Atwood

I'm reading Margaret Atwood's (The Handmaid's Tale) book on writing and finding it very interesting. But she says something really interesting that struck me - that despite claims of Modernism, Post-Modernism, etc. we're actually experiencing the tail end of Romanticism. Now, I don't know a LOT about romanticism, but I've studied Modernism a lot. Atwood is an incredibly smart woman though, and I can accept she might know what she's talking about. Personally, as a big believer in pluralism, I love the modern age's niche oriented landscape for writing and books - if you want to write literary, there's a place for that; if you want to write about vampire espionage, there's a place for that; if you want to write Young Adult fantasy, there's a place for that, etc. I was arguing with my brother the other day, and I was saying this is the best time for writers and readers than any other time, but he had nostalgia goggles on and couldn't see it. THe simple fact is there's more people reading, and more people making a living as writers, as ever before. However, going back to Atwood, I can see what she's saying as most of our characters in our books are 'heroic' in one way or another, at least in how they see themselves. I think that's just the nature of how we human beings see ourselves these days. Maybe Atwood is right. But if we're still in Romanticism, and this is the tail end, what's next????

Rise of the Empathy Machines


I'm not afraid to write female characters. Or black characters. Or gay characters. Or Muslim unicorn accountant characters. I believe that a writer should be able to inhabit the soul of anyone, and write about it. Does that mean I do it well? Who knows! Who cares! Either way, I learn something, and maybe the reader does too.  

There's a quote by someone saying that books are empathy machines. I think this is true. Novels and fiction are one of the few ways we can ever really get a peak into the mind and soul of other people. We can watch people talk and take action on television, but we don't look into their minds. This is what fiction is for. 

If you look at history, you see the actions and words of people. But that is only a fraction of who we are. We live our lives in the interiors of our hearts and brains. People may experience our actions and words, but they may not understand them. We might know what happened in history, but we can only guess why.  Some people think history is the resulte of external causes and movements. I don't think so. History is people acting on their impulses and their judgments, and the resulting morass is our world. 

So through fiction we learn the minds and souls of others. And hopefully, gain an understanding into why other people do what they do, and what they're experiences are like, and how they are different than we are. 

My father thinks that children should study hard sciences and applicable skills in school. I think it's more important children are taught literature. Maybe if people could look outside themselves a bit, we would live in a better world. One can only hope. 

Efficiency

It wasn't until I read (and re-read) the work of French modernist Gustav Flaubert that I really came into my own style. Even translated into English, there is a an efficiency and elegance there
that really speaks to me. I continue to read his books, trying learn what I can from a true master. 

As I've said I'm also inspired by Wide Screen and decompression from comic books in the late 1990's and early 2000's. I like focusing on my characters thoughts, actions, and speech, and nothing else. I don't like opining too much, and prefer my stories to speak for themselves. Like a great musician, it's not what I'm playing what I'm not playing. I want the reader to make their own decisions. 

I have nothing against ornate writing, or stuff that tells rather than shows. In fact, I read a lot of stuff like that. It's just not what I want or am capable of doing with my infinitesmal attention span. 

Why I Write About Batman-Like Characters

for a couple reasons. FOr one thing, I see Bruce Wayne as Nietzsche's "Ubermensch", the superman, the ultimate human being. His superpower isn't money (Fuck SNyder) but his will, and his discipline over himself. HE is the anti-Hamlet - and while Hamlet is unable to act until it's too late, Bruce Wayne acts without hesitation, considering everything, but never doubting. So many people these days are helpless, cynical, nihilistic people who things there's no point in doing anything - Bruce Wayne is the opposite. Luckily, he has the immense wealth and power to actually do something.  

However, does he accomplish anything? That is the question. If we take his opposite, the random, anarchist Joker, whom he is locked in eternal combat with, and pit them against each other, their two concepts will battle until the end of time. 

A lot of people think Batman isn't the interesting character, but his villains are, or Bruce Wayne isn't interesting - but to me, Wayne is the ULTIMATE character, perhaps one of the most complex in modern mythology. He's just often not written very well. Same deal with Superman, but Batman is a little easier to write. 

Like Nietzsche said, it's all about will, and Wayne has the ultimate will. He makes the world around him - not just because of his wealth, but in his worldview, and in taking action where so few of us do. 

