In which I wake up.

At 3 am this morning, I woke up and stared at the blank canvas of my bedroom ceiling. An allegorical reflection of my life. In a week and a half, I turn 34. Life has passed in the blink of an eye. There is a feeling that all this time I have just been staring out the windows, watching the world pass by. To date, I have one short story published that is in need of a 2nd edition, 17 short stories that are in an array of discord, one novel poorly half written, and the second novel is a silent film that continually plays in my head and has yet to be scripted. All the adventures that I long to take remain as scribbled words on a bucket list. I’ve only cross off 6 out of 297.

In the wee hours of this morning, something inside snapped awake. A tiny voice whispered in my head, In life there are no dress rehearsals. This morning, I realized that the state of hibernation that I have been suffering for the past two years was finally over.

This very moment, the one we are existing in now, is the only one that we tangibly have. We can plan for the next moment to come, hoping that it appears. Yet, it’s never guaranteed. Take a breath. Exhale. In the next breath, one of us could be dead. A life instantly terminated. We are only promised the moment we hold right now. And if we allow this moment to pass unfulfilled, we may not get the chance at another.

Since 2015, I have been dreaming of what I want to do, but lacked the propulsion and motivation to achieve those dreams. An era of dormancy was maintained until I took a trip to the Baltic states last summer. While wandering the remnants of a Cold Ware era prison in Tallinn, a spark of inspiration involuntary began a transformation within the core of my soul. The spark was so tiny that I barely felt the burn, but there was a slight movement on my part to extinguish the infinitesimal flame as the fear of failing crept into my heart. However, the nostalgic warmth of my former self reflecting in that flame was captivating. The flame was allowed to burn. It took several additional months before the flame was fed and ignited into a wildfire.

The appeal to become physically stronger, to eat healthier, to travel more, and to enjoy life intensified in January.  Suddenly, I found myself exercising everyday, gorging on vegetables and fruit, signing up to run a 5K & 10K race in April, organizing an excursion to New Mexico for May, and eyeing up a September 125-mile bike ride that begins in Quarryville, Pennsylvania and ends in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (those closest to me know of the ‘saudade‘ of the ride’s finish line location). And, I decided to take the final step in committing to train for a triathlon – today I bought swimming gear and made a pact to swim laps 2-3 times a week… at 5 am…

Oh, and the words! The words! At moment of my full awakening this morning, when the inferno of inspiration was set fully ablaze in my soul, I realized that the words were back. My muse rose out of the embers and all the motivation that I had for creative writing once again burned brightly. The new novel that had been brewing as a silent film in my sub-concise showed its purpose. Today, there is direction. During breakfast, the plot was feverishly started. Then an inkling began that my blog was in dire need of revitalization.  And so, here I am.

As insane as all of this sounds, it is like the ‘light switch’ on a transformation to become my true self finally flipped ‘on’. The most amazing part of this awakening is that a change elicited in my writing style and perception.

Dark fiction is a ‘genre’ that I’ll continue to enjoy.  Fear, which is evoked in characters who are placed in harrowing situations, is quite captivating as it is an emotion that reveals a character’s true nature. Yet, it is in that moment when truth is exposed by fear that I now want to leverage as a seed for strength and purpose, as opposed using fear as a tactic to break and destroy characters with a purpose to deteriorate their will to live.  I may still base a few short stories off this trope; however, going forward, I want to convey that one’s strength and purpose are revealed when one has lost all hope. And a will to survive overcomes fear.

These past two years have changed me. For a lack of better words, the time was a cataclysmic whirlwind. Personal negative situations aside, I’ve been fortunate enough to be granted with many opportunities to travel the world. I’ve seen wondrous sites, met the most soulful people, and sampled delectable cuisine. In these experiences I found renewed creativity and inspiration to thrive.

Life’s an adventure, and our next moments stand on precipice of excitement and wonderment! Reach out, take hold, and never let go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This picture was captured whilst visiting one of my dearest friends, Michelle Muller, in Tallinn, Estonia. She knew Patarei Prison would captivate me. She wasn’t wrong. This mural, which was hand painted outside of the ‘hanging room’, triggered the start of my transformation. The mural directed me to continue the journey of wandering and wondering. (c) Amanda Headlee 2016

 

Definition of ‘saudade’:

Saudade is ‘the sorrow of not having enjoyed that which was there to be enjoyed; it is the vehement but resigned desire to enjoy a thing we were deeply attached to; and also the yearning to see, or be in the company of, someone from whom we have reluctantly been parted.

(Quoted in Dalila L. Pereira da Costa & Pinharanda Gomes, Introdução à Saudade: Antologia Teórica e Aproximação Crítica (Porto, Lello & Irmão, 1976), p. 10.)

