Hello from Grouchland

I’ve tried for days to write a blog post with a little substance. That’s something I do once in a while to keep you on your toes. But the truth is I’ve grown grouchier each of those days. I don’t know why. I can name a few things that have contributed to it, but not what started it.

Contribution #1:  As I said in my last post, work on my WIP was going well and continued for another two days. Then I realized that even after I add in the remaining pre-written scenes, flesh them out a bit, and fill-in any needed connecting scenes, I’m not going to make my 80,000 word goal. Grrrr.

Contribution #2:  What I consider the best story I’ve written has shown itself to be lacking. When I know a piece has problems, I expect feedback to confirm that. But when I think I’ve written something the best I know how, and that’s not good enough, it undermines my confidence. I start questioning all my work. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to assess my work correctly. Grumble.

Contribution #3:  I’m trapped in an alien body. For most of my adult life, people assumed I was younger than my years because of my skin. Now, it’s as though all those years caught up with me at once. So far, my face is not too bad, but that’s because I need to lose weight. I shudder to think how much more crepey my skin will appear as I deflate. Gripe.

Contribution #4:  Ominous people talk to me all night. I love to dream because I get story ideas from them. Of course, I have to remember the dream first. Lately, all I remember is that I dreamed and it wasn’t pleasant. At most, I retain a glimpse of the setting or a snatch of an event. This morning, I sat up before I was fully awake, and the words someone had just spoken stayed in my head long enough for me to grab the notepad and pen I keep by my bed. These were the words:

“The evil men do to themselves is often far greater than is done to them.”

The voice sounded remarkably like Frasier Crane’s. Ha! My subconscious, the psychiatrist. Okay, so analyzing that, I assume I’ve brought this grouchiness on myself. How? WHY? Grinding of teeth.

Oh, I know, tomorrow something fabulous could happen and I’ll zip right out of Grouchland. Maybe 30,000 words will drop out of the sky for my WIP, and a few little tweaks will make that story shine, and … well … I guess I’m stuck with this skin, but hey, it’s better than no skin.

As for bringing this grouchiness on myself—NAH—I think I’ve figured it out. I’m blaming the eclipse.

Oh, let me swim in that river

When I was a wee thing, my Aunt Helen taught me to swim in Kinniconick Creek near my grandparents’ home in Lewis County, Kentucky. I didn’t like the feel of the occasional fish sucking at my toes, so she let me swim in my tennis shoes. Entering the cool green shade after the long, hot walk was like crossing over into a secret world. I remember the echoing click-clack of the dry stone under my feet, the careful negotiation over the slippery wet stone, the plip-plip-plip-plip-plop of a stone, flung by an older cousin, skipping over the water’s surface. Magical.

When I was a wee thing, my Aunt Helen taught me to swim in Kinniconick Creek near my grandparents’ home in Lewis County, Kentucky. I didn’t like the feel of the occasional fish sucking at my toes, so she let me swim in my tennis shoes. Entering the cool green shade after the long, hot walk was like crossing over into a secret world. I remember the echoing click-clack of the dry stone under my feet, the careful negotiation over the slippery wet stone, the plip-plip-plip-plip-plop of a stone, flung by an older cousin, skipping over the water’s surface. Magical.

Unfortunately, the terror of a near-drowning experience a few years later in a public swimming pool in Indianapolis, Indiana ended my swimming days. However, I still dream that I can swim.

Each dream scenario is different, but the exhilaration I feel when I realize I’m swimming is always the same. I’m surprised to discover I’m swimming, but it’s obvious I can, so I do. With less effort than the action should warrant, I glide through the cool water. I feel no sense of the panic, the breathlessness, that accompanies my being in or even near deep water in real life.

That dream sensation is the same one I feel when my writing goes well. I swim effortlessly down that river of words. I’m joyfully swept away, the sun warming my head, the water cooling my body. At times, my strokes are powerful, carrying me a long distance in no time. Sometimes I tread water, gazing around, soaking up the view, listening, thinking until I’m ready to swim some more. When tired, I float, eyes closed, waiting for renewed strength, and then I flip over and set off again.

It’s been awhile, but I think I hear the splash and babble of water again. I feel the change in the air temperature. I’m so close I can feel the stones under my feet. How long, how deep is this river? I don’t know, but it’s time to dive in. See you at The End.

Are you dreaming or writing?

