Ted is in a wheelchair on a rockery. He's sliding down, trying to slow his perilous-looking descent by gripping the tryes with his bare hands. He's dangerously close to the edge, which is about two feet above the footpath. The soil is sliding and crumbling beneath the wheels. It's raining.
"Get over here a wee minute, will you, Deano?"
I climb onto the rockery and step over small plants and soil to where he is struggling with the chair.
I try to push the chair back up the slope and back to safety, but he tilts his bald head and yells:
"What are you doing, man? I'm going down!"
"What?" I say, stepping back and looking at the drop. "You're crazy."
"Give me a hand," he says. "That's it."
The chair edges towards the edge. It's lurching dramatically, and Ted's so huge that I think he might hurt himself.
"Maybe there's another way," I suggest, looking around.
"We're nearly there."
As he teeters on one wheel, he pulls a small phone-like device from his pocket.
"There we go," he says, happily.
He points the device and car headlights shine in the distance. Next, the engine starts. Then it's rolling toward us across the empty concrete walkway.
Via remote control, he brings the car - a sleek, black, sports car - as close to us as he can, which means parking it temporarily on the road that leads to an airport carpark. He leaves the engine running.
"It'll be alright there," Ted says. He's hurrying now.
I take the weight of the chair, and him, but he's a big guy and this is not ... going ... to work ...
Suddenly, floodlights illuminate the rows and rows of cars in the carpark, including Ted's, which is illegally parked, standing idly in the entrance road.
A siren sounds in the complex. It's not the car, but an airport alarm.
"Come on!" Ted says, and he ditches the wheelchair. He jumps down to the path, letting the chair clatter, empty, to the ground.
The next thing I know, he's running towards his car, legs pumping hard, legs working just fine, and I stand there with my mouth open, looking from his flight to the chair and back at him before I start running too.
Although he's about 20 years older than me, I can't keep up. His black clothes are 'flashing' in the dark as the shiny material reflects the floodlights which are reflected in the puddles and on the starry-wet tarmac. I hear his big, smart shoes thumping the road. Clump-clump-clump-clump-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. I put on a burst of speed, but apparently so does he, because I still can't keep up. I feel very inexperienced at this kind of thing: evading capture. I don't normally do things that require running away when the lights come on.
I don't know what we're running from or what will happen if we're caught. I just run as hard as I can, as if my life depends on it, because that's what Ted is doing, and then I spot a man in a reflective jacket and flat hat ahead of us. He's crossing the car park at speed, pointing his torch at Ted and yelling:
I skid to a stop. It's a cop.
Ted, far ahead, and thus nearest to the officer, turns to me with a rictus of anxiety on his face. He waves his right hand at me, subtly but urgently, as if to say: "Go, ye' fool! Save yerself!"
I sprint left, away from the cop, away from the car park, away from the rockery.
The cessation of the siren suggests that the cops think the emergency is over now that Ted has been apprehended. I keep running through this midnight, corporate arena, wondering whether I'm being tracked via cameras and whether or not they'll be able to record my face at night. I intend to run and run until I'm home. When I get there, I'll think.
As I flee the scene, I pass a second car park, smaller than the first and comparatively empty, but also notable because there is a police van with lights glaring, screaming to a stop. Half a dozen cops pour out.
I keep running for a few seconds.
"They've not seen my face," I think. "They don't know who I am yet."
As two more cops appear to my right, however, I decide that this place must be swarming with them. And it's not worth getting shot in the back because I tried to help a guy play with a wheelchair.
As I stop and raise my hands, I wonder what crime I've committed exactly. I'm in more trouble than I've ever been in, but it seems like a waste of manpower and adrenalin.
"Okay," I say, breathing hard. "Okay."
The police officer nearest me is a woman. My hands are still high in the air when she tasers me.
The moment before she does it, I see the instructions on the gun. It says that police procedure is to use the taser twice. First, for a few seconds. Then, after a pause, a second blast is optional, depending on the circumstances.
The instructions explain, pictorially, that the pain caused by tasering is approximately equivalent to being roasted at gas mark 8 in any standard kitchen oven appliance. The image is zigzagging lines, denoting electricity, next to a 2D, whole, cooked chicken. The instructions also say that there is a slim chance of death, depending on what kind of coat the tasee is wearing and whether or not the zip is fastened.
I'm paralyzed with pain for a few seconds and then I'm finally able to drop to my knees, sort of gagging with the agony of it.
Then, she hits me with the second blast.
I'm in an office, sitting on an uncomfortable, wooden chair. I feel like this room served a purpose once, but now the tables, chairs, and photocopier are still and cold with a sense of abandonment. Everything is brown-tinted, like we're in a faded Polaroid.
Ted is in good spirits, as usual.
"What were you doing in that chair?" I say.
"John said I could have a wee go, like."
John has lost the use of his legs. Ted seems to have lost the use of his brain.
"Did you know that if you send a DS back to the factory, they don't recycle it?" he says, a propos of nothing. "It's cheaper to just throw it in the bin," he continues, "so that's what they do."
Except, he doesn’t say ‘do’, he says ‘dooo.’
I fail to see how what he’s saying connects to anything.
Case in point:
"You know, my dad's got cancer," he adds. He's heading through a door and gazing down the stairwell.
"No, I didn't," I say. "I'm sorry."
"Did you know my dad?" he asks, his voice echoing in the stairwell.
