Friday, March 09, 2007

Sounds of the Night

from Jacqueline

Also in this post: A must-read book recommendation and a question to our readers, from your Naked Authors. So, read on ....

I’m one of those people for whom the prescribed eight-hours-without-waking sleep pattern lingers somewhere beyond my grasp. I’ve been like this since I was a child, and even in that prime sleep period – teenagerhood – I was always up and about early, taking long walks across dew-laden fields with the morning mist just rising. Sometimes I’m awakened by my dreams – I can remember dreams I had when I was five – and sometimes, when in the midst of writing a book, I am drawn from sleep by my characters, who seem to be lining up like actors on a stage, ready to present me with another scene, a new idea, a plot twist I hadn’t thought of before. Then there are the times when sleep eludes me for hours, so I lay there and listen to the sounds of the night.

I am enchanted by the sound of coyotes singing at night, that yip-yipping howl in the mountains that sends shivers down my spine, with each note pitched high enough to reach the moon. We lived in an equally rural area when I was a child, growing up in England, and though I couldn’t ever begin to imagine that I would one day live in a place where coyotes roam, I knew what it was to wake with a start at the impassioned screech of a vixen, a sound that seemed to have been manufactured by Hitchcock himself. People have run from their houses at that scream, or called the police, thinking a woman was being murdered.

When my brother and I were children, my mother used to tell us her stories of London in the Blitz, of her family being bombed out of their home on more than one occasion, and having to seek refuge in a church, or a school. She described the air-raid warnings that shattered any semblance of calm, and the rumble of airplane engines as the bombers closed in. And because I didn’t know where my mother’s story ended and mine began, sometimes, at night, I would hear a ‘plane in the distance – not a jet, but a propeller-driven old boneshaker on its way to land at the airfield some ten miles away – and I would believe that they were coming for us again, those Luftwaffe ‘planes, so I would delve deep beneath the covers, or seek refuge under my bed, just in case a bomb dropped on our house.

I was twenty-one when I first went to New York. That first night in the city, I gave up trying to catch a few z’s and eventually left my bed and sat by the window of my hotel room, to watch the taxis and police cars, the club-goers and small-hour wanderers, the source of a cacophony that severed all chance of sleep. Soon after, in this same continent, I was filled with excitement when I heard the droning whistle of a Canadian Pacific train in the midnight distance, making its way across the prairie. I’ve remained awake long enough on a hot, oppressive night to hear the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer in the Middle East, and been soothed back to sleep by the sound of water slapping against the side of a yacht. And again on a yacht, moored on the River Thames, I’ve been kept awake by fog horns sounding up and down the river. When I lived in Sausalito, I heard fog horns again, blasting right down through the San Francisco Bay, the gradation of sound indicating the reach of each horn.

It was about a year ago that I was jarred into wakefulness by an ear-shattering boom as the space shuttle entered the earth’s atmosphere, and last week by the never-ending two-tone sirens of police and ambulance racing to the other end of our small town. I stayed awake praying for those who lived at their final destination.

Last night, as I listened to the coyotes singing, I thought about the sounds that people were hearing all over the world. The relentless rain in flood-stricken areas, or in Darfur, in a camp, the muffled sound of women leaving in search of food, hoping to return without meeting rape or death on the road. I thought about my parents, over six thousand miles away, and my friends who live on a Canadian island, where recent gales have brought even more snow overnight, with a sound like soft brushes on a drum as flakes thrashed against the window panes. I wondered what it must be like to be in Iraq, and if sleep ever comes, to anyone. And I thought of the one sound I miss most from England, the dawn chorus that starts oh-so-early in the morning. I always knew, when I was a child, that if I couldn’t get back to sleep by about four o’clock, when the first song thrush gave voice, then there would be precious little chance of rest until the following night.

A Book Recommendation:

As some of you know, I often take classes at UCLA Extension, and have really enjoyed being part of a group of writers who come back time and time again to the same instructor, Barbara Abercrombie. Now one of our number has published her memoir, which is not only getting great reviews, but was recommended in Newsweek’s “The List” this week. So, go out and buy Monica Holloway’s, “Driving With Dead People.” You’ve heard this comment about books before, but she will make you laugh out loud, and she will make you weep. Personally, I can’t remember a time in class that she didn’t have me in stitches, though I was also among the weepers.


