Category Archives: The Dream Navigator

The Writer’s Marathon

In just under two months time I turn twenty-seven twenty- eight … Freudian slip/ wishful thinking, I genuinely first typed twenty-seven! But alas it’s the latter, and to mark the occasion, for some reason still unbeknown to me, I’ve decided to run the Budapest Marathon.

And so, as if to add to the many reasons why I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write for over a month, I’m now spending at least five hours a week pounding the pavements of my hometown.

It was on my run earlier this evening that I began to draw parallels between forging a writing career and a running race.

Getting a book published was never going to be a sprint, that much has always been clear to me. Getting published is an endurance sport. A steeplechase, as you face obstacle after obstacle on your way to getting published. First there’s the hurdle of the idea. The concept of the book. Then there’s the issue of committing that idea to paper, and actually finishing it. Once your book’s complete you have to find an agent … something which many of the authors I’ve met through this blog and via Twitter know all too well is one of the most challenging hurdles of the race.

With your agent onside, suddenly what started as an individual race becomes a team game, and together you unite to get your manuscript in the best working order possible.

But once the editing hurdle’s been tackled, the sport takes on a very different nature, because you as a writer are suddenly in the backseat – a spectator rather than a competitor. After years pushing forward, getting yourself and your writing over one hurdle after the next, you finally have to pass the baton over to someone else … and sit back and wait!

And I guess that’s where I am now …

I can see the finish line ahead … or my current personal finish line – publication – but as for getting there, I’ve done my leg of the race, and all I can do is watch on and cross my fingers, because (crossing sporting metaphors 🙂 ) the ball is now in my agent’s court.

I’m not gonna lie, for me is the toughest part of the whole process. This week a friend at work jokingly called me a ‘control freak.’ And whilst it’s not something I’ve ever been called before, there is some degree of truth in the accusation. I like to be in control. I’m a planner. I’m efficient and organised, and if I want to achieve something, I put my mind to it and get it done. If I didn’t work that way, there would be no way I would have got into Cambridge, or achieved half the ‘extra-curricular’ things I’ve done so far in life.

But getting published isn’t like that. If I want to be taken seriously as a writer, I need an agent. And if I’m going to be represented by an agency, then I need to know when to take a step back and let them get on with their jobs.

The difficult part is that I’ve put all my efforts into my books over the past two years. I’ve spent two long years glimpsing a finish line, and now it’s finally in clear sight, I am completely powerless as to whether I’ll get there. I’ve put all possible effort into the first draft, and every subsequent draft I’ve been asked to do, and that’s my job done … for now.

So the question is, what do I do now? Because frankly, when it comes to life, I’m the world’s worst spectator!

I NEED to be doing something! I NEED to feel like I’m doing something productive. That I’m still making steps in the right direction to becoming a bona fide author.

I guess to continue with the athlete metaphors, I need to stay in pique condition, and work out exactly what training is going to be most beneficial for whatever my next writing race turns out to be.

When Flicker, my first book, was doing the rounds of publishers, I busied myself with The Dream Navigator, my second novel. The book was something completely different, a spontaneous experiment as compared to the tale of Flic Firestone which had rattled through my mind the entire time I was at university. Writing a second book was the cheat’s route to getting to my target … like running in two lanes of a race at the same time, because by finishing another book, and getting it publisher ready, suddenly I was giving myself double the chance of achieving my end goal – publication. Either book might get me there!

And that motivation worked. Sheer determination to get published, mixed with the frustrated futility that an author plays in the final stages of getting a book deal drove me to write, and to write quick. I beat all my previous records, and had ‘TDN’ finished in a few short months.

And now TDN is running the race too. My second complete, edited, novel. My second chance at getting to the publishing finish line …

But now I’m back in the spectator seats, itching to do something that might possibly help my cause.

Except the problem is, I’m tired. I feel like I’ve been running my part of the race on a treadmill, positioned just metres away from the finish line. And that no matter how hard I work, I’m still not getting any closer to that end goal.
I’ve completed three novels, and have the bare bones of three more … but I’m beginning to feel I’m lacking an incentive to write new material. I’m lacking the drive to carry on writing new stuff because I’m yet to see the fruits of any of my previous labours.

Is anyone else at this point? Where you’ve spent the majority of the last few years putting everything into your books, and yet as of yet you haven’t got anything back from them?

I’ll be honest, it IS a demoralising situation, and every day, you’re hopes get a bit smaller, a bit more jaded.

So what is there to do when you’re in that situation? When you’re fed up with playing the role of spectator, and watching from afar with crossed fingers, as an agent queries publishing houses on your behalf?

The obvious answer is to write. But as I’ve tried to explain above, sometimes that really isn’t possible. Writing is the product of inspiration and desire to write, and when you haven’t seen any positive results from your previous efforts, it can be hard to motivate yourself to continue the slog. I guess it’s a bit like running a marathon, but never seeing the mileage change.

So if you can’t write, what else is there to do?

I think these days, that’s where social media comes in. As an aspiring author, you’re not just a writer, but a self-publicist, and so I think as a progressing author, it’s important to keep up with social media. I don’t think I need to repeat how important blogs and Twitter are, it’s a topic I’ve written frequently about. But what else can an author do to busy herself? To keep her hands busy, and her mind occupied, whilst waiting for her agent to complete the relay race?

That’s where you guys come in!!

What do you do to keep occupied? How many of you are in writing limbo? Anyone else beginning to feel a bit jaded and lacking the energy to put pen to paper, despite however many new ideas you might have?

