You’ve Gotta Read to the End…

The whisper of his breath hits my sweat damp flesh, winter water on a summer afternoon.  I brush his hand from the nape of my neck and roll away from his embrace, squinting as the early morning light threads through the blinds and pierces the remaining fog from a night of disconcerting dreams. “I’m tired.”

He chuckles low. “You’re tired an awful lot lately.” With a feather weight stroke, he moves a curtain of red hair aside, allowing the cool air to sweep over my flushed skin, then drops a kiss onto the curve of my shoulder.  “Is everything all right?”

I nod mutely.

“You sound so convincing. How does it feel? Does it feel like the truth?” He leans up and tilts his head to see me better. When I don’t answer him, he graces my lips with the pad of his thumb. “I would rather hear you out loud.”

“I don’t have anything to say.”

He laughs again. “I suppose I should go check on hell. Care to tell me where I can get a hold of some ice skates at this hour?”

“Is it that hard for you to believe?” I sit up, uselessly clutching the sheet to my body in a sad excuse for piousness. This elicits an arched brow from him.

“Kind of late for that.”

“I’m married.”

He smiles and the world suddenly feels like it’s shifting beneath me. “Don’t you think I know that? There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could have you all to myself.” He pauses and reaches to take my hand in his. “I know that’s not what you want. But, I’m dying without you. At least give me what you promised. Just that much, that’s all I’m asking. Nothing more.”

Nothing more? Isn’t that how we wound up in this situation to begin with? You just wanted to know my name. That’s all. Nothing more. Then, you just wanted to walk with me. Nothing more. Now, look at us.”

He absently draws circles on my palm as he looks down to his left. Then, suddenly, he meets my gaze again and this time it’s with the same passion and strength that I fell in love with so long ago. “You are everything. And if I can’t have all of you, then I’ll take whatever is left. I’ll sacrifice the happiness that I could have with someone else, just to spend a few stolen moments with you.” He rises to his knees before he pushes me down and straddles me, leaning down so that his face, his mouth, hovers mere inches from mine. “Some moments contain more than whole lifetimes ever could.” And with that he kisses me.

I anticipated it, felt it in my bones before our lips touched, but the ability for something to be both everything and nothing, hot and cold, idle and wild, all at once, can never be fully expected. I am breathless when he pulls away, my body weak. I sit up and lean into him for support.

What I promised, nothing more,” I whisper.

He nods once, smiling. “Nothing more.”

I shake my head and with a  humorless sigh acknowledge the overwhelming ache in my chest. It’s no coincidental emotion. He always brings lucid visions of places and creatures I couldn’t have conjured on my own. When that ache leaves it always takes with it hours, of a sort of drunken revelry with the keyboard, accounted for only by the pages of prose left in its wake; a frenzied, timeless scramble to keep up with him—the story. I suppose I should feel a little guilty, but that reaches down and snatches the heart of the matter from my soul—I am in love with writing. Yet, more specifically, it’s a two way street. He never fails to tell me when I’ve neglected him. He leaves gentle reminders at times and then when I start to feel like I’ve felt lately, he loses those haunting, cryptic murmurs and gives me no choice but to admit that I am bereft of life without him.

There are worse things in life.  *wink*

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Forged in the Fire

Silence

“That which the dream shows is the shadow of such wisdom as exists in man, even if during his waking state he may know nothing about it…. We do not know it because we are fooling away our time with outward and perishing things, and are asleep in regard to that which is real within ourself.”  ~Paracelsus, quoted in The Dream Game

What is important? What is vital and necessary? Everything in my life boils down to those two questions. More specifically, the answers to those questions have determined what sacrifices are being made with the hope of attaining something more than perishable things. Allow me to explain.

Dean Koontz’s wife supported him for five years. She made the comment that if he couldn’t make it as an author by the end of that time frame, then he never would. By the time that five year period had ended, she had to quite her job just to manage the business end of his career. Does everyone need to leave gainful employment in order to become a successful author? Of course not! However, he looked at his life, looked at what was most important to him and then determined what was truly vital and necessary (bills, etc) and made the choice to sacrifice some perishable things. This sacrifice wound up being the greatest investment of his life.

