandpa. That had been when she was a baby, only four years old. She was seven now, and a big girl. She knew that people sometimes went to heaven. She wished Daddy hadn’t, but he did. Still, David was nice to her. He even made her waffles.
“Where’s Mommy?” she said as David put her plate in front of her.
“Mommy’s feeling extra tired this morning,” he said. “I figured we’d have breakfast, and then I’d take you to the park instead. Sound like fun?”
“Sure,” she said. She’d rather Mommy take her. It wasn’t because David wasn’t fun, or wasn’t nice to her. She just didn’t like being alone with him. He was always nice to her, but it gave her bad feelings.
“Maybe when we get back, Mommy will be nice and rested, and we can watch a movie,” David said. “I think there’s a new Tinkerbell movie on the computer.”
“Yay,” Josie said, smiling as she ate her waffles.
“Eat up, squirt,” he said, smiling. “Growing girl like you needs a good breakfast.”

***

“Okay,” Mommy said as the movie was over. They’d stayed at the park all day. David let her swing as much as she wanted, and even pushed her high the way she liked. Mommy had made dinner while they were gone, and after dinner there really had been a new Tinkerbell movie. But now the movie was over, the sun was gone, and she knew what was coming next. “Better go brush your teeth and get your jammies on.”
“Aww,” Josie said, but she got up from the couch and did as she was told. She’d sat on the couch between Mommy and David, snuggling into Mommy as she watched the movie. Mommy didn’t mind if she complained a little, but too much would make her mad.
She was wearing her Tinkerbell pajamas as she climbed into bed when David came in to read her a bedtime story. “What’s it going to be tonight, Squirt?” he said, looking at the bookshelf.
“Tinkerbell and the pirates,” she said quickly, and he smiled as he grabbed the book off the shelf. She listened as he read her the story, anxious to see if Tinkerbell could get the blue pixie dust away from the pirates before they caught her. She did, of course, and by the time David finished reading the story, she was yawning and rubbing her eyes.
“Good night, squirt,” he said, kissing her forehead. It seemed to take a long time, and she wasn’t sure why he needed to touch her stomach to do it. It didn’t make her feel warm and happy like Mommy’s kisses did; it made her feel yucky. But she was a good girl, and she didn’t want to be rude.
“Good night, David,” she said.
“I thought we’d agreed you’d call me Dad,” he said, giving her a little pout.
“I’m sorry,” she said. It made her feel extra yucky, but she said it to make him happy. “Good night, Daddy.”
“That’s better,” he said, touching her cheek. Why did it take him so long to touch her? It seemed like forever before he took his hand away from her cheek, and by the time he walked out into the hallway, she was shivering. Mommy came in to say goodnight.
“You need a glass of water?” she said before Josie could ask, and she nodded. She drank her water slow, hoping to put off bedtime. “Can you check the closet?” she said, just as she did every night. Mommy got up and rattled the door.
“See? Closed up tight, just like always. You’re not still scared there’s monsters in there?”
“There are,” Josie said, pulling the covers up to her chin.
“Okay,” Mommy said, sounding tired. “I can see you’re not getting over that any time soon, so let’s just find out if there are.” She started to open the door, and Josie started crying.
“No, Mommy. Please?” she said, but Mommy opened the door anyway. Josie wanted to scream as she watched a whole bunch of them run out of the closet, hiding under the bed and in her curtains. But it made Mommy upset when she screamed like that, and she didn’t like it when Mommy was upset. It made her feel like a bad girl when that happened.
“See?” Mommy said, holding the door open. A whole bunch of the monsters snarled and clicked their claws at her, and Josie whimpered. Mommy looked in the closet. “Nothing in there but your clothes and your shoes. See?” she said.
She knew Mommy couldn’t see them, and it wouldn’t help to tell her they were there. She nodded instead. Sure, it was a fib, but it was only a little one, and it made Mommy happy. “Can I have Mr. Ruffles?” she said, her voice small as she hid under the covers.
Mommy took Mr. Ruffles down from the shelf and put him in her arms, and she squeezed him tight. “You know, sweetie, Mr. Ruffles is getting old. Maybe it’s time to let him retire and get a new bear? He could go to the old bear’s home, where all his friends are.”
“No,” Josie said, holding onto the bear for dear life. “He keeps them away,” she whispered. “He has a shield and a magic sword, and he fights them when they try to get me.”
Mommy let out a deep sigh, but she nodded. “Okay,” she said. “We’ll talk about it later. Go to sleep, baby. We’ve got church in the morning, and I don’t want you yawning all the way through Sunday school like last week.”
“Okay, Mommy,” she said. Mommy bent down and gave her a kiss, and Josie hugged her neck. “I love you, Mommy.”
“Love you too, baby,” she said. Josie closed her eyes as Mommy turned off the light and closed the door. She pretended to go to sleep, because it made Mommy happy, but she was too scared to sleep. David had given her one of those long, yucky goodnight kisses, and that meant he would come to check on her later. She didn’t like it when he did that, because it meant he’d touch her again.