It’s funny … in some ways this is the closest thing I’ve had to writer’s block! It’s like I’m blocking myself … my own impatience and dwindling hopes is putting up a block between the ideas and the writing … because where I haven’t written properly for a month or so, my head is streaming with ideas ….

I know this is less up beat and neat than my normal blog posts, but I’d just love to hear from other authors in a similar position. Being an author in limbo can be rather lonely at times!!!!

C-C xx

 

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Filed under Flicker, The Dream Navigator, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

About the Author – My Crazy Unorthodox Life!

Continuing my trio of blog posts this afternoon (see The Author Package, and My Writer Package!) I’ve decided to answer the Apprentice Candidate question, and hopefully also add to my personal ‘Author Package’, by telling you about my crazy, somewhat unorthodox life.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile at sunrise

 I think the key thing about my life is that I’ve never seen boundaries in the same way other people do.  Running a marathon in another country isn’t a life-long pursuit for me, it’s something I’ll sign up to four weeks beforehand.  I spend my life writing emails, searching out opportunities, taking chances, and generally trying to fill my life with as much excitement as possible.

On the inside of my left wrist I have a tattoo of two words – Carpe Diem.  As a child ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ was my favourite film, and it’s a motto that I’ve tried to apply to my life every single day.  ‘Seize the Day’ insists the Latin translation, and to be honest, I’m one of those people who when I don’t seize it, and look back on what I consider a ‘wasted’ day, I get rather frustrated!

My ACTUAL real wrist! How’s that for sharing? 😉 

I was orphaned at nineteen, which definitely had a profound effect on my attitude to life, however I maintain that deep down I’ve always been this person, the situation with my parents simply amplified this attitude of mine. At primary school I was an over-achiever.  Too young to really understand it, I constantly demanded my teachers attention, resulting in a host of awards and prizes, but rather unflattering school reports like ‘Charlotte needs to learn she’s not the only pebble on the beach!’

Hmm … well, I’m pretty sure I’ve learnt that now, though I’d probably suggest my pebble looks rather different to the norm!

At secondary school I was an all-rounder.  I was still academic, scoring straight As and A*s throughout school, but for me life wasn’t just about studying.  I played various sports, for the school and for the county, won a coveted role as a DJ on a children-run radio station, presenting the Breakfast show, and was sent to Japan to represent Great Britain in an International Schools Forum.  I was chief prosecutor in the county Mock Trial competition, Prime Minister in Youth Parliament and a Millennium Volunteer.  Outside of school I volunteered as a helper with Beaver Scouts, Brownies, Cubs and Guides (organisations I still volunteer with, 15 years on).

I did my Gold Duke of Edinburgh climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, my Queen’s Scout in the Swiss Alps, and saved up for two years to do a World Challenge across Venezuela.  My parents weren’t wealthy at all, and my Dad was often out of work caring for my Mum, who was ill throughout my time at secondary school, so I did a series of part-time jobs, from as young as 13.  I always had an expedition or a trip to be saving for, and so I worked working as a waitress, bowling alley lane host, a children’s entertainer, and then a lifeguard.

Looking back, I was the kind of child who would probably annoy even me now!  I know one close friend of mine, who if they saw 16 year old me, would describe me as ‘that kind of girl!’ with a disparaging roll of the eye!  But all those things were character building, and the more I did, the more I wanted to do.

At nineteen, on my gap year, I took a job teaching English in the middle of nowhere in China.  At a time when the internet was a lot more dubious, I received a random email asking if I was still looking for a teaching job in China, having been turned down by a number of major schools and universities for being too young and inexperienced.  Huaihua College simply asked if I could speak English!  And so, with that requirement fulfilled, I set off for China with my best friend at the time.  We literally weren’t even sure anyone would meet us at Beijing Airport, and had agreed that if that was the case, we’d do two weeks in the capital and then just fly back home.  Someone did meet us, and we took a 27 hour journey to the middle of nowhere.  Huaihua had a population of hundreds of thousands, and yet together with a Canadian girl who was teaching in a local middle school, myself and my friend were two of only three white people in the entire city!  We were literally treated like film stars every time we walked down the street!  I taught in China for six months, before returning to England to take up my studies at Cambridge.

Receiving my Cosmopolitan ‘Fun Fearless Female’ Ultimate Family Girl Award in 2008 from Matt Di Angelo and Gethin Jones

(I didn’t realise I’d won so literally got ready 5 minutes beforehand!)

It was at the end of my first term at Cambridge when I became orphaned.  I lost both of my parents to cancer in 2003, literally starting the year with two ‘healthy’ parents, and ending it with neither of them.  As the oldest sibling, with very little extended family, responsibility fell on me to make funeral arrangements, sell our family home, and see that my younger sister was looked after properly.  Once all the admin had been done, I fell apart.  For about a term I was unrecognisable.  Lazy and uninspired, I had hit rock bottom.  And that was when I remember thinking, ‘are you honestly going to let this take you too?’.  My sister had lost a mother and a father.  It wasn’t right to throw away her sister too.  I ought to be the person my parents had brought me up to be.  The daughter they had known.  And so I guess I got myself back, but in overdrive.

As a child I had become interested in cricket.  At the time it was a sport very few women played, let alone girls, and when the local women’s team was ill-equipped to take on a nine year-old beginner, my Dad became heavily involved in the sport, so as to facilitate me playing.  He took coaching, umpiring and scoring courses, and set up clubs and even county teams simply so that girls my age could play the sport.  I had actually given up cricket at 15, discovering boys and part-time jobs, and other teenage distractions, but Dad’s death kick-started something in me, and I returned to the sport.  I trialed for the Cambridge team in my first year, becoming the only Fresher to play at the Varsity Match at Lord’s that year.  In my second year I became Vice-Captain, and in my third year, I retired from the sport after captaining Cambridge against Oxford at Lord’s, and changing the status of the women’s sport to Full Blue – a huge achievement at the time.

