Author: Richard Alan Scott
Rhode Island, USA
The second short story I wrote when I began to get serious was the one I've heard most about from readers. Again, it involves that old friend of ours, the nobleman from Transylvania and dream child of Abraham Stoker, Count Dracula.
I am like Lovecraft and yes, Dracula when it comes to my sleeping habits. I stay up all night and sleep in the daytime. I've done so all my life, except when I've had day jobs. One late night I was watching TV when an old documentary came on, an hour about the Count's history. It held my interest so strongly; I wanted to hear every second of it. It spoke of Bram Stoker's long held position (27 years) as the business manager of the Lyceum Theater in London, under the great Actor-Manager Henry Irving. Irving would have been a perfect choice for the role of Dracula, and no doubt Bram based many of the character's peccadilloes on the famous actor.
I had something else in common with Uncle Bram of Dublin Ireland. As a child we were both sickly. My asthma was bad and I lived for thirty years before prescription inhalers were invented. Any cold I got gave me a case of what they then called bronchitis, and had me bedridden for a week or more. Bram spent many a year in bed as well, and I know that was where we did a lot of our thinking and high flung fantasizing about adventures beyond this realm.
Bram and his father Abraham before him worked as clerks in Dublin Castle, his father throughout his life. I visited the castle on my second trip to Ireland and got to walk the halls and the staircases he walked. I can imagine the rush Dacre Stoker must feel as he visits all of the landmarks that were so important in his great-granduncle's life. I mean, it has to be among the greatest, if not the seminal horror novel ever created.
That late night I watched the documentary, a thought occurred. Now this was several years before anyone would hear of Dacre or the popular novel by Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian. Having had a career in the professional theater, the everyday routines and traditions of which do not change much over time, I could determine to make a tale in which Bram is working in the theater and for some reason comes across the real Dracula. I could undertake the daily machinations of his job easily, and those of the people surrounding him. I finally settled on a plot where Dracula would seek to become a large donor to the theater (constant outreach being a permeating need for business managers) in return for an introduction to an actress he much admired. Thus was born "Stoker's Benefactor," the character known only as The Count, the lovely Miss Lillian Addams, and a Professor friend of Bram's named Arminius Vambery, said to be the real life Van Helsing model.
Well into penning the story, those long nights at the French Library I spoke of, it was an "aha" moment that changed the entire aesthetic of the tale, when I realized the obvious notion that writers adapting Dracula must eventually come upon; the need to make it epistolary, that is, having the story unfold in a series of letters, postcards, diary entries, stage manager reports, etc. This was tremendous undertaking for a fairly new writer, but I had always been imaginative and I thought that if I stuck to what was happening around the theater, I couldn't go wrong. I set the story back in Bram's hometown of Dublin, where I don't believe the Lyceum ever brought a road show, but since I'd been there twice it helped immensely with the atmosphere.
I've told you before of the editor's ebullience in receiving it at a Dublin Magazine and how I did get to give it to Dacre.
William Damkoehler, a leading actor for decades at Trinity Repertory, read it and wrote to me, "Damn, Dick! What an amazing piece. A multi-first-person, literary, theatrical, historical, comedy, horror, thriller, police-procedural f-in' masterpiece! What more can I say other than I'm blown away and the least little bit jealous!" This magazine, for those interested, is still available here:
A shot from Dublin Castle.
Continuing about writing my second short story and another brush with the immortal Vlad Tepes, I had 'sort of' my own private library when I began to write.
I was a member for several years of the Société Généalogique Franco-Américaine in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, as I've said one of the only French speaking areas in the United States. After a couple of years of exhausting their records on my partially French Ancestry, back to the fifteen hundreds in Europe (they have superb records)...
I enjoyed going there to write.
It was quiet, but there were a few hushed conversations going on in French that made a soothing background to my tales. Invariably there were fewer than ten people present, and I'd have huge long tables to myself. It was perfection, but, alas, soon I had to QUIT.
The drawback: Along with the cases and cases of old French books came a cadre of old French volunteers solemnly guarding over them. I'd be sitting there in the zone scribbling away on my long legal pads and a centenarian centurion would inevitably approach my table.
"No pens, please."
Oh, yes, my bad. The first few times.
I'd forgotten sacred rule #one, no ink around the books. Although I was not consulting a library tome at the time, any sort of writing implement other than pencil is verboten in the halls of genealogy, due to the threat of defacement of records with "Shirley Was Here" and other vital screeds. So I was reprimanded and I acquiesced. I was sure to have a couple of pencils on hand, thoroughly sharpened for such emergencies. I don't know if you've ever written a big project for a good while in pencil, but needless to say my tips became dull in a matter of minutes. So there were several trips to the library's very nice break room, where the steam-punk, hand-crank school sharpener lived. This was a solitary and dark space that was in the hall between several very large basement rooms that were always empty and void of lights. These old Woonsocket buildings were exceptionally creepy and gothic, and of course you know that was why I loved it there so much.
I'd enjoy taking an actual break in the break room between pages. There was a pot of coffee, some nice crackers, cheese, and Oreos on hand to build me up as I worked for a few hours. I'd throw money in a coffee can for the treats. Sometime someone else would come in and have a nice chat but nine of ten times I was alone. There were also Precambrian toilets out there, with actual chains you pulled from the ceiling to flush. I'd imagine some snot-nosed Catholic schoolboy got shanked by a bully in there and may be haunting it. The whole place elicited the creeps (again, perfect for me).
Now I was there to just sharpen, and this had to be done about every half hour for my remaining time there. So I managed to come up with a way to cut my sharpening trips, and piss off the Ordre Le Franco Chevaliers Bénévoles, (volunteer knights), when I thought of bringing several mechanical pencils with me on my writing escapades. Aha!
Approach me now, oh ancient one!
It was only a few moments before the first little old pen-sentry sidled up to my table.
"Excuse me, no pe...."
I unsheathed and held my gleaming sword before her.
