Wide Awake but Dreaming

Slip into my thoughts and do watch your step


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Frolicking in the Danger Zone

Let’s do the niceties right now and say this post will speak of real things that happened to me.  It may feel like a rant to a lot of people, and there is a high likelihood I’ll upset more than a few of those folk.  But seeing as how it’s been close to a week since the last time that last happened, I may as well close out the week cranking up the irate a bit.  With that in mind, here’s a kitten to put you into a great frame of mind:

It's a Siamese kitten, though, and we know they're sort of evil, so this kitty is probably ready to take you Straight to Hell.

It’s a Siamese kitten, though, and we know they’re sort of evil, so this kitty is setting up to take you Straight to Hell.

With that out of the way, onward.

I spent a lot of time as a kid scared.  Never mind all the crap going on in my head with gender identity issues and just generally being considered a strange kid because I did things in my shitty little town like read–I was scared.  A lot.  I had a very active imagination, and since I read a lot of different things like science fiction and comic books and the occasional horror story where people were being walled up alive or having bad things happen to them because they were screwing around with a monkey’s paw, I’d start imagining things–you know, stuff.

The sort of things that prevented me from being in a dark room with an even slightly cracked closet door because there might be something in there–something that was going to eat me.  I couldn’t stand to look out a window in the dead of night for fear something was going to jump into my line of sight, something I didn’t want to see, something that was going to do me harm.  And this last still happens to me; occasionally I’ll get the feeling that something is out on the balcony getting ready to jump me, and I don’t dare look ’cause I don’t want to see . . .

That stopped me from reading, right?  No.  I didn’t stop me from watching all those funky 1950′s science fiction and horror flicks on TV, either.  If I knew it was going to cause problems, why did I continue to scare the shit out of myself?  Because I had a jones that needed feeding, and learning and being entertains was worth the price of imagining something could jump out of my closet and get me.

I also ran into my share of personal tragedy.  By the time I’d turn ten I’d watch an uncle lose a long battle with lung cancer, and since it seemed like everyone in our extended family either died of cancer or heart disease–and I heard this stuff being talked about all the time–it was a simple matter to know what was happening.  Oh, and my mother was also a nurse, so there were plenty of books around the house with pictures–just in case I needed to know what a cancerous lung looked like.

I lost two close friends before I was out of high school:  one drown and another was involved in a rather horrific auto accident.  A girl I’d dated for a year at the end of high school died a year after we broke up when her sister’s car spun out and flipped over into a drainage ditch.

There was also the occasional suicide popping up from time to time.  When I was about eight a second cousin of my mother’s decided she was going to take her two daughters for a ride, got them into the family sedan, and never left the garage.  There was no way I didn’t know about this because it was all over the Chicago news, print and television, at the time, and my mother didn’t stop talking about it for days.  As for the other suicides–well, they were attempts, and not successful ones at that, otherwise I wouldn’t be here typing this post.  Though I’ve not tried anything like that since the 1990′s, I did voluntarily check myself into a mental heath facility in 2008 for a “Forty-eight Hour Observation Stay”, which is a polite way of saying, “We’ll make sure you’re not given a chance to permanently hurt yourself.”  Actually, it was an interesting experience–I was roomed with a schizophrenic who kept telling the doctors he was okay because he’d found his cure in the Bible, and they could give him any test they wanted to try and prove him wrong, and I was hit on by a couple of women:  one wanted my opinion on whether I thought she’d make a good lesbian and should she castrate her boyfriend before doing so, and another girl kept trying to convince me to have sex with her, telling me, “You’re not that crazy, so it’ll be good ’cause I can trust you.”

Fun times, let me tell ya.

These are all little bits of my life experiences.  No mention of the time a “friend” beat me up because I wouldn’t dance with someone at a club–yeah, that sort of sucked.  But all of this come to mind when I’m writing.  All of this makes up little things that pull at my psyche when I’m dealing with characters.  I don’t think I have an interesting life, but I certainly have one that’s seen it’s fair share of bullshit.