During my time at Cambridge I also became heavily involved in a number of other extra-curricular activities (often to the displeasure of my Director of Studies!).  I ski-raced for the University on dry slopes and snow, edited both my College Magazine, and the Cambridge University Law Review, ran the Paris Marathon, and after two years on the Ospreys Committee for University Sportswomen, held the coveted position of Ospreys President.  I was heavily involved in the Cambridge ‘Drinking Society’ scene (something similar to sororities and fraternities), despite ironically only ever drinking Diet Coke on nights out, and I was President of my College May Ball Committee – a two year position which saw me in charge of a £140,000 budget. I literally crammed my university experience with as much as I possibly could.

My aim was to have the most all-rounded experience I could, something probably best demonstrated in my first year when I took on the role of mascot for the college rugby team, and happily danced around the rugby pitch perimeter in a fluffy cat suit.  For me, university wasn’t just about grades, it was about seizing life and making the most of experiences, and in my four years at Cambridge, my time definitely wasn’t without those things.

Despite my extra-curricular distractions, and probably much to the surprise of my Director of Studies!, I graduated Cambridge with a good degree in Law.  At the time, Oxbridge graduates were being snapped up by Magic Circle Solicitor firms, however behind a desk was not how I saw myself.  The only thing that had every really appealed about the firms was their international offices, and the opportunity to travel, however this was something I now understood I could achieve without a legal job. Inspired by the Children’s TV Show Blue Peter, I decided to pursue a Masters in Broadcast Journalism at University of Westminster.

If I’m honest, the step away from the stringent requirements and administration at Cambridge made me rather carefree, and I found myself literally doing enough to get by in my course, whilst taking every opportunity to travel.  I designed projects for myself which took me to South Africa to report on AIDS orphans, and then to the Philippines to make a documentary about the recent murders of journalists on the island of Mindanao.

I also started my own YouTube Channel, called ‘Challenge Charly’, where I filmed myself doing a series of endurance and extreme sport challenges in Britain and around the world. During my Masters, I climbed to Everest Base Camp, ran the Rome Marathon, did a 42 mile hike in a day, a 100 mile cycle ride in a Day, the London to Brighton cycle ride, visited the jungles of Borneo, learnt to wake board, ice-climb, sail a yacht and fly a plane.  I did air acrobatics, a bushcraft course, several adventure races in the British Isles, and my Advanced Open Water scuba dive course.  I did the Three Peaks Challenge as part of my Queen’s Guide Award, cycled across Cambodia, and ran around London in a gorilla suit for charity.

Basically I spent the inheritance I received from selling our family home to have as many exciting experiences as I possibly could, and documented them all on video.

Inspired by the things I achieved during my Masters, I then decided to carry on traveling after my second graduation.  I fulfilled a life-long dream and booked a ‘Round The World’ plane ticket, to take me to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and South and Central America.

My first sky dive – Mission Beach, Queensland, Australia

On my own, I spent two months in Australia, doing everything from volunteering on a Scout Camp, to scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef and doing my first sky dive.  In New Zealand I hiked glaciers, faced my fear of heights doing a bungee jump, and read the Twilight series in four days.  It was actually getting so excited by a series of books which inspired me to put pen to paper and begin to write some of the stories I’d had in my head for years.

I spent eight months traveling from Patagonia up to Canada all by my self, and in that time I did some weird and wonderful stuff.  I worked for a month for board and lodging as a groom on a polo farm in Argentina, with about ten words of Spanish to my name!  I climbed Mt Aconcagua (the highest mountain in South America) all by myself – a foolish, foolish move! – and lived with people I met at bustops!  I took 28 hour after 28 hour-long overnight bus journeys and met some incredible people.  I did the Inca Trail, and the Lost City jungle trek, sailed from Colombia to Panama, and did every adventurous activity I had the chance to try along the way.  In Honduras I stopped on Utila, in the Bay Islands, and completed my PADI Rescue Diver.

And then, when I finally came home, a year later, I decided I needed to go away again, and just two weeks later headed to the ski resort of Whistler, Canada, to find a job to begin repaying all the debt I’d wracked up travelling!

Whistler ended up being my base for a year and a half.

I did two ski seasons there, qualifying as both a ski and snowboard instructor during that time, and I used the shoulder seasons (Spring and Autumn) to travel, completing my Dive Master and First Aid Instructor courses back on the island of Utila in Honduras. I came home two months ago, which I guess brings you up to where I am now. I guess the thing about me, is I’ve never seen the world in quite the same way other people do.  I see it as a playing field.  A place for adventures – ours for the taking.  And nothing will stand in my way to have those adventures (whether it’s my bank balance – hence the heaps of debt I then had to pay off!!!! or people’s assumptions of the ‘right career path.’)

Ok, so I have a Law Degree from Cambridge, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to be a lawyer.  I know it’s often frowned upon to jump off the bandwagon (trust me I’ve had some interesting comments from peers along the way!) but I just think your life is WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT! And the more I’ve achieved, the more I’ve done … the more I’ve wanted to do.

Anyone regularly reading this blog will know the past two months have been my idea of Hell.  I’ve been sitting around with nothing to do, waiting for a start date on a job.  I live my life for adventures and my list gets ever longer. I think that’s why I originally wanted to be a Blue Peter presenter.  They seemed to have the ideal job – trying every activity and going to every place imaginable – but then I realised those were things I could do alone.  Whilst obviously being a TV presenter is a career where you could do all those things and still be ‘working’, I realised that writing is also a job you can do ‘on the go’.   And that actually, all of this life experience – all of my strange and wacky work experience, and all the people I’ve met along the way, can actually be of use to me in my future career.

