Wide Awake but Dreaming

Slip into my thoughts and do watch your step


The Zen of Artful Crying

During editing last night I was tripping through the part of my novel that I have to say contains some of my favorite passages.  Nothing major, just little scenes that get the characters into their new home after a strange situation, and allow them time to grow.  And to allow some interesting things to slip out.  Such as . . .

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Does your doctor do a glowy-hand thing with you before talking about crazy spirits?

Does your doctor do a glowy-hand thing with you before talking about crazy spirits?  I thought not.

But there’s a line right in the middle of the above passage that I like a lot:  “Hey, Red.” Coraline’s soothing, caring tone, drew Kerry’s attention back to her. “Nothing to be ashamed of—we all need a good cry now and then.”  And that’s one truth about Kerry:  he cries.  A lot.  Oh, it hasn’t actually happened yet–well, okay, it has.  He cries in the middle of his E and A–actually has two near-meltdowns–and is crying when he returns to Isis and Annie, and there’s a moment coming up . . .

But you get the idea.  Some might say that for an eleven year old boy he cries far more than he should.  He admits at one point that he last cried just as summer was starting, and that he hadn’t since arriving at school.  And in the course of his tenure at Salem, he’ll lose it more than a few times each year.

Annie cries as well–oh, boy, does she–but people would say, “Hey, that’s all right:  she’s a girl.”  Yeah:  she’s a girl.  A girl who as the story progresses could leave your rapidly cooling body in a bloody heap in the middle of any floor of her choosing, and would do so with little to no emotional response to wasting your ass.  Probably because she didn’t like you saying, “She’s a girl.”

I used to get that a lot.  I cried a lot as a kid, and I’d get the, “You need to toughen up!  You act like a girl!”  Well . . . yeah.  Sorry to disappoint you there, parental units, but your kid is a mental and emotional mess, so the tears are gonna flow–and insulting me with gender stereotypes isn’t going to help.  It wasn’t until I was into therapy like four decades later that I came to the realization that (1) it’s okay to be in touch with your emotions and if you gotta cry, let that fly, and (2) yeah, I’m also a big girl, so deal with that.

Kerry is, quite frankly, a mess as a kid.  He’s smart.  He doesn’t care for sports save for a few things here and there.  At home he feels unwanted and unloved, and emotionally he shut down over the summer of 2011–in part because of his home life, in part because of something else.  Coming to school forces him to confront issues he’d rather forget, and those issues make him open up to the world once more.

Particularly when this happens:

Yes, when a girl tells you she's your soul mate, you must do the kissing parts, Kerry.

When a girl tells you she’s your soul mate, you must do the kissing parts, Kerry.  You can’t say no.

He’s a clumsy kid who doesn’t know what girls are like and whose first kiss doesn’t end in jubilation jumping up and down with some fist pumping.  It ends with a smile and a softly spoken “Wow,” because he’s never been to this point before, and what else is there to say but “Wow”?

I like him and I like Annie, and I enjoy the dynamic they share, because as smart and as powerful as they both are, they’re still kids who probably won’t know the best ways to handle the situations they’ll encounter.  Which means a lot of doing things that feel right, but are probably not the right thing to do.  Like, you know, putting your life in danger by flying along a race course at extremely high speed because it’s fun, and you’re just racin’.

Don’t know how much I edited last night, but it was fun.  I got the kids in their fishbowl:  now to return to the dawning realizations and clean them up.

Cleaning up the realization that your a witch is not the same as a clean up in asile five.

Cleaning up the realization that your a witch is not the same as a clean up in Aisle Five.  It’s messier.




Blithe Future

The night was not one of my best:  I woke at least three times, and there was a point around four AM when I didn’t know if I was falling back into sleep or not, and I considered getting up and doing something.  Which isn’t the best thing to do when you’re not able to sleep, because it makes for a very long day if you never sleep from that point on.

There were some disturbing dreams during the sleepy time moments, too.  These days most of my dreams see to revolve around rejection and loneliness.  I was getting that last night here and there; people just didn’t want to be around me, and dismissed my creative efforts.  It was quite off-putting, and there are times when I don’t want to dream because I’m tired of what awaits me on the other side of the curtain of dreams.

A long time ago in a high school far, far away, I took an acting class.  I was a bit of a puzzle for my instructor, because most people in the class thought I was one of the best when it came to acting (notice I didn’t say ACTING!  because that stuff ain’t for me), but for the life of me I couldn’t memorize my lines worth a damn.  Part of the problem was not being able to work with other people to get my lines down:  I was always at home, always alone, unable to hook up with the people who may have been able to help, and I was just too much of a mess to develop the discipline to get this stuff right.

I can still remember the first thing I did in front of the class:  it was a scene from Blithe Spirit, and I was acting opposite the ghost Elvira–well, the person playing her.  I managed to get half way through the scene, and then the brain locked up.  I couldn’t remember a single line.  The teacher sort of ripped into me for not bring prepared, and the girl I was acting opposite was mad because she had her part down cold and I ended up making her look bad.

Yeah, Elvira wasn’t happy with me, which sort of paralleled the plot of the story.  What a surprise, right?

"You screwed up my big scene, Cassie, and now I'm going to come and haunt you every night--just like in the play!"

“You screwed up my big scene, Cassie, and now I’m going to come and haunt you every night–just like the play!  Who says life doesn’t imitate art?”

You’re looking a little green, Elvira.  Maybe you should go lay down.

