Archive for March, 2013


Someday I really want to post here a personal story like this….

Last night I saw the Milky Way from within the Roman ruins.

The starlight gleamed on the broken pillars and the pale tents beyond them.  I swore I could hear the echoes of Roman soldiers marching across the silent desert.  The Jews long before them.  The Egyptians, always.

The Bedouin I am traveling with are the only people who know this isolated part of the Sinai.  Serabit El Khadem, they call it.   They say it is haunted in places.  Here, djin may live.  Genies, we call them.

The priceless artifact I discovered is in my pocket.  It hasn’t left my body since I found it weeks ago, only moments after Fatima killed the scorpion near my foot, and I caught the snake before it could bite her brother.  This is not a safe land.  But these Bedouin have taught me how to live in it.

In another month I must say goodbye – in good Arabic – to my friends.  I will miss them and their wandering way of life.  I’ll even miss their camels, but not the fleas.  Why do camels always have fleas?

Then I will travel back to Cairo to present the artifact to the head of the antiquities council.  He’ll be thrilled, of course.  So thrilled I should be able to barter my way onto the archeological sites in the Valley of the Kings.

But first I’ll stop at Yusef’s place.  His “resort,” he grandly calls it, though it’s merely a cafe and a few huts near the water.  The glorious water of the Red Sea, where my love is eager to meet up with me, and he and I will scuba dive and then spend the nights in each other’s arms.  I need days and days in the water, after being in the desert for so long…

 

Okay, that’s one serious travel fantasy I have. Obviously more a very imaginative novel than a real trip. But you’ve got one of your own, don’t you?

I know we fiction writers generally don’t rank high on the normal scale.  But this last week my brain has really been trying to weird me out.

It started Wednesday night when I was very tired and went to bed.  My brain would NOT SHUT UP!  It kept flashing memories and old movies at me and dredging up tiny nit-picky worries and putting me in a deep dark funk.

Finally at 3:30 a.m. I did something I’ve never done before.  I got up, opened a bottle of wine (I got two for Christmas and hadn’t opened them yet, which shows you what a light drinker I am), sliced up some cheese, and plopped down in front of the TV because I was too frickin’ tired to do anything but veg out.

(By the way, the odds are very good that at any time of the day or night, there is an episode of Law and Order running on some channel.)

One and a half glasses of wine later, I’d managed to stifle my brain, and that’s when I at last fell asleep – on the sofa, of course.

Thursday and Friday I slept kinda better but my brain decided to entertain me with some really strange and vivid long dreams – not the kind that might inspire, say, a story for a science fiction book or some magic realism.  More like the kind of dreams that make me think that therapy wouldn’t hurt.

Then on Saturday morning I woke up thinking about a few old jackets in the back of my hall closet that I haven’t used in years so why am I holding on to them and since I’d been clearing out some old clothes I had to be REALLY SURE to add them to my Goodwill pile, and while I was at it why don’t I add that Italian language tape set I got at Goodwill which I’m never going to use and why do I waste my money on things like that…

You get the picture.  My brain was, off and on for a few days, obsessing over nonsense and putting me in a blue mood.  Yet what’s equally weird is that what inadvertently helped me was to clear out some old junk from my home.  It’s as if cleaning and organizing in the real world helped my brain to clean out its own crud — at least partially and for the time being.

This also reminds me of is that I used to meditate a lot more often, especially before bedtime.  It helped me to relax and sharpened my concentration and mental self-control.  For obvious reasons, I think it’s time I started meditating regularly again.  I also really, truly need a vacation.

Please, please tell me that you’ve had weird bouts with your own brain. And have you ever channeled the mental weirdness into some great storytelling?

Well, I was going to be practical and start this blog a whole lot earlier in the evening.  My plan was to talk about the historical research I’ve done for my novels.

Instead I got hooked on a CNN report.