"No," I admit.
"Then why are you sorry?" he says. "I'm not." He smiles. "He's a bastard, my dad."
As Ted lingers on the stairs, the door closing slowly, I start to feel like I'm in a hospital bed and he's just been to visit me. It's like he's saying goodbye.
As he starts down the stairs, three female police officers walk in, followed by half a dozen male officers.
"What do I do?" I hiss to Ted.
He looks confused.
"I've never been in this situation before," I explain. "What do I say? Do I delete your number from my phone?"
"They'll find it anyway," he says. "Just tell them my name. Tell them everything."
He descends out of sight and the door swings shut.
The cops don't appear to have seen him at all.
The cops are all taking off wet jackets. One woman looks particularly miserable as she approaches me with her clipboard. She gathers up pens, a voice recorder, and some other administrative objects from a nearby desk.
She has short, straight, black hair, dank from the rain, and she's chewing like she's chewing some gum, but I don't think it's gum. She's just chewing with her mouth empty.
She sighs when she looks at me.
She says something about how they all have to work overtime now, because I've been a bad boy, and if I just tell them what they want to know, they can all get home to their beds.
I don't hear the words, only the tone of her voice, and despite my earlier fear, I find myself feeling very calm and very angry at the same time.
"That's not going to work," I say. I'm trying to helpful and save myself from some bullshit.
"What's not going to work?" she asks, popping an imaginary bubble. She's half-sitting on and half-leaning against ... nothing ... her legs crossed, clipboard on her grey-trousered knees.
"This 'bossy-bored-and-busy approach,'" I explain.
I can't believe I'm about to get locked up for helping a guy play with a wheelchair or for parking a remote control car in an airport carpark. And, having heard the woman's tone, I feel all information about Ted and his whereabouts sinking deep down within me, like it's disappearing into the quicksand of my unwillingness to share, and the more this woman questions me the less she'll find.
"If I seem bossy," she says smartly, "it's because I am a boss." She points to the stripes on her shoulder.
I think that means that she's a sergeant.
She points to bracelets on my wrist and says, laughing explosively: "I've got three more stripes than you!"
None of the other police officers react to her attempt at humour. They look bored and busy.
"Right," she says briskly.
I am calm, but hyper-alert, as if I might want to store this memory under: "This is where it went bad."
I see a flash of red from a bracelet like mine on her wrist.
Her hair falls in her face, still soaked from the rain.
She has black lips.
She leans forward.
I decide to tell her nothing.
"Tell me everything," she says.
I've been thinking about lucid dreams in particular recently, since I gave a friend a copy of my dream book and I saw an article about dream TV series Falling Water, which itself prompted me to think about my various dream fiction plans again.
Lying down for an afternoon nap, I decided that I would be having a lucid dream. I was fully expecting to have a lucid dream, without question. I focussed on it, like that was the point of sleeping, not tiredness, despite being exhausted since my morning routine starts at 5.30 am these days and I still describe myself as a night person. I didn't entertain the possibility of not lucid dreaming. I also decided that I would use the dream time to meditate, since I enjoy meditation but don't always make the time.
I kind of slipped into lucidity while dreaming. It was a fragile sort of sleep. There were people around and noises. While dreaming I became aware of my body against the mattress and realised, very happily, that I must be dreaming, since I don't normally go through life feeling my body against the mattress. At that point, I tried to work out what I should do with my lucidity.
Preparation for Lucidity
As usual, any ideas went straight out of my head. I strongly suggest working on lucid dream plans ahead of time. Lucid experiences can be fleeting and sporadic, at least when it first starts happening, and so its wise to make the most of them by having a clear plan or purpose in place, whether that be exploring, flying, talking to dream characters or meditating.
After a few seconds - precious, precious 'lost' seconds - I remembered that I wanted to lucid dream in order to meditate and so I floated up into the air, to free myself of stimuii and inspire a sense of freedom. I stretched up into mountain pose, which is basically standing on tip-toe and stretching your arms up, but I suppose my version could have been described as floating mountain pose.
On reflection, maybe I should think more about postures before dreaming. And I'd like to buy that book on Tibetan dream yoga to see if it has any of the kind of physical yoga that I know in it.
After performing this yoga pose, I practiced my flying. I flew very high and was sometimes afraid. I jumped like a computer game character I made up for the MMRGP 'City of Heroes' I played years ago. My character's name was mannikin and he was a little shadowy man who could jump very high and then float and also fly.
I matched my flying to my breathing and gained more control of my speed and direction. I tried not to overthink it, however, as flying is normally easy, but it wasn't today.
Later, I drove for a while. This was more difficult than in waking life. I drove up out of my drive and then up a steep mountain road. Steering was very loose and I had to turn the wheel multiple times to affect the wheels much. I used my breathing to control the speed. I focussed on my breathing and my exhalations increased the speed of the car. I felt rewarded by a delirious feeling of speed and the sensation of wind against my face. It was my car, an old, white Peugeot 405 estate, but in the dream it had an open top.
I drove to the top of the mountain where there was a martial arts school in a massive clearing. The sky was almost clear. I practiced sparring with a master in dream kung fu. He was wearing a white gi. We fought with our bodies and our minds. After a few seconds, I was afraid, because he was experienced and powerful. Sometimes I flew backwards to get away from his attacks. Gaining courage, I ran into one of his running attacks and surprised him with a double handed blow, even though it didn't connect.
