I admit: I’m one of those dream-writers
It started when pregnancy played whack-a-mole with my hormones. As children grew in my belly, my mind dragged me into dark recesses only to drop me on clouds of ocean’s water. I’d roll off to find myself in a desert, no, a house, no, a casino, with living walls and games run by hands as ready to pull you under as roll the dice.
I nursed these dreams with my children, watched them stumble about until they could hold up their own heads. I smiled as they learned to speak for themselves, cried when they grew sick and pained. They have fought me over wants vs. needs. They have learned some tough lessons. I have, too. From this struggle of real and fictional parenthood I have built a series of stories eager to enter the world; my first, Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, is to be released in early 2019.
But not all stories are like that. Yes, some may grow in as a babe in the belly, but then there are those that fall from the sky of the mind and land upon us, knocking the wind out of us, rolling off of us and running, leaving us to ask: what the hell was that? Do I give chase, or walk away?
Me? I give chase.
Winter in Wisconsin is a fickle thing. Snow comes and goes any time from Halloween to Easter, yet very rarely does it grant us a white Christmas. This past December a harsh, bitter cold settled on the state, making it impossible for kids to play outside without threat of frostbite. So, I’d often take my kids to the library for a while after school to burn a little energy. My twin sons, Biff and Bash, played with the train tables or puzzles while my daughter Blondie and I perused the picture books. One day we are in the animal books when we find something old, battered, and without color: About Owls.
“Ooo, owls,” I said. Blondie was reading the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series at the time, and Bash’s favorite sleeping animal is an owl. “Should we bring this home?”
Blondie agrees, and I pulled the story out at bedtime. There are fascinating tidbits about owl babies, where different owls live.
And then, I read a page I do not understand:
…you won’t often see an owl in the daytime unless a flock of crows discovered the owl.
Crows are the enemies of owls. When a crow sees an owl he sends out a call. And from near and far, other crows come to join him. Pretty soon there will be a crowd of crows cawing and calling. This mob of crows swirls angrily around the owl to frighten it, and drive it away.
What does it mean, the crows are enemies of owls? What does the owl alarm sound like?
And I see it: a small family, traveling, flying, because they have wings, because of course they do, and they are watched by one, a child or child-like, distant, dark, frightening. And with every turn there are more of the dark-feathered watchers, more and more until they are ready to swarm and overrun…
“MomEEEE!” Biff bats me in the head. “Keep, READING!”
The story had slammed me so hard I had stopped talking. Stopped seeing the world outside of me.
Every sense had turned inward to watch the story roll off of me, smile mischievously, and bolt.
I finished the book as quickly as I could, then turned inward again while my husband Bo brushed the kids’ teeth. I frantically searched online about crows and owls, determined to understand what it was about these two species that drove such a strange relationship. It’s more than prey and predator, more than territory. There’s something else here.
So, keep your senses peeled, writers. Your dreams will inspire you in due course, but other stories lurk under the park benches and down the grocery aisles. They’re giddy in the tree line, nipping the tail feathers of baby ducks. They’re out there for you to catch.
Don’t let them get away.
About Jean Lee
Jean Lee has been writing all her life, from picture books for preschool to a screenplay for her Masters in Fine Arts. Nowadays she works on Fallen Princeborn, a Young Adult Fantasy series for Aionios Books, Middler's Pride, a Young Adult Fantasy serial for Channillo, and her blog about the fiction, music, and landscape that inspire her as a writer. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three children.