Uh oh. I'm going to wish I'd never seen this tonight.

Last night I had insomnia. This is not all that unusual; as a ‘thinker’ I am unduly burdened by brain processing, and I’d been knocked out all last week by a cold and resulting cold medicine, and last night was the first time I went to bed without chemical help. Even so I did an afternoon workout hoping to be too tired for the ol’ sleeplessness to come back.

Didn’t work. At around 2 a.m. I woke up (unable to see clock without my glasses, and putting them on is admitting the insomnia is really bad, so the time remains a fuzzy red figment in the dark) and was plagued by the sense that the bad guy in my sequel is just not scary enough.

Creepy, yes. Disturbing. The potential for a great deal of gore is also there, which I’ve handled with buckets, tarps and scene cutaways (I tend to be of the suggestive rather than explicit school when it comes to violence) and he’s nicely crazed with a well developed pathology. Even so, he’s just not ‘popping’ for me… and if it’s not working for me it’s definitely not going to be working for readers.

So in my insomniac bed I thought of an old standby suspense technique—the ticking clock. I had it in there, but an early death of the victim killed it (ha! Pun!) and so today I did what I have to do to keep track of time—printed out a calendar of the month of the story, stretched out the timeline and extended hope to the hopeless.

I set one of these babies up for most of the book. It almost blew up my brain, I'm not usually this organized.

I gave the victim a clear expiration date that the reader knows and Detective Leilani Texeira doesn’t. In the original the guy was in a coma and peacefully slaughtered. Well, today he woke up and demanded to know what the hell was going on.

And suddenly, the story’s scary. Urgent. A date at the top of each chapter begins a new day and reminds you the dude in the cave is going to buy it if Lei doesn’t get off her toned ass and climb out of the pool with the hot developer  to track down the madman.

I feel a heady power— I can manipulate time! I can bring back the dead, and invent entire bureaucracies! I can just freakin’ make stuff up, and when it doesn’t work, I can completely change it!

I love being a writer. Even the insomnia—when it amounts to something useful. Unfortunately sometimes I forget the brilliant ideas I have in that effortless gray between sleeping and awake.

Do you have insomnia? How do you handle it, and what usually brings it on?

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