***

Ruffles climbed out from under Josie’s arm and opened the window so the fairy could come in. “Make sure she sleeps good,” he said.
“More of them?” she said, and Ruffles shook his head.
“Not tonight,” he said. “It’s the other one.”
“She won’t wake up,” the fairy promised, looking grim as she sprinkled a heavy dose of dream dust on the girl’s head. “You going to do it tonight?”
“It’s gone on long enough,” he said, looking angry as he retrieved his sword and shield. “I’m not about to let him hurt her.”
“You want an extra shot of the good stuff?” she asked, and he nodded grimly. She sprinkled dust on him, and he grunted. “That should do it.”
The Dream Fairy nodded and wished him luck before flying back out the window. Ruffles stretched and checked the edge of his sword; tonight was the big fight, and even the monsters under the bed and in the closet were too scared to come out. It was smart; Ruffles was in no mood to play around tonight.
“Come on, you son of a bitch,” Ruffles said, watching the door. “Let’s get it done.”

***

David lay in bed, trying to talk himself out of what he knew he was going to do. It was wrong. He knew he was sick, but he couldn’t make himself stop. She was just so perfect.
Patty lay asleep next to him, and he made himself look at her. Patty was still a beautiful woman; full figure, long blonde hair, and a face that could have been on the cover of every magazine in the world. But it had never been about her. It was Josie that had caught his attention, despite his every effort to ignore it. He considered waking Patty up and asking her for sex; maybe it would distract him. Better to make love to his wife and only think about the perfect, beautiful creature across the hall than go to her, but he didn’t. She was grouchy when he woke her, and he didn’t want to deal with it.
He’d pretended for a long time that she aroused him, and to some extent she did, mostly when she was laughing. She looked just like Josie when she laughed; they even had the same slight overbite that he adored. He’d given up on even telling himself she did it for him any more; now he thought about Josie as Patty did all the wicked things she liked to do. When she looked up at him as she took him in her mouth, it was Josie he saw. As she rode him, full breasts swaying slightly as she moved, it was Josie he pictured, sitting on his lap in her best Sunday dress.
He considered, not for the first time, just going to the closet. He kept the gun there, high up and out of Josie’s reach in an electronic safe that could only be accessed with his fingerprint. Children and guns didn’t mix, and he’d never let anything happen to Josie.
He climbed out of bed, careful not to wake Patty. She didn’t even stir; she’d had a second glass of wine after Josie had gone to bed, and she was out.
Torn between hating himself and an indescribable feeling of excitement, he padded across the hall and opened Josie’s bedroom door a crack, peeking in to see if she was asleep. She was a heavy sleeper like Patty, and so far she hadn’t woken up. She would, sooner or later, and he’d have to figure out what to do then, but for now she slept like a rock, even when he touched her.
Ashamed at the way his dick grew rock hard, he slipped into Josie’s room and closed the door behind him. She’d gone to sleep with the disgusting old teddy bear she refused to let him throw away, even after he’d offered to buy her a new, bigger one. It was ripped and threadbare in several places, and one ear dangled loosely from the last remnants of the thread that had attached it. One eye was missing, but the one remaining seemed to be staring at him as he knelt down by her bed.
“You awake, Josie?” he said quietly. She didn’t even stir. He pulled back the covers, hating and loving the thrill that went through him as he realized her pajama shirt had slipped up to show her navel. He brushed a lock of her curly blonde hair out of her face so he could see her better as he touched himself. The bear was in the way, and he picked it up, tossing it aside. With it gone, he could see the curve of her neck as it disappeared into her pajama top.
