• Home
  • Posts Tagged'my writing life'

Posts Tagged ‘my writing life’

My Life is in My Dropbox!


I’m on holiday in the States visiting family by the time you’re reading this post, but as I did my best to set up my blog so that there would be continuity and so that you would all enjoy it, hopefully, I came across this post, which even so long after the fact still gives me a cold chill. If anything even more so now that such huge chunks of our existence are lived out on social media and in cyberspace, in a virtual world that exists only in pixels and soundbites.  In fact, the memory of the experience causes me to ask once more just who I am if I lose those virtual connections into which I’ve poured the last twelve years of my life?

 

Behold, a cautionary tale! Read and be Afraid!

 

That day almost two years ago, my life flashed before my eyes. It was the first time it had ever happened, and I hope like hell it’s the last. The first thing that struck me was that it was nothing like I’d thought it would be. There were no memories of my childhood, no memories of getting married or moving off on my own to Croatia gone. There were no memories of falling in love or of my favorite trips, nor the major milestones in my life vanished. Everything in my head was still as intact as it ever is. But the experience still gives me cold chills thinking about it. It was intimations of my worst nightmare. I never thought it would be like it was. Though now, looking back, I can’t imagine how I would have expected it to be otherwise.

 

Due to complications installing a new operating system on my computer, which I won’t go into, I ended up having every file in my Dropbox deleted. Now, before you tell me not to worry, there are ways to get it all back, let me just say that I know that. I knew that even as it was happening. BUT all of those ways of recovering data are only theories until you put them to the test, and then you have to be in a calm logical state of mind in order to be able to do that. I was neither calm nor logical as I prepared to continue with my WIP and opened a completely empty Dropbox. I back up everything – EVERYTHING in the whole universe, I back up! I’m fanatical about back ups. And where do I back it all up? On the f*cking Dropbox!!! AND NOWHERE ELSE!!!!! You see where I’m going with this? Panic sets in when the 135,000 word manuscript you’ve just completed disappears along with every picture you’ve ever taken, every word you’ve ever written of any sort. ANY sort, for the past ten years.

 

To give you a bit of perspective, I wrote The Initiation of Ms Holly in 2010. Since then I’ve written literally millions of words – some of them novels, some of them blog posts that I’m rather fond of, some of them short stories, poems, novellas, even the odd navel gaze. There are stories and story ideas that have never lived anywhere outside cyberspace, but I hope they will someday. There are pictures of holidays, of veg gardens we’ve planted, of long walks we’d taken on the Downs in every season at every time of day. Words! There are literally millions of words that I’ve written, and suddenly they were all gone!

Recovery happened, as the tiny part of me that wasn’t vacillating somewhere between total panic and growing despair, knew that it would and, at the end of the day, all was well. I’d lost nothing. I was even able to recover the efforts of that morning. The point is that the fear that I might have lost all my words was an eye-opening experience for me. It was a huge insight into how I define myself and how I judge the value of my life.

 

For good or for ill, I define myself by the words and the pictures in my Dropbox. That’s what it boils down to; that’s me stripped to the bare bones. And for a terrifying few minutes I was no one.

 

No one …

 

When I think about it now with all my words back safely where they belong, I can’t quite get my head around what I felt. There are words in the Bible meant to describe Christ. Most of you know that I came from a conservative Christian background about a hundred years ago, but these two passages transcend my faith or lack thereof and speak to the heart of the writer on a much deeper level than they might to anyone else.

 

For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

 

And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

Jon 1:14

 

Words are more than just a collections of sounds that allow us to communicate. Words
have power, like a sword, like a scalpel, to discern thoughts and intents. And words, in the hands of a writer become flesh and dwell among us. For a writer – certainly for me, they become my flesh, and they become the flesh of the characters with which I people my stories. They dwell in me as surely as if they were alive, and they do often discern the thoughts and intents of my heart, without me even realizing that’s what they’re doing. Words are my companions, my guides, my friends; words are the mirror through which I view myself. For my whole life it’s always felt like the more words I write, the more clear the reflection of self in that mirror becomes. Navel gazing much???

