Guest post: The waking dream that sparked the book

Today, I’m delighted to welcome children’s author, Katherine Roberts, to the House of Dreams, on her blog-tour to celebrate her new book ‘Sword of Light.’

It’s especially exciting for me because this is the first time, as far as I know, that a book has been published which was helped along by one of my workshops, in this case, for the Scattered Authors Society  http://www.scatteredauthors.org/

My Heroine’s Journey for SWORD OF LIGHT, by Katherine Roberts

Katherine Roberts

My inspiration for ‘Sword of Light’ came in a waking dream, when I attended a workshop led by the lovely Jenny Alexander, who guided a few of us children’s authors on a ‘Hero’s Journey’ along our personal writing paths. It went like this.

Imagine you are walking in a familiar place, when you see a sign saying, ‘To the Treasure…’

I am in the local wood on the boardwalk, and it is raining so no-one else is walking today. The trees are dripping and the bluebells are out. All smells green and garlicky. I am approaching my favourite bridge over a stream, where I often imagine fairies, when I see a new path twisting through the trees where there are no marked trails. A sign says TO THE TREASURE. I think it is one of the farm’s treasure hunts for children, so I hesitate because it might be something tacky and disappointing. But since no-one is around to laugh at me, I decide to take a look.

You find the path blocked…

I push through some ivy and find the path blocked by a monstrous dragon that some local artists have strung up in the trees by the boardwalk for the annual Arts Trail. It is a fantasy creature made of old grey canvas, black feathers, and a scary triangular beak/snout. It is meant to be a future people’s idea of a bird they have never seen because birds are extinct in the future, and it has come alive. It hisses at me. It has been tied in the trees long enough, and now it has escaped. But it can’t fly because its wings have not been made the right way, and they are soggy with the rain. Also, it has no eyes, so it is blind.

How do you get past the block…?

The ‘future-bird’ cannot see me so I freeze, trying to make no sound. I think about going around it, but the undergrowth is too thick. Also, it’s boggy because I am off the boardwalk. I am too afraid of its huge sharp beak and its powerful claws to try climbing over it, so I decide to fool it. I pick up a stick and throw it into the undergrowth. The dragon hears the stick land and flaps off after it, getting  its wings entangled in the bushes and shrieking as it flounders in the bog. I hurry past before it can get free, a bit afraid of meeting it again on the way back.

You find the treasure…

As I leave the dragon behind, the sun comes out and the path emerges in a clearing where there is a barrow covered by greenery. I push aside some leaves and crawl inside, where I find a gleaming sword. This is the treasure! I take the sword, thinking it might be useful if I have to fight the dragon, although I don’t really want to soil the beautiful blade with its blood, nor hurt the ‘future-bird’ because it is the last of its kind. Also, I doubt my fighting skills because I have not been trained to use a blade. So I venture back warily along the dripping path, where the sun now sparkles through the leaves and gleams off my treasure.

What do you do next…?

The dragon is still stuck in the bog, but it has exhausted itself and the sun is drying its feathers. It steams gently, its wings spread in the warmth. It still cannot see me, but the sword is magic so it can see the light coming off it. It crawls towards me, as if hypnotised. It seems less afraid now, maybe because it is no longer lost and alone. I stroke its beak and it does not attack. Murmuring to the creatuire, I climb on its back, and since the sun has dried out its wings it can now fly. Although it is still blind, my eyes will guide us. As we take off and circle above the trees in the sunshine, I see the glint of water below where fairies live. We both feel amazingly free. As long as we continue to trust each other, we can fly anywhere in the world, and my sword of light will defend us from enemies, past or future.

Sword of Light

I was writing the first draft of ‘Sword of Light’ at the time of this workshop, and am quite spooked by how many elements have ended up in the book:

The sword – Excalibur, the Sword of Light that was forged in Avalon.

The dragon/’future-bird’ – a shadrake, a dark dragon from the underworld of Annwn which breathes ice instead of fire.

The heroine – Rhianna Pendragon, King Arthur’s daughter.

***

SWORD OF LIGHT is published this month by Templar in hardcover, and you can follow Rhianna Pendragon on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PendragonGirl

Katherine’s website is at www.katherineroberts.co.uk

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Death and the dream book

Well, I didn’t see it coming. When I finally finished my dream book last week, I was planning to break open the bubbly, but I just felt bereft.

Before I was ever published, I knew I wanted to write a book about dreams, and for twenty years, that book has been the heart of my writing life, at first a secret addiction, later an open obsession.