My sucking at acting literally coincided with my sucking at my first attempt at writing.  At least I kept trying the writing thing–and, let’s remember, giving it up as well–until I finally got good with myself and found I didn’t really suck all that much, but there still seems to be something going on in my subconscious that is keeping me from getting relaxed with this creativity thing.  The deeper I’ve ventured into The Foundation Chronicles, the more the dreams of, “You suck, you’re a failure, you’ll never amount to anything, shun the loser–Shuuuuuunnnnnnnnnn,” keep coming like an iTunes playlist on repeat.

Though there was a slight change in the tune this morning . . .

Yesterday, in the afternoon and before heading off to bed, I was working out a couple of scenes in my head.  I call them the Presents scenes, because that’s what they are about; one has a panicked Kerry beseeching Nurse Coraline and Professor Sladen to help him with getting a present for Annie’s rapidly approaching birthday, because he’s an eleven year old boy who knows nothing about what to get girls, particularly for one who a few weeks before told him she’d loved him all her life.  The other scene takes place after the kids return from Yule holiday, and Annie gives Kerry a belated Christmas present.

They’re sweet scenes, and both will appear in Act Two.  I was playing them out now because I’m bored, there’s nothing to do, and like I said yesterday, I’m always thinking about my stories even when I’m not writing.

On to the next part of this tale . . . During my four AM wake up I lay in bed hoping to fall back to sleep, and during this time I thought a little about the gifts Annie and Kerry give each other.  I thought about how they would feel receiving them, how they both added little touches to make them more personal . . . all sweet little touches that add to the characters.

I did drift back into dreams, and for a while I was feeling a little of the old sensation of being alone and somewhat unwanted.  Then someone started looking through a box I was carrying.  They found something I’d written, and they slowly read it over, turned to me, and said, “I would love to format this on a large square and hang it up for all to see–”  The person who was saying this broke into a huge smile.  “This is brilliant–simply brilliant.  You should be proud.”

I know what writing they were talking about:  it was the scene where Kerry gives Annie her birthday present.  And I know who the person was telling me to be proud of my work–it was someone I know, but whom I haven’t seen or spoken with in a while.  Even though it was a dream, I needed to hear those words, and I needed to hear them from her.

Even if it was a dream, so often we require validation from those whom we respect and cherish.  It doesn’t always happen, but when it comes you feel as if you’re dancing upon a cloud and nothing bad will ever happen to you again.  The doubt can keep tormenting you like a nasty spirit–but you also have to remember that the spirit may be tormenting you because it remembers all the great moments you shared, and it wants you back by its side.  It’s not tormenting you out of spite:  it’s doing so out of love.

You’ll never lose this spirit completely, so make the best of the future to come.  And try to convince that spirit that, yes, you do have your brilliant moments.

Maybe then she’ll send you off to wonderful dreams with a kiss.


Hangin’ With the G Friend

Yesterday it was talking about bad teachers in dreams and all the crap I went through it fourth grade–not a pleasant recollection.  The thing is, that recollection didn’t stay long, because by mid-day yesterday my mind was on something else, and it was a far better time than I had in that lousy dream.

What I’m talking about is the next year, and fifth grade.

Fifth grade was completely different from the year before, because my teacher then was a great guy whose name is, unfortunately, lost to me.  I want to say “Mr. Haney,” but I don’t think that’s right, though his name started with an H, so I’ll just call him Mr. H.

Mr. H was one of those teachers who didn’t dumb things down.  He knew which kids were good and wanted to learn, and which didn’t give a single shit if they made it through the year.  He loved reading and he loved science, and that was good with me.  He’d lived in Japan for a while, and while he was there he’d recorded an interview with someone who’d been a school boy in Hiroshima, and who survived the atom bombing by hiding in a cave being used as a bomb shelter.  Though he spoke English well, when he tried describing how the mouth of the cave lit up from the blast he completely lost it and started crying and mumbling in Japanese.  It was a pretty powerful moment for me, considering I’d already done my own reading on what happened then.  (And believe it or not I eventually dated a Japanese woman whose mother also survived the Hiroshima bombing.)

Mr. H pushed me in history and geography, because he knew I loved the subjects, and that I wasn’t content to stop at a certain point and look no further.  One class assignment we had was to do a report on a country, and the country I chose was Macau.  This was 1967 to 1968, and when you said “Macau” the majority of adults went, “Whu?”  No one in the class knew where my country was, nor if it was even real, but I was given extra points because just about everyone else went with stuff in Europe, or if they did Asia it was Japan and China.

The best thing Mr. H ever did was tell the Daughters of the American Revolution about my grades, and they came into class and gave me an award for “Excellence in American History”.  I was given a book, which for me, at the time, was better than money.

But I’m not here to rap on about Mr. H.  No, I’m here to talk about someone else.

I’m here to talk about Kim.

Kim was in my class.  She was about my height, she had long dark blond hair, and she wore glasses.  I also wore glasses, so it was always a bit comforting to be around someone who also had crappy eyesight.  Kim introduced herself to me in a rather unique way:  she walked up to me on the playground during recess and said, “Hey:  you’re the kid who knows all about flying saucers, right?”  Indeed I did, because since I was reading a lot of science fiction then, I was also reading everything I could get my hands on about flying saucers and the paranormal and what we know call cyptozoology.  If there was strange crap out there, I knew about it.  Kim was asking me about a story she’d heard where a horse had its head burned off, and I instantly told her about Skippy, the horse that had all the flesh on it’s head burn away–some say by a portable vat of acid, some say by aliens with a death laser!

