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Sleepwalking the Dog: More Morphine Dreams

S6302679Drugs, hospital stays, going under the knife. I’ve only ever had that experience three times in my life, and once was when I had my tonsils taken out as a very young child. Frankly it was a lot scarier as an adult. Things go wrong. People go under anesthesia for a simple surgery and there are complications. I’m a horrible patient under the best of times, but when control, everything, ALL OF IT, is taken out of my hands by anesthetists and surgeons, even when it’s for my own good, I wonder how I’ll come out on the other side. I wonder IF I’ll come out on the other side. I distinctly remember waking up in the recovery room after both my surgeries as an adult and my first feeling being an incredible sense of joy. Maybe that was just the drugs, but my first real thought, both times was, ‘I made it!’

There are no dreams under anesthesia or at least I’ve never dreamed. It’s like I’m conscious one second and then for however long the surgeon works on my, I no longer exist. I’m just not there. And frankly recovery afterwards demands too much attention to really consider the thought of where I went while I was somewhere else. Perhaps the anesthetist took ME out of my body and put me in a Mason jar by the side of the operating table until the surgeon was done, and then she stuffed ME back into my flesh.

But if I really was somewhere else, and it wasn’t a Mason jar by the operating table, then where was I? Surely I had to be somewhere. And that begs the next question. Wherever I was, was I there alone? And if not, is it possible that just maybe I didn’t come back alone? Sorry! I’m having a goose bumps moment here. Both times following surgery, I’ve come back to myself wondering if I’m still the same me. There are parts missing, parts repaired, parts bruised and stitched and stapled, BUT that’s just flesh. The first surgery, there was blood – someone else’s blood, transfused into
my body, but surely that’s just flesh too. I was just as gone then as I was this last time, and for a whole lot longer. And it only now occurs to me that it was after that first surgery that the stories began to flow fast and furious, and I couldn’t write them down fast enough. Oh I’d always written, always been good at it, but everything I wrote up until that point felt more like stuff I’d just made up. After … well after that first surgery it was different. Afterwards, wherever the stories came from, more often than not it felt like it wasn’t from me. It felt like someone opened up a place in my unconscious and dumped them into me, and I became the conduit, the scribe, nothing more. Sometimes I was a good scribe. Sometimes I could have been better because the material dumped into the conduit made me uncomfortable, made me squirm, and I didn’t want to write it. But if I didn’t write it, if I didn’t get it right, well the characters haunted my dreams, and they weren’t always very nice about it either.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-abstract-black-white-writing-pen-image20156020Strange that it took a simple knee surgery to bring all this stuff back to me, to make me think about where I go, where I’ve been, and what that has to do with how the ideas get in my head. But maybe it’s not so strange at all, since the first surgery was major and all of me was much more taken up with recovery. But so many of the pieces fit together now. Where do I go when I’m not there in my body? Well at least this time, I went to Vegas, where I communed with a big-ass dog, a dark man who was brooding and beautiful in a scary as hell way; and a woman with the most incredible hair I’ve ever seen. Surgery, jet-lag, pain meds, and I find myself sleepwalking that big-ass dog through the streets of Vegas.

Well, actually it’s more like the dog is sleepwalking me. I wake up in the Elara, where I always wake up, and it’s late. It must be long toward morning because some of the brighter lights on the strip have been dimmed, and Vegas is as quiet as it ever gets. It’s the dog licking my face that wakes me. And the next thing I know I’m wrapped in a sheet toga-style and I’m following the dog down the Strip heading toward Caesar’s Palace. I don’t know why I keep following the dog. He’s not my dog, and he clearly doesn’t need me to look out for him. He clearly outweighs me, and his teeth are a lot bigger than mine. But I keep following him. It seems essential that I follow him. The Strip is strangely quiet, and dark, and then I realize it’s because I’m not actually on the Strip any more, but I’m down below it, in some strange tunnel.

