And yet another way in which writers are different…

by Dame Toni

A couple of years ago, I was chatting with a fellow novelist. She was telling a story about a nighttime disturbance that had awakened her husband, and his funny reaction.  I have to admit, I don’t remember the exact details of the story, which had a table full of women, all writers, laughing uproariously.

What I do remember is how she started the story.  “I was lying in bed, running through one of my favorite fantasies…”

No one at the table reacted to this opening salvo with anything more than a nod.  We all understood what she meant, and knew it probably didn’t involve anything battery operated.

I’ve done this as far back as I remember—climbed into bed and fantasized. When I still slept with blankies (I had several, although one held pride of place), they became the other characters in my stories. Sometime in my elementary school years, pillows took over.

During puberty, the fantasies took on a more sexual tone and, for a short period, featured real people. Jim, the object of my unrequited high school longings, became the face on my saliva-and-tear soaked pillow. I remember clutching it, wondering how it was possible to live through the intensity of the ache caused by his indifference to my deep, undying love. **Sniff.**

Eventually, I went back to fictitious characters, although they often resembled whatever celebrity was topping my list of five at the moment. (If you aren’t familiar with the list of five, I shall refer you to Friends, Season 3, Episode 5. And about a million related blog posts.)

Over time, the nature of the fantasies changed. They became more elaborate, and had histories and mythology. They became stories. And, at least one of them got written down and published.  (Shall I tell you which of my books originated in half-awake, pillow-clutching fantasy sessions? Not yet.)

As a teenager, I was a nerd-girl, so I lived in fear that other people would find out about my bedtime rituals, which would just be more fodder for ridicule.  A few other close girlfriends admitted to fantasizing. I remember one saying, “I imagined that Neal was in my bedroom, and I was kissing him,” and thinking to myself, “Yes, but was it your room? Wasn’t it a dungeon, and you were a princess, and he broke in to free you? And then you killed the guards together, and he was wounded, and you had to carry him out, and…”

I gradually came to understand that other people had fantasies, too, but they didn’t seem involve elaborate costumes, settings, or circumstances.  They didn’t have history or, eventually, a continuing plot. Other people didn’t climb into bed and start by thinking, “Now, where did we leave off last night? Oh, right. Legolas and I were in the forest, hiding in a cave, and I had just cast a magical spell that made us invisible to the orcs.  Then…”

I didn’t realize that there were other people who, like me, routinely slid between the sheets and mentally acted out entire stories. Until that conversation at that table full of writers, when everyone just got it. I can’t tell you how much better it made me feel to know that I was not the only nerd-girl out there.

Now that I am a fully grown up woman, embarking on the second half of my life, have I given up the just-before-sleep fantasy scenario? You tell me. Last week, I finally broke down and bought a body pillow.

I told my boyfriend it was for back support. I think he believed me.

Oh, and you wanted to know which of my continuing fantasies eventually made it into print?  It’s Men in Chains, a Virginia Reede title.  It’s the book of my heart and the one that most often invokes the question, “How did you come up with this?”  I just smile and obfuscate.

But now you know.

Now, for some business.

Winners of the Mission Statement Contest: In my last post, I invited you to write a personal mission statement.  There were so many good ones that I despaired of picking a top three, so had to resort to random drawing.  Here are the winners–contact through my website to arrange to received your books.

#4 – Silver James

#29 – Carol Shenold

#37 – Anthea

New Release. I had one, too.  It’s Carnal Healing, book 1 in the Carnal Magic series by Virginia Reede, my slutty alter-ego.  It’s just out in e-book; it’s generally about six months before the trade paperback comes out. But I get way better royalties on the e-books, so I encourage you to EMBRACE THE ELECTRONIC BOOK REVOLUTION.

Here’s the trailer.

New Contest: Since Carnal Healing is a 1500-years-later to Witch’s Knight, my first Ellora’s Cave release, if you watch the Carnal Healing trailer and leave a comment (here, not in YouTube comments), I will select 5 commenters and send them an electronic copy of Witch’s Knight, in your choice of PDF, PRC, or LIT files.


  1. Karen says

    Ah yes, I’ve laid in bed making up scenarios… and now that I’m working on writing novels, I find this if the time when some of the best ideas come. Hence the required pad and pen next to the bed.

  2. Jim B says

    Ok that’s not the reason I keep a pad and pen near me. But I always new writers were different as are many of your readers….please don’t lose the pad.

  3. Maria D. says

    Wow- great post and great book trailer. I really liked how you used the color and music combined to emphasize the change in the mood for each picture. You didn’t list the music name with the end credits though and I’m curious as to what the music is.

  4. Gail Chianese says

    Best time of the day is when I can lay back, relax and let my mind go.

