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Diamond Polishing

Posted in writing with tags , , , on 28/06/2016 by molliemoogle

I’ve been thinking a lot about the world around me, where I fit in to it, my habits, hang-ups, likes, and dislikes, and how I plan to bring what joy and happiness I have to the world.

HAHA. Just kidding. I’ve been writing. Or, rather, I haven’t been writing. Call it wilful procrastination, call it writer’s block, or call it just a bump in the road, but it is what it is: I haven’t been writing.

I hit one of those brick walls, where I looked at my manuscript and thought “what the hell is this hot mess?” but then, I had to wonder, what actually constitutes a hot mess? What is it about this particular part that qualifies as “a hot mess”? Does it ramble or go nowhere? Does it not reveal character, plot, or both? Does it have inconsistencies (kind of a moot point)? Is it a hot mess because it’s not finished or is it a hot mess because it’s not polished?

Ah, there’s the rub. It’s not polished. There are edits that can be made to help with economy of language, showing and not telling, and clarity. So, maybe what I’m writing isn’t so much a hot mess as it is unpolished (and incidentally, unfinished).

For me, part of getting over that brick wall is to just put myself out there. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone doesn’t like what I’ve written? Big deal. The world isn’t going to end because Bob the Troll happens to think my manuscript reads like it was written by a teenage fanfic writer trying to Mary Sue herself into a story with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.

As an aside, I’ve got a massive crush on both Tom Hiddleston and Loki- Mr Hiddleston is a real gentleman; Loki is a seductive bad boy.


That smile. That evil, wicked, naughty, come-hither smile. Rawr.



The world will continue its orbit around the sun and spin on its axis. It won’t end if someone doesn’t like what I’ve written or if I mess up in any way.

The following excerpt is from my current (untitled) work in progress. Romance writers call this the “meet cute” obligatory scene, where the love birds meet each other for the first time. There’s supposed to be a spark between them. With this story, I want to spin those obligatory scenes on their heads—so there’s not so much a spark as an accidental bonfire.


Simon hit the up button for the elevator in the lobby. The numbers showed that it was coming down from the sixth floor. He checked his watch. One-twenty. He had nearly another hour to find something else for lunch.

The lunch he had with Marcus Price and Takeshi Hiroto from Xeno Investment Partners could only be described as a disaster: dry, overcooked, bad service, and none of their lunches came out at the same time. Next time, he would take them to Tarragon, an incredible hole-in-the-wall Italian place on Twenty-Fifth Street. Or maybe Cinnamon, the Sri Lankan restaurant his friend and neighbour Kalidasa owned.

The elevator dinged open and several of James’s legal team walked out, not recognising him as they laughed their way through the lobby to the bustling lunchtime street outside. He stepped in and hit the button for the thirtieth floor, making a mental note to ask Indra to call Kalidasa.

“Please, hold the elevator!”

Racing toward him was an attractive young woman with pink hair, a green tartan mini skirt and spiked black boots over fishnet stockings. She didn’t work for him, did she? Still, she was attractive in a punk-rock, gothic way; she would certainly make an interesting diversion for an hour or two in a grungy hotel room.

Two bags, full of some kind of take-out, bounced up and down in her hand and a back pack jiggled from side to side. He pressed the open door button, more out of curiosity than anything else.

“Oh, shit, thank you so much,” she said, out of breath. She offered him a sweet smile. Up close, she was even prettier, but her piercings made him wonder how on earth she would ever be able to hold down a job. “Can you please press nineteen?”

He nearly gagged on the revolting smell of some form of meat covered in gelatinous gravy. How did people eat that stuff? Did they really think it was authentic ethnic food?

However, when the young woman flipped her hair over her shoulder, releasing a floral, oriental perfume, it beguiled him, overriding the smell of the monstrosity that people dared to call ethnic. He savoured it for a moment. Quite a sophisticated scent for someone so young. How old was she? She couldn’t have been any older than twenty, twenty-two at a stretch.

“Are you in the right elevator?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said, drawing it out. “My dad works here.”

Simon looked her up and down, wondering if she chose the clothing because she identified with the subculture or if it was just a personal choice. He guessed the latter, but she was cute enough to pull it off. “Just making sure; the mall is a couple of blocks over.”

She rolled her eyes and huffed. “Like I haven’t heard that one before. I’m surprising my dad with lunch; not that you give two shits.”

The floor ticked over to five. If she took out the metal in her nose, eyebrows, and tongue, and covered up her tattoos, she might land a good job one day. She probably hadn’t thought about the repercussions of having needles poked through and ink staining her skin when she got them done. It was all about the here and now with kids her age. It must have been nice to be so carefree.

The young woman shifted the back pack up her shoulder and turned away from him, and he took a moment to look at her from the back. Shapely legs. Nice backside. A little too punk for his tastes, but all women looked the same once their clothes were off.

He stared at the tattoo on her arm for a moment, amazed at the intricate artwork. It covered most of it and it crept up and around her arm like an ink-stained vine before it disappeared under her white shirt’s short sleeves. Two brightly coloured hummingbirds fluttered next to some kind of red and yellow flowers near her upper arm. How far underneath her shirt did it go? All the way to her back? Her chest?

