Everybody has one, and I won’t pretend or presume that mine is any more or less important than any other. But for some reason I like reading these stories; there’s something cathartic about them, and something equally healing about writing one’s own down, getting it out, putting it in hard, visible words so as to give it perspective.

For me, September 11, 2001, began with me waking up in a bad mood because I’d had a nightmare. I often have vivid dreams, but in retrospect this dream is one I will never forget: I was a passenger in a white pick-up truck, but I couldn’t see the face of the driver, only his right arm, which was dark–I thought Latino, maybe, but it could as easily have been Middle Eastern. I didn’t want to be in the truck, but there was no getting out. We were on a highway, moving quickly even though there were many cars, all going in one direction. All the big, green highway signs (you know the ones, at least in the US, that hang over the highways and mark exits and such) read: Death and Destruction Ahead. And in the distance was a cityscape, dark clouds swirling over the tall buildings.

My alarm went off and I stomped through my morning routine, my cat following me around and mewing his sympathy for my irritation–at least, that’s what I thought at the time, but maybe he was just clued in to something bigger and deeper in the cosmos. Animals are funny that way. I eventually left our apartment building, and the day was beautiful, bright and cool, so I chose to walk to work. That walk took me across Boston Common and the Public Gardens to where I was a production assistant at Houghton Mifflin on the corner of Berkley and Boylston Streets.

It was my habit to arrive at work a bit early, somewhere around 8:30 or so. On the other side of my cubicle wall sat the department admin, and I could hear her and a few other voices chirping about the Internet, web sites too slow or not loading or some such. I ignored it. Not a minute later my desk phone rang, and my husband told me without preamble, “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.”

“That’s stupid,” I said. I was picturing a little Cessna, and some amateur would-be pilot making a ridiculous and grave error.

My husband seemed to follow my line of thinking. He said, “No, like, a plane.”

Admittedly, I had very little grasp of the geography involved. We’d been to Manhattan a few times, had walked past the Towers at least once, and of course they were featured in any film that had New York as its established location. But other than that, I was a bit at sea about the whole thing.

I tried to go online, but like the admin and her crew, I couldn’t get any news sites to load.

And then my husband said, “Oh my God, another one.”

He worked in finance, you see, and so the open space of his workplace was dotted with televisions.

At this point the girl who worked in the cube next to me was in hysterics. In lieu of any actual, factual information getting through, rumors were flying. The Sears Tower had been hit, the Space Needle in Seattle, Los Angeles was under attack. I grabbed my co-worker, marched over to our boss’ office, and informed her in no uncertain terms that we were leaving. I told my co-worker to call her boyfriend to come get her and felt very lucky I lived within walking distance of my office.

Our boss then went to the corner conference room to tell the department head what was going on. “Can this wait until after the meeting?” he asked. “The country is under attack!” my boss told him. I didn’t wait to see how it played out; I ushered my fearful co-worker back down to the lobby to wait for her boyfriend. Once I’d seen her safely into his car, I started the walk home.

My husband called on my cell to tell me they’d evacuated his building (he’d had to walk down 38 flights of stairs) and that he was going home (he was also within walking distance) and I should go home, too. I told him I was already on my way. The walk down Boylston and then cutting through the Common was very different from the one I’d taken that morning, and as I crossed the lawns I saw so many college students lounging on the grass, reading and dozing, and I thought: They don’t have any idea.

I stopped at the corner convenience store to pick up a few things, just in case they ended up closing early. Just in case we ended up stuck in our apartment for a few days.

My husband was already there when I arrived, television on, and we watched it all unfold, the same images over and over, the media striving to give information when so little was yet known.

At some point I was able to get through on the phone to my parents. You see, September 11 is my father’s birthday.

I’m in New York today, though I’ll soon be on a train back to Boston. But there is a strange gravity in being a visitor this morning. And even still a mixture of sentiment and resilience–for in Times Square as I was leaving, there were yet people out and about, enjoying themselves, off to Fashion Week events, even as farther south many were gathered to remember. And I’ve been past the site a few times now (though not during this visit), and it is remarkable for its vacuum, even as we’ve all adjusted our sight and become used to a New York with many tall buildings but without Towers.