I’m not the only one who’s been there.  A Clockwork Orange was written in three weeks by a highly intoxicated Anthony Burgess, who admitted that a lot of Alex’s story brought back memories of his wife’s rape, and drinking helped get the words out with a minimal amount of pain.  Harlan Ellison wrote in the preface of All the Birds Come Home to Roost of the terror he felt having to write, at an editor’s request, a short scene where the main character describes what his first wife–who was going insane–did that nearly drove him insane, because brought back all the memories of the things his first wife did that nearly drove him insane before she was committed to a facility for a while.  Stephen King mentioned that The Body may have resulted from from him witnessing a childhood friend being hit by a train, but damned if he can remember that happening even though other’s told him it did.

Writers put themselves into their stories, like it or not.  When they write about something horrifying or miserable or just downright cruddy happening to one of their characters, they’re usually pulling upon some well of memories.  They may remember these things clearly, or they may not.  They may not be affected by the retelling of the memories, or they may find themselves overwhelmed as they transfer the story from their mind to the page.  This last has happened to me:  there have been more than a few passages written over the last couple of years where I’ve had to stop and collect myself because the place from where I was pulling my inspiration was far too personal.

At the same time a writer shouldn’t be afraid to put all that shit out there for people to see.  A writer shouldn’t hold back; if you have something terrible to show, show it in all its gory glory.  I went through this when I wrote Couples Dance because of one scene in particular, one that I’ve never actually described–until now.  The scene involved three woman and a man in 1920′s Paris getting high on a combination of wine and drugs, and two of the women decided to pull the third woman into a ménage à trois.  In the process of getting their crazy freak on, the two woman who instigated this party begin dismembering the third woman while continuing to sex her up.  The person reading this account doesn’t know if it’s complete bullshit or not–the person who wrote the entry in his journal can be considered the most unreliable of narrators because he was higher than a kite at the time this all went down–but there’s also a nagging suspicion that it might just be the real deal.

I had trouble writing the scene at first because I thought it was a bit over the top.  And it is–face it:  it’s suppose to be.  Later I had trouble because I understood this craziness was coming out of me, and who wants to admit they can pen this sort of insanity and then head down to Burger King to pick up a Whopper with Cheese and a large Sprite like nothing out of the ordinary just went down.  After a few days I got good with the fact that there is a lot of craziness inside me, and in time it’s all gonna come out.

In the course of my life and work I know I’m going to offend people.  I know I’m going to say things that will piss them off.  But what I say or do won’t be racist–I lived through that shit with my family, and try as they might I abandoned their “If it ain’t White, it ain’t Right” ways.  It won’t be misogynist, because I love women and the more I slide into womanhood the more I understand the privileges they don’t share with men.  I’m damn sure not anti-LGBT–hey, some of my best characters are LGBT, and considering I was hangin’ with my trans support group last night, nah:  no hate there, people.

No, if I piss someone off it’s because I don’t give warnings about what’s coming.  I gave one today, and on other occasions I’ve given them as well, telling people if you have easily blown minds you might wanna step off the page and find something else to read.  Most of the time I’ll call things out as I see them, and and if people lose their shit over it–as has happened when I expressed the opinion that if you’re truly convinced that your characters actually write your story, and that they get into arguments over what they want to do, you should acquaint yourself with some high powered meds–then so be it.  I can’t protect every precious snowflake, and I don’t bother trying.

Writers shouldn’t be afraid to throw life out onto the page as raw as it comes.  They shouldn’t hold back.  They shouldn’t censor themselves.  You have to be more real than real; you have to show the nasty without a pretty little gauze curtain between you and the reader.  Be like Rick Grimes and rip out that bad guy’s throat with your teeth, because there are times when you just gotta lay it all out in black and white with red all over.

And should someone come back to you and say, “I’m offended by that!  You didn’t give me a warning it was coming!” then you should introduce them to Mr. Stephen Fry:

 

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what?”

[I saw hate in a graveyard -- Stephen Fry, The Guardian, 5 June 2005]”  (Article found on link, which details things he discovered while tracing his Jewish ancestry.)

 

I should point out that maybe people are offended by his statement.  Yeah, big surprise.  Could be worse–

I could have found an inspirational quote from Tyler Durden.


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And Today I’m With Rachel Carrera!

Before I get into my normal post, a couple of weeks back I was interviewed by Rachel Carrera, and today the interview is up on her blog.  Click on this link, go over and give her a little love, and read all about get into my work.

