On Life as a Modern Wizard

I’m just going to go ahead and get the point across right at the start here: Books are magic. They just are. You can argue all you want, but you won’t convince me otherwise.

Books are magic, and in the hands of a skilled wizard, they change the face of the world–for better or worse, but mostly for the better, I think.

Books show us things we rarely see, or want to see. They open our minds to possibilities we never considered. Science has shown that reading fiction books enhances brain function and increases empathy in readers. Fiction allows us to escape to another place, another life, to live grand adventures and weather terrible tragedies, and experience fated love, all contained within the safety of a book. And whenever it gets overwhelming, we can set it aside for a while, catch our breath, and restore our equilibrium before moving on.

I am an immersive reader. When I read, I forget the outside world exists. I forget to get off the bus at my stop. I don’t feel hunger or thirst. I tune out the cloying noise of the real world, ignore what’s going on around me, and just sink into the story I’m reading. I become an unwritten character in the book, following the heroes’ journey from the shadows, but everything they see, I see. Everything they hear, I hear. The tone of the book sets the tone of my moods, and the characters’ personalities and attitudes affect my own. When I read about a brave hero, I find myself walking a little taller, speaking up a little louder. When I follow a character with a particular speech pattern or accent, it sometimes leaks into what I say and how I say it.

When I read Charles Bukowski’s Post OfficeI kid you not, I had to stop a third of the way through because I sank into an existential crisis that made me resent just having to wake up at a set time in the morning to go to work. I was annoyed by everything and everyone that week. I hated my job and imagined quitting on a daily basis. I just didn’t see the point of it, and I hated the fact that I had to report to the office for those set times because they paid me to do it, and the usual bills just won’t go away on their own.

I applaud Mr. Bukowski for the brilliance of what he’s accomplished, but I will never read another of his books again. Not because he isn’t good, but because he’s too good. I read to escape the doldrums of everyday life, and he gleefully drags me back into them and sinks me even deeper, where I can’t see a way out.

But that’s the thing about fiction: When it’s good, it’s transformative. That’s why I prefer stories with happy endings, ones that are uplifting and awe-inspiring, because reading them changes my entire outlook on life and my place in it. It makes me feel like I can accomplish anything, and everything will work out in the end. Don’t scoff. I may put a brave face on it, but when my writing stalls, or when life throws obstacles and disappointments in my way I need a little encouragement.

The worst thing about books is that they end, and when they do, I’m forced to deal with reality again, where animals don’t talk, and Othercreatures don’t hide in the shadows, and  people can’t change shape. It annoys me at the best of times, but when I’m interrupted in the middle of an intense scene, it actually jars me quite a bit and it takes me a second to reorient myself to the present.

I’m telling you. Magic. Guided astral projection that turns ordinary people into Seers.

The same phenomenon applies to my writing, too. I don’t make up the story, so much as watch it happen and describe what I see. When I type it out, it’s as if I’m revealing words that already exist on the page, and I become the book’s first reader.

Some writers do their best work when they outline a book and follow its path to the end. That doesn’t work for me. Whenever I write out an outline or summary, it feels as if I’ve already written the story. But it’s an abbreviated version, so I feel cheated out of the richness of the entire novel, but at the same time the impetus to write it out diminishes to almost nothing, because it’s “already done.”

It’s kind of like forcing myself into lucid dreaming. I never understood the appeal of that. The best thing about dreams is that they open doors I never would have thought to open. Why would I ever want to limit that to my conscious mind’s comfort zone? When my drift descends toward the water’s surface, why would I steer the dream into flight? The most amazing wonders could await me at the bottom of an ocean, for all I know.

Why would I ever want to give up the amazement of experiencing magic by reminding myself it’s not real?

My stories are daydreams I translate into words so others can enjoy them, too. I give them structure to make them coherent, but I never pull back or steer them in a particular direction. Even when–especially when–they lead somewhere new and potentially uncomfortable. That would be cheating myself and my readers out of its true potential.

I may or may not have been called a cynic and a pessimist in the past (although I prefer the word realist). When it comes to everyday life, I’ve had decades to learn that disappointment is a part of the human existence, and I temper my expectations accordingly. I’m also a control freak who, due to the aforementioned disappointments, has adopted the philosophy that “if you want it done right, do it yourself.”

Books and stories are where I let go of all that. Within the worlds of my imagination, I know that my characters know best. When a new one shows up with an outstretched hand and a twinkle in his eyes, I’m more than happy to follow wherever he decides to lead. No arguments, no complaints.

Some people drink or smoke to “loosen up”, others dance or exercise. I dream.

Hi, my name is Alianne, and I am a shameless dreamaholic. 🙂

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On Dreams and Dreaming

When I close my eyes at night, my sleeping brain fills with rich, vivid scenes that might as well have been cut out of a movie. It’s always been that way for me, since before I can remember. When I was in college, I took a required course on creativity in business where one of our semester projects was to keep a dream journal. At the end of the semester, most of my classmates submitted a 10-page-or-so, double-spaced document stapled together with their name on top. Mine was over 60 pages, single-spaced, with pictures, headings, and formatting, and the stack was too thick to staple, so I had to put it all into one of those 3-hole-punched portfolio folders. My professor was floored; didn’t want to believe I actually dreamed that often with that much detail.

