Novelist Charlaine Harris: "If it pleases you and you can write at all, it's gonna please somebody else."

The latest from Promptly’s Top 20 Tips From WD in 2010 series is not a tip, really, nor a strategy, trick, secret literary weapon, etc. But I still think it’s good to hear from a novelist, a small moment of writing zen. A regular prompt follows. Happy weekend.

No. 8: Hope
Since my career broke big when I was already, you know, I was looking at turning 50, I would think maybe never give up hope would be one of the morals you could draw from that. And also I think you just have to enjoy yourself. ??If it pleases you and you can write at all, it’s gonna please somebody else.”
—Charlaine Harris (the author behind “True Blood,” “In Her Blood,” July/August 2010 (click here to read the full profile, or click here to check out the entire issue, featuring all things memoir)


Feel free to take the following prompt home or post a response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings (I’m going to throw the names of all the story-posters in a hat at the end of the day
and announce a few Monday to win some interoffice swag. If you’d like a
shot at grabbing a few books from the stacks on my desk, post a story
below!). If you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

The tattoo artist took some liberties of his own.

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6 thoughts on “Novelist Charlaine Harris: "If it pleases you and you can write at all, it's gonna please somebody else."

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  3. Tim Kempf

    The tattoo artist took some liberties of his own. When Miranda told
    the artist, "I want my boyfriend to be inspired when he looks at it,"
    he directed her to turn around, and then relax. He spoke only in
    whispers. He told her to trust him and that how she behaved informed
    the images of her artwork. Hey lay her down on a table, prone. He
    was gentle, his voice was soothing, she did not resist. She never
    felt him lift her shirt, just enough to expose her back. There were
    two firm ridges, one on either side of her spine, that formed the
    landscape of her youthfulness, her terra firma. Between those was a
    groove, a path that traveled farther down to her Eden. The tattoo
    artist stepped back. He admired her youthfulness, how it ebbed and
    flowed, rose and fell. He watched for a long time. He thought of
    Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Those whores!

    The tattoo artist walked back to the table and pulled down Miranda’s shirt. He helped her up and told her she could leave. He refused to do the tattoo. He refused to make her a tramp.

  4. Dare Gaither

    They stared at each other with a hatred only achieved through a love of sports.
    Stan rubbed his bald head, now covered with a wool cap.
    Things had gone wrong.
    Terribly wrong.
    Stan couldn’t undo it, but he could sure get even.

    Big Eddie spat on the floor and started to get up.
    A warning growl from Stan’s Rottweiler quickly foiled that plan.

    “Sit still!” Weasel snorted, brandishing the tattoo gun in frustration.

    This whole mess started when Big Eddie offered to give
    Stan a discount for his latest tattoo, a New York Yankees logo
    across the back of his newly shaved head. Stan had jumped at
    the chance in a heartbeat. He should have been suspicious at
    Big Eddie’s unexpected chuckles. He should have checked in a mirror
    to make sure it was right since he couldn’t see what was happening
    to the back of his head. Instead, he patiently waited to see the finished
    artwork at the end.

    It took all the staff at Big Eddie’s tattoo parlor to separate the two men.
    Stan got one last punch in Big Eddie’s gut before they hauled him outside.
    The Yankees tattoo never happened.
    The Boston Red Sox tattoo did.
    Stan didn’t know Big Eddie was a Red Sox fan.
    He was.
    Now Stan sported a huge Red Sox tattoo
    instead of the one for his beloved Yankees.

    After threats, minor property damage and backup from
    Bear, Stan’s very large Rottweiler, an agreement had been
    grudgingly reached.
    Big Eddie would get a Yankees tattoo.

    “Ahhh!” Weasel admired his work with satisfaction.
    Stan examined it with a keen eye.
    It was perfect….exactly what he had wanted for his own head.

    Stan held Bear back as Big Eddie stood up to survey the damage.
    The look on his face was priceless.
    Even the Red Sox cap Big Eddie crammed on his head
    didn’t dim the pleasure Stan felt at Big Eddie’s humiliation.
    Hair would soon cover the vile abomination on Stan’s head.
    He was sure Big Eddie would do the same.

    With a final hate-filled glare at Big Eddie, Stan turned to leave.
    A quick gesture from Stan signaled Bear to
    relieve himself on Big Eddie’s shoe.
    Never underestimate the treachery of a sports fan.