Wishing he could stop, he pulled up the bottom of her shirt, exposing the most beautiful stretch of smooth, pale skin. He traced his fingers over it as his hand slipped into his boxers. He was so distracted that he didn’t notice the movement behind him.
“Get away from her,” someone said. He froze in place, trying to think of an excuse for why he was in here.
“Patty, I was just checking on her,” he said. “She feels hot.”
“Wrong,” the voice said, and he realized it wasn’t Patty. It was too deep, too male to ever be Patty’s voice. He turned and saw that stupid bear, actually standing on the carpet. It had a toy sword and shield in its hands, and he fell backward as it took a step toward him.
“What the fuck?” he said. It was obvious what was happening; he’d finally cracked. His guilty conscience had finally driven him insane. There was simply no way that raggedy, piece of shit bear was talking to him.
“Shit,” he said, letting out a shaky breath. He walked over and reached down to pick the damned thing up, and let out a hiss as the toy sword sliced deeply into his hand.
“Ow, shit,” he said, pulling back. “What the hell?”
“You got a real problem keeping your hands to yourself, don’t you?” the bear said, stepping forward. David watched in horrified amazement as the bear stalked him, jumping from the floor to the nightstand. He held the shield up and the sword ready, standing between him and the sleeping Josie. “Stay away from her.”
“I’m losing my mind,” David said.
“No, but you touch her again, and I promise you’ll lose something,” the bear said, swinging the sword at him. David found himself actually jumping backward as the bear hopped down to the floor again and started walking toward him. No, that wasn’t right; the bear wasn’t walking. It was strutting.
“This is getting ridiculous,” he said. The bear jumped again, swinging the sword and cutting him across the thigh. David fell to the floor, trying not to scream. No doubt he was asleep next to Patty right now; this was obviously nothing but a very elaborate nightmare. His guilty conscience was just screwing with him.
The bear walked up and jumped on his lap, smacking him in the face with the shield. Son of a bitch, he thought. That actually hurt. This was turning out to be one hell of a nightmare.
“Right about now you’re probably telling yourself this isn’t real,” the bear said, planting one threadbare foot on his chest. “Trust me, Chester. I’m real.” The bear poked him in the forehead with the sword, opening up a small cut.
David grabbed the bear and tossed it across the room, standing up and holding a hand to the deep cut in his thigh. “Okay, I’m gonna wake up now. It’s been fun.”
“I’m not done with you, perv,” the bear said, standing up and retrieving his sword. He started stalking toward David, who rubbed his eyes as he saw something even more impossible than what he’d seen so far.
The bear was growing. It started out as about ten inches tall, and by the time it crossed the room to the flabbergasted David, it stood well over six foot tall. The tiny toy sword and shield were now life-sized and obviously real.
“Here’s the deal, asshole,” the bear said, pointing the very real, very sharp sword at his chest. “You’re going to turn around and walk out of this room. You’re going to pack a bag, and you’re going to disappear. You’re never going to set foot in this house again, and you’ll never come anywhere near Josie again. If you do,” he said, stepping forward and putting the edge of the sword against David’s throat. He cut him, just deep enough to make him bleed.
“If you ever come near her again, I’m going to hack you into pieces,” the bear said, growling. “I’ll start by cutting off anything that sticks out, and believe me, it’ll take a long time. You hearing me, Dave?” the bear said.
David nodded, his hands shaking. The bear stepped back, and David went for the door. He stopped in his room long enough to throw some clothes in a bag, and ran down the stairs as quietly as he could.