But, I know it wasn’t easy. I can imagine the conversations that took place concerning his ‘lack of work’ and his wife’s dedication to providing for them while he was taking that chance. I know, because I’m going through it right now. Again, as authors, we get the short end of the stick. No one sees the unrealistic amount of work we produce (and mostly toss for the good of the novel). No one sees the countless hours spent searching for just the right rhythm, just the right combination of words to paint a picture of the worlds we see in our heads. At least, no one sees it until we’ve been offered a profitable book deal. Then, overnight, everyone’s whispered words shift to effusive affirmations of our talent and perseverance.

Meanwhile, we’re seen as lazy, unable or unwilling to pull our own weight and worst of all, selfish. How can we possibly put our spouses through this? Has it occurred to you that they might be doing so willingly? Perhaps they love us enough to give us the chance of a lifetime? Just maybe, they see in us what we know in our hearts to be there. How lucky are we to have found someone who is willing to make those sacrifices with us. I work, not just for my own benefit, but with the intention of being able to bless Ben tenfold for what he has given me. I want more for him and for the children we will eventually have, than what I could ever provide working a typical nine to five. But, more than anything, I want to be the person that I know I am, when I am living my life the way I was built to live it. I want to be at my best for them, and my best is not the girl wearing the nicest clothes or living in the largest house or sitting on the nicest furniture I could afford. The truth is that I shine brighter in my simple grays, in my conservative home and with less possessional adornment than I ever would in the world we could be building for ourselves.

Does that make it any easier when others call judgment on us? When they don’t understand why we do what we do? Does knowing that their judgment doesn’t matter, make it feel like it doesn’t, in fact, matter? Not even a little bit. But, at the end of the day, just as we do when we receive the fifteenth or the fiftieth rejection letter, we have to look inside our own souls and say to hell with everything else. This, this nonperishable blessing, this irreplaceable existence is what is important. It is all that is vital and necessary.

THE INEVITABLE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE and stuff…

“Every family needs a zombie infestation plan.”  ~American Center for Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness

Speaking of the inevitable Zombie apocalypse, the People for the Ethical Treatment of the Undead (PETU) did form that council back in 1994 and are still working on establishing proper protocol for dealing appropriately with those individuals who are Living Impaired. Incidentally, zombies are looking for brains, which means there are a great many people in my hometown who have absolutely nothing to worry about…

What in the world does this have to do with writing? Easy…it’s my newest form of self motivation. See, every time I feel like stopping or taking a break, I’m simply going to imagine that Zombies will eat my brains.

“Write! Or I will eat you.”

Didn’t I tell you? Efficiency is the key. Not to mention how cost-effective it is. Zombies make great pets—they don’t use the facilities (it has something to do with that whole regenerative cell thing), and when they get hungry, I just feed them one of my obnoxious neighbors. I’m working on my cul-de-sac as we speak…

Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness tip #1: Surround yourself with cripples, they’ll never out run you. Better safe than sorry (or politically correct).

Rinse and Repeat

Ophelia

“Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”
-Stephen King

I watched a movie the other night that felt like a startlingly accurate portrayal of a writer’s life. I mean this in the daily, mundane, trite sense of the term. Which movie? Deadline, starring the late Brittany Murphy. For those who haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin it for you—there is a rather decent twist at the end. What I will tell you is that her time spent in solitude felt very much like what I experience on a daily basis. Well, minus most of the apparitions and at least half of the gruesome occurrences.

This won’t be the case for those of you who don’t write full time. If you have a 9-5, you’ve likely got something remotely resembling a schedule and while you may produce the same or higher volume than those of us left to our own devices, it all comes about in a very different way. The case is also different for authors who have a bulldog’s determination when it comes to the allocation of their time.

I have neither gainful employment nor any reasonable respect for the use of my time.

