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Demon Dreams

Dreams have been a driving force in story and magic since our ancestors told tales
around the campfire. The connection between what goes on in our dreams and our unconscious is so startling that it’s no wonder mythology and religion are full of stories in which dreams are the way for the divine to speak to mortals. When we dream, it feels like we’ve fallen asleep in one dimension and awakened in another where different rules apply every night – every dream in fact – and where, struggle though we might, we are most definitely not in control.

 

People have always believed that there’s something magical about dreams, that in our sleep, we can see the future, be warned of coming catastrophe, see the face of a lover, even see our own doom. These days there’s not a lot that can’t be explained by science and technology. Magic is the realm of fantasy novels and super heroes, but dreams, well there’s still something almost magical about them. We can tell when someone is dreaming; we understand the physiological process, we can understand in part why we dream certain things. But even knowing what we do about the anatomy of sleep and dreams, a nightmare is still terrifying, a disturbing dream still stays with us for ages after it happens, and a sexy dream, well who doesn’t wish we had a lot more of those?

 

One of my very favorite classes in Uni was a psychology class that involved keeping a dream journal. All we had to do was write down what we’d dreamed every night. I was surprised to find that, in the beginning, I had trouble remembering much more than an image here and there, but then I’d never thought much about my dreams before that class. My teacher suggested I keep a spiral notebook and a pencil on my bedside table and that I set my alarm at two-hour intervals. Each time the alarm went off, I was to jot down just a few key words that would kick-start my memory in the morning, then go back to sleep. At first it was mostly mundane bits and pieces that I remembered, but it didn’t take long until I was remembering multiple dreams and detailed sequences.

 

I was so impressed with the results that I kept a dream journal for a long time after the class came to an end. I only stopped because it was beginning to take more and more time as I remembered more and more details. Later, when I worked with a Jungian analyst for a couple of years, dreams once again took center stage in exploring my inner workings. The thing about dreams is that every image, every action, can either symbolize something that could be important for the dreamer or, as Freud observed, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

 

Long after I stopped keeping a dream journal, I still wrote down powerful dreams, dreams that disturb me, or dreams that left me feeling like maybe I’d touched something deeper in myself. I recorded them and then I analyzed them and explored what they meant to me, what the Self was trying to communicate. I almost always found my efforts rewarding and enlightening.

 

There are dreams we’d like to linger in a little longer, there are also dreams we can’t wake up from fast enough. In the interviewing of the Guardian, which I am sharing now on my blog, as it unfolds, I am doing a lot of dreaming. In fact, I must approach the Guardian’s prison inside of Susan through a dream, and even from there, I am never sure I am in a nightmare I can’t wake up from or a dream I want to linger in.
While Talia, the succubus who helps me enter that dream state, promises me I’m perfectly safe … well, between a powerful succubus and a demon imprisoned inside a vampire who is herself a Scribe, with a capital S, I’ve seldom felt truly safe since I began the interviews. And no matter the reassurances I get from both succubus and vampire, how can anyone guarantee my safety in the Guardian’s presence.

 

New episode of Interview with a Demon coming up Tuesday.

Stay tuned.

 

Writing it Down

 

Sometimes you just have to improvise, as a writer. My good friend, and fabulous
writer, Kay Jaybee always writes everything long hand before she transfers it on to the computer. I seldom do any more because generally speaking I can’t write fast enough to suit myself.  And more importantly, I can’t read my own hand writing. But sometimes needs must.

 

Last Thursday I found myself waiting for a friend in a coffee shop with a dead battery on my phone, no laptop, and the Muse poking me really hard in the ribs with her big stick. The friend was stuck in traffic, and here I was with time on my hands, a story to write, and not a damn thing to write it on. I couldn’t even find a napkin.

 

The Muse, however, does not take excuses under any circumstances, so I was forced to find another way to get the ideas down. There was a roll of blue paper towels — the kind sometimes used in bathrooms and for cleaning tables — sitting on the edge of the counter. When the barista wasn’t looking, I nabbed a couple of feet of it, dug a pen from the bottom of my day pack, and started to write.

 

An hour later, when it was clear my friend wasn’t going to make it before I had to leave, I had filled a good bit of my “scroll” with tiny, but not too terribly sloppy, chicken scratches. I had to slow down to keep from ripping the paper, and the resulting story, believe it or not has benefited. The claustrophobic, trapped, unable to move feeling I was hoping for comes across well on the medium of blue paper towel.