***

Ruffles shrank back down to his normal size; it took a lot of magic to grow like that, and he couldn’t hold it for long. He stood in the window and laughed as he watched David scramble to his car and drive away. He’d gotten the message. He hoped he had, anyway; he’d meant every word of what he said. Josie was his girl, just like her mother had been, and it was his job to protect her from monsters.
“Speaking of,” he said, hopping down from the window ledge to the bed, and then to the floor. He walked around to the foot of the bed and banged on the shield with his sword. “Come on out, you sorry sons of bitches. I know you’re in there.”
The monsters crawled out from under the bed; he counted eight of them altogether. “I hope you boys brought your A game,” Ruffles said as they snarled and clacked their claws at him. “I got all worked up and no payoff.”
He waded into them, bashing with the shield and cutting them down with the sword. The last two stood at the foot of the bed, looking between him and the closet door, which stood ajar.
“Go ahead, make a run for it,” Ruffle said, smiling. “It’ll be fun.”
He cut them both down, watching as they disappeared in a puff of black smoke. Satisfied they’d had enough for one night, he put his weapons away and pushed the closet door closed before climbing back up onto the bed and snuggling in under Josie’s arm. “Sleep tight, kiddo,” he said, kissing her cheek. Josie stirred in her sleep and pulled him closer. His ear, which had been hanging on for dear life for months, finally fell off and landed on the pillow. He didn’t mind; she was safe now.
Josie was his girl, and it was his job to protect her from all sorts of monsters.

I’m Baaaack!

giphy

source: giphy.com

 

I’ve decided to revive this blog.

I’ll try to post at least semi-regularly, mostly on writing and my newest releases.  Random posts on other topics such as woodcarving and other interests will probably appear from time to time.  Those of you who know me won’t be surprised to find there may be the odd rant now and then, but I’ll try to keep that to a minimum.

So, everyone have a great weekend, and I hope you’ll join me here.

Best Regards,

Michael

 

Literary Billboards, or, This Novel Brought to You By…

Theme. Message. Allegory.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in trying to use these tools. A written work is, after all, an expression of the author, and so it is very tempting to use them as vehicles for our own passions. But all too often, the push to include the right theme or message often drowns out the only truly necessary element: Story. Writers are, by nature and definition, story tellers. Telling the story is the first, foremost, and arguably the only real obligation of the writer.

The best written works often contain all these elements, but they all have one thing in common; they tell great stories. In Moby Dick, Melville gives us a stunning view of the dangers of blind obsession and revenge. There have been enough thesis papers on the themes, sub-themes, and such of Moby Dick written to sink a fleet of aircraft carriers, and I don’t intend to add to it. But in my mind, (and I’d bet in Melville’s, too) Moby Dick is really the story of the Pequod’s last journey. Yes, I have a point here.

Melville didn’t sit down one day and say “What if I told the world about the dangers of obsessive revenge?” He probably had a moment of “Hey, what if a whaling captain went bat-shit crazy trying to catch an elusive whale? Yeah, and maybe he’s pissed, like super-pissed, because it took an arm or a leg or something? He’d be so crazed trying to kill this one whale, he wouldn’t give a rat fart about his crew, his ship, or even his own life.” And then he started to write.

The best novels tell a story, and if there’s a message, it usually just sort of…happens. You can have the most powerful message in the world about global warming, genocide, racism, or what-have-you; if you beat the reader over the head with it, they’re probably going to put the book down before they finish it and move on to someone else. In her excellent Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling has a lot to say about standing up for what’s right, no matter the cost. But because you’re so engrossed in the adventures (and utter mishaps) of Harry and the gang, you don’t feel like you’re trying to see the story around billboards. In fact, it’s perfectly possible (and utterly acceptable, not to mention fun) to read the entire series, back-to-back, without giving a fig about the message or the theme.

I could go on and on (and believe me, if someone doesn’t stop me, it’s likely) but I think we’ve got the point. As a novelist, your first–and arguably only–job is to TELL THE STORY. By all means, develop a theme. Have a central message as part of your story arc. Use allegory to shape the story line and the characters. I promise to listen; as long as we both understand I might not agree with you, it’ll all work out in the end.

But tell a story, damn it. If you write an entire novel and you don’t have a story to tell, you’re just jerking off.

FREE e-book for review

So, let’s make a deal…

 

Zombies, Inc front cover

Zombies, Inc.