"Pencil! Mechanical Pencil, Bitch! Who looks stupid, huh? Who's pushing the rules now, Grandma? How you like me now, you low-rent D'artagnan?
I didn't say that, but I wanted to.
"Very well," she scowled, pouting.
"Yeah, that's right! It is VERY well Madame DeFarce!
Of course, every person on duty approached me about my mechanical pencil, and then everyone working the new shift that came on. So really, I had won no battle for uninterrupted time management that bloody and fateful day.
I retreated to the break room with my mechanical pencil, had a cookie and coffee, and decided to continue to write in the silence there.
One of the people who had been researching their family came out for a breather, and we chatted a bit about his plight to find the proper record.
"You know," he said, "were you to be in the library you could not use that pen in there."
"MECHANICAL PENCIL, BITCH."- No
"Thanks for the heads up." -Yes. :-(
More next time. :-)
In the next couple of entries I want to discuss my second and possibly most successful short story of my writing career, thus far.
I've been a Universal Monster fan since about 1962, but later in life I developed a professional relationship to Bram Stoker's greatest creation, Count Dracula. Of course I learned much more about the history of the legendary nobleman than his place in the Universal pantheon, and at about ten was introduced to the guy I always felt embodied the role, Christopher Lee. Tough to get such a tall and imposing actor with a baritone voice that registers in the sub woofers of surround sound, and I don't know how they'd ever top the figure he cut.
In 1985 I auditioned for, and secured the role of Professor Van Helsing at The Rhode Island Shakespeare Theatre, or TRIST, in the heavily trafficked and touristy city of Newport Rhode Island. We operated out of the carriage house of an eerily empty mansion, called the Swanhurst, converted into a lovely theater accommodating, I will guess, close to a hundred seats. I spent a decade as an actor in said company, but of course getting to play Van Helsing was near and dear to my heart. It was a full blown, pretty production with authentic set, costumes, a handsome and promising actor in the title role, and of course the wonderful setting. A moody and talented musician provided the haunting and groundbreaking electronic score as our Director, Bob Colonna, son of famed Bob Hope mainstay Jerry, and Trinity Rep Actor in his own right, worked with a collaborator to whittle down the actual novel for our script.
This was the kind of theater I most liked to work at, an ensemble piece created on the fly, harking directly to the genuine literature from which it sprung. All the words we spoke were from Uncle Bram's noggin. As there is no actual confrontation between the Count and Van Helsing, we manufactured a quick and effective silent stare-down as my young co-star swung from the rafters of the proscenium, lol. Dracula, his wives and the tragic Miss Lucy Westenra were outfitted with genuine, form-fitted fangs from a local Orthodontist, impressive indeed, and a friend, John, who took on the role of Renfield, got a fine set of disgusting, rotting prosthetic teeth to add to his bug eater's doomed transformation.
I faired well in the production, growing a full beard, and can remember getting my "regulation" tweedy professor costume and pocket watch to add that final hunkering-in to character. The Dutch accent was a bit of a challenge, one I eventually rose to, thankfully, and stopped slipping in to a comfortable German dialect. Things went rather swimmingly as I recall, though one night John had a near nervous breakdown in a scene where Renfield speaks to the Scooby Gang of characters who will go after the dread Count, you all know who they are.
I was then as you know me now, forever clowning around between working and attempting to make my fellows laugh. John appeared to me to be having some sort of stroke in the middle of a monologue to my character, and continually, as Renfield, leaned against Professor Van Helsing's mighty gut with his head down, trying to compose himself. Afraid that he was taken ill, I rushed some sort of questioning his dialogue back at him and made sure the proper info. got out to the audience. As we made it to the wings I held John and asked if he were alright.
"Yes, but my teeth slipped and I was trying not to swallow them. Then I started laughing thinking what you'd tease about that later, and I couldn't get myself together from giggling and juggling my teeth on my tongue. You bastard!"
The shows in that company invariably got full houses due to the number of people wanting entertainment, and we got generally good notices. In one state paper, The Providence Eagle, this was said about your pal and humble blogger. "What makes Van Helsing truly invaluable...is not only that he provides a much needed focal point- and becomes in fact the true 'humanist' hero of the play- but that Richard Scott portrays him with such intelligence and exuberance." Gosh, after all that work, I'll take it, hahaha.
Note: four years later, my dear friend Karson Mesler, our Count, took his own life, for reasons that remain mostly unknown to me. I speak fictionally of that loss in my new Novel, "More Than This." Put in a thought that it finds a publisher. Dracula and his Brides from our production, below.
I have this odd coincidence going on in my life that I only became aware of fifteen years ago. Since about the age of fourteen, my bed (and my space in it), in juxtaposition to the bedroom wall with the windows on it, has been exactly the same no matter where I've lived. That includes the house I grew up in, two apartments after marriage, and my home of now twenty nine years. From the vantage of the headboard, I sleep on the right side of the bed (middle when I was single) and to my right is the wall that has the window or windows to the outside world. If one window, it has been at the foot of the bed, if two, there is one midpoint of the bed before the foot one.
In my teen years, my room was on the second floor. Dad was a Fireman, and we had my escape route all planned out. I would go out my window to a small side roof that was directly under it, dangle from said roof my full length and then drop the remaining six feet or so to the back yard. The theory was that even if I broke my leg, I would have survived the fire. In my apartment in Providence as a married man, we were on the first floor. Here the windows led to a tenement porch that was frequented by a roving band of nocturnal cats. That's when I started to keep a Louisville slugger next to my bed, as I'd grab it in the night to bang on the wall and disperse the orgiastic felines, howling to all hell and making a racket fighting and fornicating. I did not relish my role as Officer Dibble.
Now in my own house out in the country for nearing three decades, my windows open to a quiet and sublime acre of happy birds, silent deer and low humming mowers. The baseball bat is still in place as well as something else I've done since teen years- I've always had a small transistor radio (or whatever they are called these days) quietly playing oldies or soft music as I drift off. The music is good for another story, but for now suffice to say I am content in my same position of oblivion. Did I subconsciously set up all my beds that way and take the side I wanted? That's a good question, and it would appear so.
