29 June 2014

How and Why to Unmurder Someone

As many of my 35,000 followers, likers, G+ers, tumblrites, fellow writers, beloved readers, and their assorted dogs and cats, and children of all ages know, I have been writing a new novel which I have decided to title A DRY PATCH OF SKIN.

I've written (i.e., blogged) previously about the origin of this story and its name.

About a month ago I finished the first first draft, which is always a writer's first truly significant milestone--or word count stone? page number stone? Well, woo hoo and hurrah! Right? Nope.

Now I can begin the real work. I like to imagine a potter getting all his wet clay together and finally tossing it all on the spinning wheel. Yes, it's all there but it's hardly finished, and it hardly looks like something anyone would want. But you have all the clay there. Good for you! Now you work with it, shaping it, fashioning it into something beautiful, something which has value, something people would want.

As many of you who craft these novel things know, sometimes things just don't fit together neatly. Yes, I got my hero to the intended destination but not in the smoothest or most convincing way. Plot holes haunted me. Now, I'm not admitting there are any; I admit only that I knew there were spots I would return to and fix once I reached the end. So I did. Fixed. But it took a whole rewrite of a chapter, and in that process, a nameless young man got to live rather than die.

Yes, I unmurdered someone. It felt good, too. It's not as though he was essentially a good and decent person anyway. That was not the reason for his unmurder. I revisited the scene and looked at it from a couple different angles--much as a film director might go stand over there or there to see how the stage looks. For me, it was a matter of practicality.

You see, murder is a big deal, whether in real life or fiction, and it has consequences. My hero would be pursued, arrested, questioned, perhaps go to trial, lose and be locked up. And is that any way for a novel to end? Sure, I suppose there's some irony in that scenario, where the hero does not get to fulfill his journey's goal. But that is not what I can allow to happen. So, rather than a fight than ends with a young man dying, it may be enough that the young man suffers a serious ass-whooping and runs off.

Then our fine hero can mope about how he almost killed someone but did not. It's enough that there is blood sprayed. Besides, he knows God would approve of him showing mercy upon the young man. That's a fresh angle to the story: the tests that God may or may not be setting in the way of our hero's desperate journey to save himself from the steadily encroaching disfigurement of his disease. No, ladies and gentlemen, he does not want to transform into a vampire. He would prefer to find a cure for his medical condition and be able to return to his Beloved for a long, happy life with her.

Any more would likely take us into Spoiler territory.

However, I can offer the first page of this forthcoming medical thriller / vampire tale.



The priest stood before me in his black suit and white collar. His eyes studied me as I approached, strolling quietly up the aisle of this small chapel set high on the hills above the resort town of Makarska, on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. Far below the open doors of the chapel stretched the picturesque town of red tiled roofs and gray plaster buildings, its sandy white beach bookended by massive granite cliffs where dozens of vacationers took in the sun and swam in the turquoise sea.
With a curt nod to acknowledge our meeting, he started to speak, could not find the words, then recovered.
“Mister Székely,” he spoke, “I’m terribly sorry for your loss.” Then, as if only at that moment remembering, he handed me a beige envelope with elegant black writing on its face. The logo of a Hungarian law firm was printed in the corner. “This is from your parents. I am to give it to you as soon as you arrive. Before the funeral service. I hope it is not rude of me.”
“No, not at all, Father.”
“Thank you.” He gave another curt nod.
“I’m sure glad you speak English,” I said sheepishly, “because I don’t know any Croatian.”
I took the envelope, glanced at it, and wondered what value it might have. Mother was always fond of writing letters, sending cards, but during the past dozen years she had dwindled down to only birthday and Christmas.
I turned the envelope over in my hands, felt how thick it was, which could only mean it was longer than most of her letters.
“Does this letter explain what happened? I mean, why they committed suicide?”
“I do not know the content of that letter,” said the priest. “They only wished me to give it to you. Also, they wished for you to take a week, or more, if you can, and enjoy a richly deserved vacation. Your room has been reserved and everything is paid for the week.”
“How kind of them. They must’ve believed I would travel all the way here to see them off.”
“You work so hard, they always told me, thus you need a good break.”
“But there’s no need to kill themselves just to get me to fly over to Croatia.”
I tore open the end of the envelope and pulled out a trifolded letter of three pages wrapped around a generous gift of cash. The letter, written in my mother’s hand, stated almost word for word what the priest had just told me.
“Yes, I supposed it’s my duty,” I said, looking up from the letter and casually folding the cash into my front trouser pocket. “Me being their only child…. It’s an obligation. So….”
I took a few deep breaths.
“You’re a good son,” said the priest.
“At least they were old—old enough, sure, but not too old to be able to make a rational decision. Probably they were simply tired of all they had endured.”
“Indeed, Mister Székely. I’m sure it was for the best.”
“Please, Father...call me Stefan.”
We shook hands and he assured me that everything would be ready for the service the next day.
So it was without much amusement that I came to accept the truth of my parents’ situation. I did, however, fully appreciate the irony involved. Reclining on the bed in the hotel room they had arranged for me, I reread the last letter.

[cover artwork coming soon]

(C) Copyright 2010-2014 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.


  1. Stephen - does this mean I should unmurder my---never mind.

  2. You do what you have to do. Just don't tell everyone.