Dreamer Unpacked

(Thanks for your patience… due to a computer crash this post was delayed). I thought I’d write a blog post discussing my latest short story, Dreamer. I won’t unpack it in the minutia, but with a broader lens. If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend doing so now before reading this post (spoiler alert).

At almost 3,000 words it is a long short story. It could be legitimately argued 25% of that length is before the story begins. If it were a dinner you could say there’s a lot of soup and salad before you get to the meat. The intro is a long character introduction where Steve is talking to his daughter and ex-wife. For the purposes of this story, most of that dialogue is unnecessary. A good paragraph or two could evoke the same sense of the character’s attitudes toward fatherhood (which is an important theme in the story).

There was a purpose for the expanded character background: although Dreamer is written to be a stand-alone story, I wanted the possibility of adding to Steve Wilder’s “adventures” (if I may use the term loosely) in episodic short stories. There’s plenty of story-fodder: Steve’s role as a father (made more complicated by the fact he no longer lives with his child), his dreams, ongoing tension, claustrophobia and, possibly, a rekindled romance to his ex-wife. All that aside from his ‘gift’. Hopefully the slow introduction was not too taxing on most readers.

The story is a blend of the ordinary and extraordinary. It is set in the real-world and readers can understand what it is to work hard, have not-the-best relationships and stay in motels. Steve, and his situation is relate-able. He’s a regular guy who feels like the grind of life is pretty intense. He doesn’t have a perfect family situation or the perfect job but he’s thankful for what he does have. He’s an “every-man” hero, who is in the midst of discovering something extraordinary.

With the title of Dreamer it should come as no surprise when the characters begin discussing Steve’s weird dreams, which he himself doesn’t understand. With potential sequels I’ve left some hints in the text and given myself room for Steve to grow in his understanding of how the dreaming works. (I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil future discoveries). As the dream sequence unfolded – Steve himself, and the reader, is uncertain as to what these dreams are. Do they represent anything at all? Steve isn’t sure, so neither should the reader be (who is understanding the world through him). The fact that it was really happening (or something like that ;-)) was a reveal that I wanted to leave for the end.

How did I come up with the idea? The first stage of the dreaming sequence where Steve is diving down into a warm lake is how I’ve been going to sleep lately. It was a major part of the inspiration for the story. Try it yourself, I find it quite relaxing to envision myself in warm water. (And I haven’t wet the bed yet). I’d also had the idea bubbling around inside my head about how I could use dreaming in a story. The two ideas merged together, and Dreamer was born.

Do you have any thoughts or comments about Dreamer? (I’m not sure when we might hear from Steve Wilder again, but I’d be surprised if we don’t


When Nightmares Wake

I’ll save my thoughts and analysis for a follow-up post, but here is my promised writing exercise When Nightmares Wake, a full-strength Fantasy piece.

I am moderately pleased by it (but it remains in the shadow of the short story The Captive [slice-of-life genre] or the novelette Escape from Hell [faith-based genre]).

After you have read the story, you might like to read the related author notes.

When Nightmares Wake

Great Lord Tarius’ eyelids flickered as awareness trickled back into his mind. Dulled by the stupor of sleep an awareness of danger seeped in, as though it was of no consequence.

Continue reading

The Victims of Autumn

A short writing exercise, and very much different to what I would normally write.

The idea behind the writing exercises is to learn to look at things differently; to see stories where they don’t exist, and employ imagery as a narrative.

leavesThe leaf holds on with the last reserves of its energy, clasping in desperation to the branch. The end is coming; it is a fate whispered by the older and wiser parts of the tree. The tree is hoarding its sustenance to survive the winter; the leaves the innocent victims of necessity.

A stiff breeze blows, pushing the leaf beyond endurance. With an imperceptible snap the umbilical cord of life snaps; its connection to family severed. The leaf flutters down slowly, briefly held aloft by the prevailing wind. Is the breeze allowing it a final farewell as it falls or like a reluctant killer, lowering it gently into the afterlife?