All this led me to the first short story idea I got when I went whole hog serious into writing- What if I ever went to sleep listening to my oldies in my same bed position, but woke up back in the house of my teenage years as the person I am now? Sort of a reverse Back to the Future where I'd encounter my brother and my parents (both somehow still alive) and start doing the activities I did as a kid. This evolved into "Now You're In Heaven," an as-yet-unsold science fiction tale where the main character squares off in a serious game of whiffle ball against his older brother, a death match of two senior citizens, winner stays home. It also has to do with dreams I often have of being back in my childhood home wondering where my wife, kid and house have gone.
I should say that my childhood home, pictured below, was purchased by a monastery of Monks and turned into a Buddhist Shrine. That doesn't happen to just anyone.
So this one year, when my brother and I were both in the midst of job drudgery and boredom, we decided to turn a five-day weekend into a road trip up to Quebec City, Quebec. He was perhaps fifty to my forty-one. We knew we had some relation to the area because we'd grown up in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, one of the two major French speaking areas of the United States for most of the Twentieth Century. We only explored our Genealogy formally several years later, in the 21st Century and found out that indeed the greater part of our paternal lineage came directly from the Montreal area, specifically a town called St. Hyacinth, but that's another story.
It's about an eight to ten hour drive to my recollection, so we decided not to overdo and stopped at a quaint Vermont Inn for our first night. After a nice supper we settled down into what would be a last night of luxury before three camping in Canada. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, in twin beds right beside each other, we were both in sweet oblivion. To my mind, I opened my eyes in the half darkness to see an old woman in a white nightgown bending over me. Macho traveler that I am, I screamed holy murder into the still night, and kicked upward at the frail entity about to either choke me or tuck me in. My top sheet and blanket flew into her on its way to the floor, and she vanished.
My sibling, deep in the quiet slumber of green mountain bliss, nearly levitated from his bed, Regan-style, in a knee-jerk jackknife full-on heart shock Macarena. I told him I just saw a ghost as we both considered the need for the front office defibrillator. I was so certain that I awoke first and saw after. Be that as it may, we both needed a night light and some music playing to ever go back to sleep.
My other sighting was in my current home where we've now been for 29 years. There is no denying that we have our very own Rhode Island Historical Cemetery #69 right in our back yard. Quite a lucky happenstance for a horror writer, wouldn't you say? Yes I have researched it in town and there are fourteen individuals there, with no veterans. The only name we have been able to discover is that a man named Washington Logee appears to be the head of the family, and his is the only identifiable stone with writing etched on it. A talented neighbor of mine did a wonderful job of restoring the lot on his own; it even has a bench where I can write.
Again I really believe that I woke first; witnessed later, with eyes wide open. I was taking an afternoon nap in our master bedroom when I looked to my left toward the doorway. There was a woman with wild white hair standing there peeking in at me, being entirely docile and just observing. She even turned her head a bit to get different angles. I instinctively felt no threat from her and was not scared. I did not scream like a little girl this time, nor like a grown man. In fact, I smiled at her. Within a moment she faded away. The one thing I could not understand was that her face was tremendously swollen and her features were distorted. I wondered if she had some abnormality or illness that affected her face in that way. I honestly think of her as looking like one of the Morlocks from the old Rod Taylor/Time Machine movie, minus the scary teeth.
There have been a few inexplicable experiences in my life that beg the question of goings-on out there in the ether. You know, those things that happen to all of us and make us say, "Holy shit." One of them is also described in my upcoming literary novel, currently titled "More Than This," needing a publishing home.
About a month ago I spoke of my association with a witch who was giving me an education on all things Wiccan. I had sent one of my early stories "Stoker's Benefactor" to the top genre magazine in Ireland, hoping that its Dublin location and Stoker's Irish upbringing would spark an interest. It involved Dracula becoming a donor to the Theater Company Bram Stoker was employed with as business and house manager. The Count's only request for his generosity, to meet a certain young actress he admired. The story was submitted in July of 2006. I knew I was in for a long wait to hear a decision. But my witch friend told me that my mother Ann, dead since 1972, had contacted her from the other side and that I would hear about the story's fate on my Birthday, the first of December, in 2006. That's a pretty far flung prediction so I thought nothing of it.
Five months later, on that Birthday, I had gone out for browsing and dinner with my wife and when I returned checked my email. The longest letter you could ever imagine getting from an Editor was there, as foretold, in my inbox. ".....I enjoyed the story very much. There's a lot to like about it, and the writing is of a high quality, so is the characterisation (sic). You have written the prose and dialogue in a style that feels nice and antiquated, without being difficult to read in the least. That's often a big problem; we get lots of Victorian stories that are written in Victorian style. It can often mean the prose is turgid and difficult. It's all about getting the flavour (sic) of the era across, and you have done that very well.....All that remains is for me to say thanks for an entertaining read, which has awaken (sic) me from the stuff I normally get to read as submissions."
You can imagine my glee. This goes on for three full pages, I kid you not. The long and short of it was that my story was accepted and indeed published (Albedo One Issue #37). I often wondered if the witch herself was shocked at her own accuracy, hahaha, though of course she took it in perfect stride. I mean, that is like a needle in a haystack type of prediction, given that the Irish editor had no idea when my birth may be celebrated. My Stoker story was recommended for a Stoker Award, but went no further on the ballot. Even the editor was flummoxed by my witch story; everyone involved was.
I got the distinct pleasure to put the magazine in the hands of my friend Dacre Stoker, Bram's great-grand nephew, when I met him at Stokercon, but I have yet to have the privilege of his reaction. There are many little Bram stoker in-joke references in the manuscript, lol.
Next time: encounters with the Ouija Board, the ghost of a Vermont Inn, and a Morlock.