 

Even as I write this, I’m well aware of just how neurotic it sounds to define myself by my words, and a part of what happened in that short time without my words was an internal battle for points of reference, for other ways to define myself, which at that moment, I
couldn’t even imagine existed. The point is the value of words – my words – to me can’t be overstated. I live with them close and personal every day of my life, and most days I bring home a few more to live with me. Losing my words, even for just that short amount of time before logic could kick in, before I could regain enough equilibrium to know that wasn’t going to happen, was like losing myself. How can I define myself without my Dropbox full of words? Who am I without those points of reference? Of course it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, had I lost all my words, but I promise you as sure as I’m sitting here, it would have felt like it.

 

Passion, Journeys and Home

Some of this post is archived, some of it new because while I’m working on Interview With a Demon, dreams play a very crucial role in how I access the Guardian for my series of interviews. Come to think of it, dreams play a crucial role in all of my writing. Some of my novels have their birth in dreams, some stories, such as The Psychology of Dreams 101, are all about dreams and dream sequences. Few components of the human psyche have influenced writers over the centuries more than dreams. A Christmas Carol, Mid Summer Night’s Dream, in films, of course, The Wizard of Oz and Nightmare on Elm Street. And the list goes on and on.

 

We all have our own dreamscape and our own series of recurring dreams, and most people, whether they like to admit it or not, like to play around a bit with dream interpretation. It was an important enough part of the psyche that both Freud and Jung wrote extensively about dreams and their interpretations.

 

While it is not an exact science, here is K D’s neurotic writers’ version of dream interpretation, which turns out to be one helluva tool in writing a story.

 

I can divide those recurring dreams into three categories and that they all fit very nicely. For as long as I can remember I’ve had three types of dreams over and over again. They were never identical, but the themes were exactly the same, and I always wake up knowing when I’ve had one.

 

I have the ‘Old Crush/ Lover Returns’ dreams, I have the ‘stuck at the airport trying to board a plane I can’t find’ dreams. Those two types are frustrating, sometimes stressful and embarrassing, but the third kind can be really terrifying. The third kind are, ‘The House’ dreams. I’ll get back to that later.

 

It hit me the other day when I was walking to the local shops for a pint of milk that these three types of dreams are my efforts to resolve issues in the three major areas of my life; my passion, my life journey, and my own internal home, the space inside my head where KD, Grace, and Kathy all live. I realized as I bought my milk along with four bananas and some peaches, that these three categories of dreams seem pretty archetypal.

 

Passions

My passion is my writing. It’s the heart of me. Everyone who knows me knows this. But I would never say that I have an easy relationship with that passion. I’ve had dreams most of my life about an ex-lover or, more often, an ex-crush, someone who I really obsessed over and battled emotionally with at some point in my life. In my dreams that person returns to either ignore me, harass me or seduce me away from my commitments and my life. The emotions are high. I battle with trying to understand why I’m being rejected, or why I’m being treated poorly. I battle even more with the crushes and exes who show up to ‘take me away’ from all this, and I realize I no longer want to go with them. For some reason they just never seem to intrigue me as much as they used to. Passion is never what I expect. It’s often illusive, and always volatile. And yes, there are times when I discover that what I thought I wanted just doesn’t get me there anymore. Yup! That sums up my relationship with my writing in a nutshell.

 

Journeys

My journey dreams almost always take place in an airport, which makes perfect sense because I’ve been in more than my share. I’m quite familiar with delayed and cancelled flights, with having the gate changed at the last minute, with sitting on the runway in a time warp, with lost luggage and achingly long flights. I know the drill. The airport is never a destination. It’s the place in between. It’s the cross roads, no-man’s-land, the place you endure to get to where you want to be. The destination, the journey, the expectations, those are always foremost in my mind when I travel, but the airport can really fu*k that journey up.