The leaf hits the ground with a soft knock, lying among its fallen brethren. Does it look up in wonder at the tree from a new perspective? Does it hope for rebirth- to change into compost and re-enter the tree?

The next breeze begins again, sweeping the newly fallen leaves along the harsh stone path. To human ears it sounds a rustle, but to the barely conscious leaves it is a grinding down of hope.

Leaves that had once been full of life and purpose are now just empty husks. Separated from the connections of an entire life, swept along and scattered.


A small writing exercise… inspired by a fence. The goal was to write something quickly, without spending long on it.

In the modern age of cotton-bud-rich helicopter parents, furious but depressingly lazy keyboard warriors and opportunistic lawyers (whose antics mortify those with common sense), the idea of home defense has been buried between the graves of personal rights and personal responsibilities.

Take for example the common property boundary of a steel fence with upright bars and sharpened ends. This fence is a superb palisade of spears that any medieval general would happily camp behind. The strong metal and cruel points ensure that an invader either comes with a ladder or a significant deficiency of wit. All but the most foolhardy would be encouraged to remain on the ‘right’ side of the property line. “Would”, of course if the fence has been allowed to do its duty, but instead it’s cold black steel has virtually been decorated with pink bows. The sharpened steel points have been neutered to avert the do-gooders wrath: blunted or affixed with some danger-less ornament. The functional became the pretty; which protects or dissuades no one.

And so house after house, property after property lay open to the thief and criminal, now comfortable in their knowledge that entry would be as easy as if the door remained open. “Come at will.” our political correctness said, and so they did.

Not so the house at the end of the street, number 167 Barrington. It’s fence might appear the same as all the others but it was the opposite of neutered, quite the opposite. Every bar had been sharpened to such an edge that by touching it at any angle would leave a vicious cut. For the man living at number 167 did not like to be bothered, by friend or foe alike.

Writing ‘Conviction’

This is a short story I have been wanting to write for a few months but have been prevented from doing it because of attempts to complete Vengeance Will Come.

I need a little break from that personal tome so today I begin the preparations for Conviction. I thought it might be interesting to share the writing of this story together in a series of blog posts. Note a huge spoiler warning that if you read these blog posts, you will be getting countless spoilers to the final story.

Conviction: a firmly held belief or opinion.

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. (Mahatma Gandhi)

Where did the idea for Conviction come from?

The inspiration of Conviction comes the news headlines over the last few months: I wanted to write about the Islamic State (IS) and the persecution of the populations in the areas they control. Finally I want to juxtapose that against the Western church as a challenge.

As an author, putting my own viewpoints across – be they political or religious – is a potentially dangerous thing. Conventional wisdom would say not to do it under the guise that the reader doesn’t want to be “preached at”, or that I might be alienating a large body of readers.

I understand this response, and I too feel resistant when I read something which I don’t agree with. But do you know what – I don’t often read something I disagree with. Sure, I may start something but if I don’t like the way it is pushing, I just stop reading. And the reader is always free to do that too.

I hope that if I am upfront about the purpose of the writing, then the reader can make an informed decision, and respect that I gave them that information in advance.

I want to write this story because I feel that we are so isolated, and paradoxically also desensitized to the ongoing suffering. I also feel that those Christians enduring the persecution have much that they can teach to the Western church, which understands so little of standing up for their faith under persecution.

Writing Goal

Normally I like to try choose a writing goal for a short story, i.e. something that I particularly want to practice in my writing. For example in The Captive I wanted to experiment with a “gotcha” or surprise to the reader. And in the subsequent short story Alone I paralleled The Captive from another viewpoint, while still revealing more storyline from an alternate perspective.

My goal for this is to follow the writing process through diligently. I could easily bang out a few thousand words on my keyboard right now and get a reasonably decent story, but that’s not what I want to do. I want to spend some time researching and outlining so that the end result will be better.

Next up in the Conviction journey: Setting