The Portrait of a Young Man as a Professional
People may do whatever they want with their work, I've given up making distinctions in this unfettered world. I repeat, for those eager to troll and take offense on the internet, "I hold no bearing on what others may do with the results of their writing efforts. It's your decision." As for me, I have a strange and elusive fetish that I hope you will forgive. I want to be paid. I want professional credits, as in, money exchanging hands. If not for my own coffers, then at least to bolster an organization or charity.
It may be because I've worked in the professional theater and have been paid wages due for my time and services. Good wages. I want my writing to be engaged in the public arena, whether you think of it as the literary world of New York or California or what have you. That is chiefly why, over the course of now fifteen years of adult writing, I have only a handful of credits to my resume. Along with the money, YES I do want to make it past the gatekeepers of the Publishing world. Without that validation I will never believe I was really good enough. Hey, again, that's just me! I am always eager to discuss my perversions, but please, no torches and pitchforks.
I submit my work primarily to paying markets, 99% of the time to complete strangers running Literary Journals and Magazines. They are not my friends, I am not in their circle, they do not know me. I have often said that even if I go to my grave having never made a mark above my own friends and family, I will have been able to say I continued to try, and that is what I expect of myself.
My quotation in my high school yearbook is, "There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding, and that which is lost by not trying"- Francis Bacon. Throughout my life I've clung to these words. If there were ever two professions that are pretty much guarantees of a lifetime of failure, rejection and heartache, they are the theater and writing. But these are the vocations I've been afforded, and so be it. It's called playing the hand you're dealt.
After fifteen years, I can see the clumsiness and naiveté of my early efforts, and I labor and labor to hone and cut away at these nascent creatures, until I consider them up to snuff. Early in my career I signed a contract with a quickly defunct Publisher in the UK. This person not only never paid me, but fell off the face of the Earth. Once bitten, twice shy. Never again will I enter into such a covenant, if at all feasibly knowable at the time.
I have many friends in the writing community whom I cherish. But unfortunately, when it comes to the marketing and selling of one's work, we have little in common. If you think me ambitious, yes I am. If you think I seek the limelight, yes I do, but my goal is to get my work in the hands of the readers I want so desperately to reach. I know I will most likely die with the financial success (that sadly gets one noticed in our society), eluding me, and I try to prepare emotionally for that eventuality.
Having had the Medium I was visiting contact and discuss the Dead in my life, I didn't know what we could do upon the third visit I had secured with her, to possibly one-up that. These trips afforded me a ninety minute drive to a quaint town in Southern Rhode Island, where I did seek dinner and other goodies after our sessions, so I always made an afternoon of it. With candles lit, lights low and incense burning to soft electronica; we got into my other pleas to the universe that really came true, as well as the "Dream" world I explored in this journal not a month ago.
When I had first moved to the country my wife quickly decided to become a Girl Scout Leader, mostly to afford our daughter that opportunity. In her group were some diverse girls from a local group home, and when I remarked on their adorableness, she told me that a Child Agency was in our little village. I had worked for such places in my past, and though I was happily employed in the Theater, I had a vision at that time. It would not be bad, I thought, to be an administrator there, get big bucks, and if I ever had the Emergency Pager, I'd be right down the street.
Cut to 5 years hence. A new Director of my Theater Company resulted in my loss of that employment, and after a prolonged job hunt in my field, I was back in the kid business. A colleague from a far away agency I had worked at, near Fall River, somehow got the job of Director of the agency for my town across the state, and asked me to apply. Starting as Child Care and working my way up, I became Assistant Educational Advocate for the kids in one house, in Woonsocket. Soon thereafter, like really soon, like a month later, surprising everyone, my boss high-tailed it and left, (damn you, Kat, lol) leaving me now as sole Ed. Advocate for the whole agency. For a few years I was indeed an Administrator, did indeed have the Pager at times, and did indeed rush in to the houses right near me, though this was not an option when I first dreamed it up. That crazy ol' Universe was on it, and again it happened far down-river.
The third wish is as you see me now, writing full time and needing no other employment. Ah, clever Universe. Just as I was enjoying my new career bookselling, you hit me with a triple bypass to the widow-maker and a further heart attack at the failure of said bypass. I am now disabled and collecting, affording me all the time in the world, and even a shiny handicapped parking sign.
Ah, thanks universe. Now I can write at leisure and scoff at those hardy souls still working, and experiencing the stress monkey on their back, first-hand. But what of my prolific and exciting dream life which inhabits my mind and makes me interesting? Cassandra's take was a complete bombshell.
"Yeah, I need you to STOP that!"
"I need you to end that and save all of your fantasies for your waking life, when you need them most for your writing."
"How the hell do I do that?"
"You say that you call up your previous night's dreams to send your mind back to sleep. Stop doing that. Read and do your best to meditate and clear your mind before sleep. You mastered Lucid, you can do this."
I love you Cassandra, you are awesome and beautiful and were a great conversation and guide in my life, but I can't give my dreamscapes up. They are completely me, and they are one of my existences on this insane journey.
My second session with the Medium, the lovely Cassandra, was the closest I ever came to bolting from the darkened room. I'm not a fan of touchy-feely vague metaphors; I like my symbols succinct and cleverly representative of something. She started the session by saying that when she thought of me, a Dragon came into her head. "It's like you are a bold Knight battling an overwhelming obstacle that could be the end of your dreams, but yet you try to defeat it." Yes, all very true about writing, which she already had learned I was currently concentrating on. But, what am I, the Hobbit now? Hey lady, I'm not a Renaissance Fair Cosplayer, let's move on.
I'm certain that she felt a chill from me that snuffed her candles, yet she persisted.
"In a past life I see you were a Monk up late at night in a castle, writing and transcribing feverishly." No Ma'am, that was Tuesday night.
I endured, and must admit I experienced the most haunting revelations of my time with her.
She got into congress with my dead, amidst the incense and soft music, and first said my brother (whose death I discussed two entries ago), was not noticeable to her because "he was far into the afterlife, socializing." Not entirely meaningful, but yes I can imagine it, since he and I had done our Ancestry and had many questions for those who had already crossed over, lol.
