Monthly Archives: November 2012

Who would be the guests at your dream dinner party?

Just suppose that you could invite anybody – anybody, ANYBODY, living, dead or imaginary – to dinner, who would get one of your nicest shiny invitations? And why?

Here’s my pick:

Damon Hill – World Formula 1 Driver Champion in 1996. I’m now getting a lot of Damon fixes as he’s a pundit for Sky F1, but you can’t get too much of a good thing. He would have to shave, though. Sorry, Damon, beards are out.

Stephen Fry – an amazing, irreverent, intelligent, articulate, funny guy. He could bring Alan Davies with him, if he wanted. (I think Stephen my currently be wearing a beard, too. For goodness sake, Stephen! Break out the razor.)

Miss Wishart – who taught me for two year at Tigne Barracks School in Malta. I’ve always wanted a few quiet minutes with her as an adult. She could do the washing up and serving – I wouldn’t actually set a place at the table for her.

Rich Hall – another funny guy, a comedian from Montana. Always has a dry remark ready, never seems to feel the need to belittle the vulnerable in order to get a laugh.

Murray Walker – for his decades of experience in Formula 1 and his amazing fund of stories.

Ratty, Justin, James, Martyn, Adam, Dominic and Jed. Readers of my books will already have met them and know why I’d want them there! And Jed – but nobody but me and my publisher have met him yet …

photoBatman – just so I could say, ‘What now, Batman?’

Han Solo – I don’t have to explain that one, do I?

Hmm. I can see that I haven’t arranged a balance between the genders. But, hey. My table, my rules.

Who would be around your table?

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Liz Fenwick realised a suitably romantic dream

Liz Fenwick has kindly joined me for the Dream a Little Dream blogathon, today. Her story … well, it ought to be one of those slushy romantic novels!:-)

When Sue asked me to write about a dream, of course I thought about the writing one – the one fulfilled when The Cornish House came out in May, but then I thought back to another long held dream that happened much sooner. Thanks to all my romance reading as a child and teen, I’d always dreamt of meeting a wonderful Englishman to sweep me off my feet. I of course would live in a grand house and he would be Darcy to my Lizzie.

When I moved to the UK in 1989, it was to meet men. I was bored with the variety I was meeting in bars in Boston. Don’t get me wrong, I loved, and still do love, the Sox, the Celtics, the Patriots and the Bruins, but I just felt there had to be more to conversation than sports or business. Blame those romance novels of my youth, but I hoped I would meet a cultured and handsome man when I moved to London.  When I did, it all happened rather quickly. I had not been in the capital ten days when I met my now husband. He was supposed to be at the Middlesex 7s  (there’s that pesky sport stuff again), but instead joined my new flat mate and me for lunch at the Pheasantry before she went on a blind date with a pig farmer – but that’s another story…

He swept me off my feet or, really, swept me around the world. No vast country pile, but a lovely Cornish cottage awaits us when the need to travel finishes. The reality has proven far better than anything I could have dreamt of all those years ago when I left Boston on the 19th of April with mother’s words ringing in my ears – ‘It’s Patriots Day. You are going the wrong way. We won the war.’ We had indeed, but this Englishman was the man of my dreams and he had my heart even before I knew him.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of The Cornish House, tell us who you dreamed of getting together with. And if you did. And how it worked out! Liz will choose her favourite.

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Freda Lightfoot and the power of dreams

Freda Lightfoot is my wonderful guest on today’s Dream a Little Dream blogathon. Her epic novels are familiar to many, many readers.

And here’s what Freda has to say about dreams:

I was always a dreamy child, my mind constantly engaged elsewhere in some make-believe world of my own. I must have missed half whatever the teacher was saying, which explains a great deal, and usually resulted in a telling-off. I had a naïve faith in the power of dreams, believing that when I woke up I would no longer be this small, plump, red-haired girl with freckles and glasses, but the more glamorous person who lived inside my head. She always had something witty to say, was good at maths, and had boys queuing to take her out. Hey, it was my dream. I confess to this day I can easily switch off from reality and slip into that world of make-believe, and it is no bad thing. Real life can be tough, and we all need some fantasy world into which to escape. There is something rather wonderful about being alone with ones own thoughts and dreams, where we can play the hero or beautiful heroine, be involved in a romance that is sure to have a happy ending, or an adventure with no risk involved.