Alice, Brittany’s character in Deadline, staggers out of bed at an absurdly late hour after staying up to work on her script till the wee hours of the morning. She drags her ass to soak in the tub upon waking because she isn’t awake to do much of anything else. She forces herself downstairs to drink coffee and work some more: This consists of a lot of staring and leads to searching around the attic, the equivelant of which would be my googling whatever strange things pop into my mind at 4 0′ clock in the afternoon. Later in the evening, still sitting in front of the same blank page she sat in front of hours earlier, she pours a glass (or two) of wine and continues to plug away. Several pairs of comfy pants, flip flops, raggedy shirts and a gaggle of loose screws later, she emerges with a full manuscript—though the reader never actually sees her making much progress.

Aside from how clever I found the ending to be, I smiled because it felt like an autobiographical moment. I do that every day—I mope, I talk to the dogs, the wall and occasionally Stabler on SVU…and yet, for all the ‘not-writing’ I do, I manage to do an awful lot of writing. Sometimes I feel productive and other times, as Stephen King so aptly put it, I feel as though I’m shoveling shit from a sitting position. I’ll screw with a coma at noon and take it out all together by midnight. I’ve determined (probably later than I should have) that there is a great deal of creation that goes on in the stillness of a writer’s heart. Why else would we bolt awake from dreams with images so real they could have been shown right alongside Avatar?

You’ve probably known this for decades and should pity me for being so late in the game. I’m just glad I don’t have to continue flogging myself for waking up at 1:00 pm or remaining in my pajamas until company arrives. Now, this is not the usual for days when I am not working. When I’m officially ‘off’ the clock, I at least make the effort to seem outwardly presentable to the UPS delivery person.

This means that I’ve just recanted everything I said in an earlier post on how to become a successful freelancer. Those tips I gave you lasted a grand total of two days. They were a productive and miserable pair. So what about you? If you write from home and manage to look like a human at 4pm, do tell…

Doesn’t Play Well With Others…

It isn’t that I feel your criticism unworthy of making my work better—that isn’t the case at all. It simply makes my work yours and I’m not willing to share the burden. You see, I don’t play well with others. Well okay, I didn’t just figure that out—I’ve known most of my life. It has just been brought back to my attention.

Yeah, I understand that this is part of the industry, get a thicker skin, blah, blah, blah. I’m not talking about career moves here. I know better than to argue with the editor who is trying to get my manuscript in shape, or to refuse my agent’s suggestions. I do have a brain and a smidgen of common sense (not much past that, mind you). I simply have a different opinion on the value of a ‘critique’ than most.

Before I say anything else, let me make clear that I have beta readers—a couple of which are brutally honest and I handle it just fine. I want to hear what they have to say, because I trust them. I know where they are coming from—I know their bias and their preferences. We don’t always agree on things and more often than not, we clash. But the dialog is always beneficial because I know what to do with it. Now, with that said, let me state that I personally would never join a critique group. Why? Because my belief in positive reinforcement pervades my ability to give what others consider ‘useful’ criticism, and I am an independent creator. I’m not alone in this viewpoint. There are a slue of other authors who agree with me, but an even larger population that doesn’t. When I’ve voiced my opinions on this in the past—without fail, I always get the you should toughen up and take what’s good for you lecture. It’s always well worded and backed up with solid logic. Problem is, Thalidomide also had fairly sound logic behind it…oops. Feel that an unfair comparison? Toughen up and take what’s good for you. Thalidomide is a powerfully effective drug, and works wonders for patients with Multiple Myeloma and Leprosy. In other words—what’s good for one person, isn’t necessarily good for everyone.