Whatever.  That’s how Kim and I met, and we were good after that.

I don’t remember Kim hanging out with girls a lot.  Back then we called her a “tomboy” because she liked wearing jeans and button-down shirts and tennis shoes.  But she never came across like that to me.  She wasn’t rough and tumble; she always wanted to talk.  She liked horses and the mountains, and she liked math and history, too, so we had stuff in common there.  She also liked reading, but she found the stuff I was reading then to be amazing.  She was a smart girl, which back then meant she was different.

Then again, so was I.

It wasn’t just headless horses and flying saucers over which we bonded.  There was something else, and for that I have to go tap-dancing back into all those little corners of my past that I’d rather not exist, but are just waiting to jump me the first chance I get.  So here we go:

Every summer, right after school was out, my father would take me down to the barber shop and basically have all my hair cut off, so that when it was over, I looked like Ellen Ripley from Alien 3.  I hated this, because as a young child suffering with Gender Identity Disorder, I wanted my hair to grow out, and it was that summer between fourth and fifth grade when I started having arguments with my parents about getting my hair cut.  Maybe that was one of the reasons I never left my room those summers and just stayed in and read, but I do remember it was the last time I let my parent do that to me.

My hair grew fast, so usually by Halloween it was longer than most of the boy’s hair in the class, which again made me stand out a little.  This led to “getting picked on,” which led to getting bullied and called a freak and crazy and a lot of other shit, but I spent that school year avoiding a lot of those idiots and staying to myself.

Kim, however . . . I do remember one point in the fall when we were walking and talking on the playground, and she turned to me and said, “You’re hair is so . . . pretty!  It’s so curly!  I wish mine was like that.”  Which was true:  I had curly brown hair and long eyelashes, something my mother was always going on about . . .

I told Kim that I wished my hair was nice and straight–leaving off that, “and long like yours” because you just couldn’t talk that shit then–and bam!  I bonded with her over hair, because we weren’t like all the other people on the playground.  At that moment I felt there was something special between us, because not only did we talk, but we didn’t seem to care about what others thought of us when we were together.

"Seriously, you have lovely hair, and if I can use an expression that won't become popular for another twenty years, your parents are dicks."

“Seriously, you have lovely hair–and if I can use an expression that won’t become popular for another twenty years, your parents are being total dicks.  But you know about time travel, so there.”

The moment I remember the most, because it was just so damn strange, was of Kim and I on the swing sets all alone, with there appearing to be no one else on the playground–or if there were, they were sticking close to the building because the sky that afternoon was a rather strange gray and blackish color that appeared as if it was about to unleash Hell at any moment, but if you live in the Midwest and you’re afraid of a stormy-looking sky, you best move the hell out ’cause that’s pretty normal.

We were alone, and swinging like mad, talking, laughing, going higher and higher all the time . . . it was one of those magical moments that you don’t ever forget, and there was a timeless quality to what we were doing, because it did seem to go on for a long time, though we were probably only on the swings twenty to thirty minutes.  But it has become a fixed point in time, one that I flash back on now and then, and though I can’t remember everything that was said in those minutes together, it doesn’t matter:  we were together, and it was fun.  That’s what’s important.

Kim moved away after the school year was finished.  I knew this was coming, as she’d told me months before.  The last day of school we found a spot out by some of the trees at the edge of the playground and talked for a few minutes.  I told her I’d miss her, and she told me she’d miss me back.  We didn’t exchange addressed and say we’d write, probably because deep down we knew we’d never do that–though I wish I had, because I would have totally done so.  Before we parted, she leaned in and kissed me on the cheek:  that was the first time anyone outside of my family had ever done something like that, and it made my eyes mist up.  Then she was off, back to class, and so was I a moment later.  She left class as soon as the bell rang, headed for her bus, and was gone–off to Colorado, if I remember correctly.

I, too, was off to my bus and back home.  The summer sucked, I stayed inside a lot, and sixth grade blew chunks.  I wouldn’t talk to another girl until I was a senior in high school–I literally mean this, because people avoided me, or I avoided them, not really sure on this point.  I had a few friends, but for the most part I was always that weird kid who read a lot and didn’t want to do any sports.

I also missed my friend, but I didn’t talk about that much.

These days I kind of realize that Kim was probably my first girlfriend, but not the “I’m dating her” kind of girlfriend, but rather “My BFF besty” kind of girlfriend.  She didn’t think it strange to talk about the thing we talked about, and neither did I.  She saw nothing wrong with complementing my hair, and didn’t consider it strange that I did the same for her.  If she’d hung around I wonder what would have happened; would we have spent sixth grade continuing to talk about the things we did, and would we have expanded the conversation to include us?

I can’t say:  that’s all speculation.  I leave that for my writing.

I have no idea where she is now, or if she’s even alive, but if she is I’ve been sending her positive thoughts for years, and I hope they’ve helped.  I don’t dwell on her, or those moments together, because they are far off in the past, and as my Phoenix spirit told Kerry in The Foundation Chronicles, “That chapter’s over; it’s time to write some new ones, kid.”

You were one of the few good chapters in the story of my life then, Kim.

I wish you well in yours.


Relationship Bytes

While stepping out of my car into the snowy Panera parking lot about twenty minutes ago a crow flew directly over me and cawed several times, as if to welcome me back after missing last Sunday, and in general to give me a good blessing.  I gave the bird a wave, then cawed back–yeah, I do that–then headed inside.