The showstoppers: "Here on the edge of the afterlife, your maternal Grandmother, who never saw you, remains very close by you. You are sickened with the same thing that took her life." Now none of this had been discussed, nor could I imagine any online information I'd ever divulged at that time, about how I never met any of my Grandparents because they had all passed before my birth. Also Walt and I had learned in our Genealogical research that my mother's mother, nee Elizabeth O'Brien, had been in the Mental Health facility in Cranston (then a Hospital) and had a leg amputated before dying of uncontrolled Diabetes (one of my struggles since 1996). We had no previous idea whatsoever about the details of her death, way back in the Forties.
She mentioned my Paternal Grandfather and said he is unhappy in the beyond because he was taken too soon. Again, can't tell how she would know that. She'd have had to do some deep digging for facts it took Walt and I years to find. At that moment, I was thinking "Here it comes, the make or break for her." Out of nowhere, she says-
"I see a train that he missed." Now of all the ways to die, it shook me; rattled me to my core; that she was even so close. My Dad's Father, nee Edmond Henri Scott, died on the February night of a great blizzard, in 1926, at the age of 41. Imagine, my first Granddad was already gone in 1926, thirty years before I was born. That's like Prohibition, roaring twenties, ancient history shit! He had walked from a great elevation in the city of Woonsocket to Main Street, to catch a Trolley for Third Shift in a different city (having worked all Second Shift in another Mill). This is at least a good mile walk, in a raging snowstorm. There was no Trolley because of the snow, he walked back to his home in a tenement apartment up those hills, ate a huge supper, took a nap, and died of heart failure in his sleep, in bed with my five-year-old Dad. Doctors, who then did house calls, could not get to him.
That was a pretty close reference by Cassandra, to my mind, and still, a tough fact to come across even if you're looking in the right place.
So now I looked forward to hitting her with my two other times life manifested my desires. Next journal.
One year on my Birthday my daughter, ever in-the-know, got me one hundred dollars worth of session time with a Medium. She was aware that I had been exploring all sides of occult knowledge as closely as I could. This particular woman was highly praised and sought after, and her practice was attached to an extremely upscale Yoga and Spiritual Health facility in South County, Rhode Island. What we Yankees like to call "down near the beaches."
Let's call her Cassandra, because I love that name, lol. The hundred got me roughly a session and a half, so I splurged for the other half to meet with her three times. Knowing I'm at least a good conversationalist, I knew I could get through the three sessions with more than enough information to discuss. You see, the problem was, that by this point I had completely ceased to be a believer.
I did resolve to go in open-mindedly and not be some asshole just nay-saying every bit of information she gave me. I hadn't gone there for an argument, Mr. Cleese.:-D Of course, Cassandra was very beautiful with flowing blond locks and in great shape for what I guessed was forty. So okay, no getting a crush on the Medium. Concentrate.
The biggest issue I wanted to undertake was that three times in my life, I had daydreamed, or some may say "put out into the universe" what I intended and wished my life to be like. What occupation, what schedule, what living situation, what dynamic, all of it. In all three circumstances, astoundingly, the scenario had entirely become true and unraveled with veracity. However, it was always way more far flung than I ever imagined. In other words, they ALL happened, but they took their sweet time.
It isn't hard to guess her response to this info. 'Of course The Universe listened, but it doesn't always adhere to the precise schedule you may have wanted to manifest.' My first wish had been to work in the professional theater as an actor, live in a city, and have an insanely hectic lifestyle with all the intelligent camaraderie and socializing that would accompany such a life. Sex and the City as it were. Well I did achieve it, but at the age of thirty-one, already married, and with one baby at home. I worked at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, not as an actor but as a thirty year old Production Assistant, making coffee and sweeping the floors.
In time I became a Stage Manager and was able to join the Actors' union and "get my Equity card." I actually was able to worm my way into acting in six productions there, unheard of for crew, and not as just "man carrying table." One time they needed a quick speaking part in an Irish play by Sean O'Casey. The actor Richard Jenkins (Shape of Water, Cabin in the Woods) was auditioning people and I put the word out I wanted it. He asked me if I had an Irish dialect. "We're here about the furniture you ordered missus. Where do ya want it?" something like that. "Fuck, you're cast," was Dick's reply after he heard me, lol. This happened on several other occasions, one where I actually took an ill actor's role halfway through the play's run. When you're in the union, those kind of bucks add exponentially, I can tell you. More to come on this projection phenomenon.
Seven years ago, I lost part of my heart and self.
My eldest brother Walter and I were so close that it is hard to put into words. At the risk of ruining part of my latest novel, a fictional memoir, I was born when my parents were forty, basically. Walter, their first child, had eighteen years on me. That's right. He had graduated from high school when I was born. Strictly a Catholic family back then, he was not only my brother but also my Godfather. I've known his wife Helena as long as I've known him. I saw him get married when I was three and my nephew and niece that came soon after grew up with me. My brother considered me one of his kids and his kids were my little brother and sister as far as I was concerned.
He died at age 74 in 2013 from complications of sepsis in his stomach that traveled to his brain. My sister-in-law says he was speaking in tongues at the end. I got to go to Ireland with him and other brothers in 2004, and he and I went out weekly as drinking buddies from 1974 to his death, often along with my brother Alfred and Walt's son Glenn. He was a staunch conservative and he and I could talk politics all night without getting mad. I would call my politics to the left of Bernie Sanders, or as I like to say, Trekkian (global unity, lol.)
I bring this up because in my journal about dreaming, this last of three entries takes a happy/ sad and sometime troubling turn. Of course Walter has appeared frequently in my dreams since his demise. Clear as day and being himself completely (funny, smart, affectionate, and loving). He respected me and my brain and he often looked to me for conversation the older he got. I was always the driver and often the tour guide, as I'm good at agendas and travel, and he was a willing passenger.
The first time he was hanging out in my dream after hitting what he called "the long dirt nap," Al and I had quite the conundrum. Just who was going to tell him he was dead? I was surprisingly against this, me the reality king.