Floor ten.

“Your tattoo looks like it hurt, Little Hummingbird.”

She glanced over her shoulder and her blonde and pink hair fell in front of her eyes. It was a siren’s call. Seductive. Elegant.

“The shading was a bitch. Luckily, I don’t mind pain.”

That piqued his curiosity. She liked pain? If she wanted pain, he was the man to give it to her. Jessa had never complained, but the kind of game he played with her was a very watered down version of what he enjoyed. Cries. Shrieks. The crack of a flogger or a whip over bare skin. His blood ran hot for the young woman in front of him. What kind of pain did she like?

What would she look like with her hands tied to a bar above her head, her legs spread wide, her sex dripping, waiting, quivering, and oh-so ready for him?

“I don’t mind it either,” he whispered in her ear.

“Ew. Fuck off and die, James Bond,” she ground out.

He moved back a step. “You wound me. I’d like to think I was more M than James Bond.”

The elevator stopped and settled, its doors sliding open with a ding.

“Finally,” she breathed out.

Simon smiled. “Nice talking to you, Little Hummingbird.”

She turned and flipped him the bird with the take-out sliding up her arm. “Eat a dick, pervert,” she said as the doors slid closed.


Who Are You?

Posted in writing with tags , , , , on 12/04/2016 by molliemoogle

Borrowed from

I get an occasional bout of downtime in my job. Whether this is good or bad depends on the day. Normally, I’m waiting for a customer to get back to me, or shipping details for overseas orders to arrive.

Today, there’s a lull. I have approximately eight working hours before the deluge of orders for our once-a-month run comes through and floods my desk with paper, work, and a full shipping folder that will take about 3 working days to go through. All that doesn’t include the phone calls to customers to remind them, the small tasks that I need to get through, or the back and forth walks to the planner’s office to see if we can squeeze something in.

It sounds busy and it is, but it’s far from busy-work or mundane customer service work. Mention customer service rep and they think about the open-plan office with a load of people on headsets ready to help you with all your service queries. But most people don’t know that I’m a dedicated rep, which means that I have a set of customers that I look after. I know what they order, how much they need, their core businesses, and what’s going on in the wider market that affects them and us. On top of that, I plan a smaller sister machine, which I think of as my other baby. She’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish and a topic for a different day.

As you’re very well aware, my hobby is writing. I live it, love it, and breathe it. If I have spare time, I use it to write, so it should come as no surprise that I subscribe to a large number of writing blogs, one of which is the Write Practice. I get an email most days with some kind advice on writing and craft- from how Greek and Latin make you a better writer to writing resources and everything in between.

Today’s post outlined ideas on how to get a deeper understanding of your protagonist. In short, the author reckons you need to go through a purse or briefcase, take them out to lunch, complete a questionnaire, and let your character shadow you for a day.

I had a bit of downtime this morning (and right after lunch) while I was waiting for some information to come back as well as waiting for a meeting to start. Usually, I cycle through several news media during the day: Al Jazeera, Time, Newsweek, BBC World News, two local papers, and the New Orleans news. I would look through Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications that have actual news, not Women’s Weekly articles (like the local papers) but they’re either subscription based, or they don’t like the company’s ad-blocker that we can’t turn off. Or, I look up song lyrics on AZLyrics or anything else on Google that catches my fancy for five minutes.

I don’t know what it was about today, but I wanted to write instead. The news is all doom-and-gloom; the more I read it, the more I get upset.

Below is my 15 minutes of practice (which morphed into 30, because I talked to both my protagonists):

“Oh yeah, just go through it, see what you find,” my character Sarah tells me this morning. “Just don’t judge, okay?”

“Sure thing.”

The canvas purse is small, rather compact. I’ve seen bigger, but I didn’t expect something so tiny.

I look over it. I like the colourful sugar skulls on it. “Why is it so small?”

“I don’t have much; I’m pretty low maintenance.”

I lift the flap and dump what’s in there on the table.

Two lipsticks- one of them is a chapstick. The other is a Revlon lipstick called Cherries in the Snow. Kind of a pretty red, too red for me. “Nice.”

There’s a slim black eyeliner. Obviously she needs it, given the amount of eyeliner currently in use. There’s a compact and a twist-up make-up brush. A couple of Q-tips, a hair tie.

About two dollars in change falls out. “That’s for my diet coke addiction.”

“I know that feel. Best stuff in the world.”

“I know, right! It’s the bubbles and fizz; tastes wonderful when it’s nice and cold.”

Her wallet’s about the size of a fist, just big enough for a driver’s licence, her student ID, a couple of credit cards, and a few folded up bills. She’s got $35 in bills- $15 in fives and $20 in tens. “Shame no one carries a lot of cash. It’s just enough to get me a taxi home from the bar up the road.”

“Where’s your cell phone?”

There’s a small zipped up outside pocket on the outside. “I like my tiny phone.”

It’s a small phone alright. I check out the brand: a Sony Xperia. I can hold and use it with one hand.