Writing about History

I am an innately curious person. I am fascinated by a great many things, especially history. I read books from the past, and new books about the past. It astonishes me how many people don't. It realy teaches you a lot about society and how for most of civilization's duration, people have been dealing with the same problems every generation. We leave monuments and ideas behind when we die, and new generations take them up, but most human dramas are the same as they were two thousand years ago. 

Specifically, I have been researching a few certain things. First, I've been reading Annie Proulx's "Barkskins," about a family of lumber traders over the course of a couple generations. Fascinating stuff. In addition, I have been doing research on the Byzantine empire, the Eastern Rome that has been mostly forgotten about by the West. This research is for a story I've been considering that tells the tale of the empire from the beginning to its end, through the eyes of a time traveller and his guide, a vampire. 

Now this is important: for my own work, I have a hard time writing about the past without having time travel being involved. I feel that the eyes that help narrate the story have to be from our own time, for it to make sense. I don't know why. 

Last year I finished a novella about a Batman-like character, who I call Night Shepherd, travelling back in time to try to save King Arthur. This story was perhaps a major landmark in my career, and I heavily researched it, reading about five or six Arthur books before I wrote it. Writing this was a revelation in more ways than one. 

I've also been thinking about doing a Viet Nam story, but again with the twist of time travel. I don't know why - I was just sitting there the other day and said to myself: I'm going to write a Viet Nam story. 

Anyway, maybe my technique of having time travel involved wil get more readers to understand my presentations of these periods of time. History is long. There have been many things that happened that people just forget and neglect. I don't understand it.  

Your Dream of Dark Angels

Today I wanted to discuss and describe my current project, "Your Dream of Dark Angels." I've nursed it for about five years, but I've decided to finally finish it if I can. 

The story imagines what it might be like for a young Bruce Wayne / Batman, here named "Lucas Watts" so to not interfere with DC Comics, and also to declare he's mostly my own creation. 

Lucas is fifteen when the story begins, in the angst of high school, and trying to find himself as a person and his place in the world with his unique heritage and situation. He wants to fix the world, but he doesn't know how - but he does believe no one else is willing or has the power to do it, and he DOES. 

In the beginning of the story, the father of one of his good friends at school is found dead, and while it is declared  suicide, Lucas isn't so sure, and thus the rest of the story begins. 

There's no caped crusader or batman or any "vigilante" that truly makes an appearance here. It is more Lucas's story rather than anything else, though when he goes on some adventures, he calls himself, "The Monstrous," a creature manufactured to strike fear in the hearts of those who do evil in one way or another. 

I mix in a lot of ideas into the soup of the story, with examinations of Hamlet (Lucas is the Anti-Hamlet), old Roman Skepticism, asceticism, the question of justice, etc. etc.

It's really an exciting project, and I'm not sure how long the final result will be, maybe 200 pages, I don't know. But it's certainly capturing my attention right now. 

My friend Gisella also did illustrations for it, one of which is above. It's a great project. :)

What HAS Snee Been Up To?

Well, for one thing, I finished my 178 page epic poem, "Evil Land," and polished it with my editor, Clare. Now I've submitted it to a couple contests out there. I'll self-publish it eventually if there are no takers, I just feel I oughtta try the old fashioned way for poetry. I have a couple other chapbooks out at contests too... I was really productive this winter, and I'm only now starting to realize it. 

Otherwise, I have been working on a top secret project - an interactive novel / story-driven video game. It's called "Forgetter".  

 

In it, you play as a ghost in the afterlife who has forgotten who you were when you were alive, and your quest during the game is to remember. I've been nursing this idea for about five years, and one day about a month ago, I said to hell with it, I'm doing it. 

A month of 16 hour days later, the game is almost finished. Still a lot of work left, but I've gone over the hill and its downhill from here. 

THe game is nonlinear, and you can explore however you like, and most of it is just conversing with strange characters who are also ghosts as you try to solve your quest. It's quite cool!

I've attached some screenshots below for your perusal. I've done everything in this game myself, the images, the music, the story, the programming, everything. It's a lot of work!

 

amoeba.jpg

Meet Author Kenna McKinnon!!

Who’s your favorite author?