There have been various versions along the way, non-fiction, autobiography, novel, work-book… each new one rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the one before. I liked them all – my agents liked them too – but none of them felt exactly right.

The dream book defined me to myself, as a writer, far more than my growing body of children’s books. I’ve loved it, felt impatient with it, hated it in equal measure. I’ve wished I could put it down and get on with my  proper writing career.

And now I can. It feels like a death, but all week, I’ve been dreaming about babies. This reminds me of the Death card in Tarot, which is sometimes called Death and Rebirth.

Death in Tarot is deep change. As one situation ends, a new one begins. I don’t know what kind of writer I will be now that a third of my writing life won’t be channelled off into this dream book any more.

When I blogged about it before, I discovered that not every writer has a ‘dream book.’ https://jenalexanderbooks.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/does-every-writer-have-a-dream-book/ Although at times it has felt like a curse, I feel very blessed that I’ve had mine.

So farewell and thank you, grand passion of my writing life, and hello and welcome dream-babies of whatever is coming next.

Bubbly wine, anyone?

Next week – great excitement in the House of Dreams – Katherine Roberts will be calling in on her ‘Sword of Light’ blog tour to tell us how a workshop session she did with me helped her to find the story

And another thing about blogging…

Someone asked me last week, ‘What makes you want to follow a blog?’ Before I started this one, nearly six months ago, I read a lot of blogs about blogging, and everyone agreed that your goal should be to get people to sign up rather than call in from time to time.

Now that I’m blogging myself, I can feel the difference this makes, because the signed-up members feel like a community, and the result feels more like a conversation.

Most pundits seem to agree that the way to get people to sign up is to offer an incentive, usually in the form of a free download. Following that advice, I offered my printout about dream recalling and recording, which I had been intending to put up on my Tips page.

But when this friend asked me last week why I personally subscribe to the blogs I like, I realised that for me it’s all about content. I subscribe if I like the content enough not to want to miss a post. In fact, free downloads are a disincentive to me, after my experience of them so far.

I’ve only signed up to three blogs because I was curious about the free download, and each time, it’s lead to a slew of nuisance emails about topics I never asked for information about. In two of these cases, they also quickly went on to try to sell me downloads or get me to sign up to courses.

So as of today, my sign-up offer ceases. You can see my recalling-and-recording dreams info on the Tips page, and here’s a heads-up on some great content coming in the next few weeks.

How to use dream material to energise your writing… guest post from one of my fave bloggers, Katherine Roberts… interview with lovely dreamworker, Toko-pa Turner… the Death card and the end of the dream book…

If you haven’t done so yet – I do hope you’ll sign up!

Guest post: The dream that sparked the book

Once upon a dream novel, by Dawn Colclasure 

Can dreams inspire a writer to write a novel? Mine did – and they still do.

When I was 16 years old, I started having dreams about a man named Jonathan. These dreams happened almost every night and lasted for many years. Two years after the dreams started, I dreamt that all of the dreams combined were turned into a novel titled, ‘November’s Child.’ I even saw the title of the novel in this one dream!

I was 19 years old when I finally completed that novel. During this time, I had to work out how to make the dream ‘story’ work as a believable story. After all, I had no idea what kind of connection Jonathan had to me, the dreamer, so I had to think of what kind of connection he would have to my story’s main character, Malissa.

This name did not come from my dreams; I needed a name for a character that represented ‘me’ in the story, and I decided to use an alternative version of my sister, Melissa’s, name.

As to the connection dilemma, I discussed this with one of my other sisters, who happened to have just seen a movie about Druid characters. She suggested I turn Jonathan into a Druid. After researching Driudism and reading about their belief in the transmigration of souls, I decided that, yes, that could work. Voila! I had my story figured out.

My novel was published when I was 20 years old. Shortly afterward, my publisher went bankrupt and the book went out of print. I rewrote the book and gave it a new title: ‘Shadow of Samhain.’ This new version of my ‘dream novel’ will soon be published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing.

‘Talent is not at all unusual, my dear…’

When I was first trying to establish myself as an author, I came upon a quotation from the theatrical agent, Peggy Ramsay, which I copied out and stuck on my study wall. She said that talent was not at all unusual; what was unusual was having the character to develop it.

I was really struck by that, because the biggest struggles of my early career were not in developing my writing skills – I had been writing about pretty much everything that happened in my life since I was six – diaries, poems, stories – and my voice and style were already quite well-developed.

But the process of moving from being someone who loved writing to someone who could earn their living from it was very character-building for me. Here are five qualities I had to develop in myself.

