Photography + Music = The Normal’s Menace

Creativity’s bizarre. Unpredictable. Deafening. It can flood our inner selves so completely that we don’t even notice the wreak of twin-poop running by amidst maniacal laughter.

But that flood can’t just stay inside. We’ve got to get it out somehow, and in the right place…rather a lot like potty-training, come to think…


Since I still struggle with this whole “read my fiction” concept, can we start at the beginning? Not the story’s beginning, but before that. Let’s start with the brainstorm.

Last week I mentioned the desire to write a story for an old character named Dorjan. He’s from my first Work in Progress, the novel I started writing when Blondie was a baby, the same novel that helped me fight the first round of postpartum depression.  I haven’t dared share that novel here yet, though the more I think about self-publishing, the more I’m inclined to do so. But come one, I can’t plunk a 600some page colossus here. That’s bloody insane. And it’s a fluid novel; I can’t pull pieces out and expect you to have a clue or a care.

So, let’s brainstorm an episode outside the novel. Something beforehand, I think. How about the 1980s? Can’t think of anything else when John Carpenter’s playing. My previous post shared a song from Lost Themes. Its sequel has stuff just as good:

Listen to the rhythm, its steady chase, its sudden fights. Oh this’ll do.

But where to put this? I have the shapes of movement, the white eyes of fear when the baddie’s chased by Dorjan. We need a sense of place.


Take this farm. Pretty common sight in my chunk of Wisconsin…for now, at least, until yet another damn suburb bulldozes it over.


Let’s get a better sense of the expansive isolation of it all.


Not much to it, right? Imagine being a kid and this is all you can see from where you live: blankness. Flatness. Trees that tend to cluster over nothing. And it all looks so sickly this time of year, as though a famine came down. The trees stand like gravestones over their summer-selves, and their branches reach for you with witchy fingers.

So you, as a kid, look out at this, day after day, see nothing but witchy fingers reaching out to grab anything close. You’re just thankful there’s that field between you and them. You’re used to this menace in the distance, that evil-ish look out there. Gets kind of dull, really.

Until it’s not alone.

Until you see someone standing in those trees, looking your way.

How long has he been there, hands in his pockets like that?

It starts to snow. He doesn’t move an inch. Even the witchy-fingers don’t go near him, bending any way but.

And then he starts walking your way.

No one’s supposed to walk that field. No one’s supposed to be ON it like that and he’s broken all that’s normal up with his being, with his walking. The wind whips up a flurry around his legs time and again, but it can’t trip him.

He’s getting closer. You can tell he’s not looking at the house anymore, or the barn. He’s looking right–



Do you run?

Do you stay?

What is he after? You?

Or what you hold in your arms, screeching its furry little head off?


These questions are part of what I’m mucking about with in my current short fiction. I’m studying myself,  you could say, noting what songs and images really set plot points in motion and/or clarify the characters. I’ve also been mucking about with the voice. Whose point of view tells the story best: Dorjan, or the child?

Oh, I’m not letting Gwen and her other Shield Maidens sit on the back-burner, believe me, but part of this whole “writer’s life” thing is to prioritize what can be done sooner vs. later. Dorjan is from a novel that was on its LAST F’ING ROUND of editing when I stopped due to motherhood/teaching/beginning to blog. I want it done. I want it out. I want it read. I can’t keep carrying what’s unfinished.

51 thoughts on “Photography + Music = The Normal’s Menace

  1. It’s Thursday! All day I’d thought it Wednesday (true). So first of all I like to express my thanks for reminding me…an age thing I guess. Whatever, another well crafted post. Intent and realization never better explained, Ms Lee.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wisconsin’s a fascinating little world. 🙂 The northern half of the state has such gorgeous rolling hills and forests crashed open with curious rock formations (unfortunately commercialized by Wisconsin Dells); by the Mississippi the land changes again to these amazing bluffs you can lose in the heavy mist. Love it here. 🙂 xxxx


  2. A great post as always. As for getting things finished, in the last 24 hours I’ve made three loaves of sourdough bread, cooked dinner, made and delivered meals to a friend who just had her second child, made two batches of goodies for a fundraiser, washed mountains of dishes and cleaned the kitchen. Am about to walk the dog. On the other hand, I am still working on the needlepoint Christmas stocking I started in 1980 when I was pregnant with our first, and on the book I started in 1985. They’ll keep for now. 🙂

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  3. It sounds like this novel was your phoenix: fire (Postpartum depression) and creativity (writing), going on at the time and indeed, another birth; your novel. But you left (most) it behind and now you’re going back to retrieve this beautiful monster of a casualty and give it the credit it deserves, thereby bringing closure but also a new beginning (self publishing)?
    I hope I’m not putting words into your mouth and do correct me if I’m wrong, but this is what I imagine and feel, the way you’ve described your experiences.
    Thanks for sharing this. x