We’ve a little snow falling this morning, but after a week of being stuck in the apartment I needed out.  What these people here call, “Oh my gawd, it’s snowing again!” I call “Saturday”, and I’m damned if I’m gonna stay holded up for another morning.  I need my time out, even if all I do is sit in a corner and write my blog.

With last night came the start of one more scene, one more closer to the end.  After the happiness of flying around the school with Kerry, I was back in Deanna the Seer’s office, with her spilling to Annie what she knew of The Foundation report compiled on her said main squeeze.  Now, one might question why she’s doing this, why she’d taking confidential information and telling it to an eleven year old girl.  It’s because these people are different.  It’s because you’re dealing with children who are all of above-average intelligence with varying degrees of emotional maturity, but who are ultimately carrying a power that, if turned lose without the proper training, could probably smack around with little or no difficulty–or even level a shopping mall if sufficiently provoked.  You know, like being told to turn down their iPod.

Deanna treats Annie not as if she’s a child, but rather a maturing girl on the verge of womanhood who is facing a particularly difficult moment in her two-week old relationship with someone she claims to have known all her life.  A girl who’s report says she’d been practicing sorcery spell since she was eight, and who was labeled in that same report as “emotionally immature”.

Now lets tell her that her boyfriend is suffering from depression, has spent years isolating himself from the world, and can be considered detached from any emotions that might bring about a modicum of happiness.  What could go wrong?

"The Foundation said he was most likely to fireball his gaming group after growing tied of their crap. LIES, ALL LIES!"

“The Foundation said he was most likely to fireball his gaming group after growing tired of their crap. LIES, ALL LIES!  They just don’t understand him!”

I’d actually dreaded writing the scene, but once I was into it, I found the going a lot easier that I’d imagined.  But then, I remembered something:  the Kerry that people had seen in the last week wasn’t the same as the Kerry in the report–and their must be a reason for that, yeah?  There are changes in his behavior, and it’s not that he’s really that detached from his emotions, it’s that he doesn’t know what to do with them.  He needed a new environment, one where he’d find himself pushed and given the opportunity to challenge himself–

To be made to grow as a person.

Though now comes an even bigger reveal, one that won’t see a conclusion until about mid-way through Act Three.

How can I keep all these secrets to myself?

Relationship Bytes

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Without You

Some days I feel just like poor old Psylocke here:  no matter how bad assed I am, no matter how mad my skills are, I gotta get into the vacuum-sealed latex uniform and spend all my time hyper-extending my knees and breaking my spine for the entertainment of others.  At least she’s not in heels–this time.

Today isn’t so bad.  I slept well, got up at 6 AM, had to deal with a cranky computer but managed to whip it into proper form, and I’m finally getting my butt in gear here at somewhere close to nine-thirty.  I have my plan in place for today, and it doesn’t involve playing games or suffering for strange things, though the later isn’t completely out of the question.

No, what I have to do is get some writing done.  I need to get this Fantasy story finished, because I want to move onto something else.  What, I’m not sure yet, but I do want to get onto something else.  It’s been a while since I wrote an erotic fantasy that jumped into this sort of word range, and I’ve felt strange about this development.  There’s that little trip hammer of doubt tapping away in the back of my mind that’s saying, “Nope, you shouldn’t be writing this, it’s going to suck, you’re going to find people laughing at this shit.”

I’ll admit, I’m sensitive to this sort of stuff.  Sure, a few days ago I said it was okay to think you’re going to suck, because people with talent tend to fall into that trap.  Then I take my own advice and kick it to the curb because, hey, I suck, and this story sucks . . .

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Stop being so hard on yourself.  Why are you writing if you feel this way?

I came to a realization yesterday that I get way too wrapped up in my work, that I have a difficult time disconnecting myself from the story in the sense that when I’m given advice, I need to step back and look at it critically, and not get depressed because of something I don’t like.  It’s a sucky thing to start spinning because you start beating up on yourself over things that other people blow off.

Being critical is good, to a point.  You have to look at your work, all your work, with a critical eye.  If you didn’t, you’d churn out crap, which happens a lot:  that’s why we have Sturgeon’s Revelation.   When you eye turns into a frickin’ shark with a laser, however, it can kill your creativity faster than said fictitious shark.

This is what’s been happening with me that last month or so.  The Doubt Wagon pulled into town and won’t leave my driveway.  It feels like every time I touch something, it turns into fail.  It’s easy to be ripped apart by that–

What you need is someone who’ll give you honesty.  Who’ll point out some things that need correcting, but at the same time tell you, “Your story is amazing.”

Writers are their own worse enemies.  Stick to killing your characters–

It’s so much more fun to watch your readers suffer.


Hot Chocolate and Mountain Stars

One project ends, another begins; it’s how you do it, really.  Suggestive Amusements is in the can–or on the hard drive, as this case may be–and my information for a book cover for Her Demonic Majesty is off to a friend for her appraisal.  What is left to do?

Edit, what else?

Replacements is under the literary knife again.  I’m giving it another polish in, preparing it for it’s own publication date.  That will mean getting a cover for it as well, and prepping the manuscript for ebooks, but that’s easy.  Well, the formatting is:  not sure on the cover yet.  But it’s all coming together.  If anything, as I edit, I can format.  I did Chapter One last night; I’ll likely edit Chapter Two tonight, then start doing a format on Chapter One–which is a small chapters–to get back into the swing of getting an ebook ready.

Even with all this, there are always things going on in my mind.  Are those story ideas you’re talking about, Cassie?  Why, yes:  yes, they are.