 

Inspired by the necessity of the situation, I have taken to carrying a small notebook in my day pack now. It’s a lot lighter than my laptop, and the feel of pen to paper does access my creative self differently. So far, I’ve managed to keep my handwriting relatively legible for easy transfer into the computer. I’m pleased, and better still, the Muse is pleased.

 

 

 

 

Instant Replay

When I lived in Croatia a hundred years ago, I spent three weeks every summer camping on the Adriatic near Pula. At the campsite where I stayed, there was a small store and a restaurant that had live music every night. There were several buildings with showers and toilets. That was the extent of the place.

 

One of the shower blocks not far, from where I set up my tent, was a narrow concrete pre-fab with a row of cubicles, each containing a shower, each with a door leading right out onto the main path through the camp. One year one of the six cubicles was missing a door. That meant more congestion for the remaining shower units, which were in high demand in August. There was almost always a queue.

 

Early one evening on my way back from the grocery store, I noticed two very fit German blokes I’d seen wind surfing earlier in the day queuing for the shower, but they got tired of waiting, so they stripped off their Speedos and waltzed right on in to the cubicle without the door.

 

I happened to be with a friend who was a bit more prudish than I, and she averted her eyes and dragged me away in a huff, me nearly breaking my neck for one last glance over my shoulder at naked, wet maleness. The whole incident couldn’t have lasted more than a minute. What I saw was fleeting. But what I imagined – over and over and over again – was most definitely not!

 

Sometimes it takes nothing more than an image to capture our imaginations, to inspire us. An image can inspire us because once we’ve seen it, processed it – especially if it’s a little scenario like mine with the shower and the naked wind surfers, our glorious, super-high-tech instant replay brains take over. Not only can we replay that image over and over again, but we can change it simply by imaging what might have happened IF … It’s were our fantasies come from, it’s where a writer’s story ideas come from, it’s built-in entertainment.

 

My voyeuristic encounter at the showers stands out to me as outrageously erotic, and yet nothing happened. Two blokes got tired of waiting in queue for the shower, probably anxious to get to dinner and a cold beer, so they chose to shower in full view of hundreds of people they didn’t know, hundreds of people who would never see them again. BUT, they were wrong, I’ve seen them countless times in my imagination – sometimes sun bleached and golden in the late afternoon light, sometimes dark, tattooed and dangerous just before dusk, beckoning me to come join them, speaking softly to me in German — words I don’t understand, though I completely get their meaning. I know exactly what those boys want, as they leer at me and I leer right back. Well, in my imagination at least.

 

In some of those instant replays, I meet them on the beach at midnight to share a bottle of wine and a naked swim in the warm moonlit waters. In some of those instant replays, I shoo my prudish friend back to her tent, then strip off shamelessly and join them, letting them soap me and rinse me and protect me with their naked, glistening bodies from gaping onlookers. In other versions, they come to the shower late at night when everyone else is asleep, and only I’m there to watch them lather and bathe each other, thorough in their efforts to get clean, more thorough in their efforts to relieve the tensions of the day.

 

Our delicious instant replay allows us to rewind, slo-mo, enhance, zoom in on any part of any experience or image that catches their fancy, and then enjoy it a second or even a 50th time around. We can take that experience and totally change it if we choose. We do it all the time; in our heads, we rewrite the ending of an interview that didn’t go so well or an argument with a lover so that we can take back what we wish we hadn’t said. Sometimes we imagine what would have happened next if things had been allowed to unfold to the end, if I had been allowed to linger a little longer in front of the showers. In fact, we can be really neurotic about it, playing the same scenes over and over and obsessing on them, for good or for ill.

 

Writers are especially adept at using this instant replay to inspire, to arouse, to tease out and focus on details we might otherwise have missed, details that might have totally intrigued us the first time around, even details that weren’t really there. Then we write those details into whole new scenarios, sometimes even whole novels.