Because writing is about understanding.  Understanding people and understanding experiences.  Not everyone is going to run a marathon in their life, or hike up to the top of Mt.  Kilimanjaro, but as an author who HAS done those things, I can relive them for people.  I can help people have those experiences in their minds, and possibly even inspire them to go out and try some of the weird and wonderful things I’ve done – the initial reason for creating Challenge Charly.

I’m sorry this has turned out to be such a long blog post.  It’s not meant to be a CV, or a ‘wow aren’t I amazing’ piece, I’m just trying to explain why I maybe think slightly differently to your average writer, and why I’m so passionate about writing and travelling, and inspiring others.  It’s one of the reasons I most enjoy writing for a teenage audience, because they, in particular, are the ones deciding exactly what they want from life.

Your life is what you make of it!  And I really hope my life story is reams and reams longer than these couple of thousand words.  I hope I have many adventures left ahead of me, and I really hope that I’m writing along the way, and that one day I have the opportunity to share those adventures with thousands of people and hopefully inspire them to try something they currently see as outside the barriers of their own life.

Test the barriers.  Push them.  You’re the only one who put them there!

C-C xxx

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Filed under C-C Lester, Novel Excerpt, The Dream Navigator, Unsigned Author Commentary

The Dream Navigator – Chapter Four

Please click the links below to read earlier sections –

Chapter One – Ewah the Great

Chapter Two – My Secret Audience

Chapter Three – Make a Change


Chapter Four – Escape from the Noise

(Depressed Urban Grey)

Adults dream.

They dream of sex and money and murder.  They dream of power and influence and evil.  But most of all, they dream of themselves.  Over the years my ability has changed; strengthened.  I can tune into dreams farther and farther away, but no matter how far I roam, the dreams are always the same.

Day and night, wherever I am, I’m chased by greed and lust and jealousy.  Children don’t tend to daydream, so unless I’m near napping children, my daytimes are monopolised by adults.  At school it’s the selfish dreams of my peers – teenagers whose foreign dreams make me feel too young and too old all at once.

Then there’s the bus trip to and from school.  Public transport is like a zoo full of daydreams, a bubble of people wrapped up in their own bubbles.  A busload of commuters escaping the reality of being sandwiched up against peoples’ armpits, by replacing it with their own selfish fantasies.  Finally there’s the gym, where people disappear into dreams of vanity and success in a quest to forget the physical pain they’re putting themselves through.

I’m surrounded.

I can’t escape.  Everywhere I go I hear the transmission.  And the more my powers develop, the more insistent the noises become.

I used to try and fight it.

I’d refuse to sit patiently at the edge of their selfish dreams, soaking up their narcissism and arrogance.  I would use my skills, and tweak; more to save myself than save any of them.  I mean after all, if my ability is a vocation, it’s to add confidence and happiness, not take it away, right?  But sometimes it would all just get too much.  I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to be more selective – why I couldn’t chose when to step in and out of dreams, and why I wasn’t only drawn to people who needed me, instead of being thrust into people’s heads twenty-four/seven.  At first it was fun, removing the red carpet from beneath their arrogant feet, or smudging the magic mirror into which they constantly stared.   Spoiling their dreams. But that soon grew tiresome … almost as tiresome as the dreams themselves.  And besides, karma seemed to always get me back for my meddling.  I’d be so distracted playing that I would miss my own bus stop, or fall off the back of the running machine!

There had to be some way to escape the constant noise…

I went through a phase of experiments, trying to avoid other peoples’ dreams.  I became nocturnal, sleeping during the day, so that when my brain was most susceptible, there were less transmissions around me.  I would still drift into the odd daydream while asleep, and at night the strongest dreams still caught me, no matter how awake I was, but for the most part my navigating calmed down.

Unfortunately life itself didn’t.

Being nocturnal might work for bats, but when you’re an eighteen year-old girl, struggling to pass your A-Levels, sleeping at day, and living by night isn’t really the answer!  Dad let me get away with it for three days, when I claimed I was having migraines, and then forced me back to school, on one hour’s sleep.  Needless to say, over-tired and extremely susceptible, the day I returned to the daylight hours was one of the ‘noisiest’ I’ve ever experienced.

Looking for an alternative escape from the dreams … and the people dreaming them, I began to travel up to the Lake District at weekends.  I would trek into quite literally the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest village or townhouse, and revel in the physical, and mental, silence.  My roaming brain might tune occasionally into the musings of a passing hiker, or the odd group of Duke of Edinburgh students, but after eighteen years in the centre of England’s most vibrant city, the desolate wilderness was like a sprawling soundproof box.

I had found my escape.

Even if it was only two days a week, and costing me a fortune in train fares. But when I discovered it, I also discovered something about myself.

I had finally managed to rid myself of the dreams, only to suddenly realise how much I needed them.  The quiet was too quiet. Without the noise, my life felt suddenly empty.  Who was I if I wasn’t a Dream Navigator?  For six years Dream Navigating had dominated my life.  It had become my life … and it was addictive.

I knew I couldn’t do without it completely, but I also needed to be able to choose the dreams into which I navigated.  I either needed more power, or I needed to find a way of surrounding myself with less selfish dreams.  If this thing really was to be my future as well as my childhood, then I wanted to help people, not dedicate my life to watching people’s greedy whims.

I needed to truly make Dream Navigating my vocation.

