A Dream within a Dream

Marty Ambrose
November 19, 2017 at 3:42 PM


"All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream."  --Poe

I felt like paying homage to my mentor mystery author:  Edgar Allen Poe.  He is such an icon for mystery authors as the first writer to pen a detective story and the guardian poet of American Gothic.  From the "Fall of the House of Usher" to "Ligeia," he conveys such a sense of the lush, dream-like world of dark imagination and twisted reality.  He never feared going where other writers might just edge--and he followed that vision into a realm that draws me in every time.

The dream.  It's a sweet place to find, but elusive in everyday life.

So many writers discuss "living the dream" of being a writer.  It's what drives us every day to sit at the computer and write, write, write.  Some days, it goes well; some days, not so much.  The times of struggling with a scene, a character, or a setting can dim the hope of every producing a manuscript worthy of being published.  

It's at those times, I find that I need to go back to my favorite poets or songwriters and check in with their sources of inspiration.  They provide at least a dim light that seems to seems to shine off in the distance of the precarious "dream"--a belief that art will sustain me during the times of doubt (and so-so compositions).  It keeps me coming back to a story and find my voice again.  It keeps me motivated (sort of).  And it keeps me writing.

It's not easy.

It's not always fun.

But I guess it's not mean to be.

As our man Poe says, “The ninety and nine are with dreams, content but the hope of the world made new, is the hundredth man who is grimly bent on making those dreams come true.”

Keep dreaming.

Poe Writing the Drea

Summer Musings

Marty Ambrose
July 9, 2017 at 11:33 AM



I see July 1st as my “Summer New Year.” 

It’s the time of year when the days grow longer, the temperatures heat up, and life slows down.  Living on an island in Southwest Florida, it may seem like I live in an eternal summer of long afternoons at the beach and dreamy, sunny days—but au contraire.  Our winters are cool and our tourist season has recently taken on an intensity that makes even the shortest trip an exercise in white-knuckle patience. 

For me, there is definitely a whole new cycle that starts when my college teaching ends; I can take in a deep breath and enjoy the moment, and my island exhales with me in a long, calm sigh of relief.  Time becomes my friend.  I feel it first when I realize that I have no schedule, except the one that I make for myself.  Freedom.

Of course, it’s never that simple.

I immediately make my summer goals, which sound like the typical New Year’s Day up-front-and-personal makeover:  exercise more regularly, have a focused writing schedule, plan my marketing events, eat more organic foods, etc. etc. 

What happened to my summer fun?  

Life.  Schedules.  Routines.  They never really stop, do they?


“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

― Henry James



Okay, I just accept that my June 1st Summer Renaissance will have a rhythm of its own, but it will include the dreaded “r” word:  routine.  Even the Dalai Lama schedules his meditation time.  As a writer, I still have to set out a daily to-do list (more flexible than the tight teaching days—for sure) of writing time, editing time, and marketing time. Those people who run a home office business know the importance of organizing their day only too well, but I struggle with it when all I can think about are sundresses and sandcastles.  But I have many ways to “trick” myself into being more organized when the lure of taking a swim off the Gulf of Mexico beckons, which usually includes dangling a special treat like chocolate for consumption (oh, no—I’ve now entered into violating the “organic food” territory).  Note to self:  Stock healthy nibbles.  Secondly, I have to blend my errands/author events/fun shopping treks with a self-imposed workday.  It’s so easy to hop in the car and head out for a meeting at a local bookstore, then make it an all-day swimsuit browsing expedition (that’s another whole story).  At that point, my focus is shot and I need a gym trip to recover.  Argh!  So I have to plan my week as I plan my day—knowing I’ll stick to it maybe fifty percent of the time.  Thirdly, avoid too much online anything.  Enough. Said.


I Iove the idea of summer.  I love the pungent, salty smell of the beach (though I don’t actually go there very often).  I love barbecues and corn on the cob.  I love sailing.  I love the sound of flip flops as I walk.  I love the sunshine.  I love the sound of gentle breezes that stir the palm fronds to brush against the side of our house.  Most of all, I love the belief that a new season can renew and excite us with memories of the past and dreams of the future. 

Embrace the warmth and possibilities of a Summer Renaissance!  Signing off from Mango Bay . . . .



summer Mango Bay

Il Viaggio

Marty Ambrose
March 25, 2017 at 7:10 PM

Italy Countryside

Italy Countryside

When I first conceived my new novel, Claire's Last Secret, I thought that setting a historical memoir/mystery around the Byron/Shelley circle and having Claire Clairmont narrate the story would be a pleasant voyage of creative synchronicity: I'd spend the better part of my life researching this magnetic literary group and their poetry/fiction, so how difficult could it be to write the story, once I had the plot points set?

Actually, it proved to be quite challenging.  A passage into the landscape of the unknown.  A time to stretch myself as a writer and push beyond my perceived limits.

At the start of my voyage, I'd been intrigued by the fact that Claire outlived the rest of her literary circle by decades, but when I decided to have her tell the story from two polar opposite stages of her life (a very young 18 and a spry 78), I had to master two very distinct voices.  Then, there is the language of the historical work.  How formal should it be?  Contractions?  British usage of the nineteenth century?

Ah . . . let's not forget the research and "burden of truth."  Byron's Letters tell a very different version of events than Claire's Journals.  Every time I encountered a gap of reality, my general default was to Claire's perspective:  it is her story, after all.  And as for the quotidian details of 19th-century life, I found it best to add "shadings," rather than exhaustive details.  My purpose is to tell the story--and make it compelling.

Then came the field research in Geneva and Florence . . . . that's for another day.

Addio!  (for now)

historical mystery italy