“I carry so many things around in my backpack, but this is what I carry when I’m out of school and outside the classroom. Small enough to not get in the way when I’m clubbing, but big enough to hold what I need. Now Simon, my husband, you should totally ask him about what’s in his briefcase.”

“I’m taking him out to lunch later.”

I shake out the bag. A small ring falls out of the outside zip. It looks like a crown of filigreed thorns. “What’s this?”

Sarah blushes and holds her hand out, sliding it on top of the simple wedding ring she’s wearing. “It’s Simon’s way of showing everyone that I belong to him. I took it off this morning since it got in the way while I was grading.”

Later, I took Simon out to lunch.

I suggest a quick business lunch with Simon, my main character. He names a place called Tarragon, an upscale Italian place up the road from his office that he thinks I’d like. I meet him in the lobby and walk with him down there.

“The consultancy business is pretty cut-throat right now. Before the financial crisis, corporations and businesses used consultants to gain an outsiders perspective on how to improve their businesses and everyone became a consultant. But, afterwards, well,” he shrugs, “a number of independents and firms are still struggling. Prodigy did what any good consultancy business would do and worked with our clients through the financial crisis. The end result is that we’re still here.”

“Prodigy survived in-tact, then?”

“Against all expectations, we grew. We’ve got a great team that’s experienced, a board that’s forward-thinking, and a CE committee that isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty.”

We walk for another few minutes, talking about the future of the company.

I change the subject when we get to the restaurant. “And your marriage is going well?”

He offers a smile. “I have to thank you for Sarah. She is, for lack of a better word, amazing. Responsive, beautiful, intelligent.”

The waiter shows us to the table he reserved near the kitchen. The chef comes out and shakes Simon’s hand, in turn chiding Simon for not coming in often enough and congratulating him on his marriage. He then kisses my cheeks in a larger-than-life welcome.

Simon orders a complicated Italian dish that’s not on the menu and I order a baked pennette. He sits at the table like he’s sitting at his desk; forearms resting on the table and his hands are folded, leaning slightly forward. I don’t expect anything else given that’s he’s one of the most successful CEOs in the consulting industry.

“Before you decide to plumb the depths, I don’t answer any deeply personal questions- not about my wife, myself, or my marriage. You know all of that already.”

His received pronunciation sounds all the more sinister, like a James Bond villain, but I can hear that he prefers his personal life to be just that– personal.

“What’s your favourite music,” I ask.

Another smile. More than that though, is the crack in the CEO facade. “Classical, opera, and I’m growing partial to some of Sarah’s metal music. It’s atmospheric for certain activities.”

I know exactly what he’s talking about, so skip to the next question. “Favourite colour?”

“Are you really asking me this? Grey. Blue. White. Black,” he says, then adds with a knowing smile. “Red.”

“What about favourite food?”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Mollie. Small-talk doesn’t become either one of us. Small-talk is mundane. It’s for when you really don’t want to know about the other person, but don’t want to seem rude. Small-talk is for weak-minded individuals who are superficial thinkers. Deep thinkers like you and me don’t worry about the superficiality of the world, because we know it’s all a facade. Favourite foods change; favourite colours change; favourite music changes. The only constant is ourselves and our core personality: courageous, wild, controlled, generous, arrogant, intelligent, funny. We are all of them and none of them. We love our favourite things, but we aren’t defined by them.”

My fifteen/thirty minutes were up, so I left it there, but I think it reveals more than I had anticipated.

First: Sarah’s low-maintenance. She tells us, but she’s very concerned with her looks and keeping them looking good. She’s superficial and she hides behind her make-up. She rebels somewhat, by taking off the ring that Simon gave her (the ring doesn’t come into play in the story). She’s practical and a little bit of an old soul

Second: Simon’s not interested in small-talk. He wants to get to the meat of the conversation and really discuss it in depth. But he’s friendly, open, and honest, and loves his job. He has time for people, but he is always very much in control of the conversation and of the things in his life. He’s got a bit of a cheeky streak.

The more I read over these small snippets of my protagonists’ lives, the more I realise that I added myself into them, without really knowing that I did it. Personally, I am low-maintenance- though I don’t carry makeup in my handbag. I’m practical and I rebel against social mores and norms. I hate small-talk- probably because I’m so bad at it. Small talk implies that I care about your favourite food enough to talk about it, but I’m only filling in time before I can leave. I love classical, opera, and metal. And Italian. Fuck, I love Italian food. It shows, believe me.

But I think it also speaks more about stereotyping people. In fiction, we can get away with it. Simon’s wealthy, so he needs to have understated, but expensive tastes: Chivas Regal whisky, bespoke shoes and suits, classic male colours, ethnic cuisine, and he talks business. Sarah’s a student, and she’s married: a cellphone, some money, make-up in her bag, a sweet and innocent side, and a ring from her husband.

In real life, we stereotype regardless of whether we should or not.

Are these characters or caricatures? Another topic for another day, methinks.

That’s just a small window into the life of my protagonists. I’m a little afraid to let Simon shadow me for the day and what would happen if I gave Sarah Marcel Proust’s questionnaire.