"Just let him enjoy himself," I argued.
"He really should be told," was Al's stance. Being my dream, I believe I won.
The next time wasn't so pleasant. We were all walking in that mall I told you about two entries ago. Walt was weak, sick feeling, he fainted and I caught him in my arms.
"I love you, kid, you know that?" he said, as often in life, looking up at me.
I cried, "Walt no. No Walt. Don't go; don't go, please Walt, please, no!"
He died in my arms. I woke sweating and crying.
When I've come upon him multiple times since in dreams, it takes me awhile to realize that things aren't just normal. Jeez, Walt is dead. He shouldn't be here, but I'm glad he is. I'm not going to spoil it.
"Why haven't you been calling me, in so long, Dick?"
How do you answer that one?
"Walt, what was it like?"
"What was what like?"
"Dying. Where are you now?"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
I think I will get better at communicating with him in the future.
When we were all in Ireland, we went to pubs like three times a day, and one lunch break we were behind time, and when we walked around the corner, our tour bus was leaving.
"Nyah," we screamed like the Three Stooges, chasing it, waving and yelling.
They stopped. Our good-humored Guide, Pat Frawley, greeted us with:
"We were goin' to look for you lads."
I see that story as a metaphor.
If my relatives and spiritual friends are correct, of course, and there is an afterlife.
"Walt. My brother. I'll be lookin' for ya, lad. I'll be lookin' for ya."
I left this hanging after describing the benchmarks that clue me in that I am dreaming. It is not instant and can take a while. As a participant in the dream, I am saying to myself, "There's something familiar about all this. Something. Something that I want to remember about this circumstance." Then, I'd say, two out of five times, if I remain asleep long enough, it comes to me, and I can go lucid.
"This asthma attack. Huge gulps of air. Oh yes this happens when I am struggling in my sleep. This is a dream."
That's when things get interesting. I begin to experiment with unwarranted behavior in the dream. I may grab any woman nearby, old or young, and begin to kiss her passionately. They are surprised at first, because it has no rhyme nor reason with what is happening, but they start to respond and go with it, hahaha. Or perhaps I'll jump on a table and belt out "Luck Be a Lady Tonight." Or introduce everyone to my pet polar bear.
The situation that occurs the most is that I have just finished a shift at a job, (often a few of the places I've worked melded together), and I am able to go home. Or just as often, a class at the college I seem to be attending but at my current age. Even I question why girls of college age are interested in flirting with me, lol. But now I get to go home, wherever that is.
A few minutes later, it becomes quite clear that I cannot recall coming in to work or school, only that I was "there." So I have not the foggiest idea where my car is parked. I wander around, sometime with a friend or lady, struggling to remember where it might be, and laughing nonchalantly to ease the other person's mind, that we'll be on our way in no time. This is a lie. Sometimes I wander huge parking lots, small side lots, and on occasion city streets. Eventually it comes to me, "I'll never find this car. This happens when I am dreaming. I am dreaming."
Now I am liberated. I may say to the person I'm with, "No Problem. Ah, here it is right here." I have made cars manifest out of thin air, and never a car I've had in real life. On occasion, I say, "Watch this." I go over to a spot in space, hovering next to the curb, sit on a cushion of pure invisibility, 'start' the imaginary motor, get them to join me, and away we go. We are now flying a few feet above the road, accelerating to our destination.
One of my recurring solutions, if I am alone, is to walk home, but this always moves to my hometown and walking back to the house I grew up in. I get upset because I don't want to go to my Dad's house, I want to go to my house. I am a grown man with a wife, but dammit, I'll have to call for a ride from my Dad's. Whom I never recall has been dead for 22 years.
There are deeper implications and further sparks which resonate with my writing, but I shall end this dream series next time.
I have been a prolific dreamer throughout my life. I can still remember dreams from my childhood, and I've never kept a dream journal. I do so much dreaming to this day, that documenting them properly would take half my waking hours. This is something about me which has never changed, only the regularity of my experimentation with them has increased.
In the essay "A Novel Approach" on my website, I outlined how a dream led to writing my first book. Several other of my dreams have led to short stories, particularly "The Quality of Mercy" about Lovecraft fighting a family of vampires here in Rhode Island (Unsold). Dreams for me are a never ending source in mining for ideas, and I frequently hit "the mother lode."
Several years back, during a long health recovery, I, out of boredom, began to dabble in lucid dreaming. I read a few books on it, tried some methods and never quite had success. This is the practice where you discover that you are in a dream, and then begin to fuck with it. I never tried the idea outlined in CBS' hit show, EVIL. They had you tying an elastic around your wrist in waking hours, and training yourself to look at it often, thus by the same token training yourself to notice its absence while operating in dreamland.
My eventual success in lucidity came about in an entirely opposite way. I began to notice recurring patterns and circumstances which only happened while I was dreaming. It may sound insane but they clearly manifested over and over in my dreams until I was able to finally wrap my mind around the similarities to other experiences WHILE the dream is going on. Quickly, here are my talismans, if you will, of the fact that I am in a dream: 1- The same landscape keeps showing up. It may be a campus of a college or other school, it may be a place I have worked, but the grounds always have the same characteristics (a series of parking lots on the far east side; as you enter the campus, a large marketplace, often selling museum quality artifacts and especially middle eastern and Islamic items; some buildings, and in the campus center, hills, sometimes into small mountains where sit enormous statues of the Ray Harryhausen variety, Greek Roman and Norse; a huge museum of art and natural history, housing dinosaurs and all manner of human endeavors, sloping back down into a modern mall with pricey stores, another stretch of buildings including cottages or dormitories, and more parking). This is not unlike the layout of Rhode Island College where I really matriculated.
2- Because I am having actual sleep apnea episodes in real life, I have asthma in the dream, which I have under good control while awake and hardly ever occurs. 3- Is an easy one, when I am done my class or shift, I have absolutely no idea where I have parked my car, since I never "arrived" to the campus in the first place. I was just "there." After a while of searching, sometimes a long while, it comes to me that I am not in Kansas anymore.
