Saturday, 14 October 2017

Black Magic

Reading: The Running Man by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
Listening to: "Black Magic" by Little Mix
Outside: Warm wind and dancing leaves

In between the loads of laundry,
the jogging and the push-ups and the plucking
of naughty weeds from my flowerbeds,
I raise my sore arms to welcome you!

This! Is Inspirational Autumn. For me, the best time of year.

It is the sacred spin of the earth into winter, tilting its axis at that last golden time before the frost's clinking, bare boughs. This is the particular shallow rise of the sun, the calm letting go of leaves that make a fantastic, haunted, crisp sound when you walk through.

Lena's Autumn Leaf Extravaganza, October 2016.

This is the time of year that sparks, well, sparks: campfire flames that pop and crackle and float up little phantoms of light; the flint-like crunch of bonfire toffee here in the UK; the glow of flame on pints of apple cider. This is the time of shadows and stories. Of skeletons and lost love, of graveyards and dares. I loved this time of year as a child.

And who wouldn't?

Halloween, people, Halloweeeeeeeen!

And, growing up in the farmland-suburbs of central Indiana, I was a child reared on this:

The Wondrous Thing Itself

And with those horrifying illustrations, these folk stories of hunger, love and death all swirled around in my pre-adolescent brain, mixed with the spiders I encountered daily in the loft of my playhouse, where I'd station myself, physically incapable of moving from the musty orange patio-bench mattress where I sat crosslegged, paralyzed by both my fear of arachnids and also for what may be lurking on the floor below. My stomach went cold, my synapses connected - these crones, zombies and haunted children, storied between Schwartz's pages, could come find me, and I was sure they were wheezing by the playhouse door, waiting.

That, and the campfires my sister and I would share with our neighbors, our friends, school kids still thrilled with the new clothes and tensions of a new school year, all of us full on Twizzlers and Cokes. We'd look at each other across the heat of the the flames, right at the edge of the woods, our features changed, distorted magically by the firelight. There were hayrides, Halloween parties and trick-or-treating in the early dusk, when the sun glowed low and orange over the harvested cornfields, all those dried stalks like rows of tangled bones, when the crickets were a symphony every night.

The long strip of our asphalt driveway, its gentle curve onto the cul-de-sac that would lead to my faraway future: My need for deep, dark stories, my aching open invitation for readers to join me in a place where unknown things - things you don't want to see, things from which you can't look away - howl.

...And here I am, age 34, between books, saying Good Luck to one manuscript as it's prepared for New York acquiring editors' desks, and saying Welcome to the World: gently coaxing a new story into being. My latest manuscript is putting on weight; these characters begin to breathe. I'm walking alongside each one of them, every bit a part of the story as they are. Like any good book, this story unrolls seamlessly in front of me, taking me down a dark path. It's a landscape coming to life.

Me, in my writing cave, doing the thing I do best.

I am once again in awe of the beautiful, unpredictable curves of fiction, the way a story can twist under your fingers, weaving around itself, growing like a vine. The inherent black magic of it: the emotional charge of that single lit window in all that darkness. The need to know. A lace-veil swept aside, giving you that glimpse into another world, another heart.

I hope you have as inspiring an Autumn as I do - may those jack-o-lanterns glow in a certain sinister way, just for you. I hope you detect phantoms in the dark, and I hope they pause to whisper sweet nothings in your ear.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

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