I dream of tunnels a lot, so that doesn’t surprise me, and neither does it surprise me that though it’s pitch dark, I can see enough to follow the dog. I notice the smell of ozone, like you smell just before a coming lightening storm, and the fine hairs on my arms bristle. The dog stops, and I’m standing next to him peering out into what looks like a large ballroom. People are dancing to strange music, slow dancing, close and sensual, and my skin prickles all over. Then I realize I’m standing right behind the dark man and the woman with the hair, who are watching the goings on of the dance floor. I’m standing there, and I’m listening.

‘You promised me anonymity when I came here,’ the man says to the woman. There seems to be some sort of breeze coming from somewhere, teasing and caressing her hair and making it dance and sway against her back.

She laughs softly. ‘Surely you don’t think it’s your story I want to her to tell. Your story has been told ad nauseum.’

I can see the man bristle with her words, and I know his pride has just been stung. His response is soft, and I feel it more than hear it. ‘They’ll be telling my story long after you’re gone.’

She laughs again, and I find myself fascinated by the sway and shift of her hair with the movement of her body. I find myself wanting to reach out and touch it. ‘No doubt,’ she says, ‘but nonetheless, it’s not your story I want her to tell.’

At first I think it’s the dog growling, then with a shiver, I realize it’s the man. ‘You bring her here to my realm, where you know damn good and well she doesn’t belong and then you tell me it’s not about me?’

‘She’s a scribe,’ the woman says unperturbed. ‘That means there’s no place that she doesn’t belong, no boundary she can’t cross, and right now she works for me. If I want her to tell your story or the story of your mangy dog, or the story of some reclusive blood sucker across the pond, it’s not your business. You’d do well to remember that.’

I work for her? It is at that moment I realize the woman is talking about me! Suddenly I have the overwhelming urge to turn and run, though I’m not sure my legs will support me any longer. Besides I realize I can’t begin to find my way back. I followed the dog. I feel like my whole body has turned to ice, and I can’t move. I literally can’t move!

For a moment there’s silence. The music stops, but the people on the dance floor don’t seem to notice. They keep swaying and undulating as though they still hear the melody in their heads, and the rising wind I think I hear in the tunnel is only my own efforts to breathe.

‘Who then?’ The man asks at last. ‘Whose story do you want her to write?’

She leans forward and whispers in his ear, and I see his shoulders stiffen and his whole body convulses.

‘Who?’ I ask. ‘How can I know whose story you want me to write if you don’t tell me?’ But the woman doesn’t hear me. Neither of them do. And I’m shocked at the sound of my own voice. I haven’t agreed to write any story for her. Why would I? Why would I do anything for either of them? And yet I have to know! I have to.

‘Goddamn it, if you want me to write a story then tell me who it’s about,’ I shout.

And then I jerk awake as though I’ve just fallen from a great height. My knees hurt like crazy, and I’m trembling and Sleeping woman reading181340322466666994_IswNAb85_bsweating in the hospital bed. My husband is gripping my hand. The look on his face tells me that he’s concerned, that my dreams have bled into the waking world. He’s called the nurse. She takes my temperature and blood pressure, gives
me more pain meds and tells me to get some rest.

After she’s gone, my husband says, ‘you weren’t dreaming about a waterslide that time.’

I shake my head.

‘Was it bad?’ he asks.

‘Just strange. I was sleepwalking the dog,’ I manage just before I plunge back into drugged oblivion.

 

New Years Resolutions Through the Back Door

Well what do you know? Here it is the 7th of January already! 2015 is well and truly under way, and I’ve revamped this P1030134post from the archives because it’s a post that I need to re-read for my own benefit every year, and I hope it will be something to encourage readers as well.

The gym was overflowing with New Years Resolutioners yesterday when I went to Kettle Bells class; all around the world new diets have been begun as soon as the New Year hangover wears off; people stop drinking, stop smoking, begin learning Spanish or French, people promise to take better care of themselves, spend more time with good friends, waste less time in front of the telly, read more, exercise more, write more, and the list goes on. On January 7th the universal urge to be ‘better’ in the New Year is nearly palpable in the soggy English air.