 

It’s about the journey. It’s about the struggle to make that journey. Everyone’s on a journey from birth to death, and no one gets a smooth ride. Some parts of the ride are rougher than others, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t do change well. The waiting is hard, the making connections is stressful, and the journey often takes a far different route than I ever anticipated. Until recently I’ve not been aware of these three divisions in my recurring dreams, but I wonder now if I have the journey dreams more often when it’s time to move on, when it’s time to find another place to be, but I’m afraid to make the move. I wish I’d kept track. In my dreams, I’ve waited in more airports than I have in real life, and that’s a bunch.

 

The Home

The third category of recurring dream, as I said, is by far the scariest, and that’s the House dream. Those dreams take three forms. The first is not so much scary as it is frustrating. In them I’m looking for my dream home, and every time I think I’ve found it, there’s some serious flaw that I can’t quite overcome – a swamp in the back garden – or even worse a swamp in the gigantic bathtub, the discovery that the house is the sight of a murder or some other tragedy, the discovery of a treasure trove of items that belonged to the people who lived there before, a house that’s been left like the owners have simply walked away.

 

The second type of Home dream is finding myself back in my old home town, quite often in my old high school realising that I don’t even know what classes I’m in and that no one cares that I’m an adult now, way past school days with all kinds of worldly experience. They still insist on treating me like a high school kid who hasn’t done her homework … in months.

 

The third type of dream I like to call the forbidden room dream. Those terrify me every time, and I often wake up crying out, drenched in sweat and struggling to breathe. Those dreams always involve me having lived in a big, usually very old house, for a long time, but within that house, there is one room I never go into. No one goes into it because it’s locked and off limits, and yet every second I’m in the house, I’m aware that the room and what’s inside it. The thing is, I’m never really sure why I fear that room so much. Is there a ghost? An evil spirit? A long dead body? Is there a demon, a crazy person? I never know. And when I do go into the room, which of course I always must, I am so frightened I can’t breathe, and yet I never actually see what’s frightening me.

 

OK, before you run away thinking I’m a total nutcase, just let me say that I’ve done enough dream analysis to know that the house is me, whether I’m looking for my dream house or thrown back into high school or whether I am terrified of some room that’s a part of me. The house is always me and all my dreams unrealized, all my issues, resolved and unresolved. Everyone has ‘rooms’ they’d rather not revisit. And though those rooms are places of terror in the dream world, they’re often places of true treasure when I’m willing to confront them in the waking world.

 

In Story

Now, where is all this leading? Well as I thought about the connections of these recurring dreams, it hit me that these are all life themes. These are major archetypes in everyone’s life, which means, for a writer, they become major themes for every story.

 

The passion, the journey, the home – all archetypes, all major building blocks in the Lego of K D’s ‘Create-Your-Own-Story’ pack. The passion can be a lover, an adventure, a personal challenge answered, revenge for a wrong done, the search for the Undiscovered Country. The journey is what it takes to realize that passion, whether it’s through the
Amazon Rain Forest or down to the corner market, whether it’s a novel written or a aria sung. And the home is everything that our characters are, all they fear, all they hope to become. It’s their neuroses, their flaws, and their joys and their hopes. Put those three together and the story possibilities are endless.

 

The dreams are never comfortable, never easy, and that’s one more reason why they’re so valuable for story. The places of powerful fiction are the places that frighten us, the places that make us uncomfortable, the obstacles in our path, the delays in the journey or the unexpected detours. Story is made up of the rough patches, and the rooms inside us that we’d choose not to visit if we could keep from it. There’s no ignoring those uncomfortable parts of us, no making them go away. But bring the ‘dreams’ into the waking world and transform them into story, and let the fun begin!

 

A History in Laundry

(From the archives)

“We went through a lot of workout clothes this week,” I say. Raymond is making coffee and I’m folding clothes in front

of the drying rack that clutters our kitchen whenever we do laundry. Sometimes it clutters our kitchen all week long until I finally get around to folding the clean clothes and putting them away. However this week I don’t get to them until the weekend.