At times when I was feeling particularly low, I would entertain myself with the idea that my mother had passed this ability down to me.  That she too had been a Dream Navigator, and that it wasn’t really depression that had driven her to suicide, but actually the constant voices, and the inability to choose between them.

I guess I just didn’t want to be alone in this.  An irony, I know, because my mind is always so full of other peoples’ thoughts and fears.  But the Navigation was lonely.  There’s a big difference between knowing what someone is dreaming about, and having them actively tell you their dreams and worries.

The two people who knew my secret couldn’t help.  Dad would never talk to me about Navigation, and Dom was away at university.  Somehow assuming Mum might have shared my ability comforted me.  I didn’t want to be alone any more.  I needed there to have been other Dream Navigators.  I needed there to be other Dream Navigators.

I needed to find others.  But the more I trawled the dreams of Londoners, the more convinced I was that I was simply an anomaly.

A freak.

I had been navigating for years.  I had seen inside the minds of hundreds of other people, but not once had I noticed so much of a suggestion that someone even knew about the things I could do, let alone could actually do them himself.

When I was sixteen, I went through a phase where I fantasised about bumping into another Navigator inside someone’s dream.  I would either enter a dream shouting at the top of my lungs, and hoping to hear an actual response, or I’d sneak into it like a sleuth, sniffing out the corners of the dreamer’s mind in the hope of finding a person there who could actually see me.  A twisted game of Hide and Seek.  But no matter my method, I was always alone.

Even if I couldn’t find others, I needed to at least find some form of validation. I was barely scraping by at school, all hopes of following Dom to university were out of the question, and I had no friends and a non-existent home life.  Dream Navigating had quite literally become my life, and I needed someone to confirm that what I could do really existed.

I needed help.

Finally I decided that maybe my search wasn’t wide enough.  If my ability was as rare as I imagined, then perhaps the reason I hadn’t found any others, wasn’t because there weren’t any, but because there weren’t any near where I lived.  And so I turned to the worldwide web.

I can remember sitting there, staring at the computer screen, trying to find the right combination of words to Google. In the end I settled for ‘people who can see other people’s dreams’.  The results were endless.  Thousands of pages vaguely linked to the seven words I had entered.  And then I found a place called the ‘Rumbellow Foundation.’

I knew I was on the right track when their website described ‘Dream Moulding’.

Only someone who had experienced it could know that the workings of a dream can be physically moulded.  I poured over the contents of the site, reading about the phenomenon of Dream Moulding.  Apparently it was believed that the brain emits radio waves of a certain frequency when a person dreams, and that those capable of dream moulding are not only aware of this frequency, but possess the ability to alter it.

The Rumbellow Foundation was a private neurological clinic, which was conducting research into the phenomenon.  I dwelled briefly on the contacts page, wondering if the clinic could really hold the answers to my complicated life.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realised how much at stake.  It was one thing to find out others shared my gift, or even that it had a real, recognised name.  But it was a very different thing to walk into a neurological laboratory and admit that my brain is wired differently to everyone else’s!

I was about to close the webpage when a random advert flashed up at the bottom of the screen, obviously selected because of the prominence of the word ‘dream’.  ‘Live the Dream!’ it suggested brightly.  ‘If only you knew! I thought ironically, but then the caption changed to something I hadn’t expected …

‘Work at the Vancouver Winter Olympics!’

Looking back on that moment I guess the advert was the ticket I needed out of my life as I knew it.  I wasn’t a normal teenager.  I was bitter and twisted and jaded. I needed an escape, and that simple suggestion was offering one.  A gap year.  A socially acceptable means of running away.  An escape from all the noise, that didn’t involve camping in a desolate field for the rest of my life!  And the Olympics seemed like the perfect retreat.  It was an event, which I associated with hope and unity, and positive dreams.  An international forum of good intent.  A haven away from the selfish dreams of the real world.  The Olympics wouldn’t be silent, but hopefully the noise would be of a far more promising calibre than the dreams of central London!

I looked into moving to Vancouver, but the Olympic host city seemed too sprawling, and too much like home.  Too many people with too many selfish problems.

If anything was going to change I needed a complete change of scenery.

That was when I considered Whistler, the host mountain resort for the Games.   A small mountain village with a population of just fifteen thousand, Whistler would host the alpine, cross-country and bobsleigh events.  It would still be home to aspiring athletes and to the Games, but was two hours away from the bustling metropolis.

The perfect escape.

© C-C Lester 2011

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Filed under C-C Lester, Novel Excerpt, The Dream Navigator, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

The Dream Navigator – Chapter Three

Please click the links below to read earlier sections –

Chapter One – Ewah the Great

Chapter Two – My Secret Audience


Chapter Three Make a Change

(Inquisitive Cadbury’s Purple)

 

Dream Navigator is a bit of a misleading term.

It suggests I just walk from dream to dream, and as I’ve already explained, physically jumping from one stage to another is actually a very hard process.

But it’s also misleading, because it undersells what I can do.  You see, I not only see what people dream, I can also change it.  I chose the name Dream Navigator because it made me sound noble, as if I were fulfilling some higher duty – overseeing people’s nocturnal musings.  But what I really do is far more invasive.  Dream Meddling … if you were.  Though in my defence, I like to think of what I can do as far more noble than simply watching on while people dream.

People’s dreams affect their lives.

Whether he wakes up with only vague recollections, or remember every detail, a dream colours a person’s day.  It taints his feelings about the topic at issue, and can fill him with courage or drain him of confidence.  It can poison an idea, or lay fertiliser for ingenuity.  And so, in my role as a Dream Navigator, I like to try and make sure that a person’s day is coloured an appropriate shade for ideas and happiness to flourish.