I have so many, but I would say that John Steinbeck, the American author of Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, is one of my favorites. I also love Alice Munro, the Canadian author – her book of short stories, A Bird in the House, was one of my high school required reading texts. Margaret Laurence may be my favorite author. My son once gave me a set of her books. The Prophet’s Camel Bell, nonfiction, and written during her stay in Africa with her engineer husband, is another of my favorites. Margaret Atwood also is excellent. Her prophetic book, The Handmaid’s Tale, has been made into a movie as well, I believe, but The Edible Woman is another I enjoyed, as well as Penelope, a modern retelling of the Odysseus story.

Which book or books have most informed you as a writer?

As a writer, I have been influenced by female literary writers and poets as well as the science fiction greats such as Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and so on. My father read these books and I was exposed to them at a young age. My son also liked the same sort of traditional science fiction. Greg Bear’s book Eon and William Gibson as an author also informed me as a writer, I believe. That doesn’t really answer your question, but the most influential book as a writer may have been a little known and short book I read about 40 years ago called Journey to Arcturus. The Anne of Green Gables books also influenced me as a young girl, and Emily of New Moon. So many.

When did you realize you wanted to write?

Ever since I can remember. I was able to print little poems and stories when I was about five and started then, and before that, I’d entertain my brothers and sister with stories I’d tell them before bedtime or on the way to school. All I ever wanted to be was a writer as a young girl, and thought that a journalist would be a worthy occupation. However, I didn’t follow that career path and wasn’t published until fairly recently.

What was your last completed project?

A paranormal/fantasy book called Den of Dark Angels. It’s a collection of three novellas now published by Creativia.

What are you working on now?

My WIP is an adult fantasy called Engaging the Dragon. A sort of an adult fairytale, set on an alien planet, complete with dragons and a princess, and a handsome prince.

What is your writing “process” typically like?

I am very unorganized in my writing and often write for long hours late at night, or go for several weeks or even months without writing. I write at a PC, not a laptop, by a window where I have my desk set up. Sometimes I listen to music. I’m quite a fast typist but will write out scenes in longhand on yellow lined paper if I’m stuck for a scene or something that comes to me quickly, for example, in the night, and I want to get it down. I’ve begun to make outlines though I don’t usually write the synopsis until the book or story is finished. I make notes and do research on line or sometimes glean from real life what I want to describe, but I use my imagination more than facts as I often write fantasy or SF, though a reader gave SpaceHive 2 stars at one time because of factual errors. I’ll sit down with a cup of tea and don’t set aside any specific length of time to write. I write from an outline now more than I used to. Sometimes I’m quite prolific.

How do you combat writer’s block?

I seldom have writer’s block but when I do, I simply write nonsense or a lot of swear words to get me going, and make sure it’s all typed down and then it sort of automatically goes into writing mode and I can break the writer’s block. But writer’s block doesn’t happen often, I suppose because I don’t have concrete times to write. If I don’t feel like writing I often don’t. I’ll go out for walks, too, listen to music, or a really good method is to read someone else’s book in the same or a different genre.

Where do your ideas come from?

My head and my life experience, reading, talking to people, I don’t think any authors have a dearth of ideas. They are always there.

What’s your greatest challenge as a writer?

Making time to market my books and stories. I just am a complete suck at promotion, though I’m making a real effort lately to get in the game.

And what has been your greatest triumph (so far)?

Being accepted by a small press after working with the publisher on an idea for my first novel, SpaceHive, which was originally written after a friend was stung by wasps in her garden. I began to wonder, what if they were huge alien wasps out to conquer Earth, and someone was immune to the stings, and the book evolved from there. I approached the publisher with the draft and she had had a dream the night before about bees, so was more interested in my concept, I think, because of the dream and it was coincidental that it should happen then. That was the first book I’d had accepted, and it was while I was still in my sixties or late fifties. It has since been republished by Creativia. I initially called it The Jive Hive. My original publisher suggested a name change.

 

Thanks Kenna!!!

How Fan-Fiction Saved My Writing

For years I tried to make a dent in the fickle and derivative indie lit scene. My mistake was trying to write stories that hadn't been written before, and mostly using pre-created characters, celebrities, and myths. It was a weird dichotomy. I wrote about sports stars, Big Bird, Cobra Commander, Dolph Lundgren movies, Transformers having sex with each other, and crack-addicted homosexual video game characters. 

Nobody cared. I was trying to do something new, but in the scene's defense, my stories weren't very good.  I wrote perhaps twenty bad stories, and finally gave up. I went back to novels for a while. Even now, I have a problem writing something less than 80 pages or so - I like the middle-sized form of novels and novellas rather than big books or shorts. 