 

“We’ve had extra workouts this week,” he says as we both listen to the satisfying gurgle of the mocha maker sitting on the cooker.

 

“Both your gees are clean and ironed, all ready for Saturday.” I nod to the pristine karate uniforms hanging over the kitchen door. He teaches a karate class on Saturdays in Sutton and goes into London for a workout in the morning as well.

 

“Thanks.” He says, getting out the coffee cups. Raymond doesn’t iron, but he makes kick-ass coffee and a mean bowl of oatmeal. “Are you going in with me to walk?”

 

“I plan to.” I just happen to be folding the breathable Eddie Bauer shirt I wore last week when I took a long walk on the Downs, and I smile at the memory. I don’t smile at the memory of the ratty tank top I wear whenever I do the roots of my hair between visits to the hairdresser – always something I put off until I start getting skunk strip down the centre of my part. I fold it hastily and put it in the basket. Interesting that I take care in folding the clothes that I have fond memories of wearing recently, and not so much with the ones I don’t.

 

Raymond hands me the coffee just in time as I turn my attention to the frustrating task of folding his myriad black socks. The thing is, he has a gazillion pairs and they’re all look almost but not quite exactly a like. They’re just different enough to make matching them a real nightmare. Some have different coloured toes, some are ribbed differently and there are at least three kinds that are identical except for the ribbing on the cuffs which varies in width by millimeters. I hate folding men’s black socks. This morning he has mercy on me and takes the task off my hands so I can return to the pleasure of folding the history of our week told in laundry.

 

“You’ve got a rip there on the sleeve,” I say, holding up a blue shirt. “And the collar’s getting tatty. I think we should retire this one.”

 

He studies it for a moment and nods his agreement. “I caught it on the corner of the filing cabinet in the printer room. Something needs to be done about that.”

 

“You know, every week we can detail the past week’s history in our clean laundry,” I say. In our dirty laundry too, I think, but I’d rather not think about that so much reminded of the ripe load of workout clothes I put in with extra detergent on long cycle.

 

He gives me The Look – the one he always does when he thinks possibly meds might be requires. Then he nods to my coffee cup, because clearly I haven’t had enough caffeine yet this morning.

 

“No, seriously. Look” I pull a pair of his blue workout shorts off the rack. “Remember kettle bells last week?”

 

“That was a killer,” he says with a smile that says he likes kettle bells class best when it’s a killer.

 

“And look, those walking trousers — I wore those in to try on new boots at the North face shop, but they didn’t have my size. Then I got ‘em muddy on the walk to Newland’s corner the day after.

 

“And that long-sleeve t-shirt there,” I nodded to a faded red V-neck. “I wore that last Wednesday when the house was like a deep freeze and I was working on my blog. I wore that blue hoodie too and spilled tea on it in the process, and then I got toothpaste on it that evening when I brushed my teeth before bed.”

 

“I guess you’re right,” he says, looking around at our partially folded history lesson. “I never thought of it that way.

 

Neither had I, but there have to be a thousand stories in people’s laundry – dirty or clean. My laundry mostly tells the story of someone who writes and works from home, someone who walks a lot and works out a lot. Raymond’s tells the story of a man working in management, seeing clients, catching up on never-ending reports. They tell the story of a man who loves martial arts and loves being active. Sometimes there are travel stories, like the stain from some exotic sauce acquired while entertaining clients in a seafood restaurant in Alexandria. Sometimes there are anatomy stories, like the way his socks wear on the heels while mine wear out on the bottoms. We both threw away a couple pairs of socks after we’d finished the Coast to Coast walk a few years ago. I wear high socks when the weather’s cold and I’m sitting on my arse spending long hours in with my characters. I wear short light socks in the gym.

