Welcome to my blog Upstate Girl, (a.k.a Follow Your Bliss Part II), I am an independently published author. This blog is all about writing and the stuff that inspires me to write, the joys and obstacles that come along with the writer's life, and my fascination with the psychology of people and what makes them tick...the human condition, as is...and my love for words, playing with them and making sense of them...and I throw in a few photos from my acre of the world just to make things pretty...sometimes there are things I have no words for, only pictures will do.

*Copyright notice* All photos, writing, and artwork are mine (
© Laura J. Wellner), unless otherwise noted, please be a peach, if you'd like to use my work for a project or you just love it and must have it, message me and we'll work out the details...it's simple...JUST ASK, please.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

How come Dusty Waters, a Ghost Story?

To give a more intimate context, I will discuss the origins of Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story...with Halloween around the corner within spitting distance, why not? There were fragments of ideas that boiled around in my brain for a very long time, since I was a little kid (I always wanted to write about ghosts and a haunted house...you know the old movie 13 Ghosts? There's a beginning for you to chew on...) I didn't start to write anything down until I came into that amazing sweet spot of creativity around 2001-2002—so, she was a long time in the making, but there are parts of her that were created in my imagination when I was quite a young little sponge running around during endless summer days doing the usual kid stuff and making up stories to tell my friends was part of my something to do, my mind was busy, busier than my body! I'd always begin with my hand to my heart swearing it was true! And from there I did my duty as a storyteller, usually pissing off my friends because I suckered them into believing the long elaborate lie that I just told (it's just a story you guys, sheesh!) My little ghost story, "Dusty Waters" was built upon the foundation of little stories that I used to tell my friends on those summer nights spent trespassing on the porch of an empty house we fondly called "The Witches House", smoking cigarettes and giggling ourselves silly...even running off screaming into the night once because the story I was telling just became too intense—something about a baby buried in the basement "...and her ghostly cries could be heard to this day" and perfectly timed (I couldn't have planned it if I tried), a baby in the house next door started to have a good cry about a crappy diaper—OMG it was hi-lar-ious! We ran and ran and ran—I never forgot it. Once I began to write the book I made a home for the stories in a larger story, the ghosts, the house, the girl born at the tail end of the baby boom generation, growing up with a war on the six o'clock news, the hippies at Woodstock (one of them happened to be her sister, she had a dirty, stinky good time, she returned home with stories and songs to share) and her brother's guitar that she learned to pick songs from the strings, so a folksinger was born.

The book is a ghost story. I’m compelled to challenge any misunderstanding that anyone may have about my intentions to call it such...everyone has their ideas of what a ghost story should be...well, this is mine. Yes, it is more than a ghost story, it’s not all about the ‘boo-factor’ of scary ghosts; it is a ghost story that is about life as much as it is about death and the afterlife. In life there are scarier things than ghosts, and most of the time, it's the living who are scary—the dead are beyond the living, some are poor souls caught in their final moments, and some have chosen to remain where they are in the existence in between here and moving on to wait, to watch, to witness.Tanglewood, the ancestral home of Dusty Waters is full of these spirits and the echoes of time—she can even hear the singing of the Chinese artisan who worked on carving the rosewood front door for the old mansion...and experience a brief moment of time where a young woman left her blue paint thumbprint on the wall while looking out the window.
This ghost story is the story that is not going to be told in the official “biography” of Dusty Waters being written by her old friend Katharine Tierney. Dusty Water’s has the gift to see them (or is it a curse?) She has a healthy respect for them, she has the right to be annoyed that they pester her with their existence; at times she is in danger of losing her mind because of their constant presence—that for me is a scary idea. Part of her ‘growing up’ is making peace with this ability, trying to understand them—their ‘why’, their ‘how come’. Her eventual intervention to help them move on by resolving the things that have haunted them beyond their physical existence is a gift that only someone with a brave heart can step in with an extended hand. It is a book about belief—whether it is belief in the existence of ghosts or God—in the end, it is imperative to believe in one’s self in order to live.

This ghost story is also about the ghosts of the past, history is what haunts us in subtle ways, the war in Vietnam has haunted us, the present day echoes are metaphorical spirits, poltergeists shaking their fingers, clanking chains of memory, only some of us are willing to take notice, see the parallels and try to make a difference—while there are the naysayers who declare there are no such thing as ghosts.

With all said here, I’ll never apologize for misleading anyone into their own expectations. John Steinbeck said it best of all when he was writing East of Eden: “It will not be what anyone expects and so the expecters will not like it. And until it gets to people who don't expect anything and are just willing to go along with the story, no one is likely to like this book.”

