3 Reasons Why We Need Dreamers


dreamers

It’s recently come to my attention that I am too much of a dreamer…and I don’t want to change.

These aren’t the sorts of dreams with a set goal at the end of the tunnel. When your chosen career is storytelling, it’s easy to forget the ‘rules’ and stand out even in your own crowd. For example, if you blog about books and are passionate about classics rather than trending novels, you aren’t going to review books like other readers.

You’re a dreamer. You’re different. You’re facing a challenge similar to mine.

I’ve been told multiple times to “wake up,” which implies there’s no place in the world for dreamers like me to splash some color here and there. I’m not growing out of this – I’ll always be a child at heart. And recently, I’ve decided to embrace it.

I’m not apologizing anymore for being a dreamer, and here are three reasons why you shouldn’t, either–three reasons why the world needs people who don’t conform to the standards of what is ‘right.’

We need dreamers because growing up can be toxic. It’s important to be more mature, of course, and learn to handle things in a manner befitting of your age–but when this proper behavior puts out the light of enchantment, the world becomes a dim place.

People want to be reminded of the freedom of childhood. Even when it seems you’re being mocked because you’re different, trust me, your fresh outlook on the world is helping someone now far more than you think.

We need dreamers to break the rules. Already in the world of blogging we see dreamers and creatives making a comeback, showing that it’s acceptable–if not necessary–to break the rules for success. And I might add that, with the Internet, we are free to be ourselves, unconventional though we may be.

We need dreamers to make art. Where language is a barrier, art will get the message across. A picture can mean the same thing to two people who have nothing in common–or it might mean something completely different! Without dreamers and the artists to create pieces that speak universally, what would our world look like?

Of course, not all dreamers are the same. Not everyone who makes art will be engrossed by tales of faeries, obsessed with glitter and small animals (like me, heh heh.) The point of this post is that it’s fine to be different, and you shouldn’t allow people to bring you down or prevent you from expressing yourself

You might be a more organized dreamer than I am. You might specialize in painting while I write novels. You might love pop music while I prefer indie–you might find enchantment in black and white, while lately I’m obsessed with pastels.

It’s okay. Be yourself.

This year I’m going to stop apologizing for being a little different, and I choose to be grateful for it instead. Embrace your unique personality and see how it affects your career and life.

If you’ve been put down for breaking the rules, I hope this year you’ll find the courage to accept who you are–unique and capable of true magic.

The Book Inspired by Peru


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It took a few weeks, but I was right: a new environment will inspire you with dozens of ideas. My idea for a book set in new territory has finally come to me!

When we first arrived in Peru back in December, I knew it would happen. Perhaps I would meet a person who wanted to be a character, or hear of a historical event that needed to be written, or describe a beautiful street.

Now I have a new book waiting its turn to be written. It’s still in the brainstorming stage, but it’s different from my other work, inspired by the sights, smells, and sounds of the busy Peruvian streets. I’ve been writing quick descriptions of every place I go so I can use them as reference when the time comes to write.

I don’t know yet if the story is going to be set in Lima or in a fictional place similar to it. I have a “filler” character name so I can build a backstory for the MC, but that name is likely to change. I don’t know much about the setting—what time of the year will it be? Winter or summer? How detailed do I want to be? Will I mix in Peruvian folklore to give it more personality?

This is the time for taking notes, character building, and seeing. Meanwhile, I’m finishing up the first draft of Allie’s third adventure (it’s currently at 44k, and it’s going to be the longest book in the series so far.) I also write short stories when I have the time, because I’m planning to put together an anthology (it’ll keep the plot bunnies happy.)

Back in December I decided 2017 would be a year for writing new material. Rather than scrambling to edit and publish new work, I’m going to spend the next twelve months practicing the craft, improving my prose and developing ideas. If something happens and I realize I have a manuscript ready later on, perhaps I’ll think of releasing it.

However, my fingers itch to increase the word count every day—I write 2,000 words before bedtime, and it may not seem like much at first, but look at my manuscript now! 44k!

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The book set in “Lima” is going to take some time. Since there is research involved, I don’t think I’ll be able to throw out 2,000 words every night—not if I want them to be good words. It’s fantasy, but not everything is going to be just made up. I want to stay as true as possible to my experiences and memories walking the streets myself.

I can’t even tell you what it’s going to be about yet—only that it is original and outside of my comfort zone. It’s going to be a challenge.

A visit to the Museum of Peruvian Literature doubled my motivation for this. I don’t have illusions of my work making it into this museum, but it helped me gain perspective. I will read Peruvian literature, study their folklore, pay attention to the people—I still have time.

