Friday, January 26, 2007

Mysterious Moratorium

By Susan Helene Gottfried

Most of my fellow Stiffs, you may have noticed, are mystery or thriller writers. I’m not. You’d think that this would make me feel like I don’t fit in, but I am the creator of Trevor Wolff, a man who fits wherever he damn well wants to. And besides, I like the Stiffs. I’ve learned a lot from them.

They have worn off on me, too. In fact, I think that I’m going to need to take a hiatus from reading so many mysteries and thrillers for a bit, much as I don’t want to. But it’s either them or books, and I’d rather not give them up.

It all started at the end of December. I woke up at four in the morning, startled awake by a distinctive “Who, who, who-who-who”. My first thought was, “Cool. We have owls. Who would have thunk?”

But I heard it again. And again.

And my fellow Working Stiffs crawled into my brain. What if that’s no owl but is actually some guys who are signalling each other that they’re in position to come storm my house? Have they cut the phone lines yet? My cell phone’s downstairs; where is the Tour Manager’s? How will we survive this?

By the fourth or fifth hoot, I decided that any bad guys would have gotten bored by now and given up. Yet the owl didn’t.

I woke the Tour Manager, who, as always, thought I was nuts. “It’s an owl,” he told me.

“Yeah, but … what if it’s not?”

“Go to sleep,” he told me and proceeded to show me how.

I laid awake until the night quieted. By morning, I decided that being visited by an owl was pretty cool.

The next night, I heard the owl around ten. I sent the Tour Manager outside to see where he was. The report came back that he was across the street, between two houses. And that he’d been scared off when the Tour Manager had gotten close.

I figured that would be the end of it, but my owl came back for a third night. And then a fourth. I laid in bed with a book -- yes, a mystery -- and listened to the hooting. At first, it gave me warm fuzzies. We had a new pet, sort of. The owl liked us as much as I liked it.

But then, my brain went into overdrive. Owls, some Native Americans believe, presage death. Whose death was this owl telling me about? Mine? The Tour Manager’s? Our kids’? Maybe one of the neighbors?

I didn’t sleep easy that night.
When I turn this into fiction, my owl will inspire a songfor my fictional band, ShapeShifter. But the Stiffs… they’d have that home be invaded. People will die. That’s how it is when you write mysteries and thrillers.

Me, I’m on hiatus from the books until my brain stops being so morbid. Time to go read a nice romance or two.


Tory said...

I've always said that the reason I write fiction is so my morbid imagination can be used in a productive way!

Joyce said...

Me too, Tory. My husband once told me I was a very sick person after I described a decomposing dead body in my book to him. Huh. Go figure.

Annette said...

I love owls! A couple summers ago we had one that perched on the electric pole outside our bedroom window at twilight and serenaded us. It was a Great Horned owl and created a striking silhoutte against the night sky.

Tory, I agree. All my fears and paranoia finds a way onto the page, which gets it out of my head.

And, Susan, no one here died. So relax and enjoy your visitor.

cheesygiraffe said...

You were reading too many murder mysteries. LOL I would have gotten sick of hearing the owl and went outside to tell it to knock it off. I'm kind of grouchy if something disturbs my sleep. ;)

Anonymous said...

I find that when I'm researching true crime and reading the real stuff, I tend to get even more paranoid. :-)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

He moved on. :(

I miss him.

Interestingly, while no one seems to have died, the house that he was sitting next to went up for sale. And in a cool twist, some friends of friends are buying it.

Maybe owls are a sign of good things, and no one's bothered to look past the deaths to see it?

Rene said...

You're right, that is a "hoot." My daughter kept seeing a giant white coyote outside every night. I didn't see it but she swore it was there. During the daylight I figured out it was a boulder next to my neighbor's mailbox. But then I wondered, what if she can see something spooky that I can't? What if there is a demon in the shape of a white coyote outside her room that only she can see? Wow, that would make an interesting book.

Joan Swan said...

Whoo-hoo, Susan! Come on over to the other team...grab a romance.

Just not one of mine because 1) I'm as yet unpubbed *g*, and 2) I write romantic suspense, so my brand of romance is anything but warm and cozy.

Good luck with your hiatus.