To prevent this from becoming War and Peace, I have to continue the subject in my next installment. Sleep well.
I've been reading a book about David Bowie creating the album "Low" which was in a triptych of highly advanced albums of the late seventies and early eighties (Station to Station, Low, Heroes). Bowie was plumbing the depths of artistic impulse, utilizing lyrics of ancient occult predisposition, as well as electronic experiments in the most extreme and rudimentary musical phrases (also courtesy of Brian Eno and Tony Visconti). It's like they were putting a mixture of human impulses and sounds into a hat and pulling out the random order to create music that was not artistically predetermined. Bowie's brother had had Schizophrenia and died in a mental institution.
Bowie and Eno visited an Austrian mental facility/ art studio where people were encouraged to paint. "None of them knew they were artists", he later said. "It's compelling and sometimes quite frightening to see this honesty. There's no awareness of embarrassment." At the same time, Bowie was enthusiastic over the book by Julian Jaynes, "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind," which among some very radical theories of when man finally developed self-consciousness, spoke of prehistoric man's schizophrenic nature and as a direct result of it, the religious yearning.
On a further note, this was an album where one complete side was Bowie experimenting with instrumentals, spurred on by the Krautrock scene and groups like Kraftwerk. David was nearly fifty years ahead of avant-garde electronic artists we have "exploring" soundscapes today. Indeed my collaborator Raffaele Pezzella (Sonolygist, Unexplained Sounds) is a strong designer of albums which reach into our subconscious and elicit a reaction that is almost primal in nature. Also, it can be soothing or electrifying. For your own information, Bowie's flights into fancy with sound are collected on the album "All Saints."
Why this has resonated with me so deeply is that I do quite a lot of thinking about why I had to become a writer late in life, and why I feel I would be essentially lost, had I not taken up that mantle. Most of us have periods or even days where we sense that we are a hair-trigger away from "going off," and perhaps, if life-affecting enough, may never return to "baseline." I know that we all have our moments of depression and heartache and feeling overwhelmed, as well we should. It's all part of life. But it haunts me how close to madness writing can be. We need, many of us, to get our thoughts out of our head and create art, and that becomes our saving grace. We perhaps become more stable just in being able to transfer these pieces of ourselves to paper, canvas or tape. I can't find the quote at present, but I have come to realize that anyone who doesn't suffer some depression does not understand life.
We labor alone in tiny rooms, doing things that may make no sense to others, may never find those we hope to reach, and we risk exposure of our deepest flaws as much as our highest qualities. That's why I try never to denigrate a fellow artist and their work publicly, from the cushy Hollywood screenwriter to the Community theater actor. Everyone who stares at a blank page or even a movie camera has their demons to confront. Walter Mosley, the master writer, in his book "This Year You Write Your Novel" puts it so well, "The writer, however, must loosen the bonds.....to cross over the line of your self-restraint and revel in the words and ideas that you would never express in your everyday life."
It's unfortunately true, loosening those bonds makes one's art truthful and immediate.
In the film, A Dangerous Method (2011), I believe David Cronenberg, the clever and talented director, is using his two protagonists as a metaphor to a struggle that goes through our own minds. Indeed, I feel most heartfelt explorers of life and its meaning will come to this crossroad eventually.
Is life and our universe just what we experience on the surface, a biological, physical and scientific phenomena easily explained by the best minds of our time, with some questions perhaps remaining? Or is life much more than we know, a supernatural and inexplicable experience, underlain by phenomena outside of our everyday knowledge and overruled by some governing being or principle, or forces which we know very little about. By the same token, when we die, does our energy or "soul" if you will, persist, and enter other realms or parallel worlds of existence?
In the film, in 1904, the argument is pursued by the two giants of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Beside Freud being the pioneering older mentor of Jung, they do share a mutual respect and a love of philosophizing about their separate but often conjoining work. Freud is the ever staunch defender of reality and the medical significance of the brain's function while Jung has an intuition that things occur outside of mundane explanations. He is the proponent, after all, of Synchronicity, and the thought that many coincidences we experience are not just that. That life is surely overseen and somehow even guided by the supernatural, if you are aware of the clues to look for.
We all have the story where we call our brother and he was just about to call, where someone mentions E.T. and you come home to find your wife watching it, where a thought relayed to you by a friend comes up in another conversation hours after, and more incidents that same week.
I have always deeply admired the film as Cronenberg's argument with himself about the matter, the same one every human being goes through. Are this life and its incidents all that there is for me, what am I anyway, and is there something more out there that only the ethereal side of my nature can or will comprehend? In this sense I find it one of the most important of Cronenberg's films. What does the film imply: what else can it imply but that the mystery goes on and we are each responsible for deciding where we fall in the spectrum of philosophy before this existence is over.
A funny thing happened on my way to exploring deeper understanding of God, the supernatural, and the world beyond in my writing. I still mainly have interest in writing about this same challenge in my stories of the human experience, but as of now, in my 63rd year, I have fallen on the side of Freud. Yes, I've found nothing to recommend the other take but coincidence and wild speculation. It isn't what I expected, believe me.
I am an atheist and I believe that when my brain function ceases I will no longer exist and become food for worms. My atoms will eventually join the rest of their kin in the makeup of this planet and the universe. I will have no knowledge of their journey.
The objective I have pursued in my writing career has been a personal journey, if I may be so corny. I had spent my entire life, ever since I saw The Wolfman as a child and was terrified, trying to come to terms with the hidden realms, the unknown, the unexplained, the dark corners of this fragile existence. If it had monsters, ghosts, demons, angels, ghouls, vampires, werewolves, etc. etc. I was there. As a young person I did enjoy the miracles, mysteries and unspoken bits of my Catholic upbringing; to a point. I was such a believer that when the Exorcist book and then film hit when I was sixteen, I was primed and ready to keep my eyes closed whenever they went to Regan's room. After the vomit explosion? Oh hell no, I was out. And yes, my teenage eyes were shut tight.