I know, I know! It’s all a part of memory. Anyone can hit the ole instant replay button at any time and experience the

past all over again. We all do that. But there’s nothing ordinary about the ability to relive our experiences and imagine ourselves in a different life – perhaps even as different people who make a different decision; perhaps the decision to strip off and shower with the German wind-surfers. The creative process of a writer quite often depends on the exploitation of that instant replay button. I can’t think of anything I’ve written that isn’t grounded in some way, no matter how miniscule, in my recalling of an experience, my reimagining of a moment, or my reworking of an image that intrigues me. In a very real sense, we are what we write as we wind back the video in the editing room of our brain and hit replay, then hit slo-mo, then zoom in real nice and tight-like so that we can enhance and recreate every detail to tell a brand new story.

 

Flaws

(from the archives)

I’m thinking about flaws today, which is not unusual, since I’m smack-dab in the middle of the final rewrites of Blind-
Sided and In The Flesh. In one, the main character lives with a demon 24/7, in the other, the hero is homeless and living in the storm tunnels of Vega. Both novels are filled with the most deliciously neurotic group of characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with – father issues, inferiority complexes, jealousy, obsessions with work, obsessions with revenge. Oh my! I’m excited just thinking about them. I’m thinking about flaws rather than nice arses or the size of the package or the pertness of the tits, because the more I uncover of my characters’ flaws, the better I like them. The more I uncover my characters’ flaws, the better I know them – the better my readers will know them.

 

I’m not saying that I don’t want a strong hero, or a heroine who is bad-ass. Of course I do. I want strong, sexy, intelligent. I want it all! But I’m saying that there’s something about the stuff that both the hero and the heroine keep hidden, the stuff that they don’t really want me, or my readers, to see that makes me want to embrace them and love them, that makes me remember them long after the novel is over.

 

I suppose it’s the need to identify as much as anything. I mean, lets face it, we all put ourselves in the story as we read it. We all become in some way, the characters we read about. And if we do it as readers, I promise that we writers do it even more. Living vicariously is the name of the game for us, whether we’re reading or whether we’re writing. That means that I need to be able to identify with those characters and, to be honest, perfection is not very relatable.

 

Of course we want our heroes to be larger than life, to live beyond what our everyday work-a-day world offers, to have adventures and mad, passionate, filthy sex, and in the end to win the day and get the love they deserve. I’m speaking of romance here, of course, because that’s what I write. I need to have romance in any story I’m writing because I’m a romantic to the core and I need to believe that love will prevail.

 

But I also need to believe that love will prevail in spite of our flaws, that it isn’t our beauty that makes us loveable, but something much deeper, something that struggling to live with those flaws creates – the oyster making the irritating grain of sand into a pearl, if you will. The flaws in characters are a touchstone to their humanity and to their relatability as well as an opportunity for them to do battle with themselves, an opportunity to overcome. Those flaws are also the opportunity to answer the big question in all romance – is the hero worthy of unconditional love, and can the heroine give it to him and facilitate either the healing he needs or the acceptance he needs to come to grips with those flaws and except them as a part of who he or she is, to live large in spite of those flaws.

 

Flaws make stories multi-dimensional in a way an external battle alone never can. Granted, an external battle is a fantastic way to bring character flaws to the surface, and Susan and Reese, and Samantha and Jon have mind-blowing external battles to deal with, but in a story or in real life, it’s how those flaws are dealt with in the external battles that keep readers (and writers) on the edge of their seats and reading or writing until the transformation happens. And sometimes the transformation is simply the acceptance of self. In fact more often than not, the internal battles are characters’ struggle to move beyond denial and accept who they are. Often that involves coming to the understanding that someone else, someone they have come to care about, has also accepted them and values them for who they are.

 

Here’s a little scene from In The Flesh, book 1 of the Medusa’s Consortium series. in which Susan discovers that some of Michael’s flaws are real doozies. Enjoy.

 

In The Flesh Blurb:

When Susan Innes comes to visit her friend, Annie Rivers, in Chapel House, the deconsecrated church that Annie is
renovating into a home, she discovers her outgoing friend changed, reclusive, secretive, and completely enthralled by a mysterious lover, whose presence is always felt, but never seen, a lover whom she claims is god. As her holiday turns into a nightmare, Susan must come to grips with the fact that her friend’s lover is neither imaginary nor is he human, and even worse, he’s turned his wandering eye on Susan, and he won’t be denied his prize. If Susan is to fight an inhuman stalker intent on having her as his own, she’ll need a little inhuman help.