As if you didn’t know already.


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Spectacular, Spectacular!

No, I have not taken over the Moulin Rouge and I’m doing my Harold Zidler impression to get you to spend you hard earned gilt on Satine–I do not accept Bitcoins, by the way.  No, no:  this is something else.

This is something really spectacular.

Late last night my daughter returned from Indiana University, where she was competing in the state Science Olympiad.  It’s not a science fair:  these kids do real scientific stuff, like figuring things out through the scientific method, or building things that work.  My daughter is in ninth grade and this is her second, and last, year competing, and for the second year her school won their division state championship.  Not only that, but she scored three golds out of three events.  Here’s one of them, Disease Detectives, which is sponsored by the CDC, so that means she’s got her shit down cold for when the Zombie Apocalypse(tm) breaks out.  Her other events were Meteorology and Music, and in this last event she and another kid built a working violin.

I should also mention she plays cello–no, she doesn’t know someone named Coulson–and paints as well as draws, so she’s not only got the science stuff down, but she’s artistic, too.  This is what comes of letting her do what she wants to do.  Nice to know she’s doing it right.

In other creative news, I edited like a mofo yesterday.  Yes, that’s a technical term, mofo.  It means I spent most of the day at the computer reading my work, and had a great time going over the work I created.  I edited Chapters Eight, Nine, and Ten, and went over some great stuff, if I may say so.  I wasn’t paying attention to the word count yesterday, but in the light of this morning’s light, it was just over thirty-eight thousand words.  That’s a good day’s work.

No, really:  it only looks like work.

No, really: it only looks like work.

I found things wrong.  I found some things misspelled.  I found words that weren’t needed.  I found Coraline doing something that was completely out of sequence, so I rewrote a couple of paragraphs, and when I think about it today, I can rewrite the first paragraph to have her do the absolute correct thing, because when you got magic working for you, it’s easy.  I found Kerry using an “s” in one of the words of a song title he’d know better than to use–sure, I could leaving it and say he was excited and didn’t know what he was saying, but no, that’s not happening.

One of the scenes I edited was the demonstration fight between Ramona Chai and Coraline, and since I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I should excerpt that scene–well, guess what?  Here it is:

 

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

Ramona walked to the south end of the mat, directly opposite Coraline. They bowed, then pressed the palms of their hands together. The air around each woman shimmered for a second, then all was normal. Ramona began moving her arm while she widened her stance, preparing to fight. Coraline did the same, planting her feet wide, getting her left arm back while she raised her right hand as if to block. They watched each other for a few moments. Ramona exhaled slowly before giving the command: “Begin.”

It was all Kerry could do to follow the two women.

Both moved so quickly their motions were a blur. Ramona was off her spot and moving to her right, while Coraline came at her directly across the mat. Though their moments didn’t look hurried, both women were moving at least—Kerry figured their actions were maybe ten times faster than those of a normal person. He was reminded of the scene in The Stars My Destination where Gully Foyle was being chased by the Martian Commandos, all of them moving at similar speeds and trying not to run into each other least they be killed by the impact.

That wasn’t the case here, however. Ramona turned and ran towards Coraline before throwing two punches which the head nurse appeared to block. Kerry assumed they were blocked because not only were the punches difficult to follow, but there was a quick flare of light against Coraline each time Ramona struck her.

Ramona jumped back about three meters and seemed ready to set up another attack. Coraline leapt across the space with ease, almost flying through the air, and kicked the instructor once in the chest, knocking her off her feet and back towards the students. She landed on her back and was immediately on her feet, moving her arms as if she were drawing something towards her. Then the air before Ramona’s body swirled into a visible form—

She pushed it away, driving it towards Coraline. The head nurse saw the attack and jumped straight up into the air to get out of the way. The attack struck an invisible wall on the far side of mat; whatever protective force was there became visible for a second, and the air rippled from the impact.

Coraline hadn’t yet touched ground. Kerry watched her soar five, almost six meters into the air, slowly back-flipping into position like a character from an anime fight. She finally touched down and readied herself before drawing back her right arm. A ball of bright light appeared in her right hand, but this was nothing like the orange globes Kerry saw her make in the hospital. This one was reddish-white and crackling with energy. The head nurse spun twice and threw it at Ramona, who raised an arm to block.