    Loved the trailer.. will have to read the book now! My curiosity will not let me do otherwise. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Jackie U says

    I LOVE this post! No one at work understands why I’m so tired in the morning. “Why don’t you sleep?” “How can you stay up that late?” “What are you DOING?” They never understand when I tell them I was lying awake, plotting someone’s death and I just HAD to write it down. : )

  6. says

    So I’m not crazy!! I thought I was nuts for doing the same thing at my age. I thought I was just day dreaming. Now I know why I do this!
    Thanks for a great post. I can never get up in the morning, I spend time up very late. Writing and fantasizing!
    But I keep a pocket lite, and a pen and paper next to my bed, just in case. And I use them at all times of the nite. Even when I wake from a good dream!
    Good one Toni!

  7. Linda D. says

    Thanks for the great post! I do the SAME thing…

    …unfortunately, I also do it when I’m driving, having conversations, etc. etc. lol. My iPhone’s notes program is unbelievably backed up with ideas!

    Great book trailer and sweet storyline too! :)

  8. says

    Maria D, the music is from, and I combined snippets of two different pieces. The first is from “The Knights” by Tillman Sillescu. The second is from “Flagship Commander” by Patrick Smith.

    Be very careful logging into that site…you can waste HOURS listening to clips!

  9. Wiredwizard says

    I’ve been doing that for as long as I can remember. Basically throw all the characters I can think of into a bad situation & see how they make out.

  10. Jen Wyle says

    Wow awesome trailer!

    And I’m happy to see I’m not the only one who dreams stories and characters :) Actually they are always in my head… I often wonder what other people who dont do that think about all day…

  11. says

    Very intriguing Toni. Good concept and nice trailer.I also dream my stories and re-dream them before Julnowrimo and Nano. Since Nano 07, I’ve been dreaming ever since. Eat your heart Stephanie Myers.

  12. says

    I love this post! It reminded me of all my nights lying in bed, but living in faraway places having adventures where I was the fighter, up against near impossible odds. I was lucky enough to find a friend who did the same and in slumber parties we would lie awake well into the night, making up stories where our characters would battle each other or go off on their own adventures. I still can’t imagine just going to bed without a final day’s adventure.

  13. Gloria says

    Nice trailer. Is this the newest thing in book promotion now? I like the way you put the trailer for this Good vs. Evil epic together, but I also found myself with some questions about why the 7 women were coming together, and what motivated them to resurrect their ancestor’s power. Do they know each other, or are they trying to find each other to join forces? And what is the ancient evil all about and why is it a threat now? Just some questions that occurred to me as I was watching. I know you don’t want to give everything away, but I think telling us a little more creates heightened tension and makes us more invested in reading the book to find out the outcome.

  14. says

    I have never written anything but I have always had the fantasies. It is my method of how to relax and go to sleep (although it back fires if the story gets too good *wink*). I’ve never considered writing any of them down.

  15. Rebecca S. says

    Lovely trailer! I’d actually not heard of Witch’s Knight (hides face in shame) but it’s definitely being added to my list to investigate. (Is it bad that when I read “a noble knight named Geoffrey wed Leonore” I immediately mentally ad-libbed “Quoth the raven!”)

    Oh, and I’m definitely one of those bed-time fantasy people, too. Though mine never progress in maturity much beyond fanfics of whatever show I’m currently watching… :)

  16. Gillian says

    And here I was thinking I was being juvenile by continuing with fantasies before sleep, a process I started in my high school years.

    It’s nice to know I’m not alone! Like Kassandra, though, I’ve never thought of writing them down. In my case, they’d be whopping Mary Sue’s. Hang on, if others can get away with that… :)

  17. says

    Ahh! Other people DON’T do this?! I just assumed everyone did but didn’t talk about it! I was ALWAYS making up these kind of fantasy stories as a kid, teen, and still as an adult. It never occurred to me that it was a writer thing! But it makes SO MUCH SENSE!

    Awesome post!

  18. Noelle says

    I don’t lay awake thinking of stories as often as I wake up from a strange but enticing dream and think, “Ooooo, How can I make that into a story?”

  19. heatwave16 says

    I’ve always done that. I actually told my other half when she couldn’t sleep ‘to tell herself a story’. Funny thing she’s the creative song writer, and I’m the engineer. But thanks for letting us all feel better. :)

  20. Milinda says

    Dream incubation. I actually took a class, years ago. You focus on what you want to dream about for a few minutes before you go to bed and voilà! you dream it. It’s a great way to get over the ugliness of the day and slip almost effortlessly into a great space complete with hunky guys saving me from my angst.

    Great video.

  21. Fedora says

    Gorgeous video, Toni/Virginia! As for using that in-bed-but-not-sleeping-time for fantasies, I’ve done that occasionally :) Not a writer, but I’ve read so many books that it’s hard not to weave a few scenarios once in a while :) And if it results in sweet dreams, so much the better 😀

  22. April M says

    I do that all the time, especially with characters from a book I just read. It’s fun to make hunky, heroic (while fictious) men fall to your every whim. I call it my happy place. ;D