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

Two Dogs In The Woods

Jack was a well-known dog in a small community and one of those dogs who could smile. He spent a lot of time out on trails with his family.

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Wild forest creatures

Almost ten years ago my son and his friend went hiking and asked if they could take our young dog, Arwen. Most of you know this story so I won’t go into detail. The boys went bushwhacking off trail and Arwen ended up stuck on a boulder on the Index Town Wall. Luckily she was smart enough (or scared enough) to stay put on her boulder until help came.

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Morning Star climbing route on the Wall

But back to Jack. The search started late so it was getting dark. And it was raining. At one point I was waiting for Jack’s mom, who was coming with a backpack loaded with ropes and gear.

I sat in the middle of the narrow trail in the woods. The rain fell steadily, pattering on leaves and ferns, on raincoat, and dog. The light was that misty twilight where you can still see, but not that well. And being in the woods, it was that special shade of shadowy green that you only get in the rain. The woods stretched out above and below me as we were in a steep area. Everything around me was wet and lush as only a temperate rainforest can be.

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Jack pressed up against my side and I had my arm around him. I was worried and scared for our dog, and getting a bit scared for those out looking for her. Eventually we agreed it wasn’t safe to go further in the coming dark, especially when we didn’t know exactly where she was and the terrain was steep. But at that particular moment, there Jack and I sat.

Every so often Jack would let loose with a single bark that would echo away from us. And off in the distance I would hear a plaintive little bark echo in return. Arwen was out there somewhere alone. Except that Jack was talking to her. I wondered at the time what he told her.

‘Stay put, we’re coming for you.’

‘What kind of idiot dog gets stuck on a rock?’

What makes that particular moment such a vivid memory is that in spite of being almost sick with fear for our dog, it was oddly peaceful. I could have sat out there forever, with the sounds of water and the smells of wet forest and wet dog. I remember shivering, and feeling Jack occasionally shiver, but there was a stretch of warmth between us where we sat against each other. There was the sound and scents of rain and earth. And the quiet peace of being alone in the woods.

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Well, except for the barking conversation going on.

When I was in Denmark in July it was dry and hot. Record-breaking heat, relentless sun beating down on my head, unending crowds of people. I craved rain and rushing rivers and water.

And I remembered that twilight with Jack. Fear and worry and stress aside, it was a perfect moment.

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Getting old, sometimes not too bright, but still a sweetheart