I couldn't find myself as a writer. I had definite ideas, but I didn't know how to realize them. Most of all, I didn't know how to write my stuff because I didn't know how to be me, or what that meant. 

But around 2013 I had a breakthrough. I was thinking about Batman a lot, and lo and behold, a strange idea came into my head: Batman as time traveller, sent back to rescue King Arthur. It's a totally nutso idea, and I loved it immediately.

Not only could I write about a character I was obsessed with, without having to say anything "literary", but I was also able to research the Arthurian myth to do so, and I LOVE research. I must have read five or six King Arthur books to write that 80 page story. 

Ultimately, I spun my own version of Batman, and my own version of King Arthur, a potent combination that still thrills me. 

But most importantly, I found who I really am as a writer. I don't know how - but for some reason, this story marked a new level in my writing. It is so pure, intense writing, absent of the desire to impress anyone but myself. That was a big milestone. 

The story is called "Paladin of Gotham," and I have since reconfigured it so it doesn't use the "Batman" name or accoutrements, and now has a character named "Night Shepherd" instead. Now it is truly mine. 

But I found myself through fan fiction, whether it was with those earlier, terrible stories, or finally with "Paladin of Gotham," that's how I taught myself how to be... me.  

Meet Author Susan-Alia Terry!!!

Who’s your favorite author?

I like a lot of authors, but Stephen King is probably my favorite, with Clive Barker a close second.

Which book or books have most informed you as a writer?

Probably The Books of Blood, The Great and Secret Show, and Imajica by Clive Barker. His ability to walk through different worlds is so amazing to me.

When did you realize you wanted to write?

After I completed my first National Writing Month. I did it on a whim and it was such a rush! Writing still is a rush!

What was your last completed project?

Coming Darkness (http://mybook.to/ComingDarkness) is my most recent release.

What are you working on now?

The follow-up to Coming Darkness. The plan is to complete the initial story and then branch out with stories within the universe.

What is your writing “process” typically like?

I start with an idea that expands as I begin to write. For instance in Coming Darkness the initial idea was of a Lucifer that had never been to hell. What does that look like? Who is he? Then it spirals out from there. Why hadn’t he been to hell? How did we humans learn a story about him that isn’t true? All the little components then attach themselves like pieces of a jigsaw. And like jigsaw pieces there’s bunches that seems to have no connections – those either fit into the current story or coalesce into another one.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Do not pass Go! Do not collect $200! Seriously, the best thing to do is redirect. For me that’s watch a movie, take a nap, play a video game, take a walk, etc. Anything that occupies my active, conscious mind and allows the story to simmer quietly in my subconscious. Forcing it never works. Either I write what I don’t want and have to delete, or I manage to write a paragraph of questionable usefulness while beating myself up the entire time. Redirecting is healthier and ultimately more productive.

Where do your ideas come from?

The ‘woo-woo’ answer is the Great Subconscious – the Great Collective. Every thought ever thought and yet to be thought. The material, practical answer I suppose could be my ability to ask fantastical questions, especially of things we already think we know the answers to.

What’s your greatest challenge as a writer?

To stop comparing myself to other writers, especially those whose talent I admire, but also those who are more successful than I am.

And what has been your greatest triumph (so far)?

Releasing my first book! Holding a physical copy of my first book – the culmination of years of effort  - has been the most amazing thing. I doubt I will ever get used to how wonderful that feels.

 

 

Thank you, Susan!!!

The Quest for Perfection

I was just reminded of a great quote: "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."  

This is by Antoine de saint-Exupery, writer of the favorite little book, "The Little Prince," among other things. 

I think this is the quote I would try to teach most if I taught writing.  In the end, it's easy to add more and more to a novel. The writer's mind is always coming up with more stuff.  But when you're editing, and rewriting, the key comes to cutting stuff that's superfluous, and this is hard.  As Antoine says, the moment you achieve perfection is when you can no longer take anything out no matter what it is. 

Obviously, not all writers and all books need to follow this example. Bloated books like Stephen King's "It" and Melville's "Moby Dick" are among my favorite novels. But for myself, this mantra, of cutting, helps me realize what I want to realize without losing my goddamned mind. 