There is a set of stories that I’ve developed of a particular set of characters.  As of this moment I have three stories written about them that amount to three long novels, one short novel, and a novella.  I’m so tied into these characters, in fact, that I have a time line of their lives figured out, and that the stories that revolve around those lives.

Last week I was thinking about one of those stories, one that takes place further along in their lives, and it’s an event that, as they say in the business, changes them forever.  It really does, because it’s needed for later in their lives, and for the stories that follow.  As I want to do, I thought out things from a meta standpoint, with the intention of figuring out things later.  As for the meta, it goes into a file, or my head, both of which are pretty good for that sort of thing.

Here is the kicker, though:  the night before, I had a dream that revolved around what I’d been thinking about, as well as some of the research I’d done, because I’m all about the research . . .

I know it was about a place I’d researched for this story, because I just did.  It was in the mountains; it was night and the air was crisp, with fall approaching.  I was sitting alongside someone, both of us wearing thick sweaters against the mountain chill.  There was wine, just a small glass each, because you want to enjoy the alcohol-infused warmth that comes from sitting a sweet white wine.

Then, after the lateness of the hour became apparent, inside we go to sit before a fire, stretching out upon an overstuffed sofa–

Which is where my dream ended.  But the writer in me–ah, I see thing going beyond that.  Because the overstuffed sofa reminds me of two people in a very different place, with their own sofa, their over comforters, their own fire . . . and plenty of pumpkin juice, hot chocolate, and cheese banitsas.  All the things meant to keep a couple warm . . .

All the things they’d need to remind them of their love.

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Lingering in the Past to Come

Finally, finally, finally, I have finished Chapter Fourteen of Suggestive Amusements.  Lots of strange things, lots of kinky sex, lots of things left hanging at the end.  I thought I had some hard chapters to write in Diners at the Memory’s End, but this last was eight thousand of some of the toughest words I’ve ever penned.

It’s behind me.  On to Chapter Fifteen.

I have found a few moments during the work on Chapter Fourteen when I’ve wondered if this story should just go away.  I spoke with a friend the other night, and they told me to put it in a drawer and walk away.  I told them that wasn’t an option, because I’m over fifty thousand words into the tale and the Good Doctor Asimov always said to finish what you start.  They told me I was stubborn;  I told them I’m a writer–which is sort of the same thing.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t felt like walking away at some points.  I like the story, I like the world, but the characters are really sort of dicks in their own rights.  Am I projecting some of my own feelings?  Hell, yeah.  They’re my characters, so they have a little bit of me in them.  Which means they’re not always good people, because I’m not always one.

This winter has been a pain in the ass, however.  It started out being out of work, then finding something after completing a seventy thousand word novel, then falling into a lot of long hours with work, travel, and more writing.  It’s taken a bit of a toll on me, as I’ve been tired, ill, and generally feeling as if I’m out of energy.

It’s easy to want to give up.  I’ve done it before, so why should now be any different?  I’ve given myself some crazy things to do, chasing after banners I may never catch.  I have little or no support on my end for my creative endeavors, and if I do get any props it’s to keep workin’,  ’cause gotta pay those bills, yo.

I felt a bit of elation last night, though, because before I got into the last thousand words of Chapter Hell, I helped someone through the process of formatting a project that will eventually become an ebook, and the juice you get when you lend your creative ability to someone who is using theirs, it’s a good feeling, and one that I needed–for I haven’t felt that way in a while.

Before I headed off to dream land, I played a song that I’ve heard many times . . .

Undertow is a song by Genesis found on their album And Then There Were Three . . ..  I had this album when it first came out, because prog rock, you know, and I was a Genesis fan back in the 1970′s.  I listened to the album many times, and as the years grew on I stopped listening–mostly because I lost all my albums at the end of my first marriage, some twenty years ago.  Then I discovered all this stuff out on YouTube, and once more started listing–

Undertow is one of those songs that I’d heard, but never gave a listen.  When you’re young it’s just a song, something you can kick back to and mellow out when you’ve had a hard day being a teen or early twenty-something.  When the album the song appears on came out, I was just three weeks short of turning twenty-one, so thinking about what was ahead of me wasn’t a big issue with me.  I knew . . .

Actually, I knew shit.  I didn’t have much, I had no understand of what I wanted to do, and I knew I wanted to write, but I couldn’t because I couldn’t bring myself to do it–just as there were so many other things I couldn’t bring myself to do.  I went through life thinking I’ll deal with shit tomorrow, ’cause there’s always tomorrow.

I played Undertow for the hell of it last night, but this time I started listening.  Something happened, because when I work up at four AM today, it was playing in my head.  It was still playing as I drove into work.  When I got my system set up just before seven AM, it was the first thing I played.

It moved me to tears.

There was a connection in the words so powerful that, during the first part of the chorus, I could see myself in those lyrics.  But the second stanza–oh, that’s where the song reached out, grabbed me by the ear, and said, “Sit down, fool; I got something to say”:


Laughter, music and perfume linger here
And there, and there,
Wine flows from flask to glass and mouth,
As it soothes, confusing our doubts.

And soon we feel,
Why do a single thing to-day,
There’s tomorrow sure as I’m here.

So the days they turn into years
And still no tomorrow appears.