The instructor did more than block, though: Coraline’s attack hit the barrier she’d thrown up—one that flared brightly when it was struck—and shot off towards the students. Most of the students screamed and threw up their hands; a few dropped to the floor. Kerry grabbed Annie and put himself between her and the mat, almost knocking her to the floor in the process. The energy attack hit another invisible wall at the edge of the mat and flared brightly. The wall rippled again, then all was once more as normal as possible.

Stop.” Ramona brought her feet together and her hands to her sides: Coraline did the same. They bowed, then walked towards each other to met near the center of the mat. There was another shimmer around them, then they shook hands, both smiling. “You still are one of the best.”

Coraline brushed a strand of hair from her face. “I learned from the best, Sifu.”

 

Yeah, you can keep your wand:  I’m gonna stand over here and toss fireballs at your ass.  I should point out that later in the story Coraline tells one of my kids about how, before she became the Head Nurse of the school and she was working at a woman’s clinic in the city of Salem, someone tried to mug her as she walked home one night.  Poor bastard never knew what hit him.

Today will be a lot of running about and getting things done away from the home, but I’m two chapters away from finishing a first pass on Act One.  That’s a little over twenty-three thousand, three hundred words–that’s all that remains on this pass of the edit.  While I have time I’ll do another full pass on the act, and while that happens I’ll start on Act Two next Monday.  I’m looking it over, and as I view the metadata it comes back to me what I needs writing.  What’s going to happen.  How things are going to go down at my Magical School On the Cape.

Everything's so nice and simple--until I get to that Big Time at the bottom . . .

Everything’s so nice and simple–until I get to that Big Time at the bottom, then it all goes to hell.

It’s a good time to be doing something you love.


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Let Us Relive Our Lives in What We Tell You

Breakfast is out of the way, more or less; all that remains is the coffee, and I’m about to refill that as soon as the song I have on finishes.  Yes, it’s six fifty-five AM and the morning has already been an hour in the making.  That means it’s time for a post.  That means it’s time to start writing.

It’s a strange live I’ve chosen for myself.  Write a blog post at six-thirty in the morning, then write code all day, then come home and edit twenty pages for a while, then time line out something because I need to know when an event could take place because of something happening to one of the characters–yeah, Research Bitches!  Finally, about eight forty I was able to relax and watch How to Train Your Dragon, which is one of my favorite movies, and far superior, in my opinion, to Toy Story 3.  Because Viking kid with a dragon.

You love them, you protect them, you take your girlfriend flying on them--Kerry needs one of these.  Oh, and lets not forget the blowing up of your enemies . . .

You love them, you protect them, you take your girlfriend flying on them–Kerry needs one of these. Oh, and lets not forget when you use them to blow up your enemies . . .

And then I’m back at it today.  Same as it ever was.

Last night, while I was plotting out my time lies and thinking about some of the crap my kids will get into once the future rolls around, I wondered about some of the things that have drawn me to writing, as well as some of the things I’ve written.  Like it or not, there’s always a little bit of me in my stories.  Maybe it’s just a personal feeling, or perhaps it’s an idea I want to espouse.  There is at least one story I’ve written that deals with feelings I have towards other person, and another where I’m more or less returning to some emotions I hadn’t felt in a long time–which is probably one of the reasons why I find myself getting into crying jags now and then.

A lot of writers get caught up in their characters, and I find myself doing the same once in a while.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ll often start crying at the end of one of my stories not only because I’ve reached the end and there’s a huge emotional release upon typing out, “The End”, but in a few of my stories something extremely emotional has occurred between my characters, and it’s hard to hold back the feelings.  You’re digging deep into something within your own essence to throw into your characters, and when that moment happens, it’s like it happened to you.

I thought out a scene for my kids last night that hit me in ways that make a lot of sense, and at the same time left me feeling like my heart was going to wither.  It was a cold scene, but as I thought it out logically, it was the only thing possible for the plot as thought out.  It even involved making one of the hardest characters I’ve ever made reach a point where she starts crying–that’s some hard cord sad right there.