Let's Talk about Sex

Let's talk about sex. "The Year I Slept" is overflowing with sexuality and eroticism. For some people, this is not gonna work. But I stand by my decision to include it. I just felt when I was writing it I had to contrast all the death and despair and sorrow with happy, loving sex, to kind of keep things balanced.  Honestly, I can't imagine the novel without this eroticism. It just wouldn't make sense to me at this point. 

In comparison to a book like "50 Shades of Gray," the difference is obvious - the sex between Rowan and Emerson has a foundation of love, where "50 Shades" is not. The characters in "50 Shades" only care about what the other can give them, whether it's expensive gifts, or sexual domination. That Lin's relationship with Tim is kind of like "50 Shades" is no accident. And while I believe BDSM can be great between loving partners, it can also be horrendous for partners who don't love each other. 

Tim abuses Lin. Period. She might like it sometimes, but overall she is just so submissive and weak-willed that she lets Tim do whatever he wants with her, just so she can get out of her own head for a while. And while Tim never truly conquers Lin, he does leave her in a terrible state when they are done, and she is practically ruined. 

True love exists. This is the point of the novel. I'm reminded of a line from Bulgakov's masterpiece, "The Master and Margarita,": 

"Whoever told you true, everlasting love does not exist! May the despicable liar have his tongue cut out! Come with me dear reader, and only me, and I will show you that kind of love!"

Secondly, there is another quote, from Philip Glass's "Einstein on the Beach,":

"Everything must have an ending except for my love for you."

These quotes explain "The Year I Slept" in a way nothing else can. They are it's inspiration, its foundation, and its truth.  

 

Rowan and Lin

A friend of mine asked me why I chose to depict the character of Rowan on the cover of "The Year I Slept," rather than the character of Lin, who truly owns the book. Well, that wasn't always the idea. In fact, in my original imagining, I planned to depict Lin, and I even had the idea of somehow doing them both. But finally, it occurred to me that it would be best to depict Rowan by herself after all.  

Why? I think because, while the book mostly tells Lin's story, Rowan symbolizes the hope and anticipation for the future that I'm ultimately trying to convey through the book. Lin however symbolizes a lost past, while Rowan stands for a hopeful future. And that's what I thought was most important. 

I guess the cover could have been a lot of things, and conveyed a lot of things. But I am completely happy with the direction I went with, because Rowan, again, symbolizes the future, and love, and optimism, while depicting Lin, while it is her book, would have been a little less optimistic I think.  

So that's why I did it, basically.  

Create. Don't Imitate.

My advice for young (and old) writers is the same I'd give to anybody trying to do anything - be yourself. Don't try to imitate. No one will ever be the next _______. Write a book, or create something that only you, and no one else can create.  It's a great big sea of the same old shit out there, and the way to stand out is to be uniquely you - in a way no one else can be. 

What does this entail? First, sticking to your own sensibilities. Obviously, people might disagree with your artistic choices, and even your editor might fight with you on this or that - but never let go of the things your gut tells you not to let go. Be yourself. Write your story, and no one else's. And by that I'm not saying to do something biographical. I mean to write characters the way YOU would write them, not how other people would write them. 

Second, write books that you yourself would read. This is always how I have been when I compose music. I've alway sought to write/produce the music I wasn't hearing anywhere else, but wanted to hear, somewhere. Don't make what you think people would like, or try to be somebody else. Make what YOU like, and if you do it right, people will come along in time. 

We all have greatness inside us. Sometimes we just don't know how to get it out or what to do with it. Again, you gotta be yourself. Whether you want to be a trackstar or a writer, you have to completely focus on that dream and WORK HARD. You can't play at things if you want to create something truly great. 

Over the years I've seen a lot of artists abandon their work, as they grow up or have kids, or whatnot. And I realize while thinking back, few of them ever really worked at it anyway - they just played at art, and while some of them were quite talented, they didn't have that drive to really blow the roof off. 

You have to care about what you're doing. I wouldn't describe my mother as your typical artist, but she is, in her own way.  Her art is her garden, and she waters and prunes it and takes care of it every day. It is a wonderful site and experience to behold. But she doesn't play at it. She works at it, and that's how she makes something beautiful.  

Anyway, I just wanted to give everyone a pep talk (me included).  

The First 2,000 Words of "The Year I Slept"....