I need your help, folks. I need reviews. Honest reviews.

And, since i hate asking for anything without giving something in return, I’ve set up a little shin-dig over at Story Cartel, where you can download a FREE copy of my book Zombies, Inc. Plus, just because I’m a swell guy like that (you in the back, stop laughing or leave the room) I’m even putting up three $10 Amazon gift cards!

All you have to do to qualify is–download the book from here, and follow the instructions. To qualify for one of the gift cards, you must leave a review at the link provided in the email instructions you’ll receive from StoryCartel.com. That’s it. All I ask for is an honest, SPOILER-FREE review.

Well, what do y’all say? Help an ol’ boy out, couldja?

And the winner is…

The winner of the “yay goodies” giveaway is…

(imagine a drumroll here–I’m too cheap to hire a band )

Angela Day!  Angela, please email me at chambers.michael.s@gmail.com with your mailing address, so I can send you your free signed copies of SMILING JACK  and SISTERS.

Congratulations to Angela, and thanks to everyone who participated!

Michael

 

The Writer’s Morgue, or, “Thou Shalt Throw Nothing Away”

Ask any writer, and he or she will tell you that for every idea that carries itself to fruition, there are dozens if not hundreds of half-formed, uncompleted manuscripts sitting in cabinets, in drawers, and on hard drives. I know that for me, the ratio is probably close to 100 unfinished manuscripts for every one that works out. But here’s the thing; I keep them. No matter how hopeless they seem, no matter how horrid the idea is, no matter how little progress I make on it before giving up and moving on, I keep it.

Why, you ask? It’s simple. It might come in handy some day. In SMILING JACK, there’s a fun little scene between TJ, the main character, and a librarian that started its life out as part of a completely different story. It felt wrong in that story, and it was. I didn’t know it at the time, but the character in that story (named Brad) was actually TJ.

That’s not to say I simply cut and paste the scene; only the barest resemblance exists between that scene and the one that ended up in SMILING JACK. But the essence is there. I’d written the perfect scene for SMILING JACK; I’d just written it six years before I started the rest of the novel.

My second novel, SISTERS, actually started its life several years ago; it sat untouched in my files for years before I came back to it, and found the voice for Marla I was looking for. Apparently it just needed to cook for awhile before it was ready to serve.

When I’m ready to start a new project, one of my first stops is the file of incompletes on my computer, which I’ve nicknamed “the morgue”. I’ll open a few files, read the first few pages, and see if it sparks my interest. Often, even if I don’t find one ready to run with, it’ll germinate the seed of something else I didn’t even know I had planted. At the very least, it gives me a chance to see where I was when I wrote them, which always seems to help me find out just where the heck I am now.

But, and this is a very important “but,” I will NEVER ignore a new idea for something from the morgue. I’ll always run with the new stuff first, even if it turns out to be a stinker.

Recently I completed the first draft of a novel, and then immediately proceeded to bang out a 27,000 word novella that seems more like to grow into another novel after it sits in the cooler and marinates for a bit. (Sorry about all the cooking metaphors; I was a chef for a long time.) Today I sat down for my daily session (I write every day, no exceptions, minimum 3000 words a day unless I’m outlining and making notes, character sketches, etc.) and was feeling a little lost. I wanted to do something different than the last two pieces.

Since nothing was jumping up and down and yelling for my attention, I took a stroll through the morgue and found a beauty of a partial I’d completely forgotten about. I spent my writing time today going over the partial, finding myself lost in the story of a young girl with a talent she never knew she had, and her mother wished she didn’t. It’s sitting at about 38,000 words and change right now, and I think it has the legs to go to 80,000 with a little work. What’s more, I’m excited to get into it, and wondering what made me consign it to the morgue in the first place.

Do you have a morgue?  It could be a drawer in your desk, a folder on your computer, or a box on the top shelf of your closet.  But if you’re serious about writing, you need to start keeping EVERYTHING.  The stuff that works, and even more importantly, the stuff that doesn’t.

Never throw away any of your writing. Even if it won’t ever be finished. Even if you hate it. Even if it sucks so badly it hurts, don’t throw it out. It might just need to cook a little while longer.