You’ve probably heard the term fictive dream, which is when you as a fiction writer do your job so well that you temporarily transport your reader into your story world. We all hope our books do that, right? But before we can transport anyone else, don’t we have to experience it ourselves?

I believe we do. I’ve written about it often on this blog. Some refer to it as being in the zone. I call it dreaming on paper. This fictive dream is the drug that keeps us addicted to writing.

John Gardner wrote this in On Becoming a Novelist:

“In the writing state—the state of inspiration—the fictive dream springs up fully alive: the writer forgets the words he has written on the page and sees, instead, his characters moving around their rooms, hunting through cupboards, glancing irritably through their mail, setting mousetraps, loading pistols. The dream is as alive and compelling as one’s dreams at night, and when the writer writes down on paper what he has imagined, the words, however inadequate, do not distract his mind from the fictive dream but provide him with a fix on it, so that when the dream flags he can reread what he’s written and find the dream starting up again. This and nothing else is the desperately sought and tragically fragile writer’s process: in his imagination, he sees made-up people doing things—sees them clearly—and in the act of wondering what they will do next he sees what they will do next, and all this he writes down in the best, most accurate words he can find, understanding even as he writes that he may have to find better words later, and that a change in the words may mean a sharpening or deepening of the vision, the fictive dream or vision becoming more and more lucid, until reality, by comparison, seems cold, tedious, and dead.”

When I’m in this dream writing state, I feel the emotion of the scene. My heartbeat has quickened, tears have sprung to my eyes, or I’ve smiled. It’s glorious!

May you all enter this state of inspiration each time you sit down to write.

This post first appeared on this blog in 2009 titled “State of Inspiration”.

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It’s a marvel and it’s marvelous!

Sometimes, I look back at the path that brought me to the decision to publish The Brevity of Roses and marvel. It’s almost as if an outside force took me over. If you had asked me three years ago would I be on the cusp of bona fide authorship, I would have flashed you my sharpest Are-you-crazy? look.

Sure, I made up stories. I’d done that forever. And, in the last twelve years, some of them even birthed into Word files. And sure, I had dreamed about being a novelist—nearly every time I read a book. One completed novel even nestled among those files. But those were just for me.

Then, I had a dream. It was brief and lovely, but it posed a question I wanted to explore. I couldn’t quit thinking about it. I told a friend, who said it would make a good story. So, I embellished and wrote it as a short story. Not satisfied, I expanded it to a novella. And then, I kept writing.

I could have left it safe in its own little Word folder, my second completed novel, but I didn’t. There was something different about this one. I didn’t want to keep it to myself. I thought the story might be one that others would enjoy reading, so I kept working on it. Working, and working, and WORKING.

Yesterday, I worked on formatting the print version. It was a thrill to view the title page and other front matter, and then, on what looks like actual book pages—My Story. I’ve called this a novel for two and a half years, but that was never real to me until now—and it will be even more real soon.

A novel—my novel—is a marvelous thing!


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Headache Dreams and Novel Thoughts

This winter has been one of the worst for me in terms of physical health. I seem to be a magnet for every virus floating around. These last two started with a headache that wouldn’t go away. I’ve had one for three days this time. The only good thing about it is that it makes for some good dreams … or rather, nightmares.

Night before last, I had one that could evolve into a novel, a thriller. The protagonist would be a fifteen-year-old girl. The book might even be dystopian. Not that I write YA dystopian thrillers. Or YAs. Or dystopians. Or thrillers. But I typed up notes on the scenario. Just in case.

After I woke myself from another nightmare on the first headache night, I lay there thinking about my novel The Brevity of Roses, coincidentally inspired by a dream. A particular scene popped into mind and as I thought about the dialogue in that scene, I was concerned that I’d made an error and vowed to change it in the morning. You know what I’m going to say next, don’t you?

Yep, when morning came, not only could I not remember the exact change I wanted to make. I couldn’t even remember the scene. And I still haven’t. When I’m done with formatting, I’ll read my novel again on my Kindle and I pray when I get to that scene it will all come back to me.

Speaking of Brevity, one of the things I have left to do is double-check one line spoken in Farsi. I asked for help on a language forum and the man who gave me the phonetic translation was a native Farsi speaker, but still I’d like to have a second opinion. So, on the off chance one of you speaks the language, or knows someone who does, here’s the line: Naveye azizam, be harfe delat gush kon.

Your turn: Have your dreams or nightmares inspired any stories for you?


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