 

Chapter One

            The funeral is on a hot summer afternoon. Flies buzz, cicadas sing, and the wind blows. The sun feels like an assault, with the blinding, burning sphere stabbing through the blue sky releasing an oppressive heat. Cars pass by. Birds chirp. Time ticks. The world continues along, unfazed by her suicide.

            I feel a cloud passing overhead, cooling and quieting the world for a moment. 

            “Is it her?” I ask myself.

            I imagine her family inside…mourning. Her mother weeping, her father gritting his teeth while clenching his fists, her brother cursing to the heavens, and her devoted sister barely able to lift her eyes off the floor. Cousins and uncles will fidget, uncomfortable in their funeral suits.

            I am guessing her few friends are inside, stunned by the loss. I see children running about, unaware of the strange somberness. 

            Here I sit outside, waiting in my car, smoking a cigarette, my back wet with sweat, pressed against my seat. I am nauseous, pallid…. a disaster. No one knows I'm here. No one knows who I am. 

            This is impossible, I think. It can't be. My hands are shaking.

            The congregation start to file out of the church, my heart races in my chest. I can’t catch my breath. I have to get out of here. I turn the key of the old Buick's engine and drive away. 

            How can she be dead? 

 

            After high tailing it out of there, I don't want to go home and be alone. I eat lunch at a crowded diner.

When will she be cremated? I ask, as if someone is actually listening. I choke back water imagining her body being shoved unceremoniously into an incinerator.

            Surrounded by the noise of people, I suddenly feel ill. Darkness rises from the pit of my stomach, heat creeps up my neck and makes my body sweat. I spew a foul smelling vomit across the table; half-digested club sandwich and fries like a wreckage upon the tabletop. The waitress and other diners look at me with utter disgust. I scramble to stand and make my way to the bathroom. Once inside, I curl around a toilet, continuing to puke, convulsing in pain through my ribs.

No! I tell myself. She had not forgotten about me! She couldn't have! How could she do this … how could she do this to me?

            After the heaving subsides, I hide in the bathroom for a few minutes, trying to pull myself together. I return to the table to find a busboy cleaning up my mess with a large gray rag. He pushes the thick, vile liquid back and forth across the table, leaving a putrid smear across the Formica.

     I throw down a twenty, as if to apologize for the filth, struggling my way out the doorway. 

 

*

I was too late; I tell myself as I drive recklessly home. 

            She must have thought of me! I was on her mind; it was me she called looking for help… but I was too late!

            Of course I had known the whole time that she was capable of this. I saw signs right from the beginning, promising myself that I would do something when the time came. How could I have missed it? I promised to help, a promise I did not keep!

I was too late.

When I get home I pull off my vomit-stained clothes and collapse into bed. For four days I sleep as if I were dead, only getting out of bed to shower and use the bathroom. I find solace in my bed. Sleep…  I fall… it catches me. 

     On day five, I force myself to get out of the cocoon I made for myself. I can’t take any more time off work or I will be fired. 

This morning I force myself to take a shower, hoping to wash off the grime of the past week.   I wipe the steam from the bathroom mirror, shocked at my haggard reflection. My beard is patchy, my flesh is sallow, even my skin seems sunken and grey. What shocks me the most are my eyes. They are completely bloodshot, as well as completely empty. No life stares back at me in the mirror. I touch my reflection trying to believe if it is actually me.

     I splash cold water on my face in an effort to stir the engines of my body. I am glad I remember the routine of the morning, or else I am unsure I would make it out the door. Habits drilled into me from my childhood come flooding back. I dress, brush my teeth, pull my pants on one leg at a time. After the monotony of getting dressed, I ride the train to work. 

At work, I complete my mundane tasks with careless efficiency. No one is aware of my change in mood. No one sees the dark cloud over my head, or the massive weight of depression sitting heavily on my shoulders. I sit at my desk and type aimlessly at my computer, talk on the phone to clients, engage with coworkers, trying to fit into the buzz of the office.

Part of me just isn’t there. I’m still in bed, dreaming. I continue to fake my way through work, anxious to get home so I can go back to asleep.

*

For two weeks this continues. I drag myself up, go to work, come back and sleep. It is like I am caught in a continuous loop. I slip into myself. I start chain smoking again, picking up the habit I quit years ago. I forget to eat, to drink, to call back friends or family. I lose ten pounds. I constantly throw myself into a cold shower trying to wake myself up from this hell I am living. Nothing. All I can do is sleep. It’s my only escape.

