Dreams. We all have them. Do they mean anything? Some people used to think that they were communications with spirits or the gods. Some thought that if read correctly would they tell the future. A more modernist might say they give insight into the depths of the subconscious. If there is meaning behind dreams or not, one thing that is sure is that as our dream-selves witness strange shifts in “plot” and setting, impossibilities occur around us and illogical behavior is observed, and yet during the dream we never feel it is strange, we take it all in as totally normal.
Back in 2015 I had one of those very weird, illogical dreams that jumped around. I’m sure I have them all of the time, but I had the luck of remembering this particular one when I woke up the next morning. It was a doozy, fully of skeletons, ghosts and weird family relationships. (Freud would have had a field day with it!) I thought about that dream as I drove into work. It was just so odd, how could I not! By the time I reached work, I decided to write it down, but not as it happened. I wrote it as a work of fiction. With the dream fresh in mind, the story was a natural and I typed it out in record time.
You can read a quick version of the entire dream below. But there are some odd things I want to bring up.
A big chunk of the dream took place in a crypt. Yeah, a place full of dead bodies. All of the bodies that I could see were skeletons. Most were on stone shelves, but some were sitting chairs, facing me. They all squirmed and moved whenever I wasn’t looking directly at them.
I’m not sure if I was looking through solid stone, but I could see a second crypt. The people in it were mostly African American. Not all of them. In fact, there was one part of the dream that had cousins, one black with “natural” black hair and one white, with straight, blond hair. Strangely enough, by the end of the dream I knew they were all related to my dream-self.
There were two ghosts in the dream. One was a stocky man with blond hair and icy blue eyes. He was dressed in late 19th century clothing. Another was a very old black lady. She was dressed in modern clothing and I recognized her, not realizing she was dead until later.
There were other parts, like the teen being locked in the crypt by the blond ghost, the ceremony, the celebration, etc. Overall, it was one of the strangest dreams I have ever had.
I was able to fit most of the detail into the story, but it just seemed too open ended. I named it “The Halley Branch, Part 1” and posted it on my blog. I figured I could finish it up in a couple of days. For the rest of the week I took a short break at work each day and wrote each new “part” almost stream of consciousness style. I immediately posting each new “part” on my blog without any editing. By the time I wrote “Part 3” it was obvious that I didn’t have a long short story, or even a novella, on my hands. I had a full book.
I continued writing and posting a new chapter of this strange story every day still using a stream of conscious style without ever going back and reading what came before. As I approached chapter 20, though, I decided I needed to create some type of a plot and that I needed to work out the ending. Late that Friday night I took a half of an hour and plotted out the rest of the story. Over the weekend I wrote the final dozen or so chapters. I continued to post them on my blog one day at a time until I got to the end and decided to stretch out the last few posts to cause some anticipation. Altogether I had posted a 50,000+ word story stretched over 35 days. I was surprised at how many people followed it to the end.
After finishing the serialized book, I reread my initial “dream” chapter for the first time since posting it. I was amazed at how much detail I had put into it that came out in the story much, much later. A lot of those details were actually part of the original dream.
Thinking about it, putting all of those little details together later and trying to explain them was the genesis of my book The Halley Branch. I did a half a dozen more drafts and almost doubled the length, but that dream still stayed at the core of the story.
So what did this really strange dream mean? I hope you agree that it meant a great story and novel based on that story!
Where do you get your inspiration? Have you ever used a dream in your writing?
* The Dream (in part) – After being chased out of a small private graveyard, a police officer stopped and gave me a ride to a large cemetery. He pointed out an open grave. I walked over. A town officer was digging in the grave. They were exhuming a body for evidence in a crime. I jumped into the grave to talk.
When I landed I found myself in a crypt, not a grave. The people had all changed, becoming “family”, but not my true-life, waking family. They were part of some odd dream family. There were rock shelves that had skeletal bodies each covered in a single shroud. A few skeletons were sitting in chairs. I couldn’t tell if there was cloth dripping from them or if it was flesh. I didn’t look closely! The bodies seemed to be in a different position every time I glanced at them as if they were moving on their own. The living people were going through some type of ceremony that I more than half ignored.
I looked through a door and saw another crypt full of living people and skeletal bodies. The people in the other crypt were mostly African American. They were performing the same ceremony as the people in “my” crypt. There was a feeling that both crypts were part of the same extended family.
