Aurora Borealis

A short story to break my writing block. Started this a while ago, and decided to finish it today. Now I’m working on some more substantial writing. I hope to set goals and be more active on my blog again too.

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“Daddy, tell me about the aurora borealis,” Hetty said.

I sighed, settled down on to her bed, tucked the blanket under her chin, and began the story for the hundredth time in my daughter’s short life.

When I wasn’t much more than a boy I trekked up to Alaska to do some fishing. In those days you could hitchhike just about anywhere. I didn’t have a lick of money, but some kind strangers gave me a ride. Nobody worried about murdering and all that. I stayed up there to fish King Salmon. Worked for a guy named Kallik. Name meant lightning, he told me. And boy was he lightning. He’d get so drunk that the guy on his bad side could never see his fist coming.

We lived in a log cabin. Free board, and made a little bit of money. Not much mind you. A bunch of drifter guys just trying to make a living someway somehow. I didn’t have what you have, a family who loved me. I just had myself. I wasn’t more than eighteen. Just a boy really, and a drifter.

One day, Kallik invited me to hike with him. I showed up and he told me I looked just like a typical white guy—unprepared for the situation at hand. He drapped a fur coat over my shoulders and said I would need it. We would climb the mountain, he said, and meet some of his friends and family to watch the aurora borealis. We would camp at the top of the mountain, eat meat off the spicket, some shit like that. I couldn’t even imagine—not like I’d been in Scouts as a kid.

We hiked for what seemed like days. Kallik gave me jerky to sustain me. He had energy like a battery—just kept on going. Not me. I felt out of place that day. As we went up in the mountain, the snow came. I was glad I’d bought a good pair of boots with my first paycheck. I was grateful for Kallik’s fur around my shoulder. We walked for four hours—must’ve been, and then I saw smoke rising on the horizon, as the sun had started to drift down behind the mountain.

“That’s camp,” Kallik said, when we arrived at the top.

People sat around the camp site by the fire, in tents, playing music, talking, cooking food. I felt like I wandered back into time. I felt like I was intruding on some private ritual where I didn’t belong.

“When the lights come out, my people say it’s the spirits coming out to play, Kallik told me as he sat down on a log and held his hands in front of the fire.”

“I sat down next to him. A woman with a long black braid came out of the tent. I couldn’t help staring at her. Her eyes shone with a light I’d never seen before as if she could see the past, present, and future all at once.

“Why’d you bring the white guy?” she immediately asked Kallik, as she took a seat next to me.

“Dan, this is Meri, Meri, Dan,” Kallik said.

We ate and sat in silence for a while. The lights came out to play, and we stared in awe. A silence fell upon camp like the quietness of falling snow enfolding the world.

“It looks supernatural,” I said. “I can see why people flock to see this phenomenon.”

“Just science. Magnetic poles and such,” Meri said, sounding bored but giving me a cockeyed smile and a wink.

Kallik wrapped furs around our shoulders to keep us warm in the bitter cold night, and we sat staring up at the sky unable to look away from the beauty of existence.

“Mary doesn’t sound like an Inuit name,” I said, turning to look at the woman next to me.

Meri wrapped her arms around me and leaned her head on my shoulders causing my heart to beat rapidly and something otherworldly arose in me like the green lights dancing across the sky drawing us together.

“It’s M-e-r-i. Short for Meriwa,” she said, as I wrapped my arms around her and leaned in.

“Yeah, know what it means?” Kallik asked.

I shook my head.

“Thorn,” he said, with a little laugh.

“And your mom has been a thorn in my side ever since,” I said, wrapping my arms around my daughter, brushing her long black hair out of her face, and kissing her goodnight.

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The Coffee Tastes Good

Yesterday, I marked one of my goals off the list for the year: Attend a Writer’s Conference.

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Photo Credit Goes to Sheri Williams

So far my goal list for the year looks like this:

  • Publish a Book done on January 31st
  • Attend a Writer’s Conference done on February 28th
  • Query an Agent done on January 18th (I think that’s the right date)
  • Publish a Second Book by May In the process with “The Devil Within.” 

2015 has been a great year for my writing, because I made it so. I dreamed it, but more importantly I started living the dream.  Right now, I’m struggling to look at edits on my book and swallow my pride. I’m struggling to make necessary changes so my book can become the best book it can be. Stay tuned, because in the next few days I’m going to show you the photo of where the idea for my book came from!

At the Mid-Winter Writers Conference yesterday, I traveled down the road with a friend, writing companion, and my project manager: Sheri Williams.Sheri is just like she is on the big ole world wide web: funny, easy to talk to, and inspiring. She’s one of the most giving people I’ve ever met, without that little word expectation stuck to her.

I think my favorite workshop was done by Ashley Kitchens, “Say It So They See It.” She used poems by Carl Sandburg and e e cummings (reminded me of my days in Mr. Franek’s class) as examples. She started out showing us a sentence, “The Coffee Tastes Good,” and as she went through the poems we changed it.  Interestingly enough, “painted ladies” are apparently better known as prostitutes than whores (and only Sheri will get that!). By the end the phrase, “Coffee Tastes Good,” had changed dramatically showing us how the coffee tasted instead of telling us. My coffee phrase: Poured in the cup, it calls me to my day. That’s how I feel about coffee, it keeps me going at 4:30 AM. Oh and all that delicious, rich, titillating stuff too.

I also enjoyed Ellen Maze’s workshop, “Plot and Characterization: Bringing Fiction to Life.” She had the best sense of humor. She had a list characterization questions that should be answered on your character, at least your main character, before you start writing. I already do this, to a certain extent, but not as deeply as she does. I’ll use her outline in my next book and see if it helps my characters seem more three-dimensional.

Overall, I thought it was a great conference. I met some amazingly talented people. And we know, thanks to Kathryn Lang that it’s all about relationships. Because really it is. To be a writer, you need to have people supporting you, social media contacts, and people who are willing to spread the word for you. You need people to bounce ideas off of, to say, “Does this fall flat? I was trying to convey this, did you understand the picture I was trying to paint, the feeling, the emotion that came with it?”

You need someone to say the phrase, “The Coffee Tastes Good,” doesn’t convey meaning. What are you trying to say? Conferences are great for that, giving you a whole new way to think about your writing, and giving you a community who can help you in your journey, one who specifically knows what you’re going through.