You have to understand – sleep is the only place I feel safe. The daylight hours are ripe with despair. I don’t want to see anybody. I don’t want to do anything. I am hanging on by a thread, I am going to snap at any minute.

*

            Today as I’m walking home from the train station, I feel a jolt run through my body. It brings me back into the world. For the first time since she died, I do not want to rush home and get into my bed and escape into my dreams.

             I feel a sudden presence behind me. I turn, there is no one there. I cannot put my finger on it, but I feel I am not alone. I turn once more, but still nothing. A nervous laugh slips out of my throat as I realize I must actually be going mad.

            I hurry home and try forget about the fact that I clearly might be insane. 

            After a mediocre dinner, I sit outside on my building’s front steps and lift a cigarette up to my lips. I may as well face it; I am definitely a smoker again. 

            If I wasn’t in a state of depression this would be my favorite time of the day, almost night. Cars that have been zooming up and down the street all day finally get to their destinations. The traffic thins out and the street falls silent. I seem to be the only person in the world.

            I feel the presence again. Funny thing is I am not concerned this time. I don’t for a minute question my sanity. I know instantly that it’s her. I can actually feel her sitting next to me. I look, she is not physically there. Still, her presence is strong. A wave of warmth washes over me and heat radiates from my head to my toes.

            I start to laugh. It is a sound so foreign to my ears.

            Through my laughter I hear a voice.

            “Hi, babe.” Shock overwhelms me. It must be inside my head. I reach out in front of me only to grasp air.

            The voice is real, more real even than my own voice. This voice has a breathy cadence to it, completely different to my husky baritone voice. I can’t help but respond.

            “Hi?” I ask timidly into the night air, still not 100% convinced I am not losing my mind.  I wait a beat before whispering the next question.

            “Is that you?”

            Seconds pass as I hold my breath, scared that even the slightest disruption to the air may break the spell.

            “Yes.”

            I exhale all the air stored up in my lungs, allowing myself to breathe.

            “I can’t see you,” I say quickly. Even though I cannot see her, and I know that this defies logic, I feel the wisps of her long black hair, I can almost feel the warmth of her skin. I can tell she is wearing a sleeveless white blouse and a short school-girl’s skirt exactly like the one she wore on our first date. She is sitting next to me. Sure as the air I am breathing, she is sitting next to me.

            I am ecstatic.

            As soon as I accept in my heart she is there, she is gone. I can’t feel her anymore.  There’s only emptiness next to me. The darkness stirs in me again, leaving me alone with my desires.

            Perhaps I imagined her. My mind maybe is broken. Is this what mental illness feels like?  I put out my cigarette on the step and start to stand up, feeling her again. My legs can’t hold my weight and I fall back. I turn to the street, feeling her presence there, doing a cartwheel across the pavement, laughing. She is carefree and giddy with excitement. A smile creeps across my face.  A pleasant burning grows in my belly. I am able to stand.

            She reappears next to me. I still can’t see her, but the feeling of her is so strong, I know she is there. 

            “I can’t see you,” I say to her, hoping this declaration will make her magically appear before my eyes. 

            “There’s nothing to see silly,” her singsong voice says in my head, amidst clouds of emotions and imaginary words. “But I’m here.” She teases, begging me to find her.

            “I can’t touch you,” I whisper.

            “Yes, you can,” she coos. “I can feel you the way you feel me.”

            “That’s not enough,” I confess.

            “It will have to do,” she laughs. 

            I must be crazy. How can this be real? She is dead… Isn't she?

            The gentle evening wind carries strands of her hair into my line of sight, invisible. I have never been so happy. I am giddy. 

            “I love you!” I blurt out.

            She says nothing. The silence is deafening. I turn to her invisible form, and can feel her brown eyes knifing into me. I feel her with every ounce of my being. She has to be here. I’m not crazy!

            “I love you too….in my way,” she says. “Just not how you want.”

            My emotions twist around. Anger starts to dominate. I remember all the times she hurt me with those exact words. 

            “What do you want from me?” I hiss as the memories wash over me.

            “We have unfinished business, you and I. ”Her silky voice is calm and warm, there is a sexiness to it. It soaks into my brain and relaxes my muscles. The timber of her voice was always what allowed her to work her way around me after her meanness wounded me to my soul.