Later, realising that I could train with anything in my dream rather than a punch bag, I punched a large wooden chair with all my might as fast and as many times as I could. The chair splintered and flew apart in a hail of wooden shards, like I was doing some kind of beserker attack in a computer game.
Waking, or not
Several times during the dream, I realised that this dream was going on and on. It seemed to occurring in real-time, by which I mean, I was awake, aware of minutes passing, and yet I wasn't losing lucidity. I was expecting to lose clarity at any moment, because I was so aware of noises around me in waking life and occasional voices and even of being touched, but I was also still firmly and securely in the dream. It must have lasted at least half an hour.
This was definitely my most immersive, strong lucid dream experience to date.
Slightly ahead of schedule, I've finished writing the (cough)th draft of my short story, which, evidently, I'm thinking about calling "The Chair".
I find it a challenge to come up with titles and rather than over-think this one, I'm planning to go with the obvious. I don't want to reveal too much of what it's about just yet, because there is still editing to go, but the current cover features an armchair covered in blood. The cover needs some work, but essentially it's the perfect cover for this tale.
I'd probably be in decent company if I described my short story as a novelette. I don't know what label I'm going with for marketing purposes yet, but for a while - until I printed the monster out - I was comfortable considering it a short story.
To me, although the edges vary, anything under 1000 words is some variant of flash or micro fiction and I would have said that anything between 1000 and 30,000ish words is a short story. I think 29,500 words makes a really long short story, but that worked for me.
I don't like the word 'novelette'. Maybe it's because I don't want to be a writer-ette.
A novella always felt like 40,000 to 70,000 to me. Above that we're talking about novels, with a mega-novel being over a million words of book.
If you're here because you searched for advice on how to describe the length of your story, for God's sake bookmark this site for your writer guy who talks dreams, horror and creativity, then check out the Science Fiction Writers of America length guidelines. It's a common reference on this subject.
It's partly because of the online market place and how Amazon has changed published that I'm thinking about lengths in this detail again. Kindle and other e-readers have really turned around what constitutes a book. A book used to need a certain number of pages to be worthwhile to a publisher. Now it's possible to publish something exceptionally short by traditional standards and package it as a book. Not an e-pamphlet, but an e-book.
The moment I finished this draft of my short story, I announced to my wife that I'd finished my BOOK and cracked open the pina colada on ice to celebrate. While imbibing, I had to remind myself that yes I had finished a book technically, but not a novel. I'd just finished a short story. At that point I wasn't even thinking of it as a novella.
Come on, dude. Enough congrats," I said. "Move on."
The tequila is reserved for the big guns.
To answer the literary length question, I'll probably call it whatever people on the relevant retailers (Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords and others) are calling books of that size. In my heart and in the notes, however, I'll consider it a short story.
I'm not too tied up with length debate, but I'm finding it interesting to think and write about. I've concluded that one of the reasons for my inner conflict with how to describe the length is that the story was conceived and planned as a short story. The first ever version was about 2500 words long. I thought I'd bump it up to 10,000 words, but ended up with 25000.
My novella, "The Body", which I'm now editing since "The Chair" is at the next stage of development, was intended to be a novella of about 40,000 words and ended up being 65,000. Again, I'm having a similar thing with it: I don't think of it as a novel, even though it's ended up in the borderlands of noveldom. (I've read about Catch-22 and Of Mice and Men, being all literary and shorter than typical paperbacks and considered novels nonetheless).
"The Body" has a novella feel as far as I'm concerned. I put it there. I feel a bit like it's a teenager going out in his dad's leather jacket if I call it a novel, but it is nearly all growed up.
Mostly I think that determining the length and what we call it is a marketing and customer-aiding tool. It's helpful to be able to effectively explain to people what I'm asking them to download. With digital you can't feel how heavy a book is.
I've also been thinking about another marketing tool: genre description. My writing is often cross-genre and I'm struggling with that one, although I'm enjoying the variations.
Ultimately, I love the horror genre and would be proud to consider myself a horror writer, but I don't want to disappoint people who expect a rising body count and a lot of blood. There's some blood, but bleeding is only one of the things I find scary. Read the book and see.
I'm looking for beta-readers for "The Chair" so if you're interested in reading this early version please email me for a copy. Let me know what format you prefer and I'll abide. I welcome all criticism and advice regarding the writing, the story and also how I should describe it.
For all the latest releases and news from me, subscribe. That way I get to send you lots of free stuff and bonus content.
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I'm chatting with a woman in the canteen and in a lull in the conversation I pull out my mobile phone to show her a picture.
"Was this taken ... in space?" the woman asks.
It's a multi-layered image showing four women reflected in glass. Beyond the glass, it's possible to see white panelling and then another window, triangular, with a view onto a blackness that is speckled with silver-white pin-pricks.
I explain that one of the women in the reflection is a hologram. She has mousy blonde hair, unstyled, and is wearing a pink T-shirt and jeans. She's standing slightly apart from the others, as if she doesn't fit in. She's looking in the opposite direction to the other women.
"That's Jesus," I say. "I decided to make her a woman. We've had some good conversations."
"How have you taken this photo?" she asks.
"I go up once a week," I say, instinctively looking up at the ceiling, forgetting it's there. "It's part of a study to see how the brain reacts under certain conditions, but I have to say that there hasn't been much testing yet. It's all been a lot of fun."