It was a long one about our very broken health care system, but what really got to me was the profile of a young soldier.  There are far, far too many like him in our country these days: with broken bodies, in physical pain, and suffering from PTSD so bad we civilians can’t even imagine their private hells.

The additional bad news was, this vet – who could just break your heart – emptied a grocery shopping bag full of prescription medications.  These were all the drugs he’d been on, he said with disgust.  And they weren’t helping.

The good news is, this same “southern redneck” vet from Louisiana who’s likely to “shoot a gator” is now off all those medications and getting better.  Not cured, but at least getting better with…

… Acupuncture, yoga and meditation.  All of which he receives at Walter Reed.

The CNN report also showed other vets in physical pain receiving acupuncture and how some got instant relief from it.  The treatment is better than their medication and doesn’t have dangerous side effects.

In a way, I’m not surprised.  Years ago I had a co-worker who was a nurse and a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard.  She would tell me of her recent trips to Washington to attend military medical presentations, and yes, that included reports on things like acupuncture and cellular memory (such as when someone receives a transplanted organ and seems to inherit a couple memories from the dead donor).  The military, it appears, is often on the cutting edge of medical research and treatment and is way ahead of the corporately-run health care system the rest of us get.

Still, I had no idea that the military was actually providing acupuncture, yoga and meditation techniques to its vets.  I mean, the expectation for most of us is that the military by its very nature is arch-conservative and rigid.  Yet its medicine is in some ways radical.

My point is, I think we writers and readers love to be surprised and see how our expectations can be turned upside down.

Take Stephen King.  In Dead Zone, the protagonist’s mother is a close-minded fundamentalist Christian who seems to be only bad news.  Yet this same woman makes a couple of eerily accurate, insightful predictions that reveal she has some true wisdom deep down.  King can surprise us this way in many of his stories and even with minor characters.

A writer who I think does not have this gift is Dean Koontz.  Yes, his stories are well paced and suspenseful.  But I got so sick of his simplistic characters and how they’re either completely good or dirty rotten evil that I gave up on him.  His obsession about absolutely no sex before marriage ever ever it is so evil it’s better to die than give in to it also annoyed the hell out of me.

What kind of expectations do you like seeing turned upside down in stories?  Have any novels really surprised you?

OMG I finally finished all major edits of Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar.

I am so tired.

But oh, I also feel so good.

I mean, my novel isn’t completely ready for print.  I’ll have to go back through it a couple times for nit-picky copy editing and proofing.  But really, after such a long hard haul and readings by several friends, it’s virtually FINISHED. Hallelujah.

The down side is, I now have to edit its sequel, Charity MacCay and Holy Relations.  And I want to publish these two books within weeks of each other.  Buy hey, I’ll worry about that later.

You know why I finished my edits today?  Because I woke up this Sunday morning thinking about my failures, and one of them was the way I’ve allowed so many tasks and projects to drag out seemingly forever.  I mean, I wrote my Charity books before writing The Compass Master.  But in my usual insecure way, I kept feeling that they needed more edits, more historical research, more rewrites, more feedback.  Because nothing I write is ever quite GOOD ENOUGH!

So I got out of bed and did some daily stuff and by the afternoon I was sitting down with the final chapters of my hard copy and then I parked myself in front of my computer to insert the changes and I didn’t get up until I was FINISHED.

Did I get outside at all?  Oh, sure. I made a quick trip to the grocery store this evening where I wondered how all the money that had been in my wallet vanished even though I had no fun this weekend.  But that was okay, because I felt lighter and happier.  Doesn’t it feel great when you’re near the end of a long, scary dark tunnel and the bright light you see is not an oncoming train?

So my day ended okay, especially since it began by waking up to guilt and nasty little whispers of depression.  Does that happen to any of you?  Waking up, maybe from dreams you can’t remember, with nagging doubts and guilt and regrets or wondering what might have been or all the things you should have done.  And then the only way to feel better is to throw yourself into whatever is bugging you, and in the end the hard work is worth it.

Have a great week.  And sweet awakenings.