 

“You’re an angel. The sculpture in the garden at Chapel House, it’s you, isn’t it?” The fact that the question sounded totally insane seemed irrelevant considering the way the weekend had gone so far.

He shrugged and I watched as a blush climbed his throat spread across the tightening of his jaw and up his cheeks. “I’m retired,” he replied without looking at me. Then he added quickly, “The sculpture’s old. A friend of mine did it a long time ago, taking the piss really — especially by putting it there in that particular garden.” He ran a large hand through the fall of damp hair. “It’s her way of reminding me that I’m grounded now, tied to the earth just like every other mortal. No matter what I was, at the end of the day, I’m dust, and I’ll return to dust, if I’m lucky.”

“Wait a minute, angels can retire?’

He shot me a quick glance. “Well, it’s all a matter of semantics, isn’t it?”

“Then you’re not a builder?”

“Oh I’m a builder alright, and a damn good one,’ then he added as an afterthought, “Jesus was a carpenter, after all.”

I squinted hard in the fading light studying the lines of his face, the plane and slope of his strong upper body, the slow, deep rise and fall of his chest as he took in and released each breath. But I could find no distinction, nothing that would give away the fact that he was an angel and not an ordinary man. Oh he was nice to look at, he was interesting to look at, but he wasn’t beautiful, as I thought an angel would be. Obviously the nose had been broken since the sculpture was made, and he seemed thicker through the shoulders and chest. Perhaps that was all down to hard physical labor in lieu of playing a harp and mooching his way around the pearly gates. There were several white puckered scars just below his ribs. Two looked to be puncture wounds of some kind. The other was an angry gash that surely must have all but eviscerated him. Without thinking I reached out and traced the long pale arc of scar tissue that followed the shape of his lower left rib and disappeared in the shadow under his arm. He tensed beneath my touch and the skin along the path of my finger goose fleshed. “I had to force the issue of my retirement.” His words were barely more than a whisper, and his gaze was locked on the logs in the fireplace, laid, yet unlit.

“Christ,” I whispered. “Why? I mean why the hell would you give up immortality to be one of us?’

He covered my hand with his and held it against his side. At last he raised his gaze to meet mine. “I would have done anything to get away, and at that point, I didn’t care if I lived or died. It felt like it was all the same.”

“Are you a fallen angel then?”

This time he laughed out loud. “Stupid term, fallen angel. Truth be told, gods are bastards – all of them, any religion, any mythology, they’re all arrogant, megalomaniacal bastards. They want control, and when they don’t get it, well, they’re even worse bastards. The woman who made the sculpture, she knows that at least as well as I do.”

“Is she an angel too?”

He shook his head and looked away again, the smile slipping slightly from his face. “No angel, a pawn really. At least she started out that way.” His eyes flashed bright in the fading light and the smile returned. “But sometimes even the pawns thumb their noses at the gods and get away with it. It cost her. It cost her dearly, but no one controls her now.”

“So what, she was a sculptor, and the gods didn’t like her work, was that it?”

He released my hand and knelt to light the fire. With the sun setting the chill of evening came on fast. “Oh she’s not actually a sculptor. That’s just a part of her cover. She’s a thief, stealing back things the gods have taken that don’t belong to them.”

Every question he answered raised a dozen more. That what we were discussing sounded totally nuts wasn’t lost on me either, and yet neither was the fact that it was all either very real or I was still asleep dreaming in my bed, a cherished possibility diminishing with each passing moment. We both watched as the logs caught fire from the kindling, and flame blossomed turning shadows of ordinary things into ghouls and ghosts that writhed and dance on the walls. Once he was sure of the flame, he stood to close the balcony doors. “I work for her sometimes. When she needs me. She uses me when what I do as a builder dovetails with whatever job she’s on at the moment.”

I shifted in my seat to look up at him as he returned to settle back on the chair arm. “So you’re trying to steal something from Chapel House? What is it, a flaming sword?”

He laughed. “Not anything that obvious. Chapel House and I have a long history, as you might have guessed from the sculpture.”

“Annie really did hire you to do the renovations at Chapel House?”

He nodded. “All a part of the plan.”

“It must have thrown a monkey wrench into your scheming when she fell in love with a demon, or whatever he
is, and told you to bugger off.”