Studies have shown that dreaming is actually good for us. It helps us to relax and sleep well, so that we wake up refreshed. Freud claimed that dreams were an expression of our secret desires, allowing us to view the world, and ourselves, in a more positive light. He also said that you can’t make anything up in a dream, and here I beg to differ. For I love to make up my own dreams. Whatever has frustrated me during the day I like to resolve at night in my dreams. My fantasy world is a marvellous outlet for all that pent-up fury against the bank, tax inspector, or the rude person who barged in with her shopping trolley. In my alternative universe I can win the argument I couldn’t hope to win in the real world.

Dreams rebuild our dented egos, replenish our own self-worth. I believe that true dreams, those that we have when we are asleep, can actually solve problems. Not just for a writer working on a knotty plot issue, but real life problems that our conscious mind, inhibited by worries, logic, work, family or peer pressure, can miss. The process of dreaming strips all those blockages away and gets right to the nub of the matter. Then we can wake up having found a peaceful resolution. Bliss! We can even discover, through our dreams, the source of our depression and worries, so that we can then deal with them in a rational way. Dreams also allow us to recall memories that have quite disappeared from our conscious mind, and what a joy that can be. So, it seems that all those tellings-off I got from my teacher for dreaming were really entirely uncalled for. I was actually resolving my life’s problems, building my self-esteem, quietly growing as a person, even if I remained short, plump and red-haired with freckles and specs.

Thanks for such a lovely post, Freda. I had a teacher who told me I’d never get anywhere daydreaming. Happily, she was wrong …

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Does it work when Julie Cohen tries to train her dreams?

 It’s my pleasure to welcome to the Dream a Little Dream blogathon today Julie Cohen, whose novels are as smart and sassy as she.

Here’s Julie’s fab post:

For years now, I’ve been attempting to train my dreams. I’m a big believer in the power of the subconscious. It can bring buried anxieties to the surface when it’s time to tackle them; it can also solve problems in ways that your conscious brain would never think of. In an attempt to harness this power, I often make myself think about a particular problem before I go to sleep, as I’m relaxing and close enough to sleep so that it won’t keep me awake, but will tick over in my head as I slip into dreams.

It doesn’t always work. I don’t always remember my dreams, and when I do, they’re most often about completely random things or mundane anxieties like going out in my pyjamas in public or worrying whether I’ve remembered to close the window in the rain. But every now and then, especially when I’m deep in a story, this technique comes up trumps

When I was writing my second book, I couldn’t get hold of my heroine. I knew she had some sort of major problem in her past, but I couldn’t work out what it was. Without this key, nothing that she was doing was making any sense. Then one night, I dreamt that she was standing on a stage, holding a microphone. She raised the microphone to her lips and she told me, out loud, what her problem was.

And it was perfect. It fitted the story, her behaviour, her situation, her relationships with the hero and other characters. Everything. 

With my latest paperback, The Summer of Living Dangerously, something similar happened. I couldn’t quite work out the relationship between the heroine and her ex-husband, which is a relationship that’s central to the story. I was staying alone in a cottage in Dorset at the time, trying to write as much as possible, and I went for a long walk in the afternoon and wore myself out and had to go to bed early. I thought it was wasted writing time. But I dreamed a scene that night between my heroine and her ex-husband, before he was her ex-husband, before she even realised she loved him. They were in a summer field, surrounded by long grass and flowers, drinking warm red wine.

That dreamed-of scene became, to me, the heart of the novel. It gave me my title and even influenced the cover design.

So dreams can be very useful. I always think of the story of how Lewis Carroll awoke from a dream with one perfect nonsense line in his head: “For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.” And he had to write the entire poem, “The Hunting of the Snark”, to figure out what that line, the last line, meant.

If it’s good enough for Carroll, it’s good enough for me. Now I just have to sell that book about going out in my pyjamas in public.

 To be in with a chance of winning a Julie Cohen book, comment and tell us your most embarrassing dream. Julie will pick a winner. Or, I suppose, you could send in a pic of you wearing your pyjamas in public …

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Kate Harrison dreams for a living

Welcome to the Dream a Little Dream blogathon, Kate Harrison! Kate writes fantastic contemporary novels for adults and teenagers.

Kate says:

I dream for a living.

It’s a strange job, but one of the many bonuses is that it gives you chance to try the things you’ve always wanted to do – mainly on the page, but occasionally in real life too.

The first dream to make it into a book goes back to when I was eight years old: my life’s ambition was to become a Brownie (preferably a Pixie, but I’d have settled for being a Sprite). But we lived in the Netherlands where cycling and skating were what kids did.