And I’m behind somehow, as I have been for the last few years. New Years Eve passes me by in a daze and so does New Years Day, and in the midst of it all I have this vague notion that I should do something, or at least think something profound. That urge to reflect on what has been and plan how the New Year will be better is always there, but somehow ends up subsumed in the immediacy of everything else going on as the old year hear hammers down to the wire and the new one barrels down on me. Hope and excitement at new beginnings is so much a part of our human nature that the end of a year and the beginning of another one can’t help but be the time when we anticipate, plan change, and dare to dream of what wonderful things we can bring about in the next year. In fact there’s a heady sense of power in the New Year. I think it’s the time when we’re most confident that we can make changes, that we really do have power over our own lives. It’s the time when we’re most proactive toward those changes, those visions of the people we want to be. I think that’s because it’s the one time of the year when there is a clear delineation between what has been and what will be – even if it is really rather arbitrary.

Before I actually began to sell my writing, back when I dreamed of that first publication, back when there seemed to be a lot more time for navel gazing than is now, I was a consummate journaler. I filled pages and pages, notebooks and notebooks full of my reflections, ruminations and navel gazes. And nothing took more time and energy than the end of Sleeping woman reading181340322466666994_IswNAb85_bthe year entry, in which I reflected on how I did on the year’s resolutions and planned my resolutions for the next. This was a process that often began late in November with me reading back through journals, taking notes, tracing down some of what I’d been reading during that year and reflecting on it. Yeah, I know. I needed to get a life!

By the time New Years Day rolled around, I had an extensive list of resolutions, each with a detailed outline of action as to how I was going to achieve it. I found that some of those resolutions simply fell by the wayside almost before the year began — those things that if I’m honest with myself, I know I’m never gonna do, no matter how much I wish I would. Others I achieved in varying degrees-ish. But sadly, for the most part, a month or maybe two into the year, that hard core maniacal urge to be a better me no matter what cooled to tepid indifference as every-day life took the shine off the New Year.

It was only when there stopped being time for such ginormous navel-gazes and micro-planning that I discovered I actually had achieved a lot of those goals that were my resolutions simply by just getting on with it. As I began to think more about how different my approach to all things new in the New Year had become the busier I became, I realised that I had, through no planning on my part, perfected the sneak-in-through-the-back-door method of dealing with the New Year. The big, bright New Year changes I used to spend days plotting and planning no longer got written down, no longer got planned out. Instead, they sort of implemented themselves in a totally unorganised way somewhere between the middle of January and the middle of February. They were easy on me, sort of whispering and smiling unobtrusively from the corners of my life. They came upon me, not in a sneak attack so much as a passing brush with someone who would somehow become my best friend.

All together, I’ve written more that a half a million words this year. Needless to say, I’m my own harsh taskmaster. I’m driven, I’m tunnel-visioned, I’m a pit bull when I grab on to what I want to achieve with my writing. No one is harder on me than I am – no one is even close. And yet from somewhere there’s a gentler voice that sneaks in through the back door of the New Year and through the back doors of my life and reminds me to be kinder to me, to be easier on me, to find ways to rest and recreate and feed my creative self. I’ll never stop being driven. The time I’ve been given, the time we’ve all been given, is finite. And that gentler part of ourselves must somehow be a constant reminder of comfort and forgiveness, of self-betterment that comes, not from brow-beating and berating ourselves, not from forced regimentation, but from easing into it, making ourselves comfortable with it. We, all of us, live in a time when life is http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-abstract-black-white-writing-pen-image20156020snatched away from us one sound-bite, one reality TV show, one advert at a time. Often our time, our precious time is bargained away from us by harsher forces, by ideals and scripts that aren’t our own, and the less time we have to dwell
on the still small voice, the deeper the loss.