I did a little research to see if I was being a sissy. Turns out there are more than a few authors who swear by cautiously accepting critiques on their work. According to Kristen Painter:

“Luna/Berkley author P.C. Cast doesn’t use a critique group for two reasons. One is that she feels her writing process works best as a solitary endeavor. “Often it feels as if I’m soughing through mud, but it’s mud I have to fight through myself. That’s how I resolve plot problems and how I develop characters. If I had help, or even too much input from others, I don’t think my end product would be the same.” (http://www.kristenpainter.com/writers/CritiqueGroups_RWR.pdf)

Painter goes on to list the second reason Cast doesn’t use a critique group as time. “Many authors produce work at a greater rate than a critique group can critique.” To be fair—in addition to the authors she lists as not using groups, Painter also shows the other side. So, I’m not saying that there isn’t value in it. I’m merely saying that it doesn’t work for me. I find it infinitely more useful when a reader points out areas of strength than when they comment on what they personally didn’t like. If eight out of nine readers mention my character development as being strong and no one ever says anything about the worlds I’ve created—I’m going to get the idea that I need to work on my level of description. Maybe some authors don’t take subtle hints…rest assured, I do and have no need for others to tell me what they would have done had it been their story.

I suppose that gets to the heart of my issue. When you hand your work to other writers, you are asking for just that. No writer can read something in the draft stages without the question, ‘what would I have done here’ staining their ability to be objective. And that’s the problem, it isn’t your story. You’ll never hear me tell another author how a story should have gone—that isn’t valuable feedback. Nor will I ever suggest tearing a story apart because it isn’t ‘marketable’ the way that it is. Critique groups as they are now, are a relatively new creation. A writer in decades past would have a few trusted readers, if he/she showed an unpublished work to anyone aside from their editor. The concept of a collective or collaborative effort is an invention of mass market production. If you want to produce a manuscript to please the masses, show it to them first.

Personally, no thanks. I’m a purest when it comes to fiction. If it didn’t happen that way, I’m not changing it or adding fluff to make it more palatable to the market. Period. Burn me at the stake for it—the masses are good at that. I’m simply tired of seeing it worded as an absolute, when it isn’t. I’m tired of reading that in order to take yourself seriously as an author, you should sign up for the unsolicited criticism of an anonymous online community or a face to face, weekly commitment with other authors…because no serious author does it alone. This simply isn’t true at all. While we may be the exception, we aren’t a myth.

I’m not interested in hearing critique groups or critiques in general defended. I’ve heard it all, more than once, and saying it again won’t change how I feel about it. Writers get up in arms over this…which makes no sense if you think about it—I’m criticizing the norm and you’re immediately rushing to the defense…doesn’t that fly in the face of your argument? Shouldn’t you take my words for what they are and maybe see if you can’t learn something from them? Improve? My favorite argument thus far is the assumption that since a work hasn’t been published yet, there must be something inherently wrong with it. Really? You believe that? And passing it through enough critiques will eventually whittle down the ‘errors’ and you’ll have a ‘publishable’ novel at some distant point in the future? Formulas don’t work. That, is a formula. To hell with those who say it needs shredding. Tolkien himself told Lewis that he should scrap Father Christmas from The Chronicles of Narnia. Several years ago a poll was done in the united states that asked grade school children what part they liked best, and wouldn’t you know…Father Christmas won by a landslide. So, it isn’t even a matter of who is giving the criticism—whether they are qualified or not—you know when something is right or wrong in a story. Have a little more faith in yourself and your ability to write.

Stephen King said it best, No, it’s not a very good story – its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside.”

Dance with the Devil

Hell's Belles--Deviant Art

I don’t leave lights on. I don’t double check locks or closets. I suppose this could be my serious stomach for frightening things—and hot food since we’re on the subject (never met a hot sauce or a zombie I couldn’t handle). So, while brainstorming this horror novel—the one that won’t be touched until sometime early fall (draft wise), I have stumbled across the age old question: What do you fear?

I asked this in a post on facebook and received a handful of good answers. Overall, one thing was clear: The most elemental fear is the fear of the unknown. We have some very fundamental ways of dealing with this, which is why I chose to be a psychology major instead of an English major. I may have a harder time structuring sentences than most, but by God, my characters will be solid as stone. We deal with fear by trying to organize, and thus gain control, of what we don’t understand. We’ll make it understandable. Be it through religion, science or a 9mm, we’re going to make sure that whatever we fear is under our ‘not to be worried about’ category. Why do people make the comment, “You aren’t near a hospital” to those living in the country? Because there is a reasonable assumption that the hospital will spare you death or dismemberment or both.