We often leave the ship and perform dangerous missions, including mineral collecting and mining, which involve a lot of rock climbing and walking across mountainous moons in single file.
I remember one woman in particular. I recall how exhausted she became after climbing hundreds of feet up sheer faces of rocks that were stacked one on top of the other like Lego bricks, though each brick was moveable, separated from the others by thin layers of air. She climbed to the top of one tower before jumping off the other side. Gravity was low, but that kind of a fall still takes it out of you. And then there was another wall to climb. And another. And another after that.
She landed in a heap and didn't get up. She rested her face against the cool, black rock, while molten lava bubbled up through enormous cracks around us.
It wasn't long before two guys climbed back to her and one of them allowed her to ride his tandem bicycle. I remember the relief on her face when she saw that she wouldn't be stranded on this moon.
Being on the bike contraption seemed to renew her energy. The moment she climbed on, he jumped on the back and off they went, trailing away, meandering, the vanguard now. We marched on behind, our spirits lifted because we knew that nobody would be left behind. Not one of us.
The woman in the canteen hands the phone back to me. It's an amazing picture, with its various windows and reflections, including the holographic woman, who is a mirror of sorts.
I look out of the canteen window. I feel trepidation about going back out to space. I always do. There is no getting away from the fact that you are far away from home. Nothing tethers you. Not even people. Not really.
When you're up there, you sort of disappear. And when you get back, you realise nobody knows you were gone. And so you tell the woman in the canteen. She's impressed, you can see that. Even though it's clear that you wouldn't give up your place on the space craft for the world, you can see that she's glad she's not you.
The girls are sort of milling about outside the hut, waiting for something to happen, when Jane spots a zombie.
She turns to look at the other women, but they haven't seen it and so her brain isn't really sure if she's seeing what she thinks she's seeing. She looks back at what looks very much like a zombie climbing out of a window.
It is about six foot six, male, with broad shoulders. It's wearing a plaid shirt that is ripped and wet. It's face is ... it's face is sort of the wrong shape, more like Darth Siddius than a person, though she doesn't know that because she's never seen Star Wars. And she never will.
The zombie spots her, but it doesn't reflect her hesitation. It strides towards her, grabs her by the shoulders, and proceeds to attempt to bite off the top of her head. Brainsss!
She still doesn't scream. People are still sort of milling about, preparing for a zombie invasion that they don't really believe will come.
Her brain finally kicks in, telling her that this looks like a zombie, but she still doesn't scream, because to sceam would make it real. If she screams, she thinks, she's dead.
Fortunately, somebody sees the struggle and soon there are four people, armed, pulling the zombie from her and hitting it, stabbing it, killing it.
Among them is Lisa.
"Why didn't you call for help?" Lisa says, her face wet with sweat.
The woman is in shock.
Lisa shakes her head.
Vinnie, the head of the zombie hunt turns up.
"You finally got one," he says, looking at the corpse.
Lisa nods, satisfied with her handy work but dissatisfied generally.
"We could do with more women like you," Vinnie says.
"There are no women in the zombie patrols," Lisa says.
"So start your own," says Vinnie.
"Where would I patrol?" asks Lisa.
"You can have the whole of Scotland," Vinnie says. "I've got to move out."
By I, he means him and the majority of his troops.
He probably has orders from London, Lisa thinks.
"Get to it," he says with a smile before walking away. It's not an order. It's the only thing he says to her as a genuine friend.
It's funny in this world. People look at you in the eye and they really look at you, they really listen to what you have to say, because they know that you're probably going to be dead in the next 120 hours. Every exchange might be your last or their last, and yet people still say things like: "Go to work" and "Get to it" at the end. Nobody says "I love you" anymore. That's the kind of thing you say as you're bleeding out.
He walks away in his big military jacket and boots, carrying more dust in their creases than remains on the road.
She stands there in her red, cotton, sleeveless blouse and jeans; bare arms, bare hands, holding a bloody rake.
She looks at the dead zombie. She looks at the other women: strong, together, afraid. In that moment, it becomes real: this is the first all-woman zombie patrol.
It will be the first of many such units throughout the country, but she doesn't know that yet. And she won't be dead in the next 120 hours either. Nor will any of her women. Even Jane, who almost had a zombie bite into her skull because she couldn't scream, even Jane survives a few more weeks.
Lisa's been thinking of this moment for a long time. Now that it's here she doesn't know where to start.
"What now?" asks Sandy.
Lisa creates two teams to check the house, while a third team checks the perimeter. The others should either be doing a stock check of weapons, including potential weapons — see rake — or attending to Jane's mental state. The orders spill out of her mouth, as if by reflex.
The women get to it.
A dark, short story, based on a dream
Features: robots, brawling, loneliness, a dump or junkyard and a leather jacket
He wears a leather jacket, because it will last a lifetime. Like him. It's also durable enough to take a few licks and it covers up the parts that might be considered badly built, though he thinks that that's just part of his charm. Those unique differences. The bits that are missing are what make us whole.
"Get over there," the boss yells and he goes.
He gets on the swing, so as to not show that he's hurt, neither physically nor mentally.
He swings high, rattling the chains, high above the garbage dump.