It is exactly this guile and innocence that has had me enraptured my whole life by the extraordinary; the synchronous events, the frights, the exploration in book and film of what's going on below the surface. When my daughter was in Middle School, I arranged quite the field trip for her and her best friend. I also dragged my wife along as we visited first the grave of Rhode Island's vampire legend, Mercy Brown in Exeter, then HP Lovecraft's grave in Providence, and finally, as the dusk settled in and the fog rolled, the grave of Lizzie Borden in Fall River, Mass.
My child's English teacher got wind of this romp, but rather than scold, told Amelia that her dad must be very cool, lol. When I began to put stories together and had only my education to guide me in what I was doing, I asked this woman if she would mind editing for me. She was delighted, and then another detail about her came to light; that she was a practicing witch and high priestess of a coven. I had planned a story about a real witch living in a town adjacent to Salem at the time of the trials in 1692. In the months that followed, I received a first hand education on not only witchcraft and Wicca, but also, stones, gems, oils, cauldrons, spells, circles, new moon intentions, candles and deities. I learned that she was well versed in all religions and knew her Gods and Goddesses backward and forward. I came to appreciate a deeper understanding of what signs to watch for in life, and got a hell of a story out of it (Under the Blood Moon, yet to find a home).
I was on my way into the esoteric path that I so fervently desired.
I remember my mindset very clearly when, in 2005, I began writing as a serious business and a vocation for the rest of my life. Physically, as far as where I was going to be spending my time, I was thinking that when it came to life, I was sick and tired of being a person working at things that held no sway for me. I wanted to go back to the feeling I had working in the Theater, that I knew what I wanted, that I was taking part in life, that I was collaborating and creating. The feeling that I was not just being a cog in the daily machine of industry, only to come home and be a consumer. In this case a consumer of entertainment; a watcher.
I made the decision that I was no longer interested in being a watcher, but wanted to become a doer. I wanted to take part in life to the fullest, and transfer those feelings into my written work in order to pass it on to people. I don't mean zip-lining hundreds of feet above the Amazon forest, I mean by observing what is going on with people past and present and trying to report on it through fiction. Not only for the readers at hand, but for future generations as well.
No one can know how that goal of longevity might turn out, but I did know that I at least had to try. "There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding, and that which is lost by not trying." Even though that's the quote I chose for my High School yearbook, it's the quote that resonates with me. I just wrote it by heart, it's still with me.
So that is of utmost importance to me, that my work reach as many people as possible, and that my voice may be heard in the time after I cease to exist. I am serious. When I began to write, I was not sure I even had a voice that was palpable and distinctive, but yes, I have now realized fully that I do and I have found it. The fates be praised I have found it, and I am continuing the process of trying to get it into your ears, into your eyes, and to those who come after you.
Can you imagine being able to have future human beings, whatever form they may take, look back on your work as we look back on Walt Whitman, and having Walt Whitman speak back to you-
I'm thinking about how I've come to this point in my writing life. In 2005 I was sick and tired of working at things that only held a peripheral interest to me. I had done human services on and off for twenty years, but most importantly was coming off a thirty year career in the theater. Hours upon days of rehearsals in a professional company, tearing apart scripts and trying to get at what truth about life these plays contained.
All I could ever think about was how much I wanted to make my own scripts, tell my own stories and how much I wanted only to pursue the form of my two biggest influences, The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. These happened to be the two shows of my youth that most resonated with me, using the unknown and the dark realms to quantify what goes on in real life. Making the people in the stories as relatable as possible, hell, they could be your family, friends or neighbors. Putting them into situations that may never really occur and seeing how they dealt with them.
I took a great risk, of losing all financial support and whatever I thought my place may be in the outside world of work and human congress. But I knew that I was suffering, wilting on the vine, not letting my creativity out and loosed upon the world. Something had to give, and I decided to write. I have already extensively outlined the encouragement I received to that end throughout my life in a blog, Book of Shadows, which I have re-posted on Facebook:
From the beginning, I haven't been able to fight down intense and deep-seated feelings, which many would consider old-fashioned, of wanting to handle my writing in a way that is anathema to many of my current colleagues, compatriots and acquaintances in the writing, and especially genre writing, fields. I want to maintain a sense of mystery to my accomplishments for one thing, never posting word counts or thoughts or degrees of fulfillment toward my writing goals, whether I had a good or bad writing day and what not. I feel most people are interested in your finished product and what you were able to do with that product. I am an entertainment junkie, but a thorough examination of the Film Directing style of say, Robert Eggars, is a discussion that would lose most of my real life friends and family. More on that as we go.
So this journal goes against everything I've struggled to keep hidden from the casual reader, but for my fellow artists, I hope it may help you get a closer grip on what you are after, and what you hope to accomplish. In future I will be laying it all out for you. If you follow me, you may be as mad as I am.
Richard Alan Scott has labored for a half-century in The Arts. He is the school recipient of the Congressman's Medal of Merit and the American College Theater Award of Excellence for acting, presented him at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He worked for a decade as an actor under Robert J. Colonna at The Rhode Island Shakespeare Theater and as actor and Stage Manager under Adrian Hall and Richard Jenkins at the Tony-winning Providence Company; Trinity Rep. He is a thirty-year member of the Actors Equity Association, as well as a fifteen year member of the New England Horror Writers. He has been a writing member of the acclaimed RI Writers Circle and the Newport Round Table. As a writer he has studied under Christopher Golden and James A. Moore at River City Writers and at Boston's Grub Street. His work has appeared in Premiere Magazine, Shroud: The National Journal of Dark Fiction and Art, and Albedo One: Ireland's top genre magazine, as well as the anthology Walls and Bridges edited by Mark Ellis and Melissa Martin-Ellis. He has finished two novels that are being promoted to agents and he lives in rural Rhode Island.
You can learn more about Richard at his website: https://richardalanscott.com/