A Question To Our Readers:

We’ve been doing some navel-gazing, here at We’ve looked at our blog, and we’ve decided that a whole lot more people would be much happier if they read our posts. Yes, we’ve many readers out there, but in true democratic fashion, we want to spread the joy, our news, our opinions. Why, we’ve asked ourselves, should the rest of the world avoid coming close to bursting a blood vessel every time Paul takes aim where aim needs to be taken, or when Cornelia has us giggling in the aisles, or thinking about something we’ve never thought about before? We’ve decided that Patty must be introduced to a wider global audience, great writer that she is, and we know that Jim should be flashing that badge in more online neighborhoods (Paul, I can hear a quip coming – no, not those sort of online neighborhoods!). So, all of you , especially you who read and never comment, this is the time to step up to the plate – we want to know what you really like about our blog. What do YOU think makes us different? What brings you back time and time again to read what we have to say? Come on, tell us what you like. The key, our esteemed readers, is what makes you click on Come on, share. (I live in California, that’s what we do here, we “share” our feelings). You don’t have to tell us who you are, we just want to know why you like us.

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  1. I've read ~ and enjoyed ~ books by all of the Naked Authors (yes, even yours Jim) and it's always entertaining to read your views of this world we live in, in your very unique styles. This is the first blog I check out every morning and it pretty much sets the tone for my day.


  2. I like the different perspectives you each bring to the blog. Every day is something different. It's not all about writing, or politics, or entertainment, it's a little bit of everything.

    And, in general, everyone here plays nicely with others. There's very little of the fussing and squabbling that can happen elsewhere.

    (And, btw, gorgeous post, Jacqueline ;-)

  3. from Jacqueline

    Janine, thank you so much - I love it that we're the first you check out every day, and that you like our very different styles. This is the sort of feedback that's so useful to us right now - we do our thing here, and we're never quite sure what makes people come back to us, though we all know why we like reading each other's posts, and that we love writing them. Thanks, again!

  4. from Jacqueline

    Rae, you were commenting as I was responding to Janine. Thank YOU for your comment. "Plays nicely with others" - I think I'll have t-shirts made with those words for the team here. Yes, we have a lot of fun, and we make each other think about life from different perspectives. And with a cop and a lawyer on the crew, you definitely won't find squabbling - unless it's with each other!!!

  5. It must be the season for the coyotes to come down from the hills. We've got them strolling up and down our street, driving the dogs crazy.

    Now, I would never attempt a joke about the Blitz, but your story brings to mind an early 60's movie, a hagiographic biopic of Wernher von Braun, entitled, "I Aim for the Stars."

    To which satirist Mort Sahl added, "But sometimes I hit London."

  6. Our, J. You brought me to Naked Authors via your website, and I've stayed because I like the diverse personalities that keep it going - be it you posters or all of the commentors. :-D Rae nailed it her post - all too true. And even when I don't visit a lot of blogs all of the time, I do drop into Naked Authors practically every day.

    I adore the observations on life that you make, Jacqueline - poetry in prose - from an outlook that encompasses the world, and loves it just the same. And I love reading Patty's take on things going on in her life and experience as well. Cornelia quite often opens my eyes to something completely different that I haven't thought about before, and sometimes, completely too funny. The boys posts are enlightening; not always perhaps my cup of tea; but always interesting and sometimes funny.

    You are all brilliant storytellers, each with an intrinsic 'joie de vivre', that comes out in your commentary. It's like reading a good book, or sharing a great conversation with a good friend over the greatest cup of coffee (or tea) in the world.

    Thanks for making my days lighter, and more thoughtful. Keep it coming,


  7. Naked Authors is the SECOND blog I check every day. (The first is to check in with my fellow 'Ratis over at And I keep coming back because you're all fabulous writers, interesting people, and I get a kick out of knowing what's on your mind today.

    Beautiful post about sounds, Jackie. It's the forgotten sense, in many cases. My own rip-the-heart-out-of-the-night sounds would include:

    * The foghorns in the San Francisco bay

    * The cicadas in an Arizona summer, drowning out all other sound

    * The mourning doves that were my alarm clock growing up. They sounded like "Who Cooks For You?"

  8. I learned about this blog from DorothyL and began reading it long before I read any of your books. I like that it's not all about writing. I like that I never know what to expect. I like that your different personalities and interests and likes/dislikes are shared. I like that it feels like we're all friends and that's why you want to share your interests, etc. I like that it's not like any other blog that I read.

    Are you seeing a trend with your comments? Seems as if we are all in agreement - keep on doing what you are doing cause we like it!

  9. I picked up Solomon vs Lord and LOVED it, then my critique partner told me about your blog, so I visited. I come back every day because you're all interesting, with lots to say, but Paul's political views are one of the big reasons I keep coming back. He says what I feel.