‘What real difference can I make?’ you ask.

The answer is an immense one.  People are riddled with fears.  Negative energy, doubts and insecurities threaten their everyday lives, it just sometimes takes the night to bring them out.  Because it is at night that they are most susceptible to these fears.  In a dream, a tiny niggle can hold an entire court, and in the morning, that niggle will have firmly planted its seed.

So what?  What happens if these fears are allowed to spawn?  If doubts are allowed to colour people’s creativity?  So the world might be devoid of a few ideas?  A few inventors are stopped in their tracks, or a couple of Romeos don’t fight for their Juliets? But that’s not it.  Or it is, but it isn’t.

When I was four, my mother committed suicide.

She had depression, in an age when the disease wasn’t so quickly diagnosed, and when medication was either too strong, or not strong enough.  My mother committed suicide.  She left my life just a handful of months after I had entered hers.  She robbed me of the chance to know her.  To ask her advice about boys, and haircuts and A-Level options.  To hear her wisdom on periods and sex and all the other awkward things my poor Dad ended up lumbered with.  To see me graduate, go shopping for my wedding dress, and name my unborn children.  But she didn’t rob me of those things.  Her depression did.

Depression; something which coloured her days.

A feeling she couldn’t put a finger on, but knew was there.  A sense. An emotion.  A shadow of something.  Ring any bells?

So there you have it.  My motive.  My raison d’etre.  Or at least my reason to be inside people’s heads.  You see, I never had any chance in my calling.  The radio is always on, blaring in the background, and there’s only so long I can ignore it.  But I can control what I do when I’m being called, and so for that reason I tweak.

Tweaking is the name I’ve given to dream alteration.  It took some time before I realised what I was capable of.  For months I just sat there awkwardly in the background.  Sometimes I was fascinated by what was happening inside people’s dreams, sometimes I was scared, but for the most part I was just bored.  I know I’ve used television as a metaphor, but people’s dreams really aren’t like TV shows.  They are incomplete.  The reality kind of hangs there, reliant on what the dreamer, or the Forecaster as I like to call him, is focussing on.  So a person might only have a face, or a world might have a sky but no ground.  I only see what the Forecaster sees, so I see the world in frames, neat slivers of reality.  And that was the problem.  In the early days I was searching for the realities.  I was looking for things I recognised, expecting the dreamer to entertain me like a movie director.  But the forecasters don’t know I’m there, and to be honest even if they did, they would be too busy trying to make head or tail of what they are dreaming about to worry about me.

I got bored.

I would sit uncomfortably in the corner of the dream, waiting impatiently for the Forecaster to wake up and free me from the show.  I would drift off … daydream.  Oh the irony! The only time I ever daydreamed was in other people’s dreams!  And that was when I felt it.  Not a harsh broadcast like the dreams themselves, but a general undercurrent.  A vibe.  The same vibe the dreamer would wake up to.  And suddenly I knew what colour the dream was creating – what effect it would have on that person’s day.

You’d think it would be obvious.  That a person dreams of sunshine, and puppies and sunflowers, and wakes up glowing with happiness as a result!  But for the most part dreams don’t happen like that.  They are the careful downloading of your brain – your daily thoughts and experiences being filed and processed by a computer, and so sometimes a dream may start negatively but end positively, and vice versa.  By watching the fragments of reality, I might get a certain impression about the dream, but it is the undercurrent that tells me what is actually going on.

An internal ‘happy-o-meter’.

‘Warning, someone is about to drown in this cheerful beautiful waterfall!’  That kind of thing.  At first I just accepted the colours.  Saw them as a warning for myself.  Like a certification on a film.  Rate 15 – this show may contain swearing and content of a sexual nature.  Rate Red – the dream will end unsatisfactorily and the Forecaster will wake up feeling angry.  And then I began to wonder if the colours were fixed, or if I could do anything to alter them.

It was actually Dom who helped me discover tweaking.  I had been telling him about the colours.  About how as I had stood at the periphery of this particular dream, I had known  it was going to be a bad one.  ‘But you interrupted my dream!’ Dom had remarked. ‘I stopped what I was doing, and came to you.  And now we’re just chatting, so how can that be so bad?’ he asked.

And so I concentrated again, searching for the sombre grey colour that had flashed at me as I had entered his dream.  Instead I found yellow.  Mellow, level yellow.

‘It’s changed!’ I gasped.  Dom nodded intuitively.  ‘I always feel different when you appear in my dream.  Your counting helps me find you, but the minute you enter my dreams, it’s as if I feel lighter … I know you’ve arrived just from that feeling.’

Buoyed by his words, I decided to see if I could change anything in other Forecasters’ dreams.  After all, Dom could see me when I navigated, so I very directly affected his dream experience.  Surely in dreams where I’m invisible, it was a different matter?

The next night I returned to Quincy’s dreams.

For some time I had avoided the little girl’s company, shunning offers of work, because I was still shaken by the vivid reality of Quincy’s monster.  But that next night I accepted a babysitting job, and like before I wrapped my arms tightly around the sleeping toddler as she drifted off to sleep.

That night Quincy dreamt about her parents.  Matthew and Rachel Graham stood prominently in the centre of her dream, the only clear objects in amongst the confusion of light and taste and pillows.  I sensed the danger of the dream before it appeared.  The dream was jet black in colour – the type people wake up from crying.  And just as I felt the danger, Matthew and Rachel began to disappear.

‘Mummy!  Daddy!’  Quincy shrieked, screaming at the disappearing figures.

‘Mummy!! Don’t leave me!  Where are you going?’ I watched on helplessly as her parents quite literally evaporated, dissolving into the warm nothing around them.