I talk about these characters as if they are real people sometimes, and while I know they aren’t, they are, in a way, an extension of my own ideas and feelings, so when you give them happy times, you feel the happy times, and when you crap all over their lives and throw them into the Pit of Emotional Hell, then you’re going to experience the fall.  And trust me:  I will crap all over their lives, because life is hard for Normal people, so just imagine the sort of shit that gets thrown at you when you’re a witch.

What doesn’t kill them makes your characters stronger–but what does it do to me?  It lets me tell the tales of their lives–

And by doing so, I bring a little of my life out for all to see.


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Toil and Bubble

Into each life comes a little depression now and then–or, if you’re me, it sort of hangs around waiting for me to leave the front door cracked a bit so it can come stomping in and make itself at home.  That’s how yesterday afternoon was:  I’d finished my blog post, I’d finished laundry, and I was going to sit and work on an article . . . and I couldn’t.  The old depression had kicked in and I didn’t feel like doing much of that.  I also didn’t feel like watching TV, either, because I’d sit and watch a couple of my favorite movies, The Bridge on the River Kwai and Laurence of Arabia, and after fifteen, twenty minutes of sitting I had to get up and do something else.

Part of it is this feeling of wanting to “do something”, to have other things going on besides sitting in the apartment and staring at the walls.  Money has been tight of late, and that cuts down on getting out, but there’s also this feeling of isolation I’m experiencing.  Now that I’m not writing–or at least actively working on a story–the old feeling of sameness and routine has once more taken over, and it sucks.  It sucks bad.

I really need something new in my life.

Tonight I’ll start in on some editing.  I have something that’s been sitting in my queue for a bit and I’ll jump into that and work out getting it out, but I’ve also the inclination to get back into some of slush pile as well.  I have tons of stuff waiting, and there’s so much editing to do, it’s hard to know where to begin.  Some of my shorter things is really the best jumping off point, but I have a couple of novels that need this attention as well.

It would be a bit easier if I had one of the witches from my Salem school to come and help me.  Maybe they could cook up something that would help get out of these feelings–though we know from experience that my Professor Sladen doesn’t like cauldrons, and she’d probably go after a poor witch with her magical Super Soaker if she caught them using one to mix up a product.

"Any minute now that crazy lesbian is gonna come along and whack me . . . And why am I holding a lantern?  Can't I just like put light in the air?  *sigh*  I shouldn't have skipped Spells that day."

“Any minute now that crazy lesbian is gonna come along and whack me . . . And why am I holding a lantern? Can’t I just like put light in the air? *sigh* I shouldn’t have skipped Spells that day.”

Editing is a good thing to get into.  I have too much stuff laying about, and it’s a great way to get out the old.  Plus . . . I’m considering setting up an account on Durotrop and sending out stories for sale this time, and not just working towards self-publishing.  It’s great experience to get rejection slips, but even greater experience if you make the sale.  A full year’s subscription there is $50, and one could blow that much at Starbucks in a week, so if it opens up a new beginning for my stories, it’s well worth the money.

If I’m going to find myself in a routine, it may as well be one that I enjoy.


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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.


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To Ride the Residency

There are a few things I’d like to do while I’m out here in The Burg.  I have my eyes on a place I want to visit once the weather starts to agree with normal people, and there’s another location that I think I could visit under the guise of collecting resource material for a story.  (Hint:  it would have something to do with space.)  But now something else has appeared on my radar, and for the first time in a long while I’m excited by the possibly that the event in question could be one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I’m talking about Riding the Residency.

Okay, so what am I taking about?  It appears that Amtrak, the organization in this country that handles rail travel, has given to residencies to writers to ride the rails.  One writer has already taken the New York City to Chicago run, and another is setting up for a cross-country sprint in mid-May to travel from New York City to Portland, Oregon.  And by residency I mean they’re letting them ride for free so they can work on their writing and talk about the experience.  The woman who did the NYC to Chiberia (as we were calling the city during the January polar vortex attack) run spent fifty-five hours relaxing and writing and generally having a good time, and who isn’t about a good time when they’re writing?

So, Amtrak, allow me to explain why putting me on a residency run would be a great idea:

1.  I love riding trains.  I’ve commuted by train for years.  I’ve ridden from Chicago to Florida by train.  I’ve taken them to work.  I’ve even ran the European network and spent a few hours on the French TGV, which I consider one of the best experiences ever, and one of the reasons I feel we need high speed rail in the U.S. like yesterday.  I like other people doing my driving while I sit back and enjoy the view, so a long trip that involves getting some writing done in the process is a big win for me.