We use religion in the form of ritual; faith by believing in an ‘all good’ higher power; justice by assuming that only the guilty suffer; science by assuming everything has an explanation and even survival of the fittest with an assumed understanding of the human body and its inherent weaknesses. We assume the efficacy of weapons or illness on all sentient beings. Thus, as an author, if we are to psychologically affect our readers, we must systematically take it all away.

I’ve never read a book that made me want to leave the light on. Rarely does a movie really strike me as truly frightening. I want to write a story that not only causes you to leave your light on for a month—I’d love for you to double check every lock in your house, start attending mass again and maybe even memorize a prayer to the patron saint of  please for the love of God save my sorry ass. lost causes. My homework: Study the anatomy of fear. Sounds fun, huh?

I don’t like blood and gore—it has its place, but I prefer otherworldly. Consider the barbed wire man in Silent Hill—the dude in the bathroom, for those of you who forgot. The sheer inconceivability of his predicament is what is utterly frightening. How would any sentient being wind up like that? Those things frighten us because if the outcome is so awful, how much moreso must the doer of such an unfathomable act be? Also consider the drawings by Stephen Gammell, for the Scary Stories series. Haven’t seen them? If you call yourself a horror fan and you haven’t, you’d best be googeling. The man’s got talent in spades. I mention him because all of his drawings have roots…I mean this literally. The edges of the objects, even stationary insentient ones, have root-like things growing from them. Ah, hell—I’ll include a thumbnail to save you the google (you’re gonna google it anyway). See what I mean? I grew up reading ghost stories, seeing illustrations like the one below and hearing my mother’s awesome
rendition of Little Orphan Annie and the Goblins. I had no choice in the matter—I was born and bred to love the supernatural and horrific. So, you tell me—what makes your skin shiver and your bones shake?

Sam's New Pet

You Want a Piece of Me?

Time

Olympic athletes train every day. They wake up at absurd hours because they need more time than a normal human schedule allots. Before the average Olympian has ever won a medal, they have supporters. The public cheers them on because they want them to succeed. When they compete, they are known for either life altering mistakes (broken limbs, public falls, etc.), or dream achieving performances. If I have my facts right, most of them don’t hold full time jobs while engaged in a ‘training’ season.

Writing is no different. Save the public’s basic understanding of what it takes to become a master of our craft. Family members question our absence at holidays or get-togethers. Friends whine about unanswered phone calls, unaddressed emails or short visits. In-laws, acquaintances and neighbors ask why we don’t do something more directly related to gainful employment…or worse, success. I suspect they don’t truly know the definition of the word.

Publishing companies, those few who are willing to accept unsolicited submissions, make the bold requirement, ‘No multiple submissions’ yet with the same tongue, ‘Expect a reply within 6-8 months.’

For each agent, a writer must research all the particular likes and dislikes, the format (there are just as many ways to submit a query as there are stars in the sky), the amount to include (five pages, no pages, query only, full synopsis), and even how to address the agent. This essentially boils down to personal preference. Agent X doesn’t appreciate being addressed by their first name. Agent Y wouldn’t get past the greeting if it didn’t specifically address her by first and last name. Bottom line: you don’t want us to succeed.

I don’t want to hear the usual crap I hear from the publishing world about professionalism, courtesy and all of the excuses used for  supposedly ‘streamlining’  the process. We get to read all of the time about one author or another who had the audacity to….fill in the blank with the offense of the week.  I’ve read more than once how it isn’t possible for an agent, NOT to be FOR authors. Really? Step outside of your self-righteous shoes and read your bullshit for what it is. “Don’t submit to anyone else for half a year, wait for me to send you a form rejection.” Really. That’s–FOR authors? Did that sound supportive to you? Oh wait, you didn’t say it like that, did you? But that’s what you meant. There are whole blogs dedicated to educating authors on how to better get along with agents by way of bettering their queries and synopses. How about a blog dedicated to agents on how to respect the amazing amount of time and soul it takes to write a single piece of work? I’d be blacklisted in a NY minute. If I’m not already. Oh and don’t bother telling me that they are being magnanimous enough to spend a few moments of their precious time to ‘help’ us out.