Better think awhile
Or I may never think again.
If this were the last day of your life, my friend,
Tell me, what do you think you would do then? *


Then after the question, Tony Banks comes in and kicks my ass with words and melody so powerful that it’s hard to hold back the tears:


Stand up to the blow that fate has struck upon you,
Make the most of all you still have coming to you, [or]
Lay down on the ground and let the tears run from you,
Crying to the grass and trees and heaven finally on your knees

Let me live again, let life come find me wanting.
Spring must strike again against the shield of winter.
Let me feel once more the arms of love surround me,
Telling me the danger’s past, I need not fear the icy blast again. *


Damn you, Anthony.  Damn you for making me feel.
Despite what they may say in Westeros, winter is over.  Life is hard, but if you want something you don’t have, work towards getting it.  These damn stories won’t write themselves, and if I want them told, I gotta tell them.  I’ve spent enough time lying on the ground crying, and I don’t want that anymore:  I want what I can take from what I have left, and I want that all.

I want to live, I want to move on, I want to kick the icy blast in the ass and leave it behind.  That I can do.  That is always possible.

As for the arms of love telling me the danger’s past?

We’ll see, won’t we?  We’ll see . . .



* Copyright: Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI Music Publishing.  Written by Anthony Banks.


Sightseeing in Alternate Realms

“This is the first time I’ve been to New York City, ‘cept for driving through.”

That’s what I woke up to about an hour ago, having walked across a river and standing on a Manhattan Island that could never have existed at any time in our history.  I was telling this to a very pretty red haired woman who . . . well, more on that in a moment.

The above statement is almost true:  I have been to New York City once, but it’s not like you would imagine.  I had to fly to Hyannis, Massachusetts  for software training in the the summer of 1988, and since we (the people I was with, my manager and project leader from Playboy) were flying cheep, I flew out of Midway and landed at Newark, which was no the airport it is today.

But how to get from Newark to Hyannis, you ask?  We flew in a very small, eight passenger twin prop job that never flew higher than a thousand feet the entire way–after we were out of NYC air space, that is.  We left Newark going east, flew right over the Statue of Liberty, then headed up the East River at an altitude of maybe five hundred feet.  It was still light, and the day was clear, an I was on the left side of the plane, so out my window I had all of Manhattan laid out before me, watching the city in a beauty pass shot right out of a movie.

That is my one and only exposure to New York City.  When I say I’ve only driven through, that happened in a dream I had maybe six months ago.  I drove over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, when into a part of the city seemed like the Battery, then headed into Brooklyn.  I met with a woman later on what may have been Long Island, or it might have been near the Tappan Zee Bridge, because there weren’t nearly as many building around when we sat for coffee, but it wasn’t the city proper, I know that.

I have a hypothesis as to why I might have had this dream last night.  David Gerrold, otherwise known as the Father to Tribbles and The Oldest Red Shirt Ever, posted something on his Facebook wall yesterday.  It was one of those strange, simple meme statements you find popping up all the time on Facebook when people are posting pictures of cats, or trying to guilt trip you into liking something by saying you’ll go to hell if you don’t share a post being against pistol whipping bulldogs.

The statement was simple:  “If you could go back and tell your younger self something, what you would say?”  A very science fictiony concept, because if you could go back and tell your younger self to do something that you haven’t done, you’ll set up another reality that you, the teller, will never see, because quantum physics gives not one fuck about you, but that’s beside the point.  The question is: what would you say?

David had left a statement, as had several others.  I normally don’t respond to these things, because I’m a pain in the ass bitch, but with that point, I was compelled to respond.  I said, “Transition and to hell with what people think, and go to her, you know where she lives.”  Why would I say that?  Well, those are two things that have become important to me . . .

Neither would make the present me happy, because nothing would change for me, but for New Past Me, there something might happen.  One can only guess if I’d decided not to get married in the early 80′s and started my transition, I may have had a twenty years jump on less insanity.  I wouldn’t have my daughter, that is true, but I might have had a lot less sadness and hurt and pain.  Or I might be dead.  Can’t say, you know.

The second part . . . Harlan Ellison’s story Grail tell of a man who spends most of his life in search of a cup that will show him his true love.  After decades of search he finds it, looks into is and sees his one true love . . . and as he states at the end, I will met her in death, because she died before I was born.

Last night I walked across the Hudson into the city with a woman who was younger, and who had red hair, but I knew her even though that disguise.  I remember saying to her, “I was told you’re nice and curvy,” and she looked at me with a sideways glance and smiled and said, “Yeah?  They said that?” and I replied, “Yeah, and you’re soft an warm, too.”

And we stopped after crossing the river and turned to each other.  “You know that for a fact?” she said, and I took her in my arms and said, “Oh, yeah.”  And then I kissed her and said–

Isn’t this where I came in?


Trials of Love and Remembrance

Day Two of Sick As Hell, but getting better.  No fever now, but I can’t hear out of my right ear, my head is stuffy, and my throat was swollen last night to the point of intense pain.  This morning I’m better, though my head is swimming about because I’ve only seen about three hours of sleep in the last two days.  Tonight I hope to get enough sleep to be sharp enough that I’m not stumbling about like I don’t know what I’m doing.

I was in decent enough shape last night, though, that I could write.  I wanted to get back into Chapter Ten, and it was a good time to do so, because I’d only need about a thousand words to get the job done.  So I got into it, and I was right:  it took a few words over a thousand to finish Chapter Ten, and now it’s time to move onto pillow talk between my two main characters.