2.  I am Ms. Social Media.  You want Tweets of the trip?  How about I up that ante and start posting my adventure to Facebook with pictures?  How about getting two or three blog posts out of the adventure, which will go out world wide in case you’re interested.  I could even put this adventure together in an ebook and offer it up for free on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

3.  I have friends in a lot of different cities, and many of them are creative as well.  I know an independent film writer/director down in the Big Easy; maybe she could take a return trip with me and work on a screenplay?  I have a writer friend in New York City who would like to run to Atlanta; we could do a run together and Chatty Cathy the adventure–or kill each other along the way, which would also be entertaining.  I’ve friends in Seattle and Portland who I could meet, and on the way to both those locations I could stop in Denver and make fun of the Hell Pony who apparently couldn’t bring any mojo to their local sports teams.  I could visit my Magical Girl Katie in Minneapolis and I could get pictures of my Twilight Sparkle plush kissing one of her mecha models.

4.  I am a writer.  Okay, so I’m not a big-time Stephen King-style writer who could probably buy a train for this sort of thing, but I have sold one story and self published two more, and I’ve always working and writing and trying to get my work out there.  That means I’m just like Rick Grimes in that I have stuff I’m working on–you know, things.  During a long trip I could probably do a great edit on a novel and prep it for publication.  Or start on Act Two of my current work in process.  Or write something completely new during the trip.  I’m open, you know?

It’s simple, really:  I need a seat, a place to put my computer and a plug for power, and a wifi connection to allow me access to the Internet, and I’m ready to roll outta Harrisburg for points unknown.  Oh, and I live within walking distance of the station, so I just throw my stuff in an overnight bag, get my computer into my backpack, and ten minutes later I’m ready to pick up my tickets.

I’ll be in touch.

My bags are packed and I'm ready to go . . .

My bags are packed and I’m ready to go . . .


10 Comments

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.


13 Comments

Decendancy

My celebration dinner was good, except there was no wine.  I’ll remedy that tonight when I stop off at the wine and spirits shop on the way home–there’s one right across the street from one of the government offices, what does that tell you?–and continue the celebration here.

Except . . . I hope I’m not as bored as I was last night.  You go a long stretch writing and then suddenly–Boom!  There’s nothing to do.  You quickly find yourself wondering if there is anything you can do that isn’t writing related–and in my case, usually not.

"I shouldn't think about writing, and I'm not gonna write.  What should I do?  Get my nails done?  They're done.  Wait, I could write about my characters

“I shouldn’t think about writing, and I’m not gonna write. What should I do? Get my nails done? They’re done. Wait, I could write about my characters getting their nails done–no, no writing!”

Talk about a pain in the ass.  When most of your activities consist of the things you want to take time away from doing, it doesn’t leave you with a lot of option for things to do.

Then again, there’s my dreams to keep my busy, and they must have been making up for lost time, because it was strange.

Part of my crazy dreams were dealing with abandonment.  I remember coming home and everyone was gone–only this was like me coming home from high school and discovering I’d been left behind.  So then I went out in search of a lost TARDIS–no, really–and found a couple, but not the one I was looking for.  And then I ran into my fourth grade teacher–

My experience in fourth grade was not a pleasant one.  Back then they’d tell you I was “having problems”, but mostly I was a troubled child.  Nine going on ten, not able to make friends, and confused to all hell and gone about what I was.  I was ten when I saw my first psychologist, because even by then my parents realized I was a complete mess.  I only saw her for a few months, but that’s another story . . .

My fourth grade teacher was something of a mess, too.  She liked to yell at people.  She liked to make fun of me in the class whenever I’d do something “wrong”, like start speaking for no reason, or go off on subjects that no one else knew, because I was pretty smart.  Forth grade was when the bullying really started on me, and I remember her sending me to the school nurse a few times because I wouldn’t stop crying and she didn’t know what to do with me.  Then again, she also smacked the hell out of me on the playground one day because she said I was acting “goofy” and I needed to stop.