I gritted my teeth as Quincy’s sobs boomed all around me.

‘Make a change!’

I commanded myself, and lunged forwards at Matthew and Rachel, or rather the space from which they were disappearing.  Somehow I caught hold of Matthew’s leg.  I was literally just holding a limb – the rest of his body had already disappeared, and there I was, face down in the pillows, arms outstretched like a fallen rugby player lunging for a ball, but with my hands gripped around a disembodied leg instead!  And if that wasn’t weird enough, the leg felt like Playdough!  I’d never tried to touch anything in a dream before.  I’d touched the dreamers, tried to get their attention, but everything else had just seemed too private.  Forbidden.  I hadn’t wanted to intervene.  But that day I realised that perhaps that was actually what I was supposed to be doing.

I gripped hold of Matthew’s leg, fighting the urge to let go, caused by the revulsion at his leg’s putty-like texture.  As I squeezed the putty more tightly, it seemed to elongate, shooting upwards and downwards.  But the section of leg didn’t change shape like a normal ball of putty.

Somehow the leg began to grow back!

I concentrated on the limb, imagining Matthew’s leg back into existence, and then just like that the putty sprouted.  The leg grew a foot, and then a body, then another leg.  And very soon Matthew was back standing in front of me.  I focussed on the space beside him.  I’d been able to conjure Matthew from what had been left behind … could I really create Rachel out of nothing?  I thought hard about my next door neighbour, the friendly young mum who had taken me under her wing like a little sister just a few days after she and Matthew moved in next door.  I thought about her smile, the way her mouth crinkled at the sides, and her carefree blonde curls.  I focussed on her laugh and how at home she always made me feel, and just like that, my hand filled with putty.  Or rather, more precisely, with Rachel’s calf.  My other next-door neighbour literally sprouted to life before my eyes.

‘Mummy!  Daddy!’ came Quincy’s narrator voice. ‘You came!’

‘Of course we came,’ I mouthed, but the words came from the putty parents’ lips.  ‘We love you!’  The colour of the dream changed into a warm, comforting purple, and I woke up with a jolt.

I’ve been tweaking now for four years, and over that time my skills have definitely come along. Using my own memories I conjure things, people and places – anything I can think of to change the scene and lighten the mood, and the colour, of the dream.  I can make people speak, or do things, and I can make other things disappear.  Basically the only person I can’t affect in a dream is the Forecaster himself.  But hopefully my changes will affect his real life instead.

I’ve used tweaking to do everything from making a mother feel more comfortable around her newborn baby, to removing the clothes off a dream audience so that a little boy felt more confident giving a speech at school.  I’ve vanquished monsters and demons and muggers and thieves, and given children wings, A-grades in tests, and football skills.

And while I do see it as a duty, you can also see how it might be a lot of fun at the same time!  How I might withdraw into a world I can control, rather than live in one I don’t particularly understand…

But the problem is it isn’t just children who dream.

And not all dreams are as easily solved as erasing a monster.

© C-C Lester 2011

CARRY ON TO CHAPTER FOUR HERE

 

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The Dream Navigator – Chapter Two

WRITING EXCERPT

A sample of my most recent work …

NB: If you haven’t already read Chapter One of TDN, please check out the relevant separate page on the blog.

And please give me your feedback on both chapters, good or bad!  Just great to hear what everyone thinks!

Thanks so much for all your support

C-C xx

Chapter Two – My Secret Audience

(Confused Murky Turquoise)

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, that’s simple … because I need to tell someone!

Only two people in this world knew about my secret when I was growing up, and both of those relationships were rather complicated.  They also happened to be the only two people who were able to see me when I navigated into their dreams.

I made the mistake of navigating into one of Dad’s dreams the same day I fell into Quincy’s show.  I wanted to make sure that I could really do it.  That I hadn’t actually fallen asleep myself, and dreamed of Quincy’s show.

A dream inside a dream.

And so that night, when I got home, so excited that I knew there was no chance of me sleeping myself, I sat and waited.  Sat listening for the radio waves to hum; for that strange TV in another room to chirp to life.  I guess Dad must have drifted off before my brother Dominic, or maybe Dom’s dream wasn’t ‘loud’ enough, because it was Dad’s frequency that I tuned into this time.

The show was so different to Quincy’s I was taken aback.  I hadn’t even realised I was expecting his show to be the same as the toddler’s until I registered my own shock.  Dad’s show was so dark.  I could barely focus my eyes in the darkness.  The room smelled of sadness … damp and dingy.  And then I heard his voice.

GET OUT!!!!!!! Get out, get out, get out!!!’

Who was he shouting at? I wondered.  What crazy monster would appear from the depths of my father’s mind?  But no monster appeared … just my irate father, who looked me straight in the eye … ‘Get the hell out of my dream Ruth …’ he stumbled,  ‘Ellody Ruth!’

Ruth was my mother’s name.  She died when I was four.  I don’t remember much about her.  My memories are more like snapshots, and most of those come from real photos where my childhood brain confused what I remember with photos I’ve seen.  But the one thing I do remember, and I know I remember it happening, rather than remember it because someone told me that it happened, is how she would hold me as I fell asleep.  And if I was lucky, she would sing.

But my father wasn’t singing.

He was screaming.  An angry, blood-curdling scream.  Anger was an emotion I’d never heard in him before.  Since Mum’s death he’d always just been so down-trodden.  The epitome of a doormat, he was emotionally flattened, as if half of the life had been squished out of him the moment Mum passed away.  I don’t think I’d known he possessed the energy to scream so passionately at me … but he did … and that night he continued screaming long after the dream was over.  Though he was no longer screaming at me.  Instead he shouted and sobbed in the privacy of his and my mother’s bedroom.  Sobbing her name, and knowing a locked door could keep me out of his waking moments, even if it couldn’t keep me out of his sleeping ones.