In a few hours I’ll be on the train to NYC. I prefer the train to flying; I like forms of travel that provide me with scenery.

Staying in the Paramount at Times Square. I haven’t stayed in this particular hotel before, but it’s supposed to be very nice, so I’m excited to give it a go. Since I’m planning on spending most of my time in the room (writing), it’s important to me it be a nice one!

I do expect I’ll need to take breaks, though. To eat at least, and to find gifts for the kids because I’ll be taken to task if I return empty handed on Sunday. Also, I’ll want to go to the Lindt store and stock up on truffles because I like to eat those while I’m writing. They’re like sweet little rewards for my hard work.

For the most part I expect to be working on my “K-Pro” story, though I may also edit 20 August a bit. I’m thinking of reducing it to a one-act play. Once it’s ready I’ll be able to send it out to competitions and such. AND . . . I’m bringing the stuff for my spec script just in case I get the urge to work on it.

Here’s hoping for a productive weekend!

So it’s Teaser Tuesday again, which is when I open the book I’m currently reading and post two “teaser” sentences. I just finished Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson last night (the review is up on spooklights), so this is the next book I intend to pick up and read. It’s Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley. I’m a sucker for those Cleopatra books.

The teaser comes from page 115:

The woman was half snake.
“I hired you,” she said, too calmly, “and you left me.”

So I was reading my Daily Variety (and no, I won’t make fun of my husband’s inability to interpret the headlines–or even most of the articles’ content–due to jargon) and saw that TNT was working on a show called Enigma, which is “a modern-day Sherlock Holmes.” Haven’t I already seen this show somewhere?

Oh, yes. Yes, I have.

Well, Sherlock Holmes is public domain. But I wonder how closely the BBC and Steven Moffat and co. will be watching for potential infringement. It’s a murky area, I would think.

And where will they set this American version? New York maybe? Is that the closest we have to a London on this side of the Atlantic? Will the character even be named Sherlock Holmes, or was that just the general pitch for the show?

Curiouser and curiouser.

I don’t watch anything on TNT myself, but I may need to keep an eye on this one.

Someone called Steven Moffat a c*nt on Twitter this morning and he asked, “Does everybody get this and is it increasing?” Well, generally speaking, most people aren’t in the public eye enough for that kind of venom (at least, I’m supposing they’re not). But as a rule, the more you put yourself out there, the bigger a target you’ll become. I think my post on negative “fans” covers the bases on this.

In other, happier, fan news, please go visit my friend Rejected Riter (link also on sidebar). I’ve been posting about recent rejections, but RR helps lift some of the cloud cover.

Seeing as work is the best way (for me at least) to soothe my sorrowful heart after a shower of rejections, I prepped some stuff for submission today and mailed it out. Even that much feels like a bit of progress. Of course, it may only yield more rejection . . . Vicious circle, this writing business.

I meant to do some actual writing, too, but had other errands to run. I’m glad, though, to have gotten some writing-related activities taken care of.

My son said to me today that he thought I’d be bored while he was at school. “You’ll do all your writing at once and then you won’t have anything to do!” I tried to explain that it doesn’t all happen at once, that most writing takes longer than a day. I’m not sure he believed me, though.

Having finished the draft of 20 August (my two-act play), I’m turning my attention once again to “The K-Pro.” And my scripts. And then at some point, when I feel enough time has lapsed, I’ll go edit 20 August . . . Did I mention the bit about the vicious circle? It’s rather like chasing one’s tail. But better to have too many projects than not enough. I hate dry spells. Would much prefer to stay busy, juiced up with ideas.

Another rejection today, this time for “Warm Bodies.” But they were nice about it, saying that it just didn’t fit in with the kinds of plays they publish. This publisher apparently focuses on the kinds of things kids do in school, and I can agree that “Warm Bodies” is a bit much for that crowd. However, I wish their website had been more clear about this, since it said they publish stuff for community theatres and such as well (which is exactly what I wrote “Warm Bodies” for). I will try it elsewhere.