By the time we moved back to the UK, I was too old to become a Brownie, so I joined the Guides, which was a bit too serious for my liking. Plus, the Scouts always sniggered when I said I was a Swallow, and I couldn’t work out why…

But old dreams never fade away. A couple of decades later, I was chatting to a friend who had earned an armful of badges, and I began to wonder how those early skills might influence the adult you became. I imagined six former Brownies reuniting twenty years on – and of course, I had to write about them as girls, too. Soon, I was immersing myself in promise ceremonies, Hostess badges and camp fire songs. It was the closest a thirtysomething woman can get to being a Pixie.

After Brown Owl’s Guide to Life was published, I had loads of letters and realised I wasn’t the only one who sometimes dreams of the days when you could measure your achievement in fairy cakes.

The next dream is, frankly, all about vanity. I’ve always been curvy, and writing full time has made me curvier still, due to the proximity of the biscuit tin, and the little-recognised importance of Hobnobs to plotting.

And yet, I dream of being a beach babe. So… I decided to endure my worst nightmare to achieve my dream – by going on a week’s military-style fitness boot camp. With eight hours’ exercise a day, I’d be in dreamy shape. And while I was there, I’d research a novel about women doing the same thing.

It didn’t work. My dream body remains covered by a stubborn extra stone or two. I’ve always had a problem with bossy people, so after a week of being bossed about by buff ex-Army types, I returned in rebellious mood and hit the biscuit tin with new enthusiasm as I relived the experience writing The Boot Camp.

Never say never, though. I still dream of trim thighs, and there’s this new diet that is guaranteed to work…

I still have plenty of unfulfilled dreams to try out. So if you spot a new book about a plump writer who fronts a Commitments-style band  in a spangly size-eight cocktail dress, you’ll know I’ve been living the dream again – with my head in the clouds and a biscuit tin within easy reach.

Kate’s book, The Boot Camp, is out now, published by Orion. Her website is kate-harrison.com

 

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Talli Roland’s dreams – a blessing or a curse?

From the lovely, lively Talli Roland, today’s contribution to the Dream a Little Dream blogathon. Thank you, Talli!

Talli writes:

I am nothing if not a prolific dreamer. A notoriously light sleeper, my night-times are full of tossing and turning amidst techicoloured adventures. Any given morning, I can recall my mind’s romps – from the trivial to the fantastic to the horrifying. A blessing or a curse?  Ask my husband when I’m angry at him for some dreamtime misdemeanor! (This morning, you’ll be happy to hear, I was a very pleasant wife indeed. In last night’s visions, he let me eat the last piece of cake. Bonus!)

Thankfully, I rarely have nightmares. I usually maneuver myself out of any awkward situations before something terrible happens, managing to bring about a happy ending. I guess my subconscious is suited to writing romantic comedies: even in sleep, I refuse to let things end on an off-note.

I wish I could say my dreams bring inspiration, but mostly they’re a random jumble of incoherent events, like bits of a film all mixed up. As with most people, they’re influenced by the day’s events or worries. When I’m deep in editing, I dream of endless word deletions and marauding red pens. When I have a novel set to release, my mind conjures up bad reviews and scathing remarks. These are the nights I’d prefer not to remember!

Still, I consider dreams my very own built-in entertainment system. What more could a sleeping soul ask for?

Talli Roland writes fun, romantic fiction. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine). Despite training as a journalist, Talli soon found she preferred making up her own stories–complete with happy endings. Talli’s debut novel The Hating Game was short-listed for Best Romantic Read at the UK’s Festival of Romance, while her second, Watching Willow Watts, was selected as an Amazon Customer Favourite. Her novels have also been chosen as top books of the year by industry review websites and have been bestsellers in Britain and the United States. Construct A Couple is her latest release. To learn more about Talli, go to www.talliroland.com or follow Talli on Twitter: @talliroland. Talli blogs at talliroland.blogspot.com.

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Sue Cook gets in dream trouble …

Broadcaster and writer Sue Cook shares with us her own particular take on dreams in her wonderful contribution to the Dream a Little Dream blogathon. Her post certainly evokes memories for me. 🙂

Sue writes:

Something was stirring the leaves under the hedge behind the goalpost on the far side of the school playing field. A glimpse of black and white told me it was a cat. I’d seen it before, stalking unsuspecting little victims. What was it after now? Run little mouse, run.

‘Susan! What did I just say?’

‘Um… Sorry?’

‘You can stay behind at break time and write out a hundred times “I must pay attention in class.”’

‘Yes Miss Fielding.’

