Monday, April 25, 2011

Pharmaceutical Dreams as a Writing Tool

I used to be a writer. While in junior high and high school, I actually won quite a few contests, and seemed to garner enough praise for my writing that I actually came to believe I could write. Of course now, some XX years later, I haven't exercised that ability as much as I should (except for this blog, of course).

I was recently prescribed another medicine to assist me in maintaining my allegedly fragile health (allegedly fragile, as except for my depression, occasional anxiety, asthma, allergies, sleep apnea, and hypertension, not to mention my slightly overweight girth, I feel great!!!), and have come to realize that one of the side effects of this latest one is really weird dreams. I mean really weird. I wish I could remember most of them enough to amuse you, but as is typical, I usually don't recall them after being awake for more than a few minutes.

One of my off-and-on projects over the last nine years (OK, so it's really off a heck of a lot more than it's on) is writing a story based on a dream I had all those many years ago. It was one that I thought would make a reasonably decent sci-fi story, and so I took notes as best I could, and started writing away, only to stop and take an eight-year break between chapters. I doubt I'll ever get it published even if I do happen to get it finished, so maybe it'll end up on my blog one of these days if no other options exist. Laura keeps encouraging me to write, which she knows I enjoy, so I appreciate her help.

Based on the writing of that story and with Laura's recent encouragement to use writing as a good release, I've thought that some of these really weird dreams I've had lately would be excellent fodders for stories. After all, creativity is one of the things I struggle most with as a writer (and a human), so anywhere I can grab an idea, even if it's from the strangest recesses of my conscious self, I figure it's fair game. However, the weird thing is that I'll think it's the greatest story idea in the world, and then a few hours later, I'll think it was the dumbest thing I've yet done to waste time thinking it would make a great piece of writing. For example, early this morning, around 2 or 3, I woke up from another one of those drug-enhanced dreams to think, "Wow!! I'd love to turn that into something written!" So, I spent the next five or so minutes of half-asleep thinking time trying to etch the details into my brain so I could refer to them later. However, upon waking up this morning, I recalled very little of the dream, but also knew that what I had recalled would be an absolutely stupid idea for a story. So, apparently, the drugs make me dream vividly, but also stupidly. They affect my judgment (Laura, I guess this means you better hit me up for any weird purchases you want to make while I'm half-asleep!).

I know that "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" was written by Robert Louis Stevenson from the result of a dream he had one night, so I guess I've always figured this is a great way to get ideas for any of my future writing. But, I also must realize that not everyone wants to find out what exactly I'm dreaming about, so that, coupled with the fact that I can't remember what most of my dreams are and that what I do remember is really out there, I guess I'll have to go to another source of inspiration for my writing. I still think this has some potential, though. I'll have to do what some writers and others do and put a notepad next to my bed for those moments of insight. Until my next breakthrough story idea comes through, though, these kinds of dreams sure beat the mission nightmares I continually have. But that is the subject of another blog post...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Final Storm: An Advance Review!!

The Final Storm: A Novel of World War II in the PacificThe Final Storm: A Novel of World War II in the Pacific by Jeff Shaara

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was able to review this book over a month in advance of publication by winning a drawing through Goodreads, so I need to (and want to) thank them and Ballantine, the publisher, for allowing me to receive an advance copy of the book. Jeff Shaara is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, and this third novel of his that I've now read is no exception.

Historical fiction has always been kind of a weird genre to me; how accurate can it really be if it's fictionalized? But the best authors of these kinds of works do a bunch of research and can actually give us a better view of the incidents depicted because now we're brought inside the people's lives who went through the event, saving the reader the difficulties of reading the memoirs of everyone involved. Shaara obviously has an affinity for doing this kind of research, as the product of this research is so gripping.

Having completed a trilogy about World War II that focused on the war in Europe, Shaara says he was approached by a number of veterans and family members of soldiers who fought the war in the Pacific wanting equal time. Therefore, we follow a few people through the Battle of Okinawa and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and get to experience those events through the eyes of those who participated.

The details are haunting, and don't shy away from the brutality of the war. I think they're related masterfully by Shaara, being accurate, but not lingering on them. It's a difficult read, but it was a a difficult war. Shaara also does a great job of relating the events through the eyes of the Japanese, which show just how differently they viewed the war they were fighting. It's truly an enlightening experience to go through this novel, which reads surprisingly quickly.

It's clear that Shaara's talent is on great display here, and it was truly a privilege for me to be able to read this, his latest work, so soon. I can only hope that the book garners the same kind of praise and attention I believe it deserves.

View all my reviews