Someone said something and everyone filed up a steep stairway to a room decorated in Victorian fashion. For some reason I was the last one up the steps. I called out to the room if it were OK to lock the door. Someone said “yes” so I closed and locked the door to the crypts. As I was walking away I heard pounding and screams. I walked back and unlocked the door. An African American girl, perhaps in her late teens or early 20s, was standing at the top of the steps. She ran into the room and collapsed. A woman, obviously her mother, and a blond girl about her age which I knew was a cousin, ran to her and started comforting her. I turned back to the stairs and saw a man half way up them. He was short yet powerful looking. Very light blond hair. He was wearing mid-nineteenth century clothing. I was about to step down when a woman grabbed my wrist and said “no”. I looked closely at this woman, an older (80s? 90s?) African American woman. She seemed almost desperate to stop me from following. I closed and the locked the door again. When I turned back to the room I found there was nobody around me. I don’t know who told me not to investigate the man.
The above depiction of the dream is a little simplified but gives the main idea.
The Halley Branch
Now available via Amazon worldwide in paperback and for Kindle
An evil 300 years in the making. A trap set 150 years in the past.
The day should have been a normal “family day” at the Hawkins’ Mausoleum, but a premonition followed Trevor into the crypt. To make matters worse, he couldn’t shake his morning vision of a dead woman draped in a funeral-shroud.
After rescuing a girl trapped in the tomb, repressed memories forced him to reevaluate everything. Was his extended family a cult with roots going back to America’s colonial past? Was the evil Benjamin Halley still stalking his tomb after 150 years? Was there any truth to the Power described by the family’s patriarch, Miles Hawkins?
Trevor realized that he was being manipulated and drawn into a trap set in the 19th century, and feared that everyone around him had already been ensnared. Who could he trust? The members of his own family’s Branch, The Bradford’s, like his cousins Bill or Stan? Perhaps members of the Hawkins Branch, such as the beautiful but jaded Amelie? The one Branch he knew not to trust was the extinct Halley Branch.
But the Halley’s were the ones who were welcoming him with open, if dead, arms.
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About the author
I never decided what I wanted to do when I grew up. I compose and play music, draw and paint, take a lot of pictures, and yes, I write. I’ve written a couple of books that are sitting on my shelf waiting to go out and I write a new short story almost every week, which I often post on my blog, trentsworldblog.wordpress.com. I’ve collected some of the best short stories I’ve written and put them out as “Seasons of Imagination”.
I also like to eat, so I work as a computer nerd during the day while I figure out what it is I really want to do.
If you really need details, I was born and raised in Ohio by the shore of beautiful Lake Erie and now split my time between mountainous New Hampshire and the coast of Massachusetts.
One thing to know about me is that I hate to write bio-blurbs in the third person.
Find Trent’s books on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle
In the shadowy area where myth and history collide, an unlikely hero is forced to save the world from an ancient Celtic curse. Dr. Elliot Everett-Jones knows that shadowy area well, having spent most of his life exploring its dimensions as given by a host of unreliable sources and imaginative speculation. Some would say he daydreams over the improbable plots of second-rate Romantic era authors. These fantasies, however, come to life after the discovery of the Cauldron of the Dead. When the Cauldron produces the evil fireborn, Elliot is forced to confront an army of these mythic undead with nothing but his obscure knowledge and the hope of finding the legendary Lady of the Lake to give him Author’s sword. Even more frightening is the idea that he might have to confront his ex-wife, Eleanor. “The Fireborn” is part joyful romp through history, myth and legend, and part fast paced adventure set in modern England and New York. The entire book, though, revolves around Elliot’s relationships with a large variety of characters. These relationships form the key that may unlock the mystery or lead to utter defeat.
Trent P. McDonald’s Seasons of Imagination contains an eclectic mix of stories covering many places, times and even different genre, yet they all hold one thing in common, they are all about people. Be they silly, serious or speculative, all of the stories are about us. What makes us tick? Why do we say the things we do? Why do we react as we do?
So whether it seems the stories are exploring outer or inner space, in reality they’re always exploring the human space.
Here is an invitation to open the page and come with me to explore the Seasons of Imagination
Tell me a story!
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