Thursday, December 13, 2012


Hopping the crazy brain.
Sleep writing.
Dream writing.

Whatever you want to call it. I usually say tapping into that dream state, but I'm sure there's a scientific term for it.

But anyhoo, this might be my most important writing tool. Dream writing. I use it ALL THE TIME. At events, whenever the question of writing method comes up, I speak with great enthusiasm about tapping into the dream state to solve plot problems. Some people look puzzled, but most nod in agreement. But I'm never sure if they realize the extent I go to in order to use this tool. I never get out of bed. For three months straight.


I can say this: It does not work if I'm not actually working on the book. What I mean is that I need to be actively producing material and pages for the sleeping-prophet thing to work.

Right now I'm working on a sequel to Play Dead, and I'm excited because I've never had dream-state writing work so well. Ever.

I normally wake up in the morning, and, before getting out of bed, I think about whatever plot issue I'm dealing with at the moment. Often in that half-awake state I can solve it.  But I wanted to share what happened with this current book, something I've never experienced before. I got up in the middle of the night. Bathroom break, then went back to bed. My brain started thinking about the book, and, before I knew it, I had ten pages of plot written.  And the next morning, it didn't suck.  I always think of little snatches of things in the middle of the night, usually dialog and description, but never what amounted to almost an entire plot. So I got to wondering… what would happen if you set the alarm for 3:00 a.m. and wrote for a half hour or whatever.  I'm too lazy to do this, so please report back if you try it.  

But anyway… This morning I woke up and was doing my lying in bed thing, this time not even thinking of my book AT ALL. Thinking about Christmas, and an application, and weather, and would roads be bad on Saturday. Sometimes drifting back into a weird dream I'd had where I broke into someone's house because I thought I was Mary Poppins, and suddenly the coolest major plot point for the Play Dead sequel came into my head, something that would never, ever, ever have follow-the-dots evolved from my current plot. It just came out of nowhere. Nowhere. And now I can't wait to write it.  It's unique. I don't think it's been done before, but it's not so far-fetched that it would turn off readers.  And it meshes perfectly with the existing plot.

 I don't know where it came from. Yes, writers are always saying that, but this was like a bolt of lightning.  "Where do you get your ideas?"  Not a clue.  It seems like magic.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


 Dread of writing The Orchard was a cloud that hung over my head for fifteen years.  I knew I had to write it, but I kept putting it off. I didn't want to go through it, revisit it, but I felt a certain duty to tell the story since I'd lived it and I was a writer. I felt an obligation to document farming culture in an anthropological way. But I didn't want to write it. I suppose I could say it was on my bucket list if the bucket list contained things I didn't really want to do.  But now that all of my appearances and talks and events are over (except for two in April of next year), I've been rewarded with something unexpected.


I was never after closure. I never considered closure, and I've never heard memoir writers mention it. Some people have asked if writing The Orchard was cathartic, and I have to say not in the least. Quite the opposite. It was horrible and it was torture and it was awful in every way. And once it was published, I had to go around and talk about it. More torture.  I can now admit that while making public appearances I often regretted writing the book because I had to keep reliving it at each event.  I was like a cutter who traveled place to place and cut myself in front of an audience. Oh, that's so melodramatic.

But now... NOW, it's like a door has slammed on that old world. It's over over over for me. I did my job. I no longer have to remember and hold it in my head because I've written it down. I no longer have it looming before me, this book I have to write, this life I have to revisit.  This duty. I never expected to get anything out of writing it, nothing for myself, so the closure has been such a surprise.  Right now I'm wondering if closure ever uncloses. I suppose it does, and I still have those two gigs next year, but I don't know... I feel that it's truly behind me.


Saturday, December 1, 2012


I'm always so grateful for reviews, whether they're left by readers on Amazon and Goodreads, or posted on blogs and review sites.  Reviews are hard to write. I don't think I've ever written a decent review in my life, because it's so hard for me to capture the story along with my response to that story. So when someone goes to the trouble to write a thoughtful and often powerful review, I'm kind of blown away. For one thing, I could never write that well. And here they are, WRITING about my WRITING.  It hurts my head to think about it very much.  :) 

Reviews are gifts. That's how I think of them. And this week I received two wonderful gifts, one for The Girl with the Cat Tattoo, and one for Made of Stars, both 5-star reviews, and both wonderful and wonderfully written. Both stories are very dear to my heart, so I think when you get this kind of response to them...well, it's extra special. 

The first review is from Short Fiction Spotlight, a site that reviews short stories. Like me, a lot of writers love to write short stories. Unfortunately, the short story format isn't embraced by readers. I hope that changes at some point, and I still keep thinking that short stories would be great for reading on phones while people are waiting in line, or waiting in the dentist office. Some sharp little phone app that you can open and read a sharp little short story.  I think price is one of the issues with short stories. We have to charge .99. Can't charge less, And .99 might sound like a lot for a short story, but the writer gets .35.

The review for The Girl with the Cat Tattoo is from Romance Around the Corner

This is the book that horrified the two agents I sent it to. One agent said it was the weirdest thing she'd ever read. I still scratch my head about that response, but I think when any idea slams into such resistance, it's always especially nice to get such positive feedback once the book is finally made available. Because how can a writer not be full of doubt when a story gets slammed by the gatekeepers?  But as soon as someone tells me I can't do something... that just makes me all the more determined to do it. I suppose it's childish, but I basically want to prove them wrong and prove myself right.