Friday, January 31, 2014

Dream Journaling

I love dreaming and dreams.* Are they—

Omens? Portents?
Some psychic link to the spirit world?
The subconscious delivering messages to the conscious?
A way for your resting brain to blow off steam?
Merely random neurons firing in pretty patterns?
Something else?

Whatever they are, they are awesome.

On two occasions I’ve had vivid dreams that became scenes in my novels.

Many authors use their character’s dreams to show us a different aspect of their character(s), or perhaps past memories that wouldn’t otherwise come up in the storyline. Some books rely heavily on dreaming to carry the entire story. One that comes to mind for me is Stephen King’s Dream Catcher. Here is GoodRead’s list of dream-related books. I also notice on their list Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven—I’ve never read the book but it was a great sci-fi PBS movie in 1980. I’ve included the link to it, in case you have a couple hours to check it out.

Do you want to cultivate dreams and your ability to remember them?
Keep a dream journal/notebook next to your bed.
Each night before going to sleep, tell yourself: I will remember my dreams in the morning.
When you wake up, grab for the dream journal and write down whatever you can remember.
I find the more I do this, the more dreams I remember and the more detailed my recall is.

My latest dream(s)?
Something about a child running from a werewolf in an abandoned home, being unable to order one additional beer at a new bar I was checking out because the bartender got into an altercation, trailer park vixens and talking with my father who was wearing thick coke-bottle-lensed glasses (he’s always had great eyesight). Interpretations? Yeah, maybe dreams are just random neutrons firing in interesting patterns.

What is your latest dream?
Do you have a favorite dream-based story?
How do you incorporate dreams into your life or into your writing?

~ Mark

PS> An honorable mention to the late Dr. Charles McPhee:

Just because: Mama Cass

*I know I've blogged about dreams here before, thanks for indulging me

Friday, January 17, 2014

What Resides in the Gap between the Thought and the Word?

The most recent in my working my through Ursula K. Le Guin's Hainish novels was City of Illusions.

In the Hainish tales many Hilfs (highly intelligent life forms) bespeak: they have the ability to mind-speak and/or mind-hear. And integral to this way of communicating is the collapsing of thought/speech such that lying is not possible. Between the thought and the spoken or written word there is a gap. And in that space a lie can be placed. But to communicate with just the mind, there is no gap, and thus no lie.

The Shing, the enemy of the novel, rule the very sparse population on Earth, perhaps because they may have the ability to lie even when bespeaking. They have one law: Reverence For Life.  Le Guin writes in the introduction that every novel offers the author a chance to do what they could not without it. And the Shing allowed her "the chance to argue inconclusively with the slogan 'reverence for life,' which by leaving out too much lets the lie get in and eat the apple rotten."

These explorations on communication, lying, and gaps also connect up nicely with an observation Le Guin makes in the introduction about the difference between the novel as conceived in the mind, the novel that one is finally able to produce, and how the two never merge.

I'm guessing that every writer feels that gap between the novel as envisioned in thought and the novel that gets written as those mind-scenes travel through the fingers (or through the vocal chords if you use a speech recognition program to write). But I hope we don't always feel that in that gap there resides a lie.

I hope our bodies also have a great deal of wisdom that they offer us as our thoughts move through us on their way to becoming physically present in the world.

I hope there is some electric something that allows the author's words to bridge the gap between their own mind and the minds of their readers, a sparking, sparkling arc connecting us.

I hope there is magic in the gaps. In the gaps between thoughts and words. Between people. Between worlds.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Eleanor and Park

I recently read the cutest book ever.

The lovely Leann and I were packing for our two day trip to Houston – to watch the Gophers play Syracuse in the Texas Bowl. I was all ready to go and was flipping through the Kindle, looking to see what was there that I hadn’t read. (I rarely find time to read anymore, so I was looking forward to sinking my teeth into something good.) There were a few things I had downloaded a long time ago and couldn’t remember what they were about, so I decided to check out what was on the Amazon store. I was thinking it might be fun to read something sci-fi, but then I saw the editor’s picks section and began to scroll through that. It was lots of literary fiction, and I was kinda meh, but then one cover caught my eye.

So simple. A boy and a girl tied together by their headphones. It hooked me, and after a cursory look at the back cover blurb, I saw it was consistently receiving four and five star reviews. And with a Kindle price of $7.99?


So there I was an airplane, an incredibly tiny airplane that was three seats across, too short for me to stand up in, and with a disconcerting steward who sounded exactly like a Transylvanian vampire (I vant to suck your blauhd). I put in my earplugs – because, loud engine right next to my ear – pulled out my Kindle and started reading. And couldn’t put it down. I was reading every spare second, right up until finally finishing it around 1 AM on the day we left.

Eleanor and Park is a beautiful and sweet book that tugged on every single one of my heartstrings. It takes place in Omaha Nebraska, in the mid-80's. Park comes from the perfect family, is good-looking, but his half Korean heritage makes him an outsider (it is the 80's, you know, before that was hot). Eleanor comes from a completely broken family and is a bit on the chubby side.

The book is all about how they fall in love – over music and comic books and of being outsiders. It’s not just first time teenage love, but the real deal kind of love – head over heels soulmate love – with all the ups and downs you to expect, and quite a few you don’t.

It’s a gripping, lovely read.