Beneath him, the junk heap is black and silver and shining in the mix of watery moonlight and amber streetlight. There are things living in the junk. Bits of spine whir this way and that like worms. An eye without a socket wriggles like a maggot and flicks itself into the unknown. There are mini avalanches all over the place as mechanical things dig under the surface. Males seek females. Partners seek to be reunited, only to be torn apart again, for the amusement of 'the crowd'.
The swing is going to break. If he goes any higher, it's going to break. Everybody knows that.
"Get back over here," says the boss.
He keeps swinging. Higher. Higher.
If I jump from here, he thinks, it would be sixteen feet to the ground. Not high enough to smash myself apart. If I landed on a spike though, I might be able to get it through my central processing unit. That would be something worth doing. I'd like to see that. But there's no such spike. And there's no such me.
"Get down here!" the boss yells.
He lands on the scrap heap and the metal shards slide about like gravel beneath his boots. He tramples over the mound in the direction of the bright lights.
"Get in there!" the boss orders him.
There is a square, like a boxing ring, but each rope is made of silver-blue light. The lights are interrupted briefly so he can enter and then they close behind him with a crackle of electricity.
On the other side of the ring is a robot. She's skinless, silver and humanoid. She's the Harley Davidson of androids.
Fuck, she's beautiful, he thinks. It would be a shame to kill her, but then it would be a shame to die.
She moves toward him in a way that's clearly robotic. Her hips are all wrong. She's more insect than woman. She's been designed for power and speed.
At first, she seems to move silently, but only because he has tuned out the roar of the crowd. The crowd is out there in the blackness, behind the blinding spotlights, behind the flashes of cameras.
He does hear his opponent's last three steps. Fast.
Her punch sends him through the air.
His head is still connected to his body. That's something.
He crashes to the dirt on his back and dust flies up, so he knows he must be outside the ring.
The android is menacing him in the distance, taunting him to come back and fight. Wow. She's so well-trained. She does whatever they tell her. This is how they like them. The ones that don't question their orders are considered superior.
He gets up.
He dusts off his jacket, the way a human might if his body was made of metal and all he cared about were the jacket. The jacket is shredded with tiny slits all over, as if he's been stabbed several dozen times.
Through the slits, his interior glows. Yellow. Amber. White. White hot. His skin has either been ripped or melted from his right hand and he curls that hand into a fist. His fingers are as shiny as chrome. Steaming blood seeks a way out of his closed palm.
He can't let the boss see that he's burning up. He'll assume that he's burning out. This isn't malfunction or at least if it is it goes by another name too: Rage.
His hands hiss, but he clenches his teeth and manages to cool down by the time the boss gets over to him. The boss pulls open his coat and sees moonlight shining through the holes, but his body has stopped glowing by then and so he's not aware of the extent of the damage.
"Holy shit," the boss says, whipping the leather jacket off and holding it up to a spotlight so that it looks like a colander.
Sure enough, there is a holstered weapon on the female android's hip. It looks kind of like part of her skeleton, but for a second it glows blue and he suspects that she fired that at him while he was in the air, while all eyes were on him. That's a rotten trick.
Still, he doesn't think of revenge. You can't take revenge against a machine. She's jumping about in the ring, but there's nothing there. There is no her.
He turns to the junk heap where things are crawling and slithering; burrowing.
That's a better place to make friends, he thinks. Piece by piece. When you make your friends from scratch you know what's inside them.
Since it's effective to do them often, you want to be able to do them quickly, wherever you are and without people thinking you're a weirdo. For this reason, I think the best reality checkers are portable and unobtrusive.
The "Am I Dreaming?" note in the wallet or purse is subtle and people probably aren't going to notice you trying to push your finger through your hand unless you persist for several minutes, in which case you're asking for it.
There's something about having a reality-checking object that is really great though. It could be said to be a lucid dream talisman. Check out this coin from Robert Waggoner, which you can rub your fingers over while its in a pocket and no-one knows you're reality-checking.
I used to use a compass. I'd test several times a day to see if North really was North. It was interesting to me at the time to know what direction I was going in, since I do have trouble finding my way around, and the theme of direction and navigation did start to pop up in my dreams, sometimes making me lucid.
I'm currently using an awesome reality-checking object that my wife bought for me for our steel anniversary. It's a spinning top like the one in the movie Inception. In the movie, a world in which the division between dreams and reality are increasingly blurred, Cobb spins the top routinely to check what state he is in.
Rebecca Turner, whose work has helped me with my lucid dreaming, suggested that spinning top might not make the best reality checker, however, because who wants to waste precious dream time waiting for a top to stop spinning? "Hey, this top just spun for six minutes straight and so I'm definitely dreaming, but now my alarm's going off ..."
In my experience, I don't think that spinning the top in a dream will be that predictable though. I don't think it will spin forever. I think my subconscious would have other plans for it and I'm looking forward to seeing what those are.
The connection between my new reality-checker and Inception is a powerful thing. Whatever I thought of the movie - I think I would have been very happy if Christopher Jordan had been able to make it a horror movie as he had wanted - a metal spinning top screams REALITY CHECK to me. I just have to look at it to feel my awareness shifting.
My wife bought me the steel top, which is a beautiful thing. Very heavy. It even arrived in a neat, little box, which I can't quite throw away (it's numbered), and a little cloth to polish the top with, or perhaps to dab my eyes.