I see her in my dream last night, and she asks if I know her.  I told her I did, and that I had her in fourth grade.  And she tells me, yes, she is the person I remember, but no, she never had me in fourth grade.  In fact, she was happy she never had me in fourth grade, because from what she’d heard I was a complete pain in the ass.

And no matter how much I protest that I was in her class, she continues saying no.  Eventually she dismisses me and walks off with a wave of her hand.

I’ve had this dream a few times before, and for some reason it bothers me.  Can’t tell you why, but it does.  It’s not that I need some affirmation from her, because I don’t:  that period of my life is way long and gone.

I guess it’s the dismissive way in which I’m told, “I’m glad I didn’t have you.”

I better edit something tonight, because there’s no telling what might show up in my dreams later.


6 Comments

The Desolation of Desires

It is safe to say that I am now, almost, just about, completely, “back”.  Though the cold made it hurt to walk home yesterday–and by “hurt”, I mean my lungs felt like they were on fire–and I probably ate more than was necessary, I had a fairly good night’s sleep, and feel decent this morning.  Now all that remains is this annoying, persistent fluid in the upper chest, which I know from past experience will linger for weeks, if not longer.

I’m back on the writing game, however.  Not only did I get back into the work in progress, but I ended up editing a piece for someone who sorta threw it at me and said, “Hey, need this by tomorrow, can you look it over?”  Sure, why not?  Isn’t that why I’m here?

The great news for me, however, was cranking out nearly a thousand words on the story.  After two days of very low production–only about a thousand total in that period–and then taking a day off because writing hurt, it really hurt, things felt sort of smooth once more getting right back in.  Which is good, because what I’m writing isn’t that easy.

In fact, this is a part of the story I’ve dreaded writing for a while.

This is where Annie comes clean to one of the instructors, telling her all the reasons why she’s there at the school, while going on in great detail about how she’s sometimes not the nicest little girl in the world, and that there have been occasions where she’d been labeled a selfish little shit.  In short, there are times when she’s a mean little girl without benefit of a curl, and she knows it.

But now she’s running on a bit of fear because of things that happened the night before in the Midnight Madness, and this fear is a big foreign to her, because in the past, whatever Annie wanted, Annie got.  Case in point is that when she was eight she forced her father to build her a house on the shores of the lake on their rather expansive property.  Why?  Because she had a dream, that’s why.  And she was also pissed at her dad for another reason, so–build me a house, daddy.

No trained squirrels for this girl, no sir.

The problem she faces is simple:  in the past, whenever she wanted something, the only obstacle to her getting it were her parents, and she’d wear them down no matter what.  It wasn’t like the object of her desire was going to tell her to take a hike–lake house and sitting rooms and books on sorcery aren’t known for being all the disagreeing.

This time, the object of her desire can say no.  It hasn’t, so far, but . . . there’s always that chance.  And within that chance lay the fear she now feels.

Annie's Fear, Next 200 Miles.

Annie’s Fear, Next 200 Miles.

It’s not a pleasant scene to write, because it becomes necessary to cast a character in an unsavory light.  But then, that’s one of Annie’s flaws:  she knows she is selfish from time to time.  It’s just that, in her world, it’s never been a problem.

But if you think this scene is hard for me to write, just wait until I get to the professor’s observations.  Oh, boy . . .


22 Comments

The Running of the Thoughts

To everyone who sent me well wishes yesterday, thank you!  It’s not often I hear, “Get well soon!”, and it’s always good to get cheered up when you feeling bad.  I spent the day resting and sweating out the cold, and didn’t think about opening up my story because I couldn’t sit at the computer for more than a few minutes at a time.  Writing would have been a wasted endeavor, and it’s better to try and play catch up this week than to have tried to make a go at writing when I was half out of my mind with the flu.

"This is the part where she's speaking to a teacher--why do I have a dragon attacking Boston?"

“This is where she’s speaking to a teacher–why do I have a dragon attacking Boston?”

Everything is just about back to normal, other than the fact that I feel like I’ve run a race, and there is a constant ringing in my right ear, probably from all the coughing yesterday.  But the strangest part is still with me:

My half-awake dreams.