Continue reading “On Dreams and Dreaming”

Alien vs. Predator: The demons within and without

The other day I posted a Facebook update about the different psychologies of fear associated with movie monsters, specifically Alien and Predator. It was just a weird, random thought that happened to pop into my head, but after giving it some more thought, I realized there is more to it. There’s a reason why this was on my mind, and it has to do with identity crisis. Now, bear with me, because this is coming together in my brain as I am typing it.

I was born, and lived the first thirteen years of my life in a small European country, going to school with the same group of twenty kids from the first day of kindergarten to the day my family packed up and moved across the ocean. I was a straight A student, with a steady group of friends, I was on a swim team, and I had a tight-knit family around whom I spent a lot of time. I knew exactly who and what I was.

And then we moved.

Continue reading “Alien vs. Predator: The demons within and without”

Coming Soon – The Royal Wizard

When I was about seven or eight years old, I had a dream so vivid it felt like I was really there. I was in a stone chamber with archways and columns separating it into halves. It was empty except for this huge wooden table and torches for light. I paced beneath one archway, back and forth between one side and the other and while I did this, I chanted something to myself (this is how I learn and memorize things in real life, too). On the next pass, though, I closed my eyes and as I was turning around, I opened them just a little to see where I was going. Good thing, too, because the open archway I was heading toward was suddenly solid stone.

I pretty much forgot about this dream, but it would come back to me years later, still as vivid as the night I first dreamed it. This time I decided to write it down and it turned into something much larger than I ever could have anticipated. Four years after I finished it, having grown a lot as a writer, I went back to this story and realized I still loved it dearly. Despite some minor rough spots and plot difficulties, I wasn’t willing to let it gather dust anymore. This was one dream which begged to be told and shared and so I began the process of bringing it back to life.

It is my great pleasure and privilege to announce that I will soon share with you a story very close to my heart:

The Royal Wizard

The kingdom of Wilderheim stands bastion between the world of humans and the realm of gods. It is ruled as much by people as it is by creatures Other and as such, it must always have a wizard at the right hand of its king. Nico has seen three generations of rulers sit the throne; he knows he will not see the fourth. Desperate to find a worthy apprentice, when Nia appears like a godsend in his path he wastes no time taking her under his wing as his last sworn duty to the young king Saeran.

But Nia and Saeran have many trials ahead of them. With destinies converging toward an inevitable battle for power, countless lives hang in the balance, including theirs. As love brings them together, so strife tears them apart and as the balance between justice and magic shifts, the royal wizard and her king get caught in a maelstrom of colliding forces. Nothing is ever as it seems with a trickster hiding in the shadows. When the gods begin to play, mortals tremble…

Coming Early Spring 2013 (if all goes according to plan…)

 

The Funny Comes Out Late at Night

My name is Alianne and I have a confession to make. I am not a morning person. And it’s not because I have trouble getting out of bed in the morning (although, depending on the hour, that is definitely a factor) but because all my best and/or most hilarious ideas come to me late at night.

I’m the kind of person who requires brain activity. If, for some reason, I am denied (if I am doing something incredibly boring, or getting distracted every time my brain tries to … you know… work) strange things happen. Like me searching for different color highlighters to fill in the Windows logo on my keyboard. Sadly, they were not permanent markers and the first time I hit that key the colors chafed off. My masterpiece ruined!

Late at night is when most distractions of the day are over and done with and I get to let my brain off the leash. It has spawned some… interesting things. I have documents with pages numbering in the two digits of just conversations between random voices in my head. Most of them characters that at one point or another end up in a story. I have others of one- to two-paragraph scenarios that would make fantastic books or movies… if only someone else wrote them out. I save those for a rainy day, like a sort of daydream journal.

In those dark, quiet hours, inspiration sparks like lightning in an electrical storm. Sometimes I get lucky and manage to capture some of that madness for future use. Other times all I can do is just sit back and watch the fireworks. (By the way, these are all metaphors, in case that wasn’t clear ;D ) I love those times and even though my eyes will be closing on their own and my head will be getting heavy, I will sit there and enjoy those moments because I know that once the sun rises, the traffic of everyday life will wash it all away again.

This space is free!

And then I’ll be standing in a parking lot, looking at something that makes absolutely perfect sense to me and no one else, but I won’t mind because I’ll know no one else would probably bother looking in the first place.

Right. But back to the point. All this prolonged nocturnal hyperactivity of cross-firing between the left and right cranial hemisphere really cut in to my sleep time. Which, in turn, hampers my ability to get out of bed in the morning on the milder side of the emotional spectrum.

Translation: Late night daydreams = very cranky morning Aly. I growl. Or snarl, depending on who dared to wake me up. It’s usually my alarm clock–which is on my wrist watch because it beeps quieter and stops after 60 seconds without getting obnoxiously loud and requiring me to break something–which I am loath to break because they don’t make this particular model anymore. I’ve had it for over 12 years and as long as the damn thing tells time, I am keeping it. So there.

But, given half a chance, I would ignore the alarm, burrow back under those covers and hibernate for a nice long time. I hear sleep patterns change as we grow older. Night owls become more morning people, we need less sleep, and we need it broken up and interspersed during the day. I think it’s just the stress of work. But that’s just me.

Anyway, I just had a bullet point list turn into a two-page psychological thriller and it’s half an hour past my bed time, and already a two hour sleep deficit this week. I think it’s time to clock out.