 

The point is that the stories of our lives and the fodder for the stories of lives I make up can unfold – or fold, in this case – in unexpected ways. Perhaps Raymond was actually using his martial arts skills to fight off spies who infiltrated the copy room to steal company secrets. Perhaps that’s how he ripped his shirt. Perhaps I woke up this morning and found myself folding the laundry of some stranger, none of it mine, none of it familiar. Perhaps the mud on my walking
trousers was actually from my night haunts of staking vampires in old churchyards.

 

Mind you, most of the time, the folding and putting away of laundry is cause for little more than a sigh of relief that it’s done for this week and I can take down the racks and unclutter the kitchen. But sometimes, even folding the laundry can be more than it actually appears to be, and at the end of the day, everything tells a story – even men’s mismatched black socks.

 

Voyeur, Body Thief, or Something Else

This is my second post about reading as a writer and writing as a reader. Today I’m looking at how one experiences a good book and what that means to me as a writer.

 

One of the most intriguing parts of story for me has always been the way in which the reader interacts with it, more specifically the way in which the reader interacts with the characters in a story. I find that interaction especially intriguing in erotica and erotic romance.

 

To me, the power of story is that it’s many faceted and it’s never static. And, no matter how old the story is, it’s never finished as long as there’s someone new to read it and to bring their experience into it. Like most writers of fiction, I’m forever trying to analyse how a powerful story is internalised, and why what moves one reader deeply, what can be a life-changing experience for one may be nothing more exciting than window shopping for another.

 

In my own experience as a reader, there are two extremes. I can approach a story as a voyeur, on the outside looking in from a safe distance, or I can be a body thief at the other end of the spectrum and replace the main character in the story with myself.

 

One extreme allows the reader to watch without engaging and the other allows the reader to create sort of a sing-along-Sound of Music- ish experience for themselves. As a reader, I’ve done both and had decent experiences of novels doing both. As a writer, however, I don’t wish to create a story that allows my reader to be a voyeur or a body thief.

 

As a writer I want to create a story that’s a full-on, in-the-body, stay-present experience from beginning to end. I want characters that readers can identify with and are drawn to but don’t necessarily want to be. I want a plot that feels more like abseiling with a questionable rope than watching the world go by from the window of a car. My goal is to create that tight-rope walk in the middle, to create that place in story where the imagination of the reader is fully engaged with the story the writer created. That place is the place where the story is a different experience for each reader. That’s the place where the story is a living thing that matters more than the words of which it’s made up. It matters more because the reader has connected with it, engaged with it, been changed by it. In that place, the story and the reader are in relationship. Neither can embody the other, neither can watch from a distance. The end result may be an HEA, the end result may be disturbing and unsettling, but at the end of a really good read, the journey to get there is at least as important as the end result.

 

Erotica and erotic romance are by their nature a visceral experience. Though I believe that’s true of any good story. I don’t think good erotica can be watched from a distance any more than it can be the tale of the body thief. While either will get you there, there’s no guarantee that the journey will be a quality one. And I want a quality journey. I want to come to the end wishing I hadn’t gotten there so quickly, wishing I’d had the will power to slow down and savour the experience just a little longer. I want to come to the end wondering just what layers, what subtleties, what nuances I missed because I got caught up in the runaway train ride and couldn’t quite take it all in.

 

A good read is the gift that keeps on giving. Long after I’ve finished the story, the experience lingers, and little tidbits that I raced through during the read bubble up from my unconscious to surprise me, intrigue me, make me think about the story on still other levels, from still other angles. When I can’t get it out of my head, when I find myself, long after I’ve come to the end, thinking about the journey, thinking about the characters, thinking about the plot twists and turns, then I know the story has gotten inside me and burrowed deep. There was no pane of glass in between; there was no body for me to inhabit because all bodies were fully occupied by characters with their own minds and their own agendas. The experience extends itself to something that stays with me long after the read is finished and makes me try all the harder to create that multi-layered experience in my own writing.