With it being Valentine’s Day today, it’s a bit interesting that last night my muse (not my Muse, just to keep things straight) thought about how her newest charge was going to be another in a very long line of lovers, and that she’d remember him all the way until the end of time, well beyond the time when he is not only forgotten by his descendants, but by history as well.  Creatures who are not human, who do have recollections that go back thousands of years, could be expected to remember every encounter they’ve had, every touch they’ve experienced, every kiss that’s graced their lips.  As I said in the story, for Erin the Muse it’s both a gift and a curse, because while she can remember all the good times, she will also remember the bad–and there is no way you couldn’t go through thousands of years of encounters with people and never have a bad relationship spring up.

I’m not a muse; there are no thousands of relationships in my life that I can remember, much less write about.  The reality is I can count on both hands the number of relationships I’ve had, and still have a few fingers left over.  I don’t regret this–and there’s little I could do if I decided to regret my choices.  It is what it is, and not even a TARDIS is going to save you from your own time line.

There are also a few that I’d rather not remember.  One in particular, the family hatted me with a passion, and that didn’t help when it came to developing a romance.  There is one that I do regret ever getting into, though it’s not one most people who know me would understand the reasons why it was such a bad thing for me.

There are others, however, that I will always remember.  They showed me things I didn’t know were possible; they allowed me to achieve an intimacy that had never been there.  And if I can borrow from Mr. Spock (D. C. Fontana, actually, as she was the one who put the words in his mouth), there is one where it was easy to say, “For the first time in my life, I was happy.”

The one thing I don’t want to know is:  do they remember me?  And do they remember me with any sort of fondness.

I guess I’ll never know, or even want to.

It’s better that way.


Into the Haze of Life

This is one of those days that I know will redefine one.

The last few days have been sorta crazy.  I don’t mean crazy as in, “Oh, wow.  Wild stuff going on; better get goin’ on this.”  No, it’s more like, “I’m totally losing it; I should see about getting checked into the facility.”  As in, I’m really on my last good thread, and if it’s cut, I’ve got serious stuff to deal with in a major way.

Last night I tried writing.  My heart didn’t feel as if it were in it.  I did my best, but these things that are happening, it’s eating me alive.  Maybe I’ll get more done later, because even when I’m feeling as if I’m going to have a heart attack at any moment, I need to do something towards my craft.

For if I don’t have my craft, then I have nothing.  There is nothing else waiting for me.  Give up my writing, and I might as well start looking for a nice place to rest for the last time.

I know that sounds extreme, but there really isn’t anything else at this point.  The Undisclosed Location has become less of a place to crash between trips to the job site, and more of a prison of them mind.  At this moment, I’m not there, I’m at The Real Home, though a return to TUL is likely tonight.  Maybe.  Possibly.  It all depends on what transpires during this morning.

There are things to do today.  I’m dealing with things the best I can.  I’ve got support on this end, and I’ve been getting support from other people as well.  I’m not completely alone at this point–which is something that I do feel when I’m at The Undisclosed Location.  It’s nothing but alone there.  It’s the feeling of nothingness, of being isolated from everything but the local Wal Mart down the street, that’s one of the things putting a lot of strain upon me.  It’s helped to be a great writing local, but it’s not helping with anything else.

So many things to deal with:  the job, loneliness, isolation, fear, the feeling that I’m screwing up everything . . . oh, and one other thing.  Something that’s really defining me at the moment.  But nothing I’m ready to speak of yet.  That time is coming, but it’s not yet.  Just like all the events that are surrounding this little episode, I have to leave it for another place and time.

I have to conclude that one of the reasons this current work in progress is taking so long is because I’ve got entirely too much shit on my mind.  My plate is full, and I can’t seem to clear it these days.  There is more calling for my attention, and I don’t have the means to fit it in right now.

Bouncing off the walls, I am.  It’s not quite gotten to where I feel like I’m about to do something totally stupid, but it’s feeling very close.  Objects in the rear view mirror are always closer than they appear, and this one has been tailgating me for a few weeks.

Okay, I’m off.  Even with everything swirling about my head like mad, I can still write.  At least I write here.

See?  Everything’s okay.  Really.  It is.


Twisting Perceptions

The last couple of days seem to have hit me in a particularly strange way.  Actually, this whole week has.  It has become one long, drawn out, seeming like a never ending ride on the Wonka Boat, with that maniac bastard spouting spoken word rhyme the entire way.

If you can’t tell, I want this week over in a very bad way.  Like . . . yesterday.

Part of it is this story.  Diners is hitting me a lot like Echoes did; it is resisting me in a lot of ways.  I don’t want to say, “Oh, I’ve got writer’s block!”, but it’s starting to feel like something along those lines–

Which isn’t actually true.  I’m rolling though this post pretty well, though it seems like, these days, I’m not able to go more than one or two words before I misspell something, and I have to stop, return, and fix it.  That is getting to be one annoying son of a bitch, and it’s one of the reasons I was never able to write until word processors came out.  Word processors with auto-correct that doesn’t replace “pattern” with “penis”.

All the nice things in life.

But for all the excitement I had for restarting Diners at the Memory’s End, it’s as if the moment I’m in it–bam!  It wants me to be somewhere else.  Now, Echoes I got:  there was a lot of emotion behind what I was writing, and it was tearing me up.  This?

Well, I think I know.

As I once said on the pages of the blog, most of my stories are about relationships.  Even the science fictiony ones are like that.  There’s a guy, there’s a girl–or there are two girls, or even three girls.  But anyway you look at it, there’s some kind of relationship there.

Diners is a bit about taking one of those relationships, and twisting it apart.  Just a little, but it’s there.  And it’s going to hurt one of the people in the story, and hurt them in a very bad way.