It wasn’t deliberate. I did try. But my mind would insist on taking me out through the classroom window and off on crazy flights of fancy. It did it all the time.

I forced myself to concentrate on the blackboard. The here and now of Miss Fielding’s history lesson.

Along one side of the playing field was a wooden fence in front of a row of semi-detached, brick built houses. A movement caught my eye. A gate in the fence swung open and a tall man in a dark green jacket emerged, accompanied by a Scottie dog on a lead. I’d noticed him a few times now, walking the dog around the playing field perimeter. Always his shoulders were hunched and his head bowed, whether the day was cold and windy or not.   The little dog would jump up at his knees and yap for attention, but in vain.

He’s maybe had a row with his wife…. He’s done something wrong – or maybe forgotten to do something. She’s angry with him and he’s left the house, slipping out by the back door, leaving her ranting in the kitchen …

Or maybe he’s lost his job. He’s been made redundant. He must be beside himself with worry. He’s got his wife and dog to look after, maybe a child or two as well, and no money to buy them what they need.

Then again, he might live alone. He certainly looks lonely. His wife could have died – only a few weeks ago.  They were sixteen when they met at a school dance and he’d never had any other girlfriend since. He can see his life stretching ahead of him… right through to old age… with just the little dog for company. He misses her so badly. Cute though the little dog is, it couldn’t talk to him; it couldn’t cook him a delicious dinner or bring him hot lemon drinks in bed when he was poorly. It couldn’t wrap loving arms around him in bed…

‘Susan! You’re doing it again!’

Reluctantly, I wrenched my mind away from my daydream.

‘Right, Susan. That’s it. If I’ve warned you once, I’ve warned you a hundred times. Now go and stand outside the head’s office.’

Was she really sending me out of the class?

‘I said now, Susan!’

The rest of the class wide-eyed and silenced for once, I stood up and walked to the door, let myself out into the corridor.

The head’s office was up the stairs, next to the secretary’s office and the staff room. He had rigged up a mini traffic light system above his door; red for ‘wait’, amber for ‘I won’t be long’ and green for ‘come straight in’. I knocked lightly. The light turned red. I waited.

Opposite the head’s door was a wooden bench with a set of coat hooks above it and a skylight window above those. I grabbed one of the coat pegs and pulled myself up. Yes. If I stood on tiptoe I could see out. The man and his dog were nowhere in sight. Heavy grey rain clouds were gathering above the row of houses.

In an upper window, something flashed briefly.  A woman was holding a chrome make-up mirror with one hand and applying mascara with the other. She must be going out somewhere. I wondered where…

‘Susan!…’

Sue has been involved with National Short Story Week in producing podcasts of her Write Lines radio programme. They can be heard FREE at www.thewritelines.co.uk  and are downloadable on iTunes. And I’m one of the guests on the podcast entitled ‘How to Build a Career and a Profile as a Writer‘.

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Rowan Coleman has never stopped dreaming

Joining us for the Dream a Little Dream blogathon today is the dreamily versatile Rowan Coleman.

Go for it, Rowan:

I have a lot of dreams, I am a very dreamy person. But possibly my most long standing and as yet unfulfilled dream, is the one I have of one day using the Booker Prize winning speech that I have been practising since I was nine years old.

Now, at the age of forty-one, I have come to realise that it is very unlikely that I will ever win the Booker Prize, and so, in the interests of being a pragmatist, I’ve adapted it to be suitable for almost any prize. It can also be used it for The Oscars, for example (what, it could happen!) or The Nobel Peace Prize (The fights I’ve broken up in my living room). I could use it for winning Best Victoria Sponge at the town fete (Although due to my baking skills this is slightly less likely than me wining The Booker) or really anything at all. Why, you may think, what a shallow dream, to dream only of some vain glory, when there is so much else in the world to dream of?

But you see, that dream is the dream that reminds me of the little girl I used to be, preparing herself for literary glory, even when her dyslexia meant she couldn’t read or write nearly as fast as her imagination could invent stories.  When I was nine years old I believed I could conquer to world come what may and that nothing, but nothing would be able to stop me. As I mentioned, I’m forty-one now, but I still believe all things are possible, and I’m still up for giving it a darn good go.

 

Thanks, Rowan! Inspirational post.

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Nicola Cornick dreams of the northern lights

It’s a pleasure and privilege to welcome Nicola Cornick to the Dream a Little Dream blogathon. Nicola’s fab historical romances sell worldwide.

Here’s her post:

First of all, many congratulations to Sue on the publication of the wonderful Dream A Little Dream. It’s a great pleasure to be here to join in the celebrations!