 

 

Getting Upside Down

 

 

As promised, today’s post is the second installment of Fit to Write and my challenge to prepare for a pole photo shoot in June 2018. (If you want to read the 1st installment, follow the link) For those of you who don’t know, I started a beginning pole dance class six months ago when Polerocks opened a studio just up the road from my gym – first lesson free. I wanted to give my workouts and my fitness routines another dimension. Well, that might have been how it all began, but it definitely evolved into something way more than that.

 

I just learned that I’ll be graduating to the intermediate class in January. I’m both pole-happy-dancing and biting my nails. I’ve been training for almost six months now. I can climb, I can do the sits and the stands, I can do the spins and combos we’ve learned – maybe not elegantly, but I can get through the techniques. At the end of the day, though, all the strength and conditioning, all the core training during those months, all the stretching and all the bruises have been leading to one major goal and that’s inversion – getting myself upside down without help from an instructor.

 

The thing about training pole is that unlike kettle bells, I can’t order one online and just stow it behind the sofa when I’m done with it for the day. My house is way too small to easily use one even if I did. That means my brain is constantly trying to think of ways I can practice techniques and core building and flexibility at home. That means every signpost, every light pole, every scaffolding pole I see, I speculate whether or not I could use it to practice when no one is looking. I can’t help wondering if a middle aged woman could get away with climbing the rugby goal posts in the middle of Stoke Park – when no one is using them of course. While I’ve not done that just yet, but there is a plan in the works for going over very early some morning …

 

Part of the reason I love pole so much is because it’s endlessly creative, even as I fumble about to figure how best to train when I’m not in class. Starting January 4th there’ll be pole classes two days a week rather than one. While I’m very excited, I’m now faced with the task of getting myself conditioned enough that two classes a week, plus my normal training, won’t kill me. That’s a post for another day. In the meantime, it’s all about getting upside down.

 

I had no idea just how complex the core is, and how much there is to training it just so I can pull myself into a v-sit position (a Teddy) and then into an inversion onto the pole. I’m close, but there’s one little sweet spot I haven’t quite trained enough, coaxed enough, strengthened enough to get my body over that one last hump. My goal, at the moment, is to be able to do that inversion from a Teddy on my own before the January extra classes start. Each night I sit in front of the telly doing v-sit leg lifts. At the gym, I practice leg raises from the dip machine, I do jackknife push-ups with the TRX suspension straps. I’ve even figured out how to use sheets of plastic or paper plates on the living room carpet to do sliders. And then there are the times when I’m just too tired to do anything at all, the times when my body reminds me that I ain’t twenty, and like it or not, my ass better get some patience or there’ll be hell to pay. In fact, I’m just getting over a nasty cold because I didn’t get me some patience when I needed it.

 

The shots in this post were taken last Friday. Having signed up for the June photo shoot, looking good upside down has become even more important, so most of the session with my pole trainer, Lauren McCormick, was about getting upside down. The screen shots are because I’m not quite brave enough yet to share the videos that happen in training, but this gives you an idea of what’s involved in getting upside down.

 

Oh! And did I mention skin? Yes, there’s a very good reason why pole dancers don’t wear a lot of clothes. It’s because skin grips and cloth slides. Gripping on the pole is essential, thus my exposed belly. It’s taken another level of courage for me to wear shorts, let alone expose the middle of me, but for the Gemini move, the extra grip along the side and hip makes all the difference.

 

 

I find it fascinating that all of our journeys, no matter what we’re doing or where we are, happen on so many more levels that we can easily see. I’ve never been more aware of it than I am now when my body’s journey mirrors, sometimes even predicts and leads the journey of my mind and of my creative self. There’s something about pushing, even when I’m scared sh*tless, that makes me aware there’s always so much more going on in all of us than we ever expect. We’re all capable of so much more than we think we are. That makes us all explorers of our own unknown if we’re brave enough to take that first step, even if we do it with knees knocking and heart racing. That gives me hope.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

Site created and maintained by Writer Marketing Services | Sitemap