It is difficult, though, not to get discouraged when it seems to be raining rejections. Some days I feel like I might never be successful on any front, no matter how hard I try.

Well, on the up side I finished the first draft of my two-act play and sent it to the theatre in London that had asked to see something in longer form. They wanted to get a sense of my style, so I felt that even though it was a draft, it suited the purpose. Though of course I added a note that it was just a draft.

But on the down side . . . Another rejection for a couple of my short stories. Rejections are always difficult, and this one felt particularly harsh, not because they were mean about it per se but it was just the stark wording: “The piece is not for us. Best of luck with this.” Really? That’s the best you can do when letting someone down?

Here’s hoping the play does better for me.

And did you see that BBC Books is planning to do Sherlock books after all? Now how do I get my foot in that door, I wonder?

Last day of Sparkfest!

It’s funny because I wouldn’t necessarily look at the things I write and immediately think: Well, I wrote that from experience. But experiences do color everything we write. One doesn’t neatly separate the writer from what has been written.

I’ll give a specific example of a scene I anticipate using in my “K-Pro” story. I was alone and traveling abroad (I like to travel; I find it another way of finding inspiration, especially when I’m alone and can absorb without distraction), and I got lost in a large international city. This was before I had a handy cell phone or any such thing. Yes, I’m that old! But a gentleman came along, and I suppose I looked rather distressed, and he did this interesting thing where he put his hand on the small of my back as if to guide me. And it was sweet and reassuring and a bit startling all at once, and something I’ll never forget. So I will take this action and use it in my story, because I think my male lead character is the kind of person who might do something like this, and I will embellish it a bit because that is what writers do. I will take it that step further–imagination makes it easy to picture that, when the woman turns, naturally the man’s arm will come around her and there will be a kiss. Yes?

Travel “sparks” me in that it becomes part of my broad experience and gives me new and different perspectives on the world. I could write about the place I grew up, and my family would certainly make an entertaining story in its own right, but having traveled gives me the ability to pick and choose from a variety of people and places, it gives me more material to build with so to speak. From the farmlands around my hometown to this stranger in a foreign metropolis, I can combine and create an infinite number of possibilities, rounding them out with my own imaginings.

And kisses are universal.

What else can I say about inspiration and/or spark? One can go the conventional routes: art and photographs that inspire, people watching and overheard snippets of conversation. I’ve mentioned before that I find poetry inspirational as well.

I think writing is a sort of engineering. One draws the necessary materials from a variety of places and fashions them into something new and different. The elements all remain, but they are used in unusual ways and are sometimes disguised. Depending on what you’re building–writing–you may want one thing to show through or another, or you may want to hide most of the construction by decorating (just don’t overdo it).

As you might notice, I tend to think in metaphors.

My parents are analytical people, and I inherited a certain amount of logical ways of thinking from them. But my family has a history of art and poetry, too, and while I’m useless at drawing or painting and my poetry is weak at best, I definitely got the creative gene. Sometimes spark is on the inside, settled like a seed. My insides are tangled with vines of various sorts that need pruning now and again but serve me well in a variety of ways. Climbing, swinging . . .

So yes, I think my tendency to take one thing and equate or relate it to something that most people wouldn’t match it to (see yesterday’s post about music) has something to do with the blend of problem-solving skills and creativity I inherited. Take my story “A Society of Martlets” for example. I was looking at the family crest, which has martlets on it, and thinking I like the word “martlet” and might like to use it somehow. And I was reading a book about Edward III and it touched on the dissolution of the Knights Templar. I can’t remember why I was thinking of Lambeth, though. But somehow I took all these things and knit them together anyway.

History is a great place to dig for ideas, by the way. There’s so much of it and so many possible angles. I tend to go backward instead of forward for whatever reason; I don’t write future fiction or anything like that, never minding my love of Star Trek and Doctor Who. Maybe I can blame all those Indiana Jones movies as a kid for that?