*Sigh* I’d love to see just one agent, make a single dime from selling books without the authors they’ve signed. Wait, books don’t exist without us. So, unless HAL develops literary aspirations, we won’t EVER see that.

Why would I be blacklisted? Free speech right? For everyone but us. I have a big problem with the amount of arrogance it takes to expect every writer to take hours out of their time researching your personal tastes in such depth that a simple slip of the tongue could warrant a rejection slip. Don’t think that possible? Do a little research and then come tell me it’s never happened. I have better things to do—like, I don’t know, bettering my craft, for example. I know, how dare I expect to spend my time actually practicing, actually writing. Will I stoop to this heinous act myself?

Yeah. Because if I ever want to see my work on the shelves of a brick and mortar store, I don’t have a choice in the matter. But let me assure you—should fortune ever smile on me, and I find myself in a position to REALLY say something about this, they’ll get a serious piece of my mind.

Oh, and because I know some smart-ass will either ask or think this. Yes, I would be saying this if I were published or currently signed with an agent. Don’t believe me? Well, nobody’s perfect.

You might be my dog if…

Are you serious??

Most authors I know have pets. If you’ve been following my blog you know that I have two dogs (Aubie & Ella). Ella is the golden/shepard mix to the left and Aubie is the handsome fella in the title picture above. Now, I’m at home full time which leaves them little time to talk about me behind my back, but I’m sure they sneak it in somewhere. And believe me nothing has changed as far as their opinion of me goes. Take for example this morning: I have a third of my coffee left on the end table when I take a brief (like, 2 min) break from writing and leave the room. I return. No coffee. Aubie, who is snuggled next to my laptop (he weighs 89 pounds) is looking mighty guilty.

“Are you serious?” I ask.

“I didn’t do it.”

“Ella is in her crate, are you gonna blame her?”

“Can I?”

“NO!”

This got me thinking about us as authors and our pets and the very special relationship we have with them—perhaps one that is unique to us. I discussed this with both of my beloved children and found out a good deal about how they view this little life of ours. Here is a typical day for them.

“Is she ever going to get up and let me out of here?” Ella asks from her crate.

*Smirk* Aubie, curled up on the bed. “Nope. You’ll be in there forever. She told me so.”

“You’re such a big jerk.”

Later…

“Pssst.” Ella whispers. “Hey! She’s doing that thing again.”

“It’s called writing, twerp.”

“Are you sure? She’s just staring at the wall. Her soup is unmanned.”

“Yeah kid, go stick your nose in it and see how ‘unmanned’ that soup is.” *Laughing* “I bet I could get away with it.”

“But you just said…”

“I’ve got skills. Bark like you have to go out really, really bad.”

*Ella nudges me and leads me to the back door where I wait patiently for a minute. Then we both return to the den.*

*Me staring at my ‘untouched’ bowl of tomato soup* “I could swear I had more of that left.” *Looks at Aubie who is snoring* “Oh well.”

Later still…

“Is she talking to you?” Ella asks, bone halfway sticking out of her mouth.

“Nope.”

“Is dad home?” *chomp chomp chomp*

“Nope.”

“Then who is she yelling at?” *chomp chomp, cough, chomp chomp*

*sighs* “I told you earlier, she’s writing. Don’t you ever listen?”

*chomp* “So…she’s not talking to you??”

Latest, or perhaps really, really early tomorrow…

“Are you hungry?” Aubie asks.  *Paces in front of the hall closet where the food is*

“Nope.” *Ella smiles, laying upside down with her head hanging off of the couch*

“Really? I am. How are you not hungry?”

“Did you know that there is a huge swirly thing on the ceiling and that if you look at it like this, it moves?”

