Thursday, October 23, 2008


I've always been a dreamer--both day and night. But it's the nighttime kind I want to discuss, because of an interesting phenomena I noticed this year.

My dreams have always been vivid, colorful, and almost entirely populated by strangers. Yes, my hsuband popped up quite a bit, and occasionally friends or my children. But more or less, my dreams were like my stories--wonderful scenes, intriguing characters, and almost no logical story to speak of. Once I began writing seriously, I would often dream about my stories and characters and even when I dreamed about something completely unrelated to what I was currently writing, I would wake up with an image or an emotion that I needed for a writing project. It was wonderful--my own version of getting drunk, I suppose, to help unleash the Muse.

And then something very odd happened. After my son was diagnosed with cancer in January, my dreams changed. It took me a good six weeks or so to realize it, but then it hit me--I was no longer dreaming about strangers.

My dreams were as vivid and colorful and disconnected as ever, but they were now populated wholly by people I know. My husband and children, my best friends . . . all of them became stars in my dreams.

It didn't take long to figure out why. Dream analysis may be beyond me, but I do know that the subconscious will throw our worries at us. Apparently, all I had to worry about before this year was my writing. But once January came . . . well, my worries were entirely about the people I love.

So I went with it. Not that I could do much else--I've heard of the concept "directed dreaming" but honestly, that just seemed mean. Why shut off my subconscious that was working so hard while I slept? Besides, for all I know, allowing my worries to express themselves at night in freeform helped keep me rational and calm during the day. Small price to pay.

Why am I bringing this up now? Because in the last week, I've noticed my dreams start to change once more. I still haven't made it through a dream (that I recall) that doesn't have at least one person I know, but strangers are starting to show up once again. Maybe my subconscious is starting to let go now that we've reached the end of treatment. Maybe it's paying attention to how hard I'm working on my new project and is trying to help me out.

Still, if it's trying to help me out in my writing, you'd think it could give me clearer direction than me meeting an astronaut who was hit by a chunk of space dust during a spacewalk and had to have her arm amputated in space and now can see her arm floating in some space debris through a really big telescope.

(To give my subconscious credit, it was a very moving dream. Full of wonderful details and amazing characters . . . I'm just trying to figure out how that's supposed to help me write about a modern teenager in 1800s England. I guess my conscious mind needs to get back into shape as well.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


After a two-day trip with my husband last week (actually, it was 44 hours from the time we dropped kids off at grandma and grandpa's to the time we pulled back into our driveway), I've discovered what stuff I can live without and what stuff I can't.

I can live without:

1. More than one brush

2. More than one choice of eyeshadow

3. Pajamas (don't go raising eyebrows there and feeling happy for my husband--it was not intentional)

4. My laptop (but I suspect my tolerance for being without that would have evaporated around hour 45)

5. A coat

I can NOT live without:

1. Multiple pairs of shoes ("I just get excitable as to choice"--Jayne speaking about weapons)

2. Multiple books (I took three)

3. My iPod

4. Workout clothes (not only did I spend an hour in the fitness room, but I took a 90-minutes Pilates class)

5. Hot water and a warm bed (we were in the mountains--at Snowbird--and we hiked and I enjoyed the outdoors and the colors and the air and that enjoyment was made all the better for knowing I could have a shower and sleep under a comforter at night, not to mention having someone make breakfast and dinner for me)

Saturday, October 04, 2008


This book was a little too, hmmm, Joss-ian for me. Joss writes wonderful standalones with twisty characters and unexpected suspense and wonderful atmosphere, but this book seemed to rely too much on those things and not as much on story. It's a creepy enough premise--a woman who killed another woman in a hit-and-run accident begins watching over the dead woman's husband as a sort of penance. There's also a backstory that comes in the form of a manuscript the dead woman was writing. The elements were there, but it just didn't gel for me. But I'm sure I'll try Joss again.

THE COLD DISH/Craig Johnson/A-
Walt Longmire is the sheriff of the least populous county in the U.S. (Wyoming, by the way). Stuck in a unfinished house and with a life going nowhere after the death of his wife several years earlier, Walt is jostled back into things when the body of a young man is discovered. The boy was one of four convicted of sexual assault against an Indian girl and it appears to be a revenge killing. Walt has to investigate friends and along the way starts a new relationship. But Wyoming weather is only the most obvious treachery--people aren't far behind. Very, very good and I'll definitely look for the next in the series.

I thought I would like this. I didn't so much. I can't even remember the main character's name (bad sign), but she's a 21st-century LA woman who wakes up in the body of a Regency-era woman named Jane. With a forbidding mother who threatens to send her to an insane asylum to a suitor who can't understand her change of personality, the woman is more interested in figuring out how to get back to her own life than fitting into her new one. I wouldn't bother with it.

FOUR QUEENS/Nancy Goldstone/A
Once upon a time there were four sister who each became a queen. This is history, not fairytale, and the sisters in question lived in Provence during the 13th-century. They became queens of (by sibling age) France, England, Germany, and Sicily. Disproves the common notion that women of the past did nothing but look pretty--two of the sisters went on Crusade with their husbands and gave birth in the Middle East (one while holding a besieged city after her husband was taken hostage); one used every wile to maneuver herself into political power; and the youngest schemed her way into a queenship so she wouldn't be left out. Fascinating.

Quirke is a pathologist in 1950s Dublin. When he finds his stepbrother altering the death record of Christine Falls, Quirke is drawn into a conspiracy that reaches from Irish society to a Boston convent. The atmosphere is well drawn, but the story is much too bleak for me and I even got tired of Quirke after a while. I won't go looking for the second in the series.

After surviving a school shooting, Sophie Chase heads to Capri for an archaeological expedition. While searching for scrolls in the remains of a volcano-buried villa, Sophie also has to deal with a distraught student and her old lover who has shown up after five years in a secretive cult. Sophie's story intertwines with that of a Christian slave who lived in the villa when it was destroyed. Goodman is a master at plot twists and satisfying storylines along with great characters. I loved it.

FOOLED BY RANDOMNESS/Nassim Nicholas Taleb/B+

I'm not sure I was smart enough for this study of financial markets, but there were a few concepts that caught my interest. And look . . . they've escaped my mind. Oh, here's one: history is learned backward, but flows forward. Meaning we think the past is linear, but those living it were like us, making the best decisions they could with the information available. If you're smarter than me, read it. And then come explain it to me.