I will work hard this year to produce a piece that’ll do justice to this wonderful adventure I’m living. I hope you will enjoy it!

Story: Prince of the Haystacks


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When the young prince first fled into the barn, he thought it too small and messy for someone of respectable breed to sleep in. Having grown accustomed to feather pillows and silk sheets, he struggled at first to adapt and sleep on the hay.

But he was fleeing an angry wizard’s curse, so it happened more quickly than he’d expected.

Now he gazed sleepily into a corner, remembering long nights spent in hiding from the bitter old man determined to bring about his ruin—all because of a necklace. In the back of his mind, he replayed the moment that amulet shattered when he threw it—he thought of the rage on the old wizard’s face—but he didn’t think of it for long, dousing the memory with a sip of wine.

By now, this place was more than a barn: he’d ordered servants to deliver his most important belongings, like books and comfortable pillows (his mattress wouldn’t fit through the window.) Now it didn’t look like a barn, but a large tree house where no one came to see him.

He gazed at his reflection on the surface of the goblet, wondering not for the first time how he ended up here—but he didn’t wonder long enough to stir his conscience, because at that moment, he heard the old wizard sneezing outside.

“Ha-ha!” cried the prince, delighted for the distraction. “Back again? I see you have yet to brew a cure for your allergies!”

He patted a nearby hay bale fondly. Who would have thought something so common would repel black magic?

Every night at this time, the wizard came to this barn in search of vengeance for his amulet. The prince used to think these appearances irritating, but now he looked forward to them; they broke the monotony of life in this tree house, and it wasn’t as if the wizard could hurt him.

“Oh!” cried the wizard, and sneezed again, loudly. “You—insolent boy! When I get to you, I’ll turn you into a—ah-choo!—a proper toad!”

He took another sip of wine, chuckling. “A rather handsome toad I’d be, don’t you think?” he asked his reflection. “I would be the brightest of all the toads.”

“You would be caged!” cried the wizard. “Caged and then poisoned—or sold to an aquarium—ah-choo!”

“Tell me,” the young man continued, “when are you going to stop coming? I’m sure your allergies are more than fits of sneezing. Perhaps your skin goes up in boils or your nose gets runny. Surely it’s not worth chasing me for one silly necklace.” Deep down, he wanted the wizard to give up so he could go back to his comfortable bedroom.

Ah-choo! Curse you and every word you say! Curse all your ambitions and dreams! When you step out of this barn, I will set every plague on you—”

The prince yawned, drowning out this familiar string of fruitless curses, and decided the barn was comfortable enough. He could always have more books delivered if he ran out. His mother made sure they sent him food and water, and of course wine. It was not yet cold enough for the situation to be too uncomfortable.

Outside, the wizard’s angry words continued; mixed with each curse was a poignant sneeze. Two sneezes, three, four—the prince counted them, thinking that if anyone ever asked, he would tell them he had always found haystacks the most comfortable place to sleep.

Seeking Inspiration at the Beginning


Four years ago, I sat at the dining room table in my grandmother’s house. It was a cold, humid day in Lima, Peru.

I could not stop thinking about the ocean; it’s only a short drive from her house, and 80% of my inspiration that year came from seeing the crashing waves. Thinking of the ocean, I began to write the first real draft of what would later become Dissonance—I say real because there were other drafts with the same characters.

The characters had different names and played different parts, but they were the same. It’s difficult to explain, but those characters evolved into what they are now in the published works.

I rewrote that first draft of Dissonance—then called Crashing Melodies—so the storyline also changed, like a child growing up. The location shifted into place until Serenade, my fictional seaside kingdom, looked and felt just right.

When I got home, I edited and published Dissonance. Then I wrote and published the second part of that series, called Serenade.

 

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I’m back at my grandmother’s house, four years and two books after that foggy winter day!

 

It’s fitting that I should be in Peru to write the third book (perhaps even more.) Two chapters of it were written at home, but I’m certain that when I see the ocean this story will thrive, like it did the first time.

Getaways help with writing.

Have you ever found inspiration for a story by leaving your comfort zone? I would love to hear what happened!

Writing: The Learning Process


Too many writers talk and act as if writing were slow torture. As New York sports writer Red Smith once observed, “Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” If you want to write, here’s a secret: the writer’s struggle is overrated, a con game, a cognitive distortion, a self-fulfilling prophecy, the best excuse for not writing.
From Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

You’re never done growing as a writer. I realized this when I saw the differences reading my novels, Dissonance and Serenade. Only a year after Dissonance’s release—a year of obsessive practice and reading—my skill had improved.