I’m fascinated by dreams, both my own and other people’s, and what they are trying to tell us. When my other half was studying for his psychology degree he had to keep a dream record so that he could analyse his dreams in class. Since he sleeps very soundly and seldom remembers dreams at all this involved me waking him at random points during the night so that he could write down any dreams I had interrupted. My interventions were frequently unwelcome – who really wants to be woken at two in the morning when they are in a deep, satisfying sleep? But the results were startling – vivid, complex dreams that would never normally have been remembered in the light of day.

In contrast, I’ve been a poor sleeper for years but the reward is that I often remember my dreams.  One recurring dream from my childhood is that I am lying in deep snow staring up at the black of the sky. It’s studded with stars as bright and white as diamonds and wreathed about them are the Northern Lights in strands of luminous green. All about me are mountain peaks etched against the sky and the night air is cold on my face but I feel warm.

I don’t know if it was my childhood reading that fuelled this dream but from as early as I can remember I wanted to travel to the far North and see those Northern Lights. I wanted to see seas made of ice, and white bears and icebergs taller than houses. I didn’t realise at the time that I couldn’t necessarily see all these things in one place and in the end I made three trips: To Iceland to see icebergs, to Spitsbergen to see seas of ice and polar bears, and to Norway to lie in the snow and watch the Northern Lights flowing across the sky. In the process I also saw sea mirages of great towering blocks of ice that vanished when the ship drew close. They were called the fata morgana and take their name from the Morgana of Arthurian legend because they are fairy castles in the air.

These travels to my dream destinations in turn provided the inspiration for one of my books, Whisper of Scandal, set in Regency London and the Arctic, in which my heroine is the widow of an Arctic explorer who travels to the far North to reclaim her husband’s lost child. So in following the dreams of my childhood I not only found places more beautiful than I had imagined them but I also found the idea for a book that became very close to my heart.

 To be in with the chance of winning a Nicola Cornick book just comment and tell us whether you’ve ever acted on one of your dreams – and what happened. Nicola will choose the comment she likes best.

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Horror writer, Mark West, shares his thoughts on dreams

Years ago, I met Mark West, horror writer extrordinaire at a writing group. We were published members, sat at the back and sniggered, passed notes and probably annoyed everyone else. We also set up a critiquing partnership that endured and Mark is still one of my valued beta readers, so read Dream a Little Dream  when it was still a draft, commenting in his own inimitable way: ‘I’m banging my head on the desk, now ...’, ‘Why would she do this? …’, ‘Is it me or is this guy a creep?’ It’s my pleasure to welcome him onto the Dream a Little Dream blogathon today. Especially as his post isn’t scary!

When I was asked to write this piece, my only restriction was that it couldn’t be about wanting to be a writer, which stumped me somewhat.  I didn’t want to write about regular sleep-type dreams, simply because mine are never particularly exciting and usually quickly forgotten, so instead I’ll write about aspirational ones.

Dreams are odd and ephemeral, meaning different things to different people, but it’s my absolute certainty that we all need to have them.  Even if they’re tiny and prosaic – I want to get through today, to see my loved one tonight – they serve a very real purpose.  For those creative types amongst us, dreams are what sustain us, they’re what keep us going as we fail to transcribe what’s in our head into our preferred medium – the page, the microphone, the guitar, the canvas.  The dream is what you chase, the prize that will lead onto greater things and more dreams – I want to be published, I want my book in the shops, I want reviews in quality papers, I want a film of my work, etc.

For most pursuits, creative or otherwise, rejection has to be accepted as part of the ‘game’.  A dream is what allows you to get over that, to push you on when you perceive yourself to be failing, to allow you to hold your head up high as you examine the wreckage of your creativity and makes you pick up the pieces and try again.

But I, being poor, only have my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet,

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams

 – W B Yeats, “He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven”

Mocking a dream is easy to do – “ha, you can’t sing/write/play an instrument, what are you doing here, get out of it!” – and sometimes, those dreams are fatally fractured, to the point that they can’t be repaired.  How many people, with creative aspirations, have had their dreams dashed and never pursued it again, losing the enjoyment from their lives and what they might have been able to offer to others?  If you write/draw/sing/compose/act or whatever, I don’t think I need to mention how bad it is, to rip holes in the dreams of others, do I?

When you get sick of trying, let your dreams for the future carry you onwards.  And if someone shares their dreams with you, don’t belittle them for it.

Dreams are what drive you on, embrace them and challenge them and most of all, enjoy them!

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