It makes a whirring noise when you get a good spin on it and it's sort of all-absorbing. Again, a good meditation. So I spin this regularly and I feel cool - I've got it going for almost a minute now - and I think about whether or not I'm dreaming. I'll post results on the blog and Twitter [link].
If you're going to get one of these for reality-checking, I'd also recommend the lighter, mirrored one, which ForeverSpin [link] also sent us. Mirrors are good for reality checking, because what you think you're going to see is often not what you're going to get when dreaming. Dreams themselves are like mirrors. Dark, carnival mirrors. They reflect around corners. So the mirror surface spinning top can be full of significance for dreamers. Most of all, they look really trippy as they reflect lights and surfaces as they whir around the table.
They're small enough to go into a pocket and they're subtle enough ... unless you start spinning one in public. Everyone wants to have a go. And that's cool in its own way. Like I say, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when dream characters see me spinning a top.
Maybe I'll try to spin a top and I'll start spinning instead.
What is reality checking?
One of the ways to increase your likelihood of having lucid dreams is to perform reality checks.
In terms of lucid dreaming, reality checking involves asking yourself if you are dreaming at various times during the day. The idea is that by doing this during the day, you're awareness of the difference between reality and the dream world will be increased while you're sleeping. You may find yourself performing a reality check in your dream. The realisation that you are dreaming and can therefore do and be pretty much anything is amazing and well-worth the effort of training your mind to spot evidence of dreaming.
10 Reality Checks to Stimulate Lucid Dreaming
More detail on of these later, but for now, have a look at these common ways of checking reality.
1. Breathe - Can you pinch your nose and still breathe? In dreams, I breathe underwater.
2. Jump - When you jump, do you float gently down again, or does your money just fall out of your pockets?
3. Fly - Flying is the commonest thing for people to attempt when they first start lucid dreaming. Well, at any stage of lucid dreaming. Flying is great. So this is a good reality-check for fun reasons alone. Can you fly or levitate at will?
4. Read - Look at a sentence. Look away. Now read it again. Is it the same sentence? If not, what did your dream just tell you?
5. Look around - How far can you see? Are colours the same as usual or is everything brighter, or almost monochrome. Are objects distorted or blurred?
6. Hand - Can you push your hand through a solid surface?
7. Time - A bit like reading text, reading a clock face or digital watch in a dream can be tricky.
8. Palms - Examine the palms of your hands, check out those lines. Do they look normal? Are they even your hands? Argh!
9. Mirrors - You're beautiful, but does your reflection look normal?
10. Maths - Many people find maths tricky in waking life. Apparently, they don't stand a chance in dreams, though I've not checked this one out myself. Give it a go. Can you perform simple addition or subtraction?
Can you add your own to the list? If so, let me know what you come up with.
Whatever you do, ask yourself: "Am I dreaming?"
For the best and quickest results, do it many times during the day. As well as repeating this often, it's helpful to really think about what you're saying and ponder the answer. Not dreaming? No. But why not? How can you tell?
In dreams, the world is often morphing. People and settings are regularly inconsistent. Think about the people around you. Are they behaving in a typical, consistent manner? If the guy behind the counter is a wizard strumming a cat, you're probably dreaming.
Check out the air, the light. What can you hear? What are you wearing? Naked in class again? This had better be a dream.
Reminders are good. You can try a Smartphone app that chimes at regular or irregular times during the day. PING! Perform reality check. A meditation app can perform the same function, but rather than noticing the tension in your shoulders, you can do your reality check. And relax too.
Another handy reminder is to write "AM I DREAMING?" on a card and keep it in your handbag, purse or wallet. Every time you flip them open, you have your reminder to see if you're dreaming or not. You could stick this on your phone case, since your mobile phone is probably something that you have with you all the time and look at regularly. Likewise, a reality-checker is well-placed as a screensaver, home screen or lock screen on your phone or computer.
Live alone? Write it on your bathroom mirror or Post-it notes around your space.
One of the benefits of frequent reality checking is an increased awareness of ... well, everything. It's a kind of meditation. Taking time to see, feel, hear, smell and taste the world promotes a feeling of well-being that is not just good for hippies. It can be good for everyone - particularly in the fast-paced Western-world from which I write - to take a momentary time out and really observe, really feel, really exist.
As well as observing your environment, actively testing reality is a positive, effective way of improving your ability to lucid dream.
The 'Am I Dreaming' card is particularly useful for reality-checking, because text is notoriously difficult to read in dreams. Either it tends not to make sense or it moves. Read, look away and look back and it will often be different.
Other common reality checks that involve assertive testing include attempting to push your finger through your hand or sticking your hand through a solid object. You guessed it: if your finger goes through your hand, you're dreaming. If you knock over half the wine bottles in the beverages aisle, get the hell out of there - you're about to be asked to pay for the damage.
Turning lights on and off is said to be a good one, though I've not tried this in dreams. Lights rarely behave the way they should apparently.
You could also cut to the chase and try to fly. Go on. See if you can fly right now.
Top tip: start on the ground floor.
Since receiving a steel spinning top for my steel/iron wedding anniversary, I've been thinking a lot about the movie "Inception" by Christopher Nolan.
It hadn't sunk in just how complex it is unitl I discovered these infographics that attempt to explain the movie as elegantly as possible.
These things are works of art in my opinion, as well as being functional. I' wonder if such visual representations might be the future of my own plotting.