One of the curses of being a writer is that you have to show this to your readers.  So you have to think about it, and you have to figure out the words that are needed to convey those feelings into images.  In order to do that, I’ve got to spend a lot of time inside the heads of my characters, and after a while, even though they are pretty nice people, you get into some mind spaces you’d rather not go–

Like your own.

I think that’s why I’m finding myself distracted a lot these days.  My own head is a mass of spider webs any more, and while I’m driving my characters crazy with personal stuff, I’m doing the same thing to myself.  Not that I’m fooling around, or anything, but damn–there is a ton of shit that appears to be ready to reshape my life these days, and a couple of days ago I had a bit of a mini-meltdown because I was starting to feel “overwhelmed” by everything.  Maybe it’s time to go The Elvis Route, and fly out to Vegas to pick up a few thousand Quaaludes because I need to decompress, or perhaps some recreational Dilaudid is in order; just a quick skin pop and kick back with a few hours of Farscape to occupy the time.

Only a few days ago I said change was coming, and you can’t believe just how true that statement has become.  It only takes time to get there.

I wish the hell it would get here and stop driving me nuts.

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We Said Goodbye Hello

Last night was one of my rare nights out.  As in, I actually get out of the house for some conversation and pizza.  The last time was a month ago, and what with everything that’s went on in my life of late, it felt like a good time to get out and relax.

But I didn’t relax.  I was tired most of the night.  At one point I almost fell asleep watching TV.  The pizza didn’t have flavor.  And when I drove home, my mind was in neutral.  It was one of those cool, cloudy evenings that I usually love, but the drive home was . . . well, there wasn’t any traffic, which was the high point of the trip.

Everything seemed a note or two off.  Hell, I couldn’t even get a good scene up in my mind.

Not that I didn’t try.  I went back to that well I call, “Twenty Years of Stories You Want to Tell, Man!” and latched onto one that, believe it or not, I actually wrote and completed back in 1990.  “And how did that happen?” I hear someone asking?

Glad you asked.  I wrote it for four women in my office.  No, really.  It came about because of a lunch where I was out with these same ladies, and I was talking about writing, and it was sorta like, “Hey, Ray, when are you going to, you know, show us some of this mythical writing you do?”  Not being one to have four women throw the gauntlet back in my face, I sat down and cranked out a very long story (do I write any other kind?) titled, Dinners at the Memory’s End.

At the time I thought it was good.  It still is, but I thought of it a lot last night, because there are certain things in the story that is pretty doggy.  There’s no other way to put it, because there are aspects of the story, as it was written 22 years ago, that wouldn’t work today.  No how, no way.

So were I to write this story today, I would change it in some significant ways.  Notice the “were” part there.  Of course, if I’m thinking about writing this story, it’s because I’m interested in writing this story.  Or rewriting it, as the case may be.  And it would be a major rewrite, but it would also bring back a story that, for me, was something of a favorite.  And not just because I got to show off like some beat poet trying to get laid.  It’s a favorite because it was the first novella I wrote, and completed.

And it was good.

I’m learning that a good writer knows what to write, what to rewrite, and what not to get into.  One of the reasons I was a bit off last night–perhaps a bit off for a while, come to thinking of it–has to do with the idea of writing a YA story about two of my favorite young characters, Annie and Kerry.  I saw “Annie” yesterday, and told her my idea for the prologue to the novel.  And she loved it.  She thought it was great–

Then . . . I realized I couldn’t write this story.  Not yet.  Not now.

Part of the truth is that I don’t really have it in me, at the moment, to make this a real story.  I’ve the idea, and the idea is good, but that’s all it is.  I can run with ideas, because I’ve done that before.  Stories are ideas, and you put them in the car with you, hit the gas, and head towards your destination with a basket full of tunes and some tasty beverages to pass the time.

There’s something else here, however.  That something is Annie.

Annie is a character, but she’s also a person, someone I’ve known for a while.  And I know her investment in that character.  Yes, she’s told me, “Take the character, make her your own, and let the story fly, you creative little scribbler, you!”  I would, you know.  I totally would.

But I love the character too much.

It’s a awesome responsibility to take something created by another person and do with it as one likes.  Happens in comic books all the time.  I mean, is the same person who created Wonder Woman still penning her stories?  No.  One, he’s dead.  Two, if he were, we’d still have Wonder Woman running around playing bondage games with the other Amazon ladies.  Instead, we totally find out the Amazons got no use for their baby boys, and pretty much sell them off into slavery, misery, and death.  Shit happens, you know?

That’s what happens when you have others playing with your characters; they can end up doing very strange things, or acting in ways that don’t seem right.  With Annie, I want to get her right.  I don’t want her to be a shadow, or a shade, or act in a strange way.  The only way to do that right is to have the Real Annie work with me on the Character Annie.

At the moment, that’s not possible.

So there is no telling of this particular story, at least not now.  Maybe not for a while.  Maybe not ever.  I’ll write the prologue, because it needs writing, but for now . . . no, I won’t go there.  Because every time I think about making that move, I get this thing in the corner of my eye, and it bothers me.

I care for Annie, a lot.  To use a Jack O’Neill (with two “l’s”; the guy with one “l” has no sense of humor) comment, “I care for her a lot more than I should.”  Because I do, I can’t run off with her character.  I have to be careful.  I have to be honest.  I have to be loving.  Until I’m ready for all that, I can’t write the story that will, eventually, be written.

Every story comes in its time.  Annie’s will come–

When it does, it’ll be beautiful.  Just like her.

I own it to Annie.


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