Living in two worlds


This is what happens when you party at the zoo.

The weirdest dreams last night, intense and very real. I am in the midst of writIng a new mystery, and I had read a colleague’s comment that she loved to dream the next scene in her work-in-progress, because all she had to do was wake up and transcribe it. I guess I took that to heart, though I often think, as I drift off, that I’m going to plan what’s next in my current work. Last night it was like I was living in the world of my book, and when I woke this morning, I was back to the cottage and my real world.

I would dream a scene in its entirety and then realize that it wouldn’t work because of plot mechanics. So I’d go back and re-create it—and then something else would occur to me, like that character couldn’t have done such and such because she still didn’t know this and that. I would swear the dream lasted for hours, but it was probably only an hour at the most. And I would also swear that I wrote the entire book in my mind, but that wasn’t true either.

You might expect I would be exhausted when I woke up, but on the contrary I was energized and anxious to get back to the manuscript. When reality hit me, I followed only the very first part of my dream, and I wrote only 1300 words, a productive day for me. But those words didn’t take me anywhere as far into the story as I hoped, which is a good thing.

I am a pantser, which means I don’t outline—I write by the seat of my pants, hoping that inspiration will carry me to the next scene, the next red herring, the next plot development. My first drafts are woefully short, even for a cozy where the length requirements are much less than for suspense or thrillers. So it was good that I was able to draw out this one scene.

Tomorrow I know I will introduce a new character. What I must figure out is how she fits into the story—she, an mouthy eight-year-old girl—has been telling me she has to be in there, so we’ll see. Perhaps my dreams will be productive again tonight.

Aside from the 1300 words, it was a good day. I sorted through my recipe file which had grown out of bounds and probably threw out half of what I’d printed, clipped, and saved. I mean really—am I going to cook a prime rib in my toaster oven? I don’t think so. So now my wastebasket is stuffed with discarded recipes, and I’m not even going to take a second look.

Then my accountant called. He was missing 1099s from three sources. (Since I’m in Texas, my taxes aren’t due until June 15 because of the terrible ice storm we had in February.) I thought I would have to wait until Monday to find out about the missing forms. Then my brain clicked in, and I searched for them online. Found the one from my bank easily; the one from the brokerage was not so easy, so I called my oldest son and he found it, sent it to me, and I forwarded it to the account. Two out of three down! The third was my pension fund, which has multiple accounts (I have never understood why it’s not consolidated, but….) I found the tax forms but couldn’t see a way to forward them, so I printed. Then I called the accountant and said, “This is Judy Alter, who is feeling smug.” He roared with laughter and said I was doing well so far. I explained the dilemma, and he volunteered that he was just leaving to go get lunch, would drop by and pick up what I had printed out. And that’s what happened. I haven’t heard from him again, so I guess all must be in order.

Color it a good day.

After their big night out at the zoo last night, Jordan and Christian reported they are exhausted—I couldn’t resist a comment about growing old. But nobody had the heart to say what they wanted for dinner or to cook it, so we ordered take-out from the Lebanese/Italian place down the street. I got eggplant lasagna in a vodka sauce—so good, so rich, so spicy. Too much left over. Tomorrow they go, with Jacob, to the golf tournament for the entire day—I expect more exhaustion. Will go to dinner with friends but have willingly taken over dinner for Monday. Going to splurge and make crab cakes. Sometimes I fear my life revolves around what I eat or am planning to cook and eat.

This Memorial Day take a moment to think about all those who have given their lives for us. Then think about where our country is today. Where do you stand? Me? I’m indignant at attempts to destroy our democracy but also grateful for those who have fought for us, like my dad who fought in WWI, and grateful for those like Joe Biden who fight for us today.

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