So my resolution, my only resolution every year is to listen more carefully to that gentler, quieter part of me, to forgive myself for not being able to be the super-human I think I should be, to settle into the arms of and be comfortable with the quieter me, the wiser me who knows how far I’ve really come, who knows that the shaping of a human being goes way deeper than what’s achieved in the outer world, and every heart that beats needs to find its own refuge in the value of just being who we are, of living in the present and coming quietly and gently and hopefully into 2015.

 

New Years Resolutions: Sneaking Quietly Through the Back Door

182Well what do you know? Here it is the 4th of January already! 2014 is well and truly under way. The gym is overflowing with New Years Resolutioners; all around the world new diets have been begun as soon as the New Year hangover wears off; people stop drinking, stop smoking, begin learning Spanish or French, people promise to take better care of themselves, spend more time with good friends, waste less time in front of the telly, and the list goes on. On January 4th the universal urge to be ‘better’ in the New Year is nearly palpable in the soggy English air.

It happens every year, that urge to reflect on what has been and plan how the New Year will be better. 266Hope and excitement at new beginnings is so much a part of our human nature that the end of a year and the beginning of another one can’t help but be the time when we anticipate, plan change, and dare to dream of what wonderful things we can bring about in the next year. In fact there’s a heady sense of power in the New Year. I think it’s the time when we’re most confident that we can make changes, that we really do have power over our own lives. It’s the time when we’re most proactive toward those changes, those visions of the people we want to be.

Before I actually began to sell my writing, back when I dreamed of that first publication, back when there seemed to be a lot more time for navel gazing than is now, I was a consummate journaler. I filled pages and pages, notebooks and notebooks full of my reflections, ruminations and navel gazes. And nothing took more time and energy than the end of the year entry, in which I reflected on how I did on the year’s resolutions and planned my resolutions for the next. This was a process that often began in early December with me reading back through journals, taking notes, tracing down some of what I’d been reading during that year and reflecting on it. Yeah, I know. I needed to get a life!

By the time New Years Day rolled around, I had an extensive list of resolutions, each with a detailed 191outline of action as to how I was going to achieve it. I found that some of those resolutions simply fell by the wayside almost before the year began — those things that if I’m honest with myself, I know I’m never gonna do, no matter how much I wish I would. Others I achieved in varying degrees-ish. But sadly, for the most part, a month or maybe two into the year, that hard core maniacal urge to be a better me no matter what cooled to tepid indifference as every-day life took the shine off the New Year.

It was only when there stopped being time for such ginormous navel-gazes and micro-planning that I discovered I actually had achieved a lot of those goals that were my resolutions simply by just getting on 183with it. As I began to think more about how different my approach to all things new in the New Year had become the busier I became, I realised that I had, through no planning on my part, perfected the sneak-in-through-the-back-door method of dealing with the New Year. The big, bright New Year changes I used to spend days plotting and planning no longer got written down, no longer got planned out. Instead, they sort of implemented themselves in a totally unorganised way somewhere between the middle of January and the middle of February. They were easy on me, sort of whispering and smiling unobtrusively from the corners of my life. They came upon me, not in a sneak attack so much as a passing brush with someone who would somehow become my best friend.

I’m my own harsh task master. I’m driven, I’m tunnel-visioned, I’m a pit bull when I grab on to what I want to achieve with my writing. No one is harder on me than I am – no one is even close. And yet from somewhere there’s a gentler voice that sneaks in through the back door of the New Year and through the back doors of my life and reminds me to be kinder to me, to be easier on me, to find ways to rest and recreate and feed my creative self. I’ll never stop being driven. The time I’ve been given, the time we’ve all been given, is finite. And that gentler part of ourselves must somehow be a constant reminder of comfort and gentleness, of self-betterment that comes, not from brow-beating and berating ourselves, not from forced regimentation, but from easing into it, making ourselves comfortable with it. We, all of us, live inP1010083 a time when life is snatched away from us one sound-bite, one reality TV show, one advert at a time. Often our time, our precious time is bargained away from us by harsher forces, by ideals and scripts that aren’t our own, and the less time we have to dwell on the still small voice, the deeper the loss.