That night was a turning point.

Not just because of the obvious – my discovery.  But because from that night onwards, Dad just stopped talking to me.  It was as if he didn’t know what to say to me now that I’d seen the inside of his head.  If that is, in fact, the forum for the shows?  Even now I’m still a little unsure on the technicalities.  All I know is that everyone’s shows seem to take place on a different Stage.  And that night my Dad’s Stage was a very dark place.

Dad wasn’t the only member of my family who could see me when I navigate.  My brother Dom could do it too.  The weird thing with Dom though, was that he actually talked more to me in my dreams than he did in real life.  Not that he ever really remembered.

Because, as you know, dreams aren’t permanent memories; well not for the person dreaming at least.

Occasionally a dream leaves a profound enough mark that it might remain with you upon waking, or that at least some of the major events or details imprint in your mind, but for the most part all dreams do is leave an impression.  A sense. You might wake up feeling discontented, or angry, or in love, and not really know what the exact cause of that feeling was.  My conversations with Dom were the same.  Whilst he was still him inside his dreams, the conversations were taking place inside his subconscious, so he would normally only remember a sense of what has happened.  Or at least that’s what he said.

I used to think of it like having two brothers – the one in the dreams, who was caring and open; and the one outside the dreams, who was distant and guarded.  I guess that’s what having a sister who can climb inside your head does to you!

Dom is two years my senior, and once I’d discovered my ability, we were quick to draw up some rules.  A teenage boy’s dreams are not necessarily somewhere a young girl wants to visit, and so early on Dom and I developed a procedure.  As soon as I heard his voice narrating, the most obvious indicator that I was seeing his show, though in reality the Stages of those close to me were as familiar as their voices, I would place my hands over my eyes, and begin to count.  Dom would listen for the counting, come find me, and normally tell me when I can open my eyes.  However, on a few occasions he demanded I leave the dream, a feat far harder than you would think!

I’m drawn to dreams.

But not every dream has the same amount of pull.  Maybe it’s just personal taste – like flicking through radio stations until you find a song you like, but with dreams it’s like I struggle to hear the less appealing stations over the most interesting.  One dream will always stand out amongst the rest.  Over the years I’ve narrowed down the factors – the closer the dreamer is physically to me, the closer he or she is emotionally to me, the mental stress of what the dreamer is dreaming.  They all seem to be features, which affect how ‘loud’ that particularly station is.

And once I commit to one show, it’s extremely hard to then tune into an alternative.

That chosen show – the one that speaks most loudly to me – it’s like sitting in a room full of noise, where everyone else is talking in a language you don’t fully understand.  But there in the corner of the room is a TV show that’s on in English, and no matter how hard you try not to listen to it, your realise you’re hearing every word.

Perhaps I ought to explain something.  I don’t just navigate ‘night’ dreams.  I can navigate daydreams too.

Whilst daydreams seem to have less of a tug on me – as if my brain can resist a little more strongly when I’m not tired – I still find myself drifting.  I do my best to avoid daydreaming opportunities.  Gyms and public transport seem to be the most difficult locations, but at school it was always hard to sit in a classroom and focus on the teacher when almost every child in the room buzzed like a transistor radio. As a result I’ve see inside every one of my friend’s heads.

Do you know how hard it is to have a conversation with someone you know almost everything about, when you should only actually know a fraction of it all?  I might not be able to hear people’s thoughts, but daydreams can still tell me an awful lot about a person.  And awful seems to be the operative word.

When people daydream, they force the story.

They add the characters they want, into the scenarios they want, and then play with their own conscious thoughts.  And as a result, the messages these dreams convey are so much more powerful than night time shows.  It is in daydreams that I learn people’s secrets.  Their hopes and ambitions.

Their night dreams tend to just show me their fears.

So tell me, how do you make friends when you know all that?  When you know that Carly fancies Stu, but he really has feelings for Chris, and Chris secretly fantasises about his cousin?  When you realise your friends delight in the thought of beating you in exams, and dream about beauty pageants and talent competitions where they kick your arse?  When your closest friends secretly fancy your boyfriend, and you can see everything they want to do to him, in detail?

Why would I want to see all that?

I don’t! But I also don’t have any choice!! They can’t see me inside their dreams, so there’s no way of warning them I’m there.  It’s not like Dom and our ‘procedure’.  If I stood at the edge of their dreams with my eyes covered, counting out loud, I’d be there a very long time … trust me, I’ve tried.

And so in the end, I just decided to live with it.

Or rather, not live.  My teenage life consisted of other people’s dreams, and that’s about it.  Real world social interaction proved too difficult, and whenever I felt lonely I would hide out in someone’s dream.  How can you feel lonely when you’re inside someone else’s head?  When every moment is narrated, and their voice booms down so loudly it literally shakes the Stage?

In some ways I had the very best audience.  I could talk about anything and everything.  I can tell my deepest darkest secrets to everyone and to nobody at the same time, because with the exception of Dom and Dad, when I was inside someone else’s dream, he or she could never hear me.

And that’s why I’m telling you all this.

Because you can’t really hear me!  Because when you wake up the most I’ll ever be is a weird sense of information.  You’ll know you learnt something in your dream, you just won’t know what.  It’ll be there on the tip of your tongue – an itch you just can’t scratch, because you don’t know where it is.  You are the best possible audience.

My secret audience!

CONTINUE TO CHAPTER THREE HERE!

© C-C Lester 2011

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