A Compliment…And A Secret

Some of you know that my current work in progress is in the hands of my editor. Today she sent an email with this:

“This is really clever. Seriously clever. You’ve got 2 sequels — chapters 2 and 3 — to chapter 1, that lead seamlessly as a pair to chapter 4. Really really really well done, and something you should use at some time in the future when you give a class on how to break rules to benefit the story.”

Do you think I should tell her it was a fluke, or let her continue thinking I’m brilliant?

 

Green Bodies

Many years ago a local woman came to a planning commission meeting with information on green burials. This was where you could bury someone and allow them to decompose naturally. At the time, this was a radical idea that never gained traction. But I loved the thought that I could fertilize trees.

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Some people were grossed out by the idea, even though it was nothing new. This is how we did things before burial became a business.

Some were worried about contaminants, others about their religious beliefs.

Those same arguments circled when cremation was a ‘new’ practice. Of course cremation wasn’t truly new because cultures had also been doing that for hundreds of years. Think of those flaming Viking ships sent out to sea. What made cremation ‘new’ was that it was a new way to conduct the business of burials. A slightly cheaper way, but still a money-maker.

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Washington State just legalized human composting as a burial option. I am so, so thrilled by that. Isn’t it about time?

I love the idea that soil can be returned to my family and they can plant a rose. Or that they can choose to donate the soil for forest restoration. But as much as I love the idea, it’s way too costly still.

It bothers me that it is still a death-business. It’s being billed as more affordable. Really? Look at the numbers. A traditional burial can cost up to $9,000. Cremation can cost almost as much depending on what you want, although it can be as low as $1,000 (think cardboard box and spreading ashes), which is still difficult for many to pay. Composting sounds like it will run around $5,000.

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Explain to me why death is a business. Please. I get that everything these days is regulated. But why must death be so expensive that people have to budget and save or take out loans? Someone dies, the body is taken away from you, and you have to pay to get it back. And pay a lot. You have no choice. It’s almost like kidnapping and holding someone for ransom. My thought is if they want my body so badly they can keep it. The idea of my family having to bankrupt themselves just to get me back in some form is awful.

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Because composting is considered new, the usual fears are circling again. Will it be safe for pathogens and disease? Will it be safe for heavy metals? What if a person has been radiated? And of course, there’s always religion and those who believe a physical body is needed for resurrection.

I get some of those reasons are why regulation is needed. Regulations will ensure a process that is consistent. But I still don’t agree with the cost.

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Why hasn’t someone taken up the banner of socializing death as well as healthcare?

Though I suppose if we have to pay to be born we should also pay at the other end.

Maybe by the time I die composting will have been around long enough that costs come down. And then my husband can plant a new rose.

And wherever I am, there will be a day when I hear his voice yelling at the dog, ‘quit digging!’

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Beginnings

For the past three years I’ve been writing a new story. I’ve mentioned it here a few times, but only briefly because I’m superstitious that if I talk about an infant story too much, it dies and I never finish it.

Three years. Granted, I’m a slow writer in the best of times. But this has been hard because I’m trying to stretch my wings as a writer and am not sure if I’m succeeding. This one has multiple perspectives and story lines. It’s darker than I’ve written before, and it’s scary. Well, my goal is to make it scary. I’m not sure it’s scary enough.

My editor has her fingers in the story now, and she’s challenging me to delete chapters, strengthen motivations, and work on the scene/sequel process. It became obvious the beginning was very rough and needed a lot of work. No surprise there because beginnings can be the hardest thing to write as they have so much to accomplish.

The idea for the story came from a news event, but I don’t think I could have written it without being in a darker place myself. Without saying, ‘these are the things I’m afraid of in this world’ and then trying to place those fears on paper.

Anyway, I am hoping to have the book available by the end of summer. Cover art is in the process and I’ll share versions here to get opinions. But in the meantime, below is the beginning. The prologue. It’s still in edit but I’ll share anyway. Comments, first impressions, and opinions are appreciated.

And of course it’s copyrighted.

Prologue

The Hole in the Wall wasn’t really a hole but a dead-end shaft with a steel door that could be barricaded from within and locked from without. And the Wall wasn’t really a wall, but a granite mountain deeply fissured and hung with a dark and shadowed forest curtain. One that went straight up, creating a sense of severe vertigo overwhelming anyone leaning back, and back, and back, to see the top. Here and there, stunted fir and cedar and hemlock twisted and bent waiting to fall.

Occasionally the Wall would free boulders to plummet down and leave deep impact craters in the forest floor.

Few rock climbers, hanging with harnesses and bandaged knuckles, knew the door was there, far below them where the forest washed up at the base of the Wall.

Curtis Jonason locked himself in the Hole five days a week. Some days he imagined himself a climber suspended in the heights, able to see for miles, see the rushing white water of the Skykomish River, speckled with daredevil kayakers. Or to gaze down on the tiny, tiny town of Index, Washington nestled a mile off Highway 2 in the Cascade Mountains. But he wasn’t an adventurer. And he had long ago come to terms with the reality that his adventures were only found in imagination and books.

Instead, each day, in cold weather gear, he unlocked the Hole with his smooth scientist’s hands, slipped into the dark, and bolted the door behind him. There, he would spend fourteen hours alone burrowed into the granite, a small stream rushing under his workstation, a flashlight his only illumination.

Alone with his machines.

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Morningstar climbing route on a small portion of the Wall