“It’s called a fan dumb ass, and it moves even if you’re not looking at it.” *Barks like he hasn’t eaten in days*

*Sneezes from being upside down* “Wow. Sure goes fast.”

*More barking* “She’s got those things on her head again. Fall of the couch and maybe she’ll see you and take them off.”

*Another sneeze followed by a roll and subsequent tumble onto the floor*

*Me, taking my noise reduction headphones off* “The rescue could have told me you were brain damaged.”

Later still…

“Aubie, come here!” *Me from the floor, lying on my stomach*

“K, coming!” *Trots down hallway with Ella in tow*

“Walk on my back”

“I got in trouble for that last time.”

“I’ve changed my mind. Let’s try it again.”

“I don’t know…”

*Ella backs up two spaces, wags butt, then takes a running leap onto my back excitedly* “Ha ha! Attack!”

“ELLA!!!!”

Sweet Dreams

Last Rites--Yogoro

I’ve been asked on more than one occasion where I get my ideas from. I’ve said loosely that I get most of them from dreams, and perhaps that answer has been thrown out insincerely by others. I was never joking (weird, right?) when I said it. Which can only lead me to one conclusion: I’ve got one hell of a twisted mind to come up with some of the dark, eerie things that wind up taking form in my dreams. Consider the image I chose for this post—welcome to my world.

What brought this on? I had another dream night before last that had me furiously scribbling images before they could flee. The novels of ‘undetermined genre’ that were wrecking the pool table, well, this was one of them. I laughed when I woke up, right after breathing a sigh of relief that I had been in fact dreaming, because I knew it was coming. And all of this got me thinking about things that are truly, deeply, terrifying. What scares me? Well, subtly scares me worse than anything blatant. The moment in the movie where the camera is focused on the main character and pans across something in the background that makes your skin crawl, that has you clutching the arm of your chair going, “Wait, WTF? Did you just see that?”

The trick will be figuring out how to do that in a novel. I’ve never written horror before—and being me, this will of course be dark fantasy and not truly Horror in the purest sense of the genre. Nonetheless, it will be as close to horror as I’ll ever come as an author. Because the images are so random in my head, and trying to string them together right now to tell you a story is impossible, allow me some room to give you a brief glimpse of what I dreamt.

The beginning of the story (and what I saw first in the dream) shows a girl who is either with friends or alone in a car, driving at night, and suddenly wrecks. Nothing is said as to what happened next or how it relates to the rest of the story.

The main character is a man, somewhere in his thirties, a physician. He is playing a game with friends—maybe at a holiday party, or birthday party, something. Somehow this will lead them into a world that feels like a cross between that of Silent Hill/Pan’s Labyrinth & American McGhee’s Alice in Wonderland. There is clear, yet dying goodness beneath all of the dark, otherworldly stuff—flowers choked by weeds, figuratively speaking. He realizes somewhere along the way that they are inside of the girl’s head, where she is trapped by whatever ‘evil’ force rules that world. The main character comes to this conclusion after it is revealed that he is her doctor—she is in a coma at the hospital where he works. At some point the others (those left alive—lol), will have a chance to escape and he will decide to risk his own life and stay behind, to go after her. So, there is a classical fairy tale element here, but much, much darker than anything I’ve ever written. This is not to say that I’m new to these types of images though. I’ve spent years telling these stories—and for some of you reading this on Facebook, who have known me for a while, you may remember me at some point scaring the pants off of you. Sorry about that, by the way.

I’ve always loved horror—movies, novels, the whole nine yards. I’ve always liked the rush and adrenaline that comes with feeling like you’re flirting with death. I guess it’s no different than people who go bungee jumping or cliff diving. I prefer to do so with my imagination. My mother asked me lovingly at lunch the other day, where she went so wrong? (She was kidding—right mom?)

Ah, I’m perfectly sane. Balanced. Just darkly imaginative. My mind is always speeding at ninety to nothing—can’t help it. Wouldn’t want it any other way. So what about you? What frightens you? What makes you leave the light on?