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.

morning star 09 006

Morningstar climbing route on a small portion of the Wall

Lost Dogs and Writing

Some of you have heard part of this before. Several years ago my son asked if he could go hiking with a friend. He also wanted to take along his dog, Arwen, who was not yet full-grown. My response was yes, with the qualifier that they could not go up the Lookout Point trail because it was too steep for Arwen at her age.

animals 066

At obedience class

animals 054

Still my favorite photo of Arwen

So of course, being young and immortal, that’s exactly where they went. And they also went bushwhacking off trail. Along the way Arwen ended up stuck on a boulder outcropping. Both us mothers filled out backpacks with equipment but it quickly became obvious that a rescue attempt would be dangerous.

lookout point 006

View from Lookout Point trail

To make a long story short, we spent a horrible, sleepless night, imagining Arwen out there alone. With the sunrise though, rock climbers and friends gathered and she was rescued.

The boys of course were grounded.

The fellow-mother came up with a great idea afterward when we were calmer. She asked each of us to write our version of what happened. It was wonderful to see the same drama from different points of view and to see what each of us found important enough to record.

My son wrote his in story form. I was thrilled. A writer was born!

Then nothing.

arthur 053

Until a couple of years ago when he asked me a question about a specific piece of writing craft. I tried not to scare him off with my excitement. I simply sent him home with this GIANT three-ring binder full of resources on craft.

Last night he asked me to edit something he’d written on world-building for a science fiction piece he’s working on.

I calmly assured him I’d be more than happy to give him an honest opinion.

I managed to wait until he pulled out of the driveway before celebrating. I think I had the piece edited and sent off before he got home.

There’s a fine line between supporting him and pushing something on him that he may not want. Or overwhelming him.

But I keep going back to that story he wrote when Arwen was lost in the woods. Little does he know I still have it. Maybe some day I’ll point to it and say ‘this was the beginning’.

a story about dragons

An Old Fart And A Cat

The tiny town I lived near for many years was inhabited by a lot of unique characters. A few still live there, but the town has lost a lot of its character with the loss of those characters.

miscellaneous-086

View from the bridge named after another old fart

Some of them were old farts. My father included. But here’s a story about Old Fart #1.

He lived in an alley, in a small house with a large quantity of cats. There were assorted outbuildings also full of cats. Many were feral but those allowed in the kitchen were favorites.

He had a lot of favorites.

A local woman had taken on the job of helping Old Fart #1 get his house clean and to help him get health care. Both were in bad shape and she was (and is) a brave, compassionate, and caring woman.

The first time I met O. F. #1 was the morning after a night I’d spent hunting for a woman screaming. He told me it was a cougar. He was right. Then there was the time he was sitting on the bench outside the general store when my future husband and I walked by. At that time we were fellow firefighters going to the store for drinks, with no romance on the horizon. O.F. #1 said, loudly, ‘Looks like you roped yourself a fine heifer there!’.

miscellaneous-084

View from the General Store bench

This was back in the days when I was still cutting people’s hair. The compassionate woman asked me if I could cut O.F. #1’s for him. I agreed.

The kitchen was a smelly disaster. Dirty dishes, food debris, stinky cans of half empty cat food stacked everywhere. The distinct smell of cat pee and over-used cat litter. As I pulled out my scissors, he pointed out a dainty little gray and white female cat just out of kitten stage. She was lying on the floor and  in obvious distress. The conversation went somewhat like this. Somewhat because I remember my exact words but not his. Horror does that to memory.

“See that cat? I stepped on her. Broke her back leg.”

“Are you going to take her to the vet?”

“No, vets don’t know anything. I want  you to fix it.”

“Me? How?”

“Just take your little scissors there and cut her leg off.”

“WHAT? I’m not cutting her leg off!!!”

“It’s easy. Right there above the joint.”

“I’m not cutting a cat’s back leg off!!!”

At that point I didn’t even want to cut his hair off.

If I remember correctly, the compassionate woman I mentioned got the cat to the vet. And got the kitchen clean.

Eventually O.F. #1 got his hair cut. The cat survived. So did the old fart, who upheld his status in town for a few more years.

I feed feral cats in his memory.

miscellaneous-085

Kind of empty with the old ones gone. And their bench.