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not sure how to answer. I’ve witnessed and supported a close member of my family go through the phoenix effect round about the start of writing my novel. Then realised that the hell she was going through-was indeed a novel itself and of public interest and so traumatic, I’m not sure I could relive it, but it needs to be told (as a revelation was born), as challenges the way conventional medicine has looked at things. Someone’s got to go in and retrieve that shit she (we) went through to write it. Leave it to a journalist? We have one interested, but…someone’s still got to go in and retrieve that shit but I’m exhausted, this member is on the road to recovery, but still recovering. I want to finish the book (finally!), that I started, loved writing, now editing, and that helped me get through this period, though I didn’t go to it as a form of escape – turmoil and trauma interrupted this book that was already developing. But the other nags away. Public duty, a sense of not wanting others go through what she went through. When we learn something big, we have to share it, to help others and in doing so we evolve; maybe that’s what we were supposed to do, maybe my book is supposed to be the one I don’t want to write, but is the product of the phoenix? I don’t know, I only know that your post did resonate. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Can I just say that it did resonate? I wrote a lengthy reply to you and stupidly didn’t write it in word first, (am writing late into the night), so when I pressed ‘send’ and it instead, disappeared…? 😦 !

        Liked by 1 person

      • I like the idea of the warm ember’s being the green light to go back in. I guess its all a matter of the right time/ feeling ready. Phew! Glad it did show! 🙂

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  4. Ah, those bleak February days, surrounded by the fields and the silence…of course we also had a cemetery across the way with all of those “witchy” trees around it and a big dark line of cedar (? I think? I just always think of them as “cemetery trees”.) Sure, when I was older I mowed the thing in summer and walked around in and played in the adjoining playground in daylight, (and knew a fair number of people who’s shells were buried in it, having made lots of sick and elderly calls with dad,) but at dusk… I kept well to my side of the gravel road 😉
    Great descriptions, and I can’t wait to read more of this story too! (This isn’t the WIP I got a peek at, is it? I can’t remember the names, just the premise- pretty sleep deprived at that point, ya know?)

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    • Sleep? What’s this “sleep” of which you speak? 😛 Yes, Dorjan is from that WIP…sort of. you saw the draft before I altered the ages caused a massive ripple of change through the story, so don’t worry about remembering it. 🙂 Yes, your house was in such a place, too! The rural graveyard fascinates me–not, you know, the nice ones. Those, as you say, are still being used and cared for, so they’re not TOO scary. (I’d totally avoid it at night, too.) But the old ones, overgrown and ignored– I can’t help but wonder which are started by churches that decayed long ago, or by families who no longer run the farm. They’re such curious little bits of ground, sometimes guarded by a rusted bar, with old stones.


      • The OTHER church down the road that dad also served had one of those, right next to the gradeschool playground as a matter of fact. The nice, new cemetery was…shoot, across the road? Or maybe they used the one in town…(heaven forbid your dead lie next to the wrong people! Like they’re gonna wake up on resurrection day, look over and say, “Um…excuse me, I hate to mention this…but didn’t you go to the church IN TOWN? And you’re here…because?”)…it’s only been 15 or so years but my memory has always been fuzzy. Anyway, there was a teeny cemetery in a pretty elaborate rusty fence that we’d look at in passing as we went round and round the merry go round next to it…generally we were too busy hanging off the bars in death-defying poses to pay much attention, and living right there I never thought to get it’s story.
        And I liked the concepts I remembered of that story- the mystery and magic and the feeling that it was a much bigger world that I’d just gotten a peek into- I’m glad to hear it’s being revived!

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      • The playground was RIGHT NEXT TO IT?! Oh man! And one of you DIDN’T get sucked into a portal down into the underworld like in the movie Beetlejuice? (shudders) Still…I like that juxtaposition….hmmm…could be a story in there… 😉


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  6. I looked at your photographs before I read your post, Jean, and I thought that I like the dark calligraphy of the trees, and silent power of the fields ready to burst and bring up life. Now I clearly see that menace you are talking about 🙂 Nothing influences me like a written word 🙂 xxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, thanks! Yes, I’ve had mixed feelings about the trees, too. Strange–I love the look of a forest in winter, the bare cleanness, the wee icicles glittering. But for some reason it’s those clumps of trees in farm fields that bother me. Why is that clump there? Why in that spot? Why is it shaped that way–is it hiding something? Driving through the farm fields every sets my thoughts wandering awfully far… 🙂 xxxxx

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      • Yes, and I noticed that too after reading 🙂 I grew up in the woods, and there were some places that made me feel uneasy for no apparent reason, the same like you feel about those trees. xxxx

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    • What kind words, thank you! I hope you enjoy the story, too in the post that followed. My hope was write the story from different points of view and analyze the differences, but…well, that experiment blew up in my face. I wrote about *that* in the blog…after that.

      Thanks for coming by! 🙂


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