Serenade surprised me. I often found myself staring at a sentence and thinking, “Did I write that?” Time and practice will help you grow, and you will find it worth the effort.

Dissonance and Serenade each have different qualities that make them special. I love Dissonance because:

  • It was the first book I finished. I’d written stories in the past, but something about them didn’t feel complete, even as first drafts.
  • When I released Dissonance, I was doing more than putting a story out for an audience. I was proving I could overcome my own insecurity by giving my work a chance. It was the first time I walked past fear, following a dream.
  • It has heavy backstory. I have three bound copies of previous drafts; each could stand on its own, trailing off into a different adventure. Same story, different breath…same dream, different night.

I am proud of Serenade because:

  • When I wrote it, I was able to plan where each scene would go, meaning I had a clearer path. Unlike with Dissonance, there won’t be three bound versions of Serenade; I’d found a manner of plotting that worked for me. Instead of same dream, different night, this book is one vivid dream.
  • Reading Serenade showed me that my hobby was so much more than a hobby. For a long time, writing has been something I did because I enjoyed it, but my work was read only by my closest friends. Serenade opened my eyes to the fact that, with time and hard work, my audience will grow.
  • This second completed work on my shelf is a reminder that, just like Allie has a long story waiting to be told, my own journey has just begun.

I’m excited that there’s room for improvement in my writing. I’m eager to learn what my weaknesses are, then work until I surprise myself with more growth. This homework is exciting, rewarding, and fun.

So where do I start? With the basics, of course.

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I found the book Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer at a yard sale, and it’s been sitting on my shelf for well over a year. Today I decided to page through it; to my delight, I found there are exercises.

I will never be finished learning to write, so may as well enjoy the lessons. If Dissonance and Serenade were the first two “chapters” of my journey, I’m gearing up to embark on the third.

What books do you believe are most helpful when it comes to improving as a writer? Do you delight in constructive criticism, or does it sound overwhelming? (If so, don’t worry–you have reason to be overwhelmed!)

Story: The Fisherman’s Boat


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It was one of the last warm days before fall kicked in with all its chill. School had just ended for the day, and two children walked through the woods, a sister and her younger brother.

To the boy, this was a new route home. However, his sister had been here before; she was taking him to see an old fishing boat left by the man who had lived nearby. For some reason, it had been abandoned in the woods when the man passed away.

As they approached the fishing boat, something about the clearing felt wrong to the girl, who stopped with a small frown. The first thing she noticed was how exposed the boat was. In the past it was protected from the weather by a plastic sheet. The sheet had vanished, allowing leaves to fall inside and create a carpet of brown. Not only that, but the ground was littered with garbage and names had been scratched on the outside.

“How dare they treat it so awfully,” whispered the girl, feeling her heart break.

She gathered wrappers from inside the boat, tossing them into the bushes. The fisherman’s boat ought to be respected, not treated like a big trash bin. She wondered if his family still lived nearby; she could tell them to take better care of their heirloom.

This clearing in the woods had been her haven. Now she could not bring herself to feel the magic she once did; it was as if something had been stolen from her. Even if she came daily to clean the boat, it wouldn’t be the same.

For some reason, she thought everything would be as she remembered it—this clearing hallowed as if the fisherman’s spirit still lurked. Clearly, the dead were powerless to protect their own items once found by the living.

No good mystery could remain pure for long.

“Why are you so sad?” her brother asked, taking a step closer.

The girl couldn’t bring herself reply. Her disappointment made it worse: she had promised her brother a journey to the prettiest part of the forest, but now it felt as though she’d failed him. Instead of speaking, she picked unhappily at some grass with a cold hand.

He spoke again, voice high with childish wonder: “It’s full of leaves, like a chest of gold!”

“It shouldn’t be full of leaves,” she mumbled. “It should be covered with a sheet.”

“But then how would the fisherman’s ghost get inside?”

She frowned and stopped picking at the grass; he continued breathlessly, as if this were the most wonderful discovery in history.

“Look! There are names on the side. Can we write ours, too?”

“But that’s vandalism.”

He pouted. “Please? I want to let the fisherman know I was here!”

It was with astonishment that she took a pin from one of her braids and handed it over. She watched her brother carve his name onto the side of the boat. When he stopped, he said, “When he returns tonight, the fisherman will know he had a visitor.”

His words were so pure, so innocent and glad—and suddenly she felt excitement once more in her cold, young heart. Perhaps there was still magic, if one knew how to look…even on the surface of a moldy old boat.

“Move over,” she said, sitting next to him. “I’m going to write my name.”