Here's the runner-up to Co,Design's Inception Infographic competition. Looks very business-like. Heads within heads seem very familiar.
This is the winning entry (by Rick Slusher) to Co,Design's Inception Infographic competition..
My interests in dreams, lucid dreaming and paranormal/horror writing are growing daily. I'm enjoying the intersection between the two, which has developed over a number of years, particularly after writing my dream guide How to Remember Your Dreams. I'm now in a place where any blog I create on writing novels and short stories will mention my dreaming and any blog on the subject of dreaming will undoubtedly go into some details about my fiction books.
Creatively I'm primarily a horror writer and so yes my mind has workshops with psychos and zombies and werewolves. These are what my subconscious plays with. The darker side of things is where I often exist, awake and even asleep.
Opening yourself up to your dreams, doesn't necessarily mean opening yourself up to darkness, however, unless you also work in the horror industry.
I think that most people who remember their dreams, interpret and explore them find that they are mirrors, not creepshows.
Reluctant to create two separate websites, which seems like a wise but time-intensive strategy to satisfy what might be a divided audience, I'm going to try blogging on both of these subjects.
I'm prepared to pivot if necessary once I've given it a go. Tell me if you like it or hate it. And keep me accountable (I've committed to blogging once a week ... on Mondays), by emailing or tweeting me or by continuing your eerie, disapproving silence.
As I envision it, I'll be providing some personal dream experiences which I hope you'll find entertaining and useful, posting about my writing life and upcoming projects, and there'll be new books, new offers and strange stories along the way.
So, I'm trying a couple of techniques to improve productivity in 2016.
I've been using the Pomodoro method successfully for a few months, but now it's time to get a bit stricter with it. These days I write for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break, rinse and repeat until starvation of myself or a family member inclines me to stop. Now I'm going to be limiting myself to a set number of pomodoros per task.
In a Creative Penn podcast I listened to recently, I think it was Chandler Bolt who reminded listeners that work takes up whatever space you give it. I'm paraphrasing or bastardising here, but you get the point. If you give yourself all day, it takes all day. Give yourself an hour and it takes an hour. I'm going to see what timed writing does for my output in terms of quantity and quality.
Secondly, I'm making myself accountable.
I'm pretty motivated when it comes to writing, but even so it can be challenging to stay on track. I've got no-one to report to but myself and even though I'm a bastard as a boss, as my own employee I know how to get round myself.
So I'm making myself accountable by telling anyone reading this or my twitter feed what I'm planning to do and whether or not I've done it. Doing what you say you're going to do is a great skill to have and right now I could do with some virtual support.
With that in mind, I recently finished writing a new novel and am now in the editing phase. of another project. I'm committing, in writing, in public, to 50 pages a day of re-reading and editing, which means I should have that first step all done by next week and I'll have an idea of how much work is required. I'll check in on twitter everyday and hopefully the ball-crunching fear of public failure will get me out of bed in the morning. If you're in Twitter;land and you catch me sleeping at my desk, feel free to give me a nudge or slap my elbow away.
Since I've been enjoying catching up on zombie-splatting in The Walking Dead, I'm particularly excited by the news that Gale Anne Hurd (producer of The Walking Dead and Terminator among many other things) is spearheading a new TV series, this time based on dreaming.
"Falling Water" is going to be based on the premise of shared dreams. The three main characters will realise that they are dreaming different parts of the same dream and that while their dreams have implications for them, they also impact the wider world. They all have their parts to play.
Co-written by the late Henry Bromell and Blake Masters, it was picked up by USA and will star David Ajala (Fast & Furious 6), Will Yun Lee (Hawaii 5-0) and Lizzie Brochere (American Horror Story: Asylum).
Jackie de Crinis, USA's executive VP of original series said: “People have always been fascinated by the subconscious and ‘Falling Water’ explores that topic in very unique and unexpected ways ... In this story, the immensely talented and prolific storytellers, Blake and Henry, have created an innovative thriller and compelling vehicle to bring the subject of dreams to television.”
She also said they were captivated by the pilot episode's exploration of the dream world.
Jeff Wachtel, president and chief content officer at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment added: “Today’s world demands shows that both challenge and reward the audience in spectacular ways. ‘Falling Water’ is the type of show that can move the needle of popular culture with its thrilling exploration of the dark side of the mind.”
I do think that dreams are captivating, but it can be difficult to recreate an engaging dream sequence. I think one of the best, however, appears in the Walking Dead where Michonne happily slides her sword all the way into a knife block in her kitchen, the first sign that this is not just flashback to her past but a dream. It's subtle and so very effective. I'm interested to see what this creative team does with Falling Water.
I'm pleased to say that How to Remember Your Dreams is in the top spot among promoted New Age/Dream books on Amazon Kindle, and is climbing steadily through the top ten free e-books in the New Age/Meditation categories.
Hopefully this will mean that more people see the book and have the opportunity to get more insight, balance, inspiration and fun from their dreams. The ebook is free on Amazon Kindle for 3 more days, so you can still get one now at no cost.
Download it free in the UK!
Get yours free from the US!
Thank you again for everyone who had already bought a print version or downloaded a copy. Early sales and downloads really help with keeping books visible and available in future.
I look forward to all your comments and reviews and have already had some good news from people who have begun remembering dreams more frequently and more vividly, in addition to some great feedback that I can incorporate into future projects.