Goodness knows, when I started writing Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story I had no idea where it was going, self-doubts raged and waned throughout the process, every writer goes through this, and I made peace with it. I’ve put her out there to be read—there is a commitment in reading a book, more than looking at a picture that I made. To the ones who have already read it, I say “Thank you!” I really do appreciate it. If you haven’t read it yet, please feel free to take her for a test drive to see if you like what you read through the available samples via Goodreads and Amazon—she’s a different girl.

A bit of novel trivia—

Dusty’s birthday is on Halloween.

The photo for the front cover was taken by me in the mid-late 1980's at the Fox Sister's homestead site just before the house was torn down after a fire. (It wasn't the original house, that was at Lily Dale...it burned down too.)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Inspirations - where did The Fractured Hues of White Light come from?

The Fractured Hues of White Light by Laura J. W. Ryan, Field Stone Press, 2010
Every now and then I am asked about where I get my ideas for my books or what inspired me to write a book…I can go on and on about inspiration just because it’s such a vast landscape of ideas - the ones that get used and the ones that don’t get used, but are waiting their turn… so for this, I tried to narrow it down to one book…

The Fractured Hues of White Light  has its origins from a paper about Autism that I wrote for a child psychology class in college. Because the subject was so remarkable, I wrote a poem and included it in the paper, which my professor liked quite a bit, but whatever, it was something that stuck with me (heck if I know where the paper is, but the poem, I still have, and I find it every time I clean my desk.)

I let the idea of autism roll around in my noggin for years—YEARS—1981-ish until the year 2000 when I started scribbling the first notes about a high-functioning autistic young woman. It all started with a conversation—most of my books come from this sort of bantering back and forth between characters, at first with no names, no identity—just a conversation. From that fragment of talk, I developed the characters, Samantha and Guthrie Ryder.

Samantha is an artist with a special talent for copying the greatest hits of art history only in miniature. As a result, she became the subject of ‘human interest’ stories, locally, and then nationally. I know, it’s a strange thing to achieve recognition for—she’s aware of the absurdity of it. From the time she was a little kid, her father exploited her talent to make money, she concluded early on that if rich people are stupid enough to lay out thousands of dollars to pay for a miniature copy of Van Gogh’s Starry Night painted by some little kid they see as some kind of idiot savant, then why not? Every time she’s commissioned to paint “repeats” such as the Mona Lisa, she makes it smaller than the last time she made it (she imagines it will be the size of a postage stamp someday.) Changing the size slightly makes it “different” enough so she doesn’t get bored making it.

It seems she has a good life, but the crux is what she’s missing—she wants to paint something of her own. In the first drafts, the original conversation between Samantha and Guthrie was partially about this (and many other things, some of them silly) while they’re on a journey out west. Why were they out there, where did they come from, and what their relationship is supposed to be became a study about the meaning of love. How does an autistic woman express that emotion? Not that well—tho’ she tries very hard to express her feelings. Her obsessive-compulsive fixations cause an emotional upheaval that is overwhelming not only for her, but also for the recipient of her attention. Her sketchbooks are filled with the portraits of the people in her life who she loves, Lenore (her mother), Whitley (her father), Helena (her half-sister), Guthrie (who is her step-brother from her father’s previous marriage), and her friend, Sylvester. The quirk to her autism is her keen observation of faces and expressions—while she may not respond appropriately to the emotions of others, she’s studying them all the time, and is conscious of what is conveyed by an individual’s expressions. Often, the portraits become entangled in a mesh of pencil lines—random marks made and followed and will go on to the next page filling the paper edge to edge—these drawings are her natural self-expression, but because she’s never been encouraged to focus on making art from her own ideas, she doesn’t see their importance.

These issues were the basic backbone of the book, the rest evolved over time. The strangest things happen while writing a book—a whole lot of “unexpected” emerges from the fertile ground of the primary source of the story. It always amazes me where the original idea takes me, it all seems so simple at first, then there’s this beautiful sense of wonder that occurs as pieces fall into place, I go with the flow because it feels right—it’s truly magical how it happens. This book turned out to be a bigger, far more complex story than I initially imagined, and there were times I feared I took on something too big. It surprises me that I wrote it in that “I really wrote this book!” sort of way. I’m a little bit partial to The Fractured Hues of White Light—I think “she’s” my favorite novel because it was so challenging to write it.