Writing with the Dead

(c) TheBrassGlass

(c) TheBrassGlass

I found inspiration while sitting with the dead.  Their buried bodies beckoned me to join them and write.  The dead don’t impede while one is trying to concentrate.  They lie idly by, allowing masterpieces to blossom.  No comments, no critiques, no interrupting questions.  The dead provide a quiet, nurturing atmosphere.

Today is warm and sunny as I aimlessly drive through Bucks County–going nowhere and anywhere.  The act of writing, at this point, has left me.  It’s as though the spark that makes up my inner most self–my soul–has abandoned me on this blue-green, wayward planet.  The words no longer come, and I am anxious and agitated.  My life’s purpose has disappeared, leaving me empty and lost.

A small cemetery comes into view while traveling down a desolate, pothole riddled road with no dividing yellow line.  Something inside of my mind whispers to stop.  Instinctively my body takes control and steers the car off into the megar gravel parking lot.   Without a thought as to what was occurring, I exit the car and walk to the grass covered plots.

The landscape is speckled with headstones, which are old and hand hewn.  Green lichens and mold cling to the cool white stone.  Some markers stand as clean slates, the body’s identity wiped away by the hands of the weather and time.  This cemetery is ancient.  The dead have been here for many centuries.

It is well cared for, this small cemetery.  The grass is low and the surrounding trees are maintained.  It is picturesque.  Somebody truly loves it, devoting their time to care for the hallowed ground that houses these long dead people.

Sun filters through the trees creating little pockets of light among the shadowed darkness.  All is quiet and serene.  The only sound of life comes from the birds in the trees and from my own breathing.  Here in this land of the dead, a solace for the boundary of time, I find peace.  A peace that is limited by mortality.  A peace of knowing there is only one chance to achieve dreams.

And then they come to me, pounding into my head.  Reverberations and echos drown out the natural sounds of the cemetery.  Words.  They fill my brain and suddenly I find them spewing from my mouth.  I speak out loud stories–stories of my own creation–and they fall upon dead ears.  Quick!  A pen, some paper!  I hastily run to a sunny spot shining amongst the graves, fall to the ground, and pull my pen and moleskine from my purse.  In handwriting, illegible to anyone ‘s eyes but my own, I fill up a page.  Then another.  And another.  So on and so, the lined white pages of the notebook fill with loops and curls, all the while I sit in a fevered trance surrounded by the dead.

They watch me, quietly and uninterrupting.  This living being sitting atop their graves spilling words from her brain onto paper.  She has found herself while sitting among them.  But what will come of it?  The answer is unknown, but the dam has broken.  A flood is unleashed and the world once again seems brighter, happier.  There is a future.

The dead speak of these things to the living.  This life is unique and should be cherished.  It is the only time that this instance will be lived.  One must find inspiration and take hold of it with both hands.  Feel its invigorating life force, for once a life is over, the creativity for that person ceases.

I had to travel to the dead to find my reason to live.

Inside the Macabre Mind of the Horror Writer

Within each and every one of us are those dark thoughts that causes our skin to prickle and muscles to shiver in terror, thoughts that horrifically shame us. Deep in the recesses of each human mind is darkness. That darkness is what fuels our terror and nightmares. It is what gives us our conscience, our morality. However, there is a breed of humans that feed off the darkness and wallow in pits of of human fear. Those special, select humans are the ones that dabble in the writing of horror. The key difference between horror writers and others is that those who script the macabre shine a big spotlight on the darkness within their minds, drawing attention to it, where the majority of other writers prefer to not acknowledge that aspect of their being.

Now please, do not begin thinking that horror writers have dead bodies hiding in our basements or goat heads stung up on a shrine within our closets or that we are only driven by the macabre every second of our lives. We are not our characters. We do not live out the scenarios written about in our stories. Our fascination with horror resides only in our heads and when we put pen to paper. For most of us, we get a high off writing dark fiction. These horrible things that run through our minds, we want to share it. To give everyone else the thrill that we experience when we bring the darkness out from our minds and into the light. We love evoking the fight or flight response. And admit it, as a reader, you get a kick off of sitting at the edge of your seat. When you are at that peak during reading one of our ghastly tales, we have done our jobs. When you put our book down and walk away with a trembling feeling that you just survived a near-death experience, we have become the masters of sharing the true terror of our minds.

(c) 2014, Amanda Headlee

(c) 2014, Amanda Headlee

Horror is that shift in perspective away from the ordinary, everyday life. The genre is a path into a new parallel universe that rips the ground out from beneath your feet, casting you a hundred miles per hour to the core of the story while your mind prays you make it out alive. When you do surface from the grave, you feel more alive than ever. You have just survived Hell. That is why we do it. That is why we are so obsessed with the darkness within our minds, and yearn for the satisfaction of sharing it with the world through the written word. We want to bring you that shift in your reality, to knock you off your feet, to make you feel death, to make you fear the darkness, and to make you run like mad back to the pure light of all that is good.   Because what is darkness without light, and light without darkness?