    By the way, Paul, my book club is reading SvL this month based on my hearty recommendation (and I've read the other SvL books, too). Your ears will be burning. All it took was for me to say that in the first 30 pages, I laughed out loud 30 times, and they were sold.


  10. from Jacqueline

    Wow! Marianne, Louise, Deborah, Susan - thank you for taking the time to respond to the question posed by the team here - and for coming back day after day. And Paul - thanks for that little joke about the Blitz - it might find its way into a book at some point.

    I know that I love coming to the site, to see what's been written by both my fellow bloggers and our readers. I think between us we can touch a broad range of people, and we do enjoy working together on the blog.

    And Lousie, I love your comment about the doves - I can almost hear them!

  11. Sounds like everyone agrees. I'll just add, that I came here because Ridley Pearson asked on his blog if we would visit him here. Well, he never came (don't feel bad, he doesn't write on his blog either!) but I liked what I read. Always interesting, and I am frankly astounded and appreciative that you take the time to do it!

  12. It's always my first site visit of the day as well.

    I found my way here through Cornelia, though I was already familiar with Jacqueline, Paul, and James B.'s work. Then, I happily added Patty and James G. to my reading list and wasn't disappointed.

    What caught me is the diversity in both tone and content here---and it's usually thought provoking as well. More about your take on the world in general than just the writing and publishing scene, which defines many other author blogs.

    Thank you!

  13. from Jacqueline

    Pam and mjoy - we are so glad you're here, and your feedback is really helpful to us. I think we'll just continue on doing what we do, and hope word of our blog keeps on flitering out into new territories. Frankly, I think if I concentrated on writing about the publishing scene, I would melt with boredom!

    By the way, as you've probably seen, you can subscribe to now, so a reminder email comes to you - sounds like we don't need many reminders though. And you can also send a post on to a friend via the envelope icon. See, we're experimenting with new tricks here at!

  14. What sucks me in, day after day:

    Paul's wit and politics
    Cornelia's unique voice
    Jacqueline's poetry
    Patti's humor and heart
    Jim's inspirational put-your-hands-on-the-computer-and-start-writing-or-you're-under-arrest posts (not to mention he looks hot in that uniform)

  15. Sorry to get on this late today....usually I look at the blog "first thing" in the morning.Your eclectic mix is thought provoking. To me that is the key to why we read anything: Does it make you think? Hopefully the thinking then turns into more than just mental masturbation. Hopefully it gives us the impetuous to reflect, and then act.....sometimes the action is laughing; sometimes it is fervently writing a post; and sometimes it is actually going out and making a difference in your community.

  16. I read several blogs. I saw on James O. Born's website that he was at Naked Authors. Originally I started becuase I like his easy going take on things. I met him once and realize that's his personality.

    I have since started reading Paul's Soloman V Lord series and Jackie's Masis Dobbs.

    I prefer writing info but anything that makes me laugh is okay by me.

    Chuck Z.

  17. Carol, Jon & Chuck, thanks for commenting. This is a great place for us as writers, too - to peel back layers of "information" until we get to the naked truth, whether that truth is in the political realm, the craft of writing, our daily lives, or something that has piqued our interest during the week. Sometimes I have no idea what I am going to write about until my fingers hit the keyboard on a Friday morning, and sometimes I'll let loose a stream of thoughts that have been nagging me for weeks. We're glad you come back day after day to read what we have to write. Thank you, again.

  18. I'm in Tucson, so I'm a little late responding. I'm so impressed by all of our NakedReaders. Your comments are so pithy and beautifully written. I'm sitting in my hotel room laughing and thinking--ah, that's so sweet--all at the same time. Thanks guys. You're the best!

  19. Poetry here, Jackie,poetry--you and Patty conspiring to wax poetic, or coincidence? No, not coincidence, you're both wordsmiths, as are you other naked writers.

    I hate blogs, at least the concept as explained to me a few months before NA came about. Swore I'd not waste my time--rather read a good book, not some musing followed by limp-parrot comments.

    Well, Patty asked me to just read NA once. I did. Then again, and again, and even gave my own limp-parrot comments. Then Louise Ure asked me to try Murderati, and I did, and again. Hope to hell nobody else I like asks me: I still have books to read.

    To answer specifically, Jackie, I came in for love of friends and stayed in because you are all such good writers and wonderful people and your points of view are always food for thought. So, I was wrong about blogs, wrong about comments. . ., and probably the only time I've been right about anything in years is my opinion about the excellence of you writers. Crow is cheap this year.

    Patty's Groupie

  20. I just finished Driving With Dead People and it's wonderful. I laughed and cried and just could not put it down. What a read.