            “We do?” I say. I have no idea what she is talking about, but the thought of not having to say goodbye lifts me up and out. 

            “Why did you come back?" I ask. 

            “Oh, I never really left, so technically I am not back.” she says. “I could have gone, they wanted me to go, but I chose to stay for a while.  I have things to do.” 

            I light another cigarette. I blow smoke vengefully into the night around me. “I miss you! This hurts.”

            “I’m right here. You have to understand: I am closer to you now than we ever were in life."

            What she says feels right. I take a long drag off my cig and think.

             “I still want you,” I blurt out. "You were the one.” I exhale, dejected.

            "I know," she says. “I’m sorry.”

            The sadness that had me in its grasp for the last few weeks starts to wrap its icy fingers around my throat cutting off my air supply.

"Why did you come?" I ask trying to save a tiny shred of my self-respect.

            "What do you want me to say?" she snaps back. "That I shouldn’t have done it? That I made a mistake? Maybe I did, okay. I don't know!"

            "But why me? Why are you here? You never cared about me! If you did, you wouldn’t have done it and left me like this.”

            She pauses. "That's not true. I was just...too late. I always... came back to you in my head. When we met -- I wasn't looking for someone to love me. I didn't want to be loved. I hated the thought. It disgusted me. But you never let me go, you were always there, and in the end..."
            "I don't believe it."

            "It's true."

            “So was it my fault? I did fail you. When you reached out … and I wasn't there?” The weight of my guilt crushes me.

            The silence is so thick.

            Finally, she whispers, “We both made mistakes."

            "Do you forgive me for mine?" I ask.

            "Do you forgive me?" she counters.

            I think about it, but cannot answer.

"Do you remember me telling you I loved you, the last time we talked?"

            “Yes.” The word gets stuck in her throat

            "Did it mean anything to you?"

            "It made me sad," she says. “It made me realize it was over."

            "It never even began!"  I accuse her.

            "There is such thing as real, true, everlasting love, “she says.

            "I was prepared to give you my love.” I am trying to handle my anger.

            "You have given it to me. And I'm here to finally accept it. I'm grateful, I really am."

            "Then … now what?"

            "Yes... now what … indeed."

The Year I Slept
By Matt Snee

Meet Author Jen Selinksy!

Who’s your favorite author?

I have too many which I could list, but the first one who comes to mind is Victor Hugo.  Even though I’ve only read Les Misérables twice, I’d say that was a bit of an accomplishment since it was the unabridged version.  My paperback copy fell apart after only two reads, so I downloaded it to my Kindle.

To see what other authors I like, please visit my Goodreads page.

Which book or books have most informed you as a writer?

There are so many books which teach and inform me.  That’s another list which is far too long for this interview, but one of my favorites is How I Write by Janet Evanovich.  I had the privilege of corresponding with her a few years back, and it really meant a lot to me when she wished me good luck with my writing!

When did you realize you wanted to write?

I started writing a little when I was twelve, but I didn’t fully realize that I was a writer until I was fifteen.  Sadly, very few of my childhood works remain.

What was your last completed project?

My last completed project was my first children’s book, Bunny’s Song, which can be found on Amazon, Pen It! Publications, and Buy Me Books Now.  The last of the three sites offers signed copies of authors’ books shipped to the buyer’s house!

What are you working on now?

I am working on too many things to list here!  Two of my upcoming projects include an entrée cookbook and a second adult coloring book.

What is your writing “process” typically like?

I get ideas in my head, and I try to record them before they are lost completely! 

 

How do you combat writer’s block?

I try to read and listen to my favorite music.  Music is often a great source of inspiration to me.  When I do suffer from writer’s block, it’s usually very short-lived, then the ideas come back with a vengeance!

Where do your ideas come from?

Lots of my ideas often come to me at random.  Many of my ideas can come from happenings in everyday life, as well as things I often fantasize or dream about. 

What’s your greatest challenge as a writer?

One of my biggest challenges as a writer is marketing to make book sales.  It seems as if marketing is a full-time job for which I work on commission, so to speak.  But marketing is necessary in order to make important connections.

And what has been your greatest triumph (so far)?

One of my greatest recent accomplishments was having Pen It! Publications pick up my children’s books.  I am very excited to have some of my newest work published by a traditional company!

 

 

Thanks Jen!!!!!