Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Coincidences you couldn't get away with in fiction

I had an ooh wee ooh moment yesterday. I received an electronic picture frame for Christmas, and after dinner yesterday, the frame was displaying this photo.

It's the log home (more pictures here) I built and lived in for a decade in northern Vermont. The photo was one of the ones on a webpage we'd used to sell the cabin over 7 years ago. We discussed how we loved that picture and wondered how Ted and Beth, our buyers from way back when, liked it there. I recalled how Ted told me that this was the picture that made Beth fall in love with the cabin in the first place.

No more than five minutes later, that cabin picture still displaying on the electronic frame, I got an email from a couple who identified themselves as Ted and Beth's daughter and son-in-law. The hair on the back of neck stood at attention. They were at the cabin, reading an early draft of a novel I'd left for Ted and Beth. They'd googled my name and found an email because they wanted to tell me how happy the cabin has made their entire family over the years AND how much they loved the novel I left behind.

I could never get away with such a coincidence in a novel. Ain't real life fun?

We had a nice exchange and had fun with the coincidence. Turns out, the daughter and son-in-law loved the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont so much, they bought an old house not far from the cabin I built. They're staying at the cabin while converting their house to a Bed & Breakfast, and they assured me I'd always have a place to stay if I come to visit the area.

A further bonus was their enthusiasm over the novel I'd left for their folks. I never let drafts out of my hands, but we'd really hit it off with Ted and Beth, so I'd made an exception. The current version of that novel is so much better and tighter than that draft, I cringed at first when I heard they were reading it. But I quit cringing when they gushed about how much they loved it.

It was a good evening, based on a major coincidence I wouldn't dare write as fiction.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Living in the light, wondering about the night

I'm an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of guy. I've been this way since I was too young to be this way, but that's who I am, so that's who I've been. But while waiting up recently, staring out the windows in the wee hours waiting for Santa (he came but I missed him...again!), I got to wondering what all I miss in the night. What would it be like to sleep during the day and live during the night?

"Moonlight in Vermont"
With everyone else asleep, it'd feel like I had the world to myself. That thought has a certain appeal to an introvert like me. Granted, I love a bright day and the playfulness -- and predictability -- of sunlight. Could the reflected light of the moon, on nights when there's enough moon to matter, fill my needs? Or would my needs change? Would my vision adjust to seeing in the dark, my hearing become more acute to pick out softer night sounds? Would I start to think differently?

This isn't the first time I've speculated about what I'm missing as I sleep. A strong childhood memory is a sleepover with a friend when I was in elementary school. We snuck out in the middle of a warm summer night and rode our bikes through streets that were busy during the day but deserted at 2 AM, pretending we were being hunted and chased. I probably played similar games hundreds of times during the day, but I don't remember those, only this one time at night.

My strongest memory of my home in Dracut, Massachusetts, is a night near the end of my five years there. Normally one to sleep undisturbed all night, I couldn't drift off one warm summer night. My bedroom was on the second story, my windows wide open, and I sat and looked out on the calm night for hours, spotting owls and tiny movements in the brush, watching the moon and moon shadows, the beauty of nature in shades of blue and gray.

In Vermont, summer nights still occasionally pulled me to the windows or porch, but winter nights also drew me from bed. Moonlight reflected off the snow, and even the inside of the cabin would glow with it. I'd look out and spot deer and moose, sometimes rambling within a few yards of my cabin. I'd hear coyotes and sometimes the tiny sounds of mice stirring within the walls. Every sight and sound seemed so BIG in the night, even the smallest rustling or the slightest movement I barely noticed in the woods.

Then I'd return to bed and to sleep and wake in the bright light of a new day, a time I loved then and love now. But things had changed. Maybe it's only because it all looked familiar again, but nothing seemed quite as large. I'd begin my morning routines, start my day, and focus on what I always focused on in the light. But it felt like I'd lost a little magic.

So I wonder about the night. Maybe that's what I'm supposed to do. Shifting my life twelve hours might only make the night mundane and kill a fun and compelling curiosity. Or maybe I should take action and see what lurks in the dark?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Florida & Caribbean Cruise Vacation, part 2

As promised, here are some pictures and words about the Caribbean cruise part of our recent vacation. We sailed on the Celebrity Solstice, which carries nearly 3000 passengers in addition to crew. It's a grand ship with some spectacular common areas.

Me in San Juan, posing with the ship
Looking down

The grand staircase
The upper deck has over 1/2 acre of real grass

We had a wonderful time, onboard and off. In St. Thomas, we put on what look like spaceman suit head bubbles filled with air and rode scooters 8' below the ocean surface. It was great fun and a good way to see a shipwreck below us and fish all around. In St. Maarten (or St. Martin, depending on which half of the island you're on), I went zip-lining in the rain forest. I can prove it, thanks to a hidden camera planted in the trees which took my photo. We also dressed up nice for formal night, another thing I can prove thanks to all the photographers stationed around the ship that night.

We like cruises. I toy with the idea of writing a novel set on a haunted cruise ship. I've begun outlining it more than once, but I've never been excited enough about the outline to begin writing. I'm getting closer though. My ulterior motive is that the novel will sell well enough that a major cruise line will put me up for multiple cruises while I give talks on the book or hold writing tip classes or whatever.

Sounds fun, right? I do wonder how big I'd get after eating fantastic cruise food for a month or two. Maybe those trees I zip-lined between have a weight limit. Or maybe the cable does. I'd hate to end my zip-lining days so soon.

Aw well, maybe I should hold off worrying about those type things until I come up with a haunted ship outline that juices me up enough to write the novel. Hmm, where did I file that outline?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Speculative fiction contest at ChiZine Publications

ChiZine Publications, a Toronto based small press, is holding a contest for speculative fiction and speculative poetry. I don't have the expertise to endorse or discourage any particular contest, but this one looks interesting to me, interesting enough that I've selected an excerpt of about 7,000 words to use if I decide to enter. Click the CZP logo to the left to go to their website, where rules, details, and entry information are listed.

Let me know if you enter. Maybe that'll encourage me further.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Florida & Caribbean Cruise Vaction, part 1

We returned last night from a wonderful vacation. We started off visiting good friends in Wilton Manors (Ft. Lauderdale), Florida.

Ed, Brad, and Sage always make us feel welcomed when we visit, and they show us a great time. This year, we went to The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Wow. It was one photo op after another.

I don't know what we enjoyed more, the museum, the ponds, the various styles of gardens, the pagodas, the streams, the plants, or just the feel of the place.

It's safe to say all of it was enjoyable, proving to us yet again that Ft. Lauderdale is a great place to vacation, especially when you have wonderful friends there to share good times. I'll post some pictures from the Caribbean cruise part of our vacation in a few days.