Bedtime Ritual

There comes a time in a marriage when crawling out of bed in a slinky nightgown at 2am to feed your famished baby (after all, it has been 2 hours since his/her last feeding) just isn’t convenient. So naturally, we resort to sleeping in that old pair of high school sweatpants that miraculously fit (even though they used to be two sizes too big) and our husband’s favorite t-shirt. Or is that just me?

It’s an adjustment to accommodate the changes a growing family brings. Just like a marriage, compromises have to be made and needs have to be met. For instance, upon hearing me curse in the middle of the night when I “accidentally” fell into the toilet, my husband agreed to always put the seat down and in return, I agreed to stop using his razor in the shower. But there is one thing we haven’t been able to come to an agreement on: my bedtime ritual.

Having come from a large family, I almost always had to share a room or a bed with one of my sisters. One of my sisters is three years older than I am and one is 3 years younger, so I had the best of both worlds. I could play Barbie’s and house with my younger sister, and offer words of advice (all of which I took from Seventeen Magazine) about love, friendship, heartache, and make-up to my older sister. Our bedtime ritual consisted of talking until one or both of us fell asleep. No matter how hard I tried, I could not break this habit. My husband, on the other hand, could fall asleep (and still does) as soon as his head hit the pillow.

For years, he insisted it wasn’t because he found my conversation boring but rather, he found my voice soothing. (He’s good, I know.) To prove this point, he would call me late at night when he was on a trip and wake me up, just to hear me talk. Being a stay-at-home mom with 3 small children, I had about 30,000 words to get off my mind. On one occasion, when I was about halfway through my story of how our 6 month old son’s diaper leaked while he was in his “walker” and he rolled poop all over the house, he cut me short. “It worked honey, your voice has put me to sleep,” he said. In my husband’s defense, I will say that I have been told by numerous people, including my children, that I have that kind of voice.

The compromise came when we put a TV in our bedroom. I would watch the most mundane shows, hoping I wouldn’t get too interested and stay up half the night. I kept the volume low so I wouldn’t disturb my husband, but when we moved to a new house and the TV was across the room, this proved to be a challenge. So, for Christmas, he presented me with wireless headphones.

In the early stages of writing Magestic Dreams, I had to make a few changes in my bedtime ritual. I had to admit, it was hard to find inspiration while watching TMZ. How could I possibly dream up a story that would sell millions of copies to blood thirsty vampire lover’s all over the world? Oh, wait. That’s Stephanie Meyer. Anyway, in an attempt to edit my manuscript, I read Magestic Dreams into a little handheld recorder so I could listen to it at night–my new bedtime ritual. Often times in writing, we have a tendency to repeat the same words and our brains have a unique ability to correct sentences that are riddled with mistakes, so these mistakes go unnoticed. I thought it would be helpful to hear the words aloud.

It’s a great concept, in theory. There is just one problem. I can never make it past the first paragraph or two before I fall asleep to the sound of my own voice. 

Categories: writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

I’m a very sensuous kind of girl.

Before you think I’m about to make a disturbing confession, let me say I am speaking of the senses. Touch, smell, taste, sight, and sound, I love them all. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert in the art of crafting a story and I think the day that I do is the day I stop learning. But nothing can bring more perception to the reader and to the world we are creating better than the senses.

When I smell cinnamon and spice, I think of Christmas and all that comes with the holiday season. Cold weather, a limited number of shopping days, baking, decorating, family gatherings, and gift giving, all rolled up into one heavenly scent. But that might just be me. For you, that same fragrance might remind you of your Great Uncle Phil and the air freshener he sprayed upon leaving the bathroom after a 30 minute hiatus with the newspaper and the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated. And for that, I am truly sorry.

Not everyone has had the same experiences or been moved to tears by the same music. But when our senses are stimulated, we become a part of the story and we can travel to places we’ve never been. Even if we’ve never been near the ocean, we can imagine how the salty air might taste on our lips. We can feel the gritty sand polishing our bare feet as we walk along the beach, hear seagulls squawking in the distance, and see the sun melting into the water like an orange Dreamsicle on a hot summer day.

In movies, the background music or film score tells us how to feel: fast-paced and edgy for a fight or flight scene, soft or whimsical for a love scene. And when the orchestra of music dies down to one single instrument, and then slowly rises with intensity, we know for sure it’s time to curl into ourselves and hold our breath because “the bad guy” is about to rear his ugly head.

In writing, we don’t have the luxury of awesome sound effects and music. Therefore, it’s up to the author to get the reader’s heart pounding when the main character finds herself lost in a creepy forest, on a dark and stormy night, heading towards the rushing sound she can hear in the distance, hoping she stumbles upon the highway and not the 50 foot waterfall she spotted from the helicopter just before it crashed–she can still smell the burning fuel. She covers her mouth to filter the air from the heavy smoke and warm thick liquid oozes from her lip. The taste of rusted metal and copper pennies trickles down her throat and she gasps—blood. **insert dramatic music here**

Categories: writing | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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