  5. Mark James

    Grown men don’t scream. But this was bad. “Am I dead?”

    “Why do mortals say that when they see me? Do I look like Death?”

    He looked like Satan, but considering the biker jacket and tattoos down his bare muscled arms, I wasn’t about to say it. “It looks like Hell,” I said, because it did.

    “And I’m your host. You requested a portrait of me. For a small share, I do personal sittings.”

    “You’re Satan?”

    “I prefer Lucifer,” he said.

    Except for the flames burning through the walls, it wasn’t bad. I was on some kind of table under bright lights. Harley, the tattoo artist I’d hired, came in and sat on the stool next to my table. That’s when I noticed I was tied down.

    “You don’t need the restraints,” I said.

    “They’re not for you.” Harley’s deep voice rumbled. “Lucifer gets a little tricky.”

    “I get up to big tricks,” Lucifer said. “And tying down a mortal won’t save his soul from me.”

    I should have known something wasn’t right when I went to Stingless, Painless Tattoo, Inc. It was the first corporation whose specialty was body modification. It was one hundred percent professional. They brought you in for a consultation with an artist. He drew what you wanted. You signed off on it, then made an appointment to come back.

    Somewhere I must have signed a release form for them to put me to sleep. How else would a tattoo be painless? “Wait, my contract says this is painless.”

    Harley wiped his nose with the back of his hand, sniffed. “Damn sulfur down here drives my allergies crazy.” He turned his head and sneezed. “It’s totally painless,” he said. “You’re dreaming. Screams when you’re nodding off don’t count, right?”

    Absolutely wrong. “Mr. Harley, undo these restraints. I’m withdrawing my request.”

    “Can’t.,” Harley didn’t bother looking up from the needles on the silver tray by my head. He was adjusting them or filling them or maybe sprinkling them with ashes. “Lucifer’s here. You’re on his time. He doesn’t take refunds.”

    “This wasn’t in the contract.”

    In a second, Lucifer was standing over me with the contract in his hand. I didn’t notice before how tiny the small print was. He held it up to my nose. “If you’ll look here,” he touched the paper with a long, sharp talon, “you’ll see that in Paragraph 234, Subparagraph A, Section 1, Subsection 4,213, it says that my time is non-refundable.”

    “Okay. I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t read that far down. How about I just get something else tattooed?”

    Lucifer looked extremely not pleased with me. “What could be better than my face on your body? Don’t tell me you’re thinking about a death’s head. He never stops about all the requests for screaming skulls.” He sniffed. “Really. You’d think he was the good looking one.”

    I tried my last desperate hope. “As soon as I wake up, I’m finding a church and praying to Raphael to heal me.”

    Examining his talons Lucifer said, “That won’t do any good. You signed. In blood.” He floated to a position in midair, just over the table and set his face into a terrifying leer. “Is this good, Harley?”

    “Yeah.” Harley revved up a needle. “Stay like that a couple hours.”

    I screamed. Lucifer laughed. Harley sneezed.

  6. Evelyn

    Flash Dooger was no friend of the law. But when the police discovered he was operating his parlor with a fraudulent license, served minors, and owned five years of back taxes; Flash made a deal with the enemy to avoid prosecution.

    Becoming a tattoo-artist-informant wasn’t a problem for Flash’s dead conscience. His god was his craft. He quickly became proud of his ability to flawlessly insert a microchip into a new tattoo site without a wince from the victim. The microchip hooked each customer up to an enormous tracking system, which the local government used to study the correlations between tattoos and criminal acts, and, on occasion, to catch a bad guy.

    It all made sense to Flash, until Annabel Hover walked into his parlor wanting a small heart enclosing the words “I love Jesus” tattooed on her ankle. He had admired Annabel for months; she worked at the coffee shop across the street. Her angelic blond locks and cheerful countenance gave him hope that there was good in the world. He tried to talk her out of the permanence of the tattoo, but she insisted.

    The cops had cameras mounted in the parlor and expected an activated microchip for every customer, but Flash couldn’t bring himself to implant Annabel. Desperate to save her from the privacy-killing-computer-beast, he inserted the microchip into his own arm, and the massive tracking system started collecting data on him instead. That was the day Flash’s god changed. When he injected the last ink dot into Annabel’s ankle, he knew he had a living conscience after all.