Pick a dream


At night, my dreams of asleep beckon; dreams where I can fly, dreams where I can run without getting out of breath, where I can ride a bike without falling off. Dreams where I am never old. Dreams where, sometimes, people I love but who long since breathed their last breath, visit. In my asleep dreams, I encounter characters who ask me to write them. Some, I have. Some are waiting their turn. To reach my dreams of asleep, no mountains have to be climbed, no streams forded, no rainbows flown over. I just close my eyes and drift there. And, if fear hammers at my heart, I open my eyes and defeat the dream-crashing terrors.

When I’m not asleep, my dreams of awake beckon; dreams where life never hurts the people I love, where the people I’ve lost never left. Dreams where I walk by the sea whenever I want. In my awake dreams, I’m not tired. I write. To reach my dreams of awake, no blood has to be poured, no sweat broken, no tears shed. To reach my awake dreams, I just let myself drift. I don’t even have to close my eyes. All I have to do is imagine.

My dreams of asleep and awake are always there. They live with me in the world where I live. The world where I choose to bring the best of my dreams to life. The world where, to defeat the fear I sometimes feel, I have to wipe away my tears and look terror in the eye. The world where, sometimes, I watch the people I love walk painful paths I cannot walk for them. The world where, each time I fall, instead of staying fallen, I get up and try again. The world where there are days I can stay in the world of asleep until I am no longer tired and then take a walk by the sea with someone I love who never left. And on the very best days in the world where I live, I write. I write loves and losses, hopes and wishes. I write flights and fallings, pain and healing. I achieve with my eyes open as I take hold of the dreams I choose.  

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”  Paulo Coehlo- The Devil and Miss Prym


Where characters come from (3): Dylan Lachlan


Ships in the night. The summer I learned what that meant, I was fourteen. And a half. I was on holiday with my family. Camping. That was the summer the realisation of my own mortality struck me so forcibly that, so afraid of falling asleep and never waking again, I spent the whole night nestled in the safety that was the space between my parents. It was also the summer of my not-quite-kiss. His name was Mark and he was not-quite-eighteen. For a few brief days, our lives sailed alongside one another. On the last of those days, for the briefest of not-quite-single afternoons, Mark held my hand. And at the end of that afternoon, for a moment that lasted less than a breath, he brushed his lips across mine and was gone and I didn’t know whether I’d been kissed or not. Ships that pass in the night. Some people are with you for a season, then gone for a lifetime, my father explained as I nursed a heart not-quite-broken. That was the summer I stopped being fourteen and a half. That was the summer I turned not-quite fifteen. 

Years, more than I could ever imagine living when I was not-quite-fifteen, have passed since that summer. Other Marks came and went. Some left my heart more than broken, some limped away with their heart not-quite-intact. The seasons I spent sailing alongside my parents have gone. My eldest child will soon have lived for half of my lifetime. And I thank God for those ships that have passed; for those whose waters I have yet to share. I am even thankful for the times I was so broken I thought I would never mend. I am thankful to have learned about love and loss and the treasuring of times that can never be gone as long as they live in my heart. And I look forward to discovering alongside which of those ships I will sail in eternity.

Mark was the template for Dylan Lachlan in my novel Strong as Death. Dylan has Mark’s eyes …  


Where characters come from (2): conjuring demons


file000328629752 telephone boxMum wanted a private word with me. I was barely five years old and we were huddled in a telephone box. Although I believed every word of the tall tale I’d just told, there was something very wrong with it. It tasted bad and I didn’t like it, unlike the taste of the chocolate I’d just eaten, the chocolate that, when we’d been in the shop, mum had said I couldn’t have. No, I didn’t like the taste of the story that came out of my mouth, the story that explained how ownership of the forbidden chocolate had happened to come into my possession. It was the lady, you see. The old lady. The old lady in the grey coat. And grey hat. It was the old lady in the grey coat and grey hat. The old lady in the grey coat and grey hat who was wearing grey gloves. The lady with the big handbag. It was she who gave me the chocolate. Just as she was leaving the shop. That’s why no one else had seen her. And that’s why we couldn’t go back to the shop to thank her. Because she wasn’t in the shop anymore. And she must have gone somewhere else because she was in a very big hurry, and that’s why she had seemingly disappeared into thin air. But I’d seen her. And with every word that left my lips, I saw her more clearly. And it was in that telephone box, with my mum trying to get to the truth, that I had my first glimpse of the difference between
fiction and lies. That was the day, for the first time, I knew what guilt tasted like. It was also the first time I met one of the many characters who help themselves to any space they can find in my imagination. It was the first time I met the elderly lady, dressed in grey, the elderly lady dressed in grey that anyone who reads ‘Strong as Death’ will meet.

Mrs Malloy pic