1 – Self-belief, aka a thick skin

You won’t last five minutes in this business if you’re sensitive to criticism or can’t take rejection. Way back when I was starting out, one of the agents I approached with a sample of my writing replied, ‘I regret to inform you that we only accept clients who either have some writing ability or something interesting to say.’ See what I mean?

2 – Patience

The wheels of publishing move exceeding slow. Nuff said.

3 – Flexibility

If you can’t sell an idea in one form, you may be able to sell it in another. Most of the ideas I couldn’t sell have turned out to be recyclable in the fulness of time (patience again!)

4 – Trust

Lots of writers have to learn to trust their creative process, but that’s never been an issue for me. Tapping into dreams every night makes you aware of the abundance of stories going on all the time beneath the surface, which can never dry up. However, I have found it challenging to trust I’ll stay solvent on such a haphazard and sporadic income. 

5 – Luck

You might say, what’s luck got to do with character? It’s random, right? But you make your own luck, to some extent. You have to be able to create and spot opportunities, and willing to consider any door that opens up, even if it’s not one you might have considered before.

 I know from my workshops that talent is not unusual. Everybody has a unique voice, and an interesting story to tell. I feel really humbled by some of the writing people produce in half an hour, round my kitchen table.

Trying to make a career of it is different. Not everyone who loves writing will want to embark on that path. If you have done so, what qualities did you have to find in yourself? If you are trying to, what qualities do you think you will need?

Book Review: Poetry in the Making

Poetry in the making, by Ted Hughes

Written for young people, this has to be the most beautiful and insightful book I’ve ever read about the magical process of creating writing.

As you would expect, the author uses metaphors from nature to express his ideas about where poetry comes from, and what attitudes and skills a poet needs to develop in himself in order to be able to capture it.

He talks about the inner life, which seems equivalent to what I call the dream-world in these pages. It’s the world of imagination, memory and emotion, stories and images, which goes on all the time beneath the surface, ‘like the heart beat.’ We may be aware of it, or we may not. We may become aware of it through dream-recalling or any creative pursuit.

Hughes compares this inner world with a pond, saying that if we don’t learn the focus, patience and stealth to break into it ‘our minds lie in us like the fish in the pond of a man who cannot fish.’

He says you have to care about what you are writing, and if an idea gets stalled it will be because you don’t care enough. You shouldn’t worry about the words, but cleave to the imagination and emotion in your idea, then the words will follow in an organic way.

The review from the Times Literary Supplement, quoted on the back cover, says, ‘He makes the whole venture seem enjoyable, and somehow urgent.’

That’s exactly what the book conveys to me – the sense of venture, pleasure and also the importance of this inner journey, which takes you to the heart of who you are, and what life is.

Like most writers, I love reading about writing. Have you got a favourite book on writing that you’d like to recommend?

How dream emotions can energise your writing

In Naomi Epel’s book, ‘Writers Dreaming,’ several of the authors interviewed say that dreams are a way they can connect with very dark places and intense emotions.

My favourite interview in the book is with Sue Grafton. She says – among many other interesting things – that she has engineered the world so that she doesn’t have to face bad guys and monsters in waking life, as everyone does. Therefore one of the ways in which dreams energise her writing is by connecting her to ‘often very visceral experiences.’

In dreams, anything can happen. We can have extremely frightening, exciting or pleasurable experiences, as we did when we were children, before we knew how to engineer our world. That means we will feel the full force of our emotions, as we did back then.

Pure emotion produces strong effects in the body. That’s what makes these experiences ‘visceral.’ Dream situations may be the only opportunity you have in adult life to truly feel the physical effects of extreme fear, dread or murderous rage; of bodily power or spiritual transcendance.

As writers, we say ‘show don’t tell.’ Rather than describing how our characters are feeling emotionally, we describe where the emotion is in their body. We make it physical, so that the reader can feel it in their body too.

Sitting at the computer, we can imagine what it is to feel these super-strength emotions, but in dreams we can actually experience it. A dream recalled is like a memory of waking life; remembering it will bring the emotions flooding back with the same physicality as when you recall events from your dayworld.

Living your dreamlife with awareness means you have more emotional experience to draw upon, as well as more situations and events. Often, the emotion is so strong it carries over into waking life even though the events of the dream may be hazy. That intensity of emotion may spark your creativity as powerfully as the actual images and narratives in your dreams.

You can only draw on these memories of dream emotions if you remember your dreams. Check out my Tips page for info about recalling and recording dreams.

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