He shrugged, raising one well-muscled shoulder. “Doesn’t matter. I seldom let something like that stop me.” He pulled a shirt from a peg next to the door and slipped into it. “I’ve brought your things in, and I would imagine you’d like a shower. Then we’ll see what we can scrounge for dinner. If that’s alright.”

 

Flaws

I’m thinking about flaws today, which is not unusual, since I’m smack-dab in the middle of a month long promo for The Tutor. The Tutor is written from the standpoint of flaws — the hero, Lex Valentine, is haphephobic, and can’t tolerate being touched or touching anyone. The heroine is great at giving advice on having a happy sex life, but does not have a good track record where relationships is concerned. I don’t think I’ve ever written a novel in which the flaws of the characters play such central roles in the story that unfolds.

 

I’m not saying that I don’t want a strong hero. Of course I do. I want strong, sexy, intelligent, creative. I want it all! But I’m saying that there’s something about the stuff that both the hero and the heroine keep hidden, the stuff that they don’t really want me, or my readers, to see that makes me want to embrace them and love them, that makes me remember them long after the novel is over. Strange that it should be the character traits that are intended to keep other characters at arms length that make them most endearing and give the reader the clearest view of who they really are.

 

I suppose it’s the need to identify with as much as anything. I mean, lets face it, we all put ourselves in the story as we read it. We all become, in some way, the characters we read about. And if we do it as readers, I promise that we writers do it even more. Living vicariously is the name of the game for us, whether we’re reading or whether we’re writing. That means that I need to be able to relate with those characters and, to be honest, perfection is not very relatable.

 

Of course we want our heroes to be larger than life, to live beyond what our everyday work-a-day world offers, to have adventures and mad, passionate, filthy sex, and in the end to win the day and get the love they deserve. I’m speaking of romance here, of course, because that’s what I write. I need to have romance in any story I’m writing because I’m a romantic to the core and I need to believe that love will prevail.

 

But I also need to believe that love will prevail in spite of our flaws, that it isn’t our beauty that makes us loveable, but something much deeper, something that struggling to live with those flaws creates – the oyster making the irritating grain of sand into a pearl, if you will. The flaws in characters are a touchstone to their humanity and to their relatability as well as an opportunity for them to do battle with themselves, an opportunity to overcome. Those flaws are also the opportunity to answer the big question in all romance – is the hero worthy of unconditional love, and can the heroine give it to him and facilitate either the healing he needs or the acceptance he needs to come to grips with those flaws and except them as a part of who he or she is?

 

 

Flaws make stories multi-dimensional in a way an external battle alone never can. Granted, an external battle is a fantastic way to bring character flaws to the surface.  In a story or in real life, it’s how those flaws are dealt with in the external battles that keep readers (and writers) on the edge of their seats and reading or writing until the transformation happens. And sometimes the transformation is simply the acceptance of self. In fact more often than not, the internal battles are characters’ struggle to move beyond denial and accept who they are. Often that involves coming to the understanding that someone else, someone they have come to care about, has also accepted them and values them for who they are. Isn’t that really what love is all about?

 

 

The Tutor Blurb:

Struggling writer, Kelly Blake has a secret life as a sex tutor. Celebrated sculptor and recluse, Alexander ‘Lex’ Valentine, can’t stand to be touched. When he seeks out Kelly’s advice incognito, the results are too hot to handle. When Kelly terminates their sessions due to what she considers her unprofessional behavior, Lex takes a huge risk, revealing his identity to her at a gala exhibition, his first ever public appearance. When Kelly helps the severely haphephobic Lex escape the grope of reporters and paparazzi, rumors fly that the two are engaged, rumors encouraged by well-meaning friends and colleagues. The press feeding frenzy forces Kelly into hiding at Lex’s mansion where he convinces her to be his private tutor just until the press loses interest, and she can go back home. They discover quickly that touch is not essential for sizzling, pulse-pounding intimacy. But intimacy must survive the secrets uncovered as their sessions become more and more personal.

 

Buy The Tutor Here:

 

eBook:
Totally Bound Publishing
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon AU
Amazon CA
Amazon DE
Barnes & Noble
iBooks UK
iBooks US
Google Books
Kobo

Print:
Totally Bound Publishing
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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