So my resolution, my only resolution every year is to listen more carefully to that gentler, quieter part of me, to forgive myself for not being able to be the super-human I think I should be, to settle into the arms of and be comfortable with the quieter me, the wiser me who knows how far I’ve really come, who knows that the shaping of a human being goes way deeper than what’s achieved in the outer world, and every heart that beats needs to find its own refuge in the value of just being who we are, of living in the present and coming quietly and gently and hopefully into the New Year.

 

Imagination in the Flesh

This past year has been insanely busy for me, and it’s not likely to let up much until the middle of next year. This is not a complaint. At the moment I have more to write than I have time for, and the deadlines that are already tight, I push and pare down to make even tighter so I can write even more. A friend of mine would have called this situation a golden monkey wrench. It’s an amazing place to be, but also quite terrifying. By the end of the year I will have written four full-length novels and a novella, and all of what I’ve written, I’m very proud of. What’s already published is doing well. All in all it’s been a banner year and, possibly, the hardest year of my life.

I live in my head most of the time, like most fiction writers do, and the writing schedule has kept me in my head more this year than ever before. Coming off the successful launch of Riding the Ether and Grace Marshall’s successful launch of An Executive Decision, and with the demand for the second novel in the Executive Decisions Trilogy ASAP, I’ve had to rethink my situation and find a way back into my body.

That probably sounds insane for someone who writes erotic romance, but I would bet I’m not the only one who has to fight the huge disconnect between the mental and the physical. Fiction doesn’t demand physicality. Whole worlds can be created and peopled without a writer ever leaving the comfort of her writing space. The place of the imagination is outrageously fertile and none of us will ever live long enough to explore it to its full depth. In essence, we can go there and never leave.

I’ve started going to the gym twice a week, even working with a personal trainer from time to time to force the issue. A big part of the reason for that is just to maintain my health. But it’s also to help prepare for the Wainwright Memorial walk, which will be the most challenging walk we’ve ever done. We planned to do it last May, but writing happened far more intensely than I had anticipated, so we postponed it for a year.

Every time I head off to the gym, my mind rebels with an endless list of reasons why I should stay home and work. There are deadlines, there are mountains of PR, there are readings, talks. How the hell can I waste my time sweating it out at the gym? But I go, and I sweat and I push myself for an hour. And strangely, the world changes.

I walked home along the canal a few days ago after a particularly hard work out (I think my personal trainer might be a bit of a sadistJ) The water of the canal was like glass. Only the wake of two mallards sliced through the mirror image of a clear sky with a double V that seemed to go on forever behind them. I was struck by how brilliant everything was, how clear everything seemed all of a sudden. I was struck by how much more physical, how much more real the world around me felt.

That day I managed seven thousand words on the novel, seven thousand good words. That day I thought a lot about that boundless place of imagination that stretches out in all directions inside every writer. I realise the less time I spend in my body, the more I confine myself to the tourist routes in my imagination. The less time I spend in my body, the less I’m able to head off track into the wild places, into the deep places where story take shapes and textures and tones I couldn’t have imagined if I hadn’t spent that time in the flesh, as it were. This is not something I didn’t know. This is something that’s always been central to my work and who I am, and yet, it’s amazingly easy to forget, to neglect, to overlook.

That same weekend we worked in the allotment, clearing weeds, digging, making things ready for spring planting. The smell of damp earth, the bronze and gold of the trees against the exhibitionist blue of the sky, the stoop and bend and press and shove of my body kept me in the moment, kept me in the flesh, kept me present from one breath to the next.

It isn’t always sex, thought it can be at times. It’s just being there, at home, in the flesh. It’s just knowing, even if I don’t understand why, that there is a connection between the blood and bone and flesh of me, between the way the physical me moves and breathes and interacts with the rest of what’s concrete, and with the vast realm of the imagination spread before me always new, always wild, always inviting. And never completely safe. The wildest places, the most dangerous places are off the beaten path of the imagination, and at least for me, those areas, those untouched, primordial areas are most accessable when I’m most in my body.

