Sunday, April 29, 2007

Atomic Sourballs and Time

Have you ever watched a child stare wide-eyed at the packed bins in a bulk-candy store? A visual treat for anyone, but for a child given permission to select one scoopful of any flavor or color, the decision stretches into a careful consideration of every possible variation. The battle between Aqua-colored M&Ms vs. atomic sour balls can take precedence over even the most involuntary needs and last longer than the gestation period of the candy, from corn syrup to thighs, in the permission-granting adult.

What about a frazzled mother in her child-rearing years, who when asked to volunteer, weighs her decision against the amount of time it will steal from half a dozen other commitments she can't seem to meet? Cell phones, maid services, quick car washes all buy us more time in our race to meet our daily goals.

In the golden years, decisions center around the time we have left to accomplish those goals that have somehow eluded us. The days and weeks until we can again embrace our loved ones or say goodbye to those slipping away.

As we age, time becomes an increasingly important factor in our decision making. As a child, blissfully unaware of the concept of time, minutes have no emotional pull. But each year we grow older, time becomes more of a precious commodity, bargained and traded like the cash we so freely spend to hoard more of it. Seemingly in proximity to the final moment, when for each of us, time will stand still.

How did time impact your decisions today?

Movie :: Deja-Vu

Monday, April 23, 2007

Skeletons Holding Baggage

"If you have a skeleton in your closet, take it out and dance with it." ~Carolyn MacKenzie

Maybe I love this quote because it occupies the space next to a wickedly funny black-pencil sketch of a skull in my writer's inspiration book. Most likely, I remember it because it speaks the truth.

In a recent workshop, the publicist asked authors to compile a list of everything they'd written--short stories, articles, epic novels and determine a common thread connecting them all. Challenging? Definitely. But not impossible.

After a cliche-bloated list of themes and topics resonating through my writing over the past eight years, I made a quasi-psychological discovery about my work. Everything I'd written revolved around reconnection. To self, to spirit, to others. Not only does that make me want to peek in the closet to see what kind of baggage the skeleton is holding onto, but it makes my fascination with time and its passage more understandable.

Honesty in our writing emerges from the charged experiences of our past. Fears, desires and secrets each have their own energy field. Suppressed, but never forgotten, these skeletons comprise part of the fabric of our stories. The natural, unfiltered flow of a writer's true voice.

What is the universal message in your writing?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Ghosts, Anyone?

I spent the weekend communing with ghosts. Not kidding.

Jefferson, Texas is a tiny, forgotten tourist town with a rich, sometimes dark history. Once the second largest city in Texas between the 1850s and 1870s, the population of wealthy civil war generals, riverboat captains, prostitutes, slaves and union soldiers created a dynamic of conflict worthy of the war itself. In the pages of Jefferson's history, you'll find human stockades for captured union soldiers, lynchings, gun battles, murders, infernos--all within a mile radius of the historical main street.

A regular destination of paranormal investigators, it's been featured HGTV, Sci-Fi Channel, Discovery Channel and the History Channel for it's ghostly activity. Even Stephen Spielberg couldn't last the night at the Excelsior Hotel because of the encounter he had.

After nightfall, camera in hand, I braved the cold with twenty or so others on a Ghost Walk to try to capture an image or sense of paranormal activity. Led by a wonderful guide, a self-proclaimed scientist and former skeptic, we toured the areas where reports of ghostly activity can be traced back to the 1880s through court documents, newspaper accounts and, of course, folklore.

The photo above shows McGarity's Saloon, one of our first stops. Many attempts have been made to renovate the building, but workers never stay long enough to finish the job. Owned now, but vacant, by a couple who lives near Dallas, it has been a boarding house, brothel and saloon among other things. Behind me, the dense East Texas trees concealed distant street lights and eliminated all possibility of reflection. Photography captures pockets of energy the naked eye cannot. Most sightings have occurred on the top floor in either the middle or right window. You be the judge.

This was my second visit to Jefferson, but not my first paranormal encounter there. At the fabulous McKay House B&B, in the upstairs room, exploring late at night, I found I couldn't breathe--like something was sitting on my chest. As soon as I walked into the hallway, the feeling disappeared. Before I knew the McKay house had its own ghost, I had found her.

Jefferson is an amazing town for history buffs and anyone who wants to get away from the city and step back in time. Make sure you bring your digital camera and an open mind. Once you leave, you'll be convinced.

What do you think? Trick of the lens? Dust? Humidity? Or the energy manifestation of the lawman gunned down here?

Mood Saturday night:: sufficiently freaked out

Monday, April 9, 2007

Midnight's Mystique

When I sat down to decide on the revolution of days for my protagonist in Chasing Midnight, I knew I could choose any moment in a twenty-four hour period for him to catapult backward one day. For me, there was only one clear-cut choice. Midnight, the metamorphosis from one day to the next, holds a mystique other times of the day don't share.

Dawn and dusk capture our attention during moments of dazzling spectrums of light reflecting off thin, high clouds. Maybe in our fondest memories we dipped our toes into a lake and watched the last gasp of summer fade to black. Or in the darkened hours of morning, after staying awake all night out of trauma or bliss, the tangerine light on the horizon reminds us of new awakenings. New chances.

But midnight--the dark, inescapable moment between yesterday and tomorrow--is the only one powerful enough to shove us headlong into another day. While dawn and dusk can gather and stir for long stretches of time, midnight lasts only one revolution of the clock. One sixty-second interval capable of aging us, setting our course, and consuming last chances.

Midnight is a kiss on New Year's Eve. A stroke of time responsible for turning a coach to a pumpkin and a princess back to her true identity. It dances through the gardens of good and evil and is the ticking time bomb that defines every choice the hero in my novel makes.

What does midnight symbolize for you?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Perilous Road of Metaphors

I've been thinking about a topic that came up in a discussion with other writers a few nights ago: The relentless pursuit of the perfectly inspired line of descriptive pose, so original as to make the reader gush with praise and other writers weep that their own creativity hadn't given birth a string of words worthy of a sonnet.

Is not simple sometimes the most universal language of feelings and emotions? The timeless metaphors found in the most coveted literature translate to life's experiences, shared. Concepts of time and dreams and choices have often been compared to roads. Roads found in New Guinea. Roads stretched out across territories and roads bricked in front of the mom and pop bakery three blocks away. The deepest feelings of the human condition cannot be found in the brilliant glint of words, fractured and polished like a stained glass window in a Roman cathedral only a handful of readers have visited. For when the light passes, the resonating quality has vanished with the sun and the image is in danger of being forgotten.

Like well-worn ruts in the road, traveled by every man, woman and child, the path of our deepest connection to readers may lie in the flow of images most familiar.