I'm always up for talking about dreams, especially yours, so don't hesitate to give me a shout via Twitter, Facebook or email (mail at deancedwards dot com)
Download your free Amazon Kindle dream book (until Dec 5th 2015)
In the UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Remember-Your-Dreams-Release-ebook/dp/B0174ELN8M
... and from the US: http://www.amazon.com/How-Remember-Your-Dreams-Release-ebook/dp/B0174ELN8M
This paranormal suspense writer is withdrawing from National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Literary victory was in sight, but at too great a cost.
In a previous year, I rushed my Nanowrimo novel and ended up with something that was 50,000 words long, but was so bad that I buried the book in a salt mine, the way I might have buried one of my characters, grumbling:
"You can scream all you like, I'm not editing you."
The reason: If I try to reach 50,000 words by December, I can be sure that I won't be producing the best writing I've ever produced ... unlike the 30,000 words that I HAVE successfully written this month.
I glance at what I've written to make important edits and to find my place and I see that some of my favourite elements are in this story in terms of content and tone. It has been hard work, with many 5am starts, but I've also had a lot of fun with it and it's alive now: the characters have stepped up and I have an idea of what will happen next, but I don't know how or if these things will really pan out. Whatever turns the story takes, soon it will be independent of me and I'll send it into the world to have new adventures with new people, hopefully you.
If you're interested in reading the novel (for free), subscribe here to receive updates and to receive a digital copy on completion.
I have 30,000 words of personal project written this month, which is 28,500 words more than I wrote (not including ghostwriting or non-fiction) in the first 10 months of the 2015.
In answer to the question 'how has ghostwriting affected my work', I've gradually and unintentionally doubled my writing speed. I'm now up to about 1000 words per hour. Vroom. Quality seems to be better than ever too, but I'll save judgement for my readers.
NaNoWriMo has afforded me some essential revision in writing everyday and in building and maintaining momentum, small, regular steps being more productive than massive leaps, which only FEEL more productive. The NaNoWriMo word count graph does not lie.
Congratulations to everyone who has made it to 50k or will do so in the next few days. I'm in awe and I look forward to reading some of your stories if you let us.
Congratulations too though to those who didn't reach 50k. I hope you had as much fun as I did and/or learnt as many lessons. I was disappointed at first, but there's really no need to be discouraged; the end of National Novel Writing Month needn't be the end of anybody's writing.
Receive a FREE copy of this novel as soon as it's edited and months before publication.
I'm glad to start this new look blog with a post stating that after minor but fairly sustained effort I recently enjoyed my first lucid dream in two weeks. Hooray.
I attribute it's arrival to 3 things:
a) I really wanted to have a lucid dream.
b) I spent some time on a Facebook post in the Lucid Dreaming group and got into a conversation about people seeing numbers on their clocks, like 2:22 and 3:33 and even more impressively 3:45
I noted that a friend of mine was seeing numbers like this and it was freaking out at which point I started seeing them too.
There we had the power of suggestion in action and just remembering this and telling someone about it triggered something in my mind that presented me with a lucid dreaming experience.
My post went like this:
"I often wake up a minute before my alarm sounds, but I've not really been able to do this deliberately. It just happens. If I wake regularly at the same time, my body seems to just know when it's time to wake up, regardless of when I went to sleep.
"I once had a dream character tell me that my alarm was about to go off and then I woke up to find it was one minute before alarm time. Felt incredible. Brains and bodies are though.
"Maybe it's possible to sense a change in a device, in this case my phone, just before an alarm. I frequently used to know when my phone was going to ring and rather than being psychic perhaps I was just sensitive to the signal.
"Finally, similar to another post on this page, a friend told me that he was waking up at 2:22 and 3:33 and 1:23 etc during the night and that it was freaking him out. Within a couple of days, the same thing happened to me. I can't explain that, except to say that when looking for patterns you will find them and they can be fun ... or, unfortunately, frightening in my friend's case.
"I told my friend that he'd be fine unless he woke up, looked at the clock and saw that it was 6:66. I thought it was funny."
I have to say, that something like that did happen to me once. I was at Liverpool Street Station in London and the big flip clock overhead started flipping like mad and then settled for a few seconds on something like 68:66 and then continued flipping. Obviously I focused on 666! The weirdest thing was that it was busy and nobody else seemed to have noticed.
c) I signed up to http://dreamviews.com Note that I haven't yet created my profile and that I only read one dream before going to bed. It was as if the intention to lucid dream followed by physically doing something positive about it was the push I needed.
The dream itself wasn't very long. I remember that I was watching people in dream as if through a tunnel. On becoming lucid, the tunnel narrowed and narrowed and narrowed until I floated off into a non-lucid dream experience. I could feel my body in bed, even as I was standing in the dream, watching through the tunnel. Even as it was happening, I was mentally saying: Nooooooooooo don't go!
Next time I will be prepared with something to do while lucid, something other than just staying lucid. I'll give myself a goal, such as 'find the most beautiful landscape' or 'ask a character where my bouncy ball went when I was 6' (God, I miss that bouncy ball) or ***maybe I could just try to read something in the dream and see what happens to the text.
Any suggestions for lucid dream assignments?
Dean's Dream Journal
My writing is sometimes inspired by my dreams.
"How to Remember Your Dreams" will help you with:
Exchange your front row seat for a starring role.
Available on Amazon.