A Dreary, Abandoned Place


Drip. Drip. Tea trickles over the side of an overturned saucer, but no one is around to right it or wipe the wooden floor.

The front door of this old house has been left wide open, pictures on the wall knocked over to show signs of a struggle. A stray cat wandered in not long after the residence was vacated and sits curled up by the window, enjoying warmth from the winter air.

Outside, it’s started to snow in flurries. A layer of ice dusts the entrance to the house. Aside from the cat, nothing from outside has noticed the absence of people. That tea is cold by now, but continues to drip; it make a noise that mesmerizes the feline visitor.

As you can see, this place is empty. It’s unlikely that anyone will come back, since this house was built miles from town. Somehow, it still has the feel of having been inhabited very recently.

There’s no point staying, but we can speculate: there will be unattended phone calls for weeks, perhaps months. More animals will take up residence in the tidy bedrooms as nature reclaims this corner of the woods.

For now, the saucer drips its cold contents onto the floor.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Into the Enchanted Forest


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You’ve lost yourself in a daydream again.

The paths of your wondering have led to the greenest forest you’ve ever seen – even colors appear bolder in this place. There is a breeze but it’s not unpleasant; branches are thick, yet you don’t fear what you will find here.

You’ve been walking for quite a while before you notice them – little lights in the bushes. They’re like fireflies, hiding when you squint to get a better look. Though fleeting, they’re impossible to ignore once you’ve spotted them, much like magic or love.

You ponder: is this what it would be like if the stars tumbled down to float among trees? They may be closer, but they’re no easier to touch. Instinct whispers that they will vanish if you try disturbing them.

Not wanting to scare off the magic, you continue on your way. Flashing a little smile, you wander deeper into this enchanted forest, planning to get lost in more daydreams from now on.

Am I Lost?


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Am I lost? the young girl wondered, peering up a tree. She clutched at her teddy bear, frowning with confusion; what she knew in her mind contradicted how she felt in her heart. If she was lost, then she preferred it this way.

The forest felt like home.

She’d been wandering for hours among ancient trees, stopping occasionally to pick a flower from the ground. In her head, she knew she ought to be afraid, but her heart basked in the open space around her.

Mother always told her not to venture into the trees, lest she lose her way. That advice had been spoken ominously, as if something awful would happen in the midst of the green. Perhaps her mother had been wrong; it was lovely here, and she felt safer than she had by the hearth at home.

Perhaps the forest was home.

The breeze sounded familiar, like a voice she’d heard long ago. If she stopped, she could almost hear a song of welcome. Leaning against the tree, she closed her eyes and breathed in perfect rhythm with the wind.

If the forest was home, then she had been lost on those nights she sat by the hearth. Had the trees been calling her each time she dreamed of going to the woods? Was Mother trying to keep her lost by telling her not to return?

She did not want to leave this peace behind. The forest felt like home.

Smiling, she hugged the bear to her chest, watching a bird flit from branch to branch. She realized that she was not lost, for she felt no fear as she breathed in the fresh air. Rays of sun warmed her face, surrounding her with warmth.

No, she was not lost. It was quite the opposite: at last, she’d been found.

The Melody of Moving On


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In the past, the ocean’s cry had never filled my heart with sorrow; everything had changed. My heart felt heavy as I approached the lighthouse one last time. Without her hand to hold, the place was bleak, haunted by years of shared laughter.

Our favorite spot at the cliff’s edge had seen good memories, all of which were spoiled the day she fell. This lighthouse was the place where I failed to save her. The blame was heavy on my shoulders; drinks didn’t help and time didn’t heal, so I’d come back for closure.

The air was chilly, fitting for a late September night. I ignored the cold biting my skin, breathing deeply. I heard the waves but didn’t see them, in the same way I sometimes heard her voice knowing she wasn’t with me.

My love no longer breathed, but she lurked in my heaviest memories.

I closed my eyes and let the phantom of her laughter fill my mind, not numbing it with vice or distraction. Her laughter, the singsong way she used to say I love you—and later, her scream as she fell.

It was time to stop running from these sounds.

The full force of her loss hit me in waves colder than the ocean. She was everywhere and nowhere. The sea echoed her poetic words, immortalizing songs she would sing and the way she whispered my name.

It hurt, but I didn’t run. I sat on the cold ground, heart aching as each memory pierced it like the thorns of a rose. Then, finally, numbness crept over me. It might not have been peace, but my agony drifted off in the breeze.

Standing, I walked away from this cursed place, turning my back on a red rose I had left on the ground. The rose was not closure, and wouldn’t change the past. Still, it was my last gift to her—a gift, an apology, and a good-bye.