The Wilderness In My Soul

HPIM1710

I’ve been writing for a number of years now, and over the years, my Muse has been both helpful and a fickle twit. Once upon a time, she abandoned me for nearly a decade. I thought I would be story-dry for the rest of my life.

Turns out, all I had to do was move back up north.

Once I settled back into a life among the wilds, my Muse raced back with a speed that was unsettling at times. It was as if she was perked up by pine-infused air, and boosted by birdsong!

One of the first short stories I began developing shortly after moving was inspired by taking my dog outside. As he was sniffing, I looked around me at our end of the valley. I was home, safe, cradled within the cliffs dotted with birch and maples. It wasn’t hard to imagine a young woman trying to climb over the ridges and make her way out of the valley. But what would make someone attempt such a hazardous trek? She has no choice…her survival, and that of her people, depends on her quest. It was easy to slip inside her skin as she huddled around her campfire that first night. She heard the coyotes that sang the song of their people outside my door. She heard the call of the owl in my backyard, and she saw the beaver that slapped its tail in the pond twenty feet away from my front door. That young woman, Butter, not only has to make her way in uncharted territory and survive in a wilderness she’s never experienced before, but she also has to decide if she can trust the outcast whose path she crosses. She cannot forget the point of her quest, either. To come back with a whole, living plant that will save her people and their future.

I am incredibly fortunate to live surrounded by trees, water and wild animals. This is a large part of my identity, both as a person and as a writer. But I have always felt the pull of the women whispering stories in my ear. The women explorers who curled up with their female companions at night. The women chasing convicted criminals across time and space. Those women that undertook impossible quests to save their people, and those that agreed to live with dragons and be a voice for her people. (Thankfully, my wife doesn’t mind sharing me with them!)

There is a growing library of work set in Canada, and for some reason, the majority of these seem to be either crime or romance. I’m fascinated and intrigued by the potential for speculative fiction here. I’ve found few pieces of fiction set in Northern Ontario. I hope to change that. I realize there may well be a small number of folks