 

Shay Briscoe: Artist in Transition

Shay Briscoe and his powerful interpretation of the love spell threesome near the end of BTR

I’m very excited to welcome the talented Shay Briscoe to my site today. Shay is one of the three lovely artists who gave me a very special gift for the launch of my latest novel, Body Temperature and Rising. Shay, along with Fuschia Ayling (who was my guest recently) and Jess Pritchard (who will hopefully be my guest in the near future) volunteered to illustrate three scenes from my novel, three scenes that I planned to read at the launch party. At the time they were exhibiting some of their work at Sh! Portobello. I was elated with their offer, and my guests and I were totally enthralled with the end result! It is a total pleasure to have Shay on my site today to tell us a bit about himself and to share a little of his wonderful work with us. Welcome, Shay!

Body Book

KD: Have you always known you wanted to be an artist?

SB: I only really got into art around three years ago, upon meeting the lovely Fuschia Ayling and realising that I don’t have to be a good painter to be a good artist. I was a chef for a long time before I started making art, though I knew that cheffing was not the career I wanted. When I discovered my passion for art at the age of twenty-one, I finally knew what I wanted to do with my life!

KD: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Shay.

SB:I grew up in Gloucestershire in a large family. When I was eighteen I began coming

Tapestry Close-up

to terms with the fact that I was transgender and slowly took steps to become the boy I should have been born as. I currently study fine art at Kingston University, and I am engaged to fellow artist Fuschia Ayling. I have a very nice ferret called Floppy, and I have serious love for dinosaurs, Greek mythology, playing stupid games on my laptop, cats, trivia and deep sea creatures. It may not come as a surprise after reading this that I have Asperger Syndrome.

KD: Why did you choose to make sexuality the central theme in your artwork?

SB: I don’t think that it was really a choice – it seemed natural for my artwork to center upon something so significant in my life. Making work about my gender is very therapeutic for me. It lets me get out all the stresses of living in a body that doesn’t feel like my own. And also, it means I can hopefully educate others about people like me, against whom there is still a lot of prejudice. Sex is something that we all experience, so it is something that everybody can relate to in some way.

KD: Where do you get your inspiration?

SB:My inspiration comes from everything around me. Random images from the internet, new

Tapestry

stationary, lines from books, funny shaped leaves, television adverts, labels from clothes, children’s toys, song lyrics, going to exhibitions, gawping out of the window, packaging, smells, tastes, textures, so many things! The world in general is a very inspirational place.

KD: What’s the hardest thing about being an artist?

SB: The days where all your creativity seems to have disappeared and you feel like it’ll never come back. That, and the worry that I’ll never make enough money to live!

KD: Who inspires you as an artist?

Anderson and Tim

SB: My favourite artists are Egon Schiele and Yayoi Kusama, I take a lot of inspiration from both. Also, when I read the books of Neil Gaiman (Neverwhere, The Eternals, American Gods) and Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (The Edge Chronicles), I get a massive urge to get into the studio!

KD: What is the best thing about being an artist?

SB: Being able to do whatever I want and it counting as work! I love that I am allowed to create literally anything, and discover new ways of doing things that I hadn’t thought of before. I like being able to express what I feel inside in ways that I couldn’t using just words.

KD: What are you working on now?

SB: I’m currently developing an idea which will involve a book and possibly a film. I don’t want to say too much yet, but hopefully it will be a success! I’m also making a couple of condom packet pillows, which I’m enjoying greatly.

KD: Future plans?

SB: I want to continue exploring the subjects of gender and sexuality and how they impact upon my life. Further on into the future, my ambition is to return to my love of street culture and open a shop that sells t shirts, designer toys and accessories that I make myself, along with pieces from other artists. Hopefully as well as the shop I’ll be able to exhibit my work in galleries… That’s the long term plan anyway!

Thank you, Shay, for sharing a little of yourself and your work with us, and very best of luck in all that you do!

 

Where you can find Shay:

http://shaybriscoe.blogspot.co.uk/?zx=961855511b547a2f

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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