Whenever I get the flu and it finally starts to break, it’s as if I have no off button on my stream of conciseness.  When I was dozing in my chair in front of the television I’d catch myself mumbling things.  I have no idea what, but I know I was in a state of semi-sleep, and I was sort of talking.  Then once I’m in bed, it’s all about my thoughts running at high speed, like they all have to be somewhere in a big hurry.

I’ve always wondered why this happens, and why I get hooked up on some rather unusual thoughts.  The time I remember the most was waking up, sweating and shivering like crazy, and more or less hallucinating that I was going through the landing checklist for a C-130 cargo plane prior to setting it down on a beach.  Sometimes I’ve had phrases or songs get caught in a loop, and hear that spoken over and over for what seemed like hours.  I was told a couple of times that I didn’t just mumble in fever dreams, but that I’d hold conversations with people.

Last night was pretty much the same.  I was off on mind trips of things happening with color wheels, and discussing fictional characters as if they were people sitting in the room with me.  For a while I was working on a check list for something–never figured it out, however.  It was just a checklist and nothing more.  And I had a conversation with someone I knew, but haven’t seen in a while, about kids and weather and books.

All of that happened in the three hours between the time I went to bed, and when I got up to check the time.  It’s felt like most of the night was behind me–wrong.  It hadn’t even started.

When you’re delirious, the mind doesn’t know how to stop, and the fences that normally keep things in are nowhere to be seen, so thoughts come at you like snow falling from the sky.  You can’t stop them:  all you can do is let them fall and wonder how wet you’ll get.

If it wasn’t for the fact you feel so miserable before this happens, I’d suggest it happen more often.


6 Comments

Between the Lines

This morning starts out early like so many others on a Saturday:  sitting in Panera, my breakfast finished and drinking my coffee.  It’s almost seven AM and I’ve been awake since four-thirty.  I have a bill to pay today, and I’m thinking of heading down to a local hair salon and getting my hair cut and my eyebrows shaped a bit.  Tomorrow I need to do the laundry ’cause I haven’t many things that are clean.  I also believe I’m developing a cold, because there’s been a strange tickling in my chest, one that started late last night and it bothering me this morning.

Not an auspicious start to the weekend, particularly if I want to go out tonight, which I am still debating.

Why am I debating this?  Because I may want to stay in an write.

"Yeah, I could ship this Allison/Cosima story as is, but it really needs a three-way with zombie Helena to make it rock."

“I could ship this Allison/Cosima story as is, but it totally needs a three-way with zombie Helena to make it rock.  Yeah, seestra.”

I reached out to a few online friends I have and caught up on chat for a few hours.  I needed that because I was in serious need of decompression.  I’m back to not sleeping well and dealing with long days at work, then writing at night, which is working on my head in strange ways.

Believe it or not, this novel is taking one hell of a toll on that fragile shell I refer to as my emotions.  I’ll have to force myself to start writing, which is sometimes due to be tired, but other times it’s because I know, in my head, where I’m going with the scene, and I’m diggin’ the fact that I might find the conclusion of the scene a little heart rendering.  A few times I’ve had to stop and work out a full-on crying jag, and more often than not I’m on the verge of tears when I crawl under the covers.

The Crazy Tale of Annie and Kerry brings up way too many bad memories, and the scene I’m in now is going to bring about a phrase I haven’t heard in some time, and I know that’s going to lead to something I don’t really want again, but it’s coming, I know it is, and one just lets it happen if you wanna get the story out.

Did I think this would happen?  Yeah, probably a little.  There are some intense feeling between these characters, and my feelings about them are just as strong.  Crazy world, this writing.  Sometimes you get caught up in these young, mind-swirling desires, and if you aren’t careful you find yourself falling in and getting dragged to the bottom of the emotional ocean, just as surely as if you fall into the Corryvreckan Maelstrom.

As I’ve started before, some writers have said you’re only at your best when you’re uncomfortable about what you’re writing.  You’re putting yourself out there, pushing yourself to go places that one normally avoids.  That’s how I feel at the moment as I’m wrapping up this first act:  there are things being said that make me uncomfortable, because they bring back memories I’d prefer remain quiet and sleeping.  Won’t happen, because I woke them up some time back–

And they’re gonna stay awake until such time this novel is completed.

Yeah . . . fun year ahead, I can tell.

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