Maybe readers have grown tired of the dark.

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THE MUSE ALMOST didn’t find me.

He went first to my machine.

I wasn’t there.

He found me sitting on the patio in the dark.

The birds weren’t up.

Neither was the sun.

Night still hung heavily around us.

He almost didn’t recognize me.

I wasn’t writing.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

The Muse didn’t care.

He was just breaking the silence.

“I had an epiphany,” I said.

“Did it hurt much?”

Not yet,” I said. “But I fear that it will.”

“Tell me about it.”

I did.

“My wife did something yesterday that started me thinking.”

“What’d she do?”

“She did not turn on the television.”

“That unusual?”

“She always wants to catch the early morning news,” I said. “She wants to know what’s going on in the world.”

“Most people do.”

“Yesterday, she didn’t want to know.”

“Why?”

“She said she was tired of seeing the shootings every morning. Said she was tired of seeing all the dying every morning.”

The Muse walked over and turned on the bubbler.

The birds would be coming soon.

They always need an oasis in the Texas heat.

“What’s that got to do with you?” The Muse asked.

“Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong,” I said.

“What?”

“Writing.”

The Muse sat down in my father’s old lawn chair, the one that needs a new coat of red paint.

“You’re having second thoughts,” he said.

“I am.”

“About what?”

“My writing is dark,” I said.

He nodded.

He had read my latest novels.

Never said if he liked them.

But he read them.

“You have pages that smell like burnt gunpowder,” he said.

I agreed.

“You pile the bodies high,” he said.

“And often.”

“Your characters spend most of their time in the dark,” he said.

I nodded.

“You write noir thrillers,” he said.

“I do.”

“Noir thrillers are written about the dark,” he said.

“They are.”

“Characters work better in the dark.”

“They do.”

“So again I ask. “What’s wrong?”

“Maybe readers are tired of the dark,” I said. “Other nationally published writers are talking about how it’s more difficult to shock readers than it used to be. So they have to write darker. The blood has to run deeper. The body count has to run higher. Crimes have to be more sordid and more horrific. Shedding blood is not enough. Now they need someone to suck the blood as well.”

“Is that the new trend?”

“I don’t think I want to go there.”

“So what’s the answer?”

I shrugged. “The world is a dark and a depressing place,” I said. “There’s conflict and crisis everywhere you look. Maybe readers want to come out of the dark. Maybe readers want to laugh for a change.”

“Can you do it?”

“What?”

“Make them laugh.”

I leaned back and stared at the sky.

It was black and velvet.

The stars were fading.

“I don’t know,” I said.

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of Little Lies, a psychological thriller.Little Lies Final Cover LL Mar 13

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