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Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Going Underground: Creeping Ourselves Out for Fun and Fiction

 

What is it about tunnels and caves and mines that fascinates us so much? I for one, have loved going through tunnels
and into caves since I was a little girl. And yet the thought of caving, going into tight, dark places terrifies me. I can’t even sleep in a totally dark room. I have to have enough light so that I know I’m not trapped in a tight space. Abandoned tunnels and scary dark spaces are a recurring theme in my writing. Perhaps it is because I can put my characters into the places that terrify me and enjoy that frisson of fear without actually putting myself at risk. One of the best things about reading fiction, after all, is that ability it gives us to live vicariously.

 

I’ve been in caves and mines in Colorado, Japan, Poland, the Lake District. I’ve even been in a few that I probably shouldn’t have been in, and that little touch of fear that raises my pulse rate and makes my stomach flutter is always there. Then there was the time I was stranded on a train in the Eurostar tunnel beneath the English Channel … but you already know that tale and what it inspired.  While I may keep myself out of places that are too scary, my characters, well, I give them the full down deep and dark scare-the-bajezus-out-of-me treatment because they can handle it.

 

 

If you’ve been enjoying the Medusa’s Consortium stories, then you know that there are crypts in deconsecrated chapels, there are slate quarries and hidden tunnels. Vampires gotta have ‘em, after all. And what demon doesn’t love crypts and scary-assed abandoned churches?

 

Morlocks, Mole people, monsters – underground is the place for more than a few of our nightmares. If it’s dark and
deserted and underground, it’s a fiction writer’s wet dream. Remember the Horta from The Devil in the Dark episode of the original Star Trek series. If you’re too young to remember, check it out. While the effects may seem hokey in the age of green screens and CGI, and the plot a little corny – scary shit when I was a little girl, and definitely some serious psychological parallels in the telling. My favorite scary abandoned underground place has to be The Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings. Two thumbs up for scary! But you get the idea. Digging too deep — DO NOT DO IT!

 

 

Fun Fact: Did you know Fleetwith Pike in the Lake District is actually a hollow mountain. It’s true. The inside is riddled
with slate mines from the extraction of the gorgeous green Honister slate. The whole Fleetwith and Honister Pass area figures prominently in my Lakeland Witches series because of those mines and quarries and the tales attached to them. I have done a bit of exploring there myself and hope to do more.

 

 

How many horror movies have subway tunnels in them? And abandon New York City tunnels and stations are a favorite. They figure prominently into Blind-Sided. Fun fact: Did you know the oldest subway tunnel in NYC is the Cobble Hill tunnel, which runs nearly the entire length of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue? It was built in 1844, but abandoned in 1861 – mostly due to some corrupt politics. Can you imagine such a thing?

 

 

Buried Pleasures, book three of Medusa’s Consortium, was inspired by the storm tunnels under Las Vegas, which have become the default shelter for Sin City’s homeless, along with the hang-out for a good bit of the scorpion population. Oh, and of course it’s been the hide-out for a dangerous criminal or two.

 

The storm tunnels in Vegas were constructed as flood control in the seventies. Vegas is built on bedrock in the center of a huge basin surrounded by mountains. A flash flood would funnel all of that water right into the Strip, the financial heart of the city. The original plan was for a thousand miles of tunnels beneath the city all draining into Lake Mead thirty miles away. The project was never finished, but there are roughly six hundred miles of channels and tunnels in the Las Vegas Valley, with several of the tunnels running right beneath the strip. While an estimated three to four hundred people live in these tunnels, they were built for flood prevention. In heavy rains the tunnels can fill up at a foot per minute with currents of up to twenty-five to thirty miles per hour. Home can be washed away in a matter of minutes.

 

These are just a few of the really fascinating underground places that have inspired me. But why they fascinate us is at least as fascinating as the places themselves. I’ll talk about that in Part II of Going Underground.

 

 

Musings from the Dentist Chair

I had a post all lined out for you lot. It was nearly done – all about creepy underground places and why they appeal to us. In fact I was thinking of that post and how those places are a recurring motif in my stories as I sat in the dentist chair this morning. Distraction, much? That’s when it hit me. There must be a bazillion BDSM stories that use the dentist chair for fun and games. The one and only real BDSM dungeon I’ve ever been in had one – black, leather, sinister-looking. Oh, and let’s not forget all the great torture scenes that involve dentist chairs and tools. I shiver at the though. In fact I shivered at the thought while I sat in the dentist chair this morning with the threatening whirr of the drill going at it against my numbed molar, me white-knuckling the chair arms, every muscle tight enough I could have been one Medusa’s statues.

 

The creepy underground post was a great distraction. I relaxed a bit as I began writing it in my head. It took my mind off the general unpleasantness of my circumstances. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a weeny when it comes to pain and, even though there was relatively little in the minor procedure I had done this morning, I still wouldn’t call it pleasant — certainly not meditative. Because I was thinking about all the times I’ve used abandoned underground places in my novels, about more yet to come as Magda Gardener’s world unfolds in my head, I closed my eyes. I might have even relaxed my suicide grip on the chair just a teeny bit. That’s when I noticed that my Muse, with her big stick, was standing right next to the dental assistant who wielded a mean suction tube and wore a storm-trooper face shield lest one of my teeth exploded or I had a general Aliens moment.

 

It’s a strange place to be inspired, when someone has your mouth pried open and sharp electric instruments whirring around in tender places. But lets face it, with the suction tube, the little water squirter-thingy and a drill all stuck in my mouth at once, I was happy for whatever distraction I could get. As the dentist excavated, I thought frantically about creepy underground places and their psychological associations. By the time she finally got around to scaling and cleaning my teeth within an inch of their lives, I thought about all the great horror films set in underground places, all the fantastic thrillers. Her face was up close and personal to my own version of a dark cave complete with stalactites and stalagmites. Okay, poor analogy, but you get the picture. And all of a sudden I was totally intrigued with what has just happened in my head, in my imagination, while I’d been Dr. Veena’s captive audience.

 

As the litmus paper went into my mouth and I bit and tapped, as the dentist ground all the uneven bits away, I thought about dental scenes in films, in books, in cartoons – everything from outrageous comedy to nail-biting thrillers and all
stops in between. Like the creepy underground, the dental chair also has psychological connections to the scary parts of us – to the scared witless parts of us, to exposure and vulnerability and torture and sex. That delicious sense of vulnerability, that fear of pain, that fear of what we can’t see – even if the dentist can — is always going to titillate and make our hearts race a bit.

The whole procedure took less than thirty minutes, and then I was rinsing and carefully probing my numb mouth while being pronounced of sound dental health once again. My mouth is still a bit numb as I write this post, but I’m still
smiling, albeit a bit lopsidedly, at the strange and wondrous places from whence inspiration comes.

 

Oh, and the creepy underground post? You’ll get that on Friday, bigger and better and much improved thanks to a little inspiration in the dentist’s chair.

 

A Veggie Porn Prologue to a Croatian Main Event

It’s only fitting that on the day after I’ve given you the latest in Mr. Sands’ unfolding story, we’re flying off for a week in Dubrovnik. As I’m finishing this up, it’s stupid o’clock and I’m bleary-eyed at Gatwick. But I’ll be in sunny Croatia in time for a late lunch. That definitely makes stupid o’clock seem a lot less stupid.

While you can fully expect to get lots of glorious updates and piccies from Dubrovnik, today, you get veggie porn instead. The corn and the beans are now all in the bed and other than the tumbling toms in the pots, the tomatoes are still too small to transplant, but we are hopeful.

 

 

No, we won’t be eating French beans any time soon, but I have faith … And the corn is finally getting a little bit of warm weather and sunshine.

 

Tomatoes are a long way from ready to plant out. Too much cool weather.

 

 

The tumbling toms are looking good though.

 

 

I’m fully expecting to be inspired, as I always am in Croatia, and who knows what stories I’ll bring back for Jet-lagged and Lusting. Perhaps Mr. Sands will have an urge to visit Dubrovnik.

 

 

 

Urgency V Bluebells

There are deadlines. There are rewrite, there are new stories waiting to be written. There is housework – ironing, vacuuming, dusting. There’s gardening – sweet corn to get into the bed before the weather changes, weeding to be done, bulbs to get in. There’s the pile of stuff I never got done that comes back to kick my “good girl” conscious in the butt in the middle of the night. Every damn thing is urgent! And the older I get the more urgent it all seems.

 

 

Urgent is easy to confuse with doing it all and doing it well. Urgent, in my head, is my failure to do just that. Urgent all too quickly can lead to feeling completely overwhelmed.

 

 

Urgent, however, is at its best when it’s lived out in the moment, lived out in the present, lived out in only this glorious second. And there’s no better place to be reminded of that than smack dab in the middle of a bluebell wood.

 

 

Mr. Grace and I did our first long walk of the spring on Friday and went up to the Chantry Wood to check out the bluebells, which are gloriously early this year. Yes, there was gardening to do. Yes, it meant I left the ironing undone and the read-through I was working on unfinished. Yes, we did it anyway. We took a picnic in our rucksacks and a flask of tea and off we went – for the entire day.

 

 

 

We were more than well-rewarded with bluebells and bird song and a soft breeze through the trees. We feasted our eyes on downland views that we’ve seen a million times, and yet every time we see them, they’re different. For a whole day, nothing was urgent. Everything was present in a single moment in a bluebell wood.

 

 

Un-Glumming the New Year

In early January, the universal urge to be ‘better’ in the New Year is nearly palpable. But this year, in addition to the usual January dark days and foul weather, glum is everywhere. I’ve never seen so many gloomy faces. Face Book is full of status updates about Dry January, diets that should have been assigned to horror novels and workouts from hell — all attempts to make us better, by god! Even if it kills us!

 

The days are getting longer. We’re getting more sunlight, more warmth — oh maybe not much just yet, but we’ve finally turned the corner on the dark days. It’s all happening now! Spring will come, buds will bud, and the season will turn again. Rather than glumming our way into the New Year like naughty children being punished, it does seem to me that
we might want to approach this new beginning more like it’s a wild beast that we’re seriously hoping to befriend — not to tame, because where would be the fun in that? I’d like to take that analogy one step further and suggest that maybe it’s actually our own wild beast that we need to be communing with instead of browbeating our inner naughty child.

 

I’m not saying that it’s not a good idea to drink less or eat healthier, to get a little fitter, write more, be more creative. Those are all good things. I’m just saying that life is too short for us to begin the new year dreading the Herculean
austerities we’ve set before us.

 

Giving up something, or setting goals that intimidate us and defeat us before we even begin is counterproductive. It’s also abusive to ourselves. If that wasn’t the case, then why are we so glum? After all, we are implementing those goals and resolutions to better ourselves, right? Bettering ourselves is a hateful phrase, when you think about it. Isn’t it possible that we’re already really amazing human beings, and we just need to remember that? Shouldn’t there be some celebration in that fact somewhere? The chance to challenge ourselves, the chance to celebrate and uncover the best in us, is an exciting opportunity to make better, rather than more austere choices. It’s the opportunity to dig deeper, to know ourselves better, to explore some of the vast uncharted territory within ourselves. Instead of treating this new beginning like a trip to the time-out chair in the corner, perhaps we should treat it as the incredible journey it is, the journey closer to ourselves.

 

I would suggest that we embrace the beast. Isn’t it possible that our overindulgence leading to the austere resolutions for 2017 are perhaps the wild beasts longing for a little more reason to celebrate, perhaps something a little kinder, something that’s maybe more of an actual challenge than a hardship or a punishment? I think we quite often mistake embracing the wild beast with overindulgence, when the wild beast within is really the powerful self that has what it takes to prowl into the New Year on softly padded tiger paws, but is always prepared to use claws when necessary.

 

Yes fit and healthy and not hung over and a little better organized are all good things, but the real challenge is how we view ourselves in relation to those goals, and how we get to those goals in a creative way that takes us closer to befriending that wild beast and helps us understand that those resolutions are, at the end of the day, just surface improvements. The choices we make in how we go about achieving those goals make the difference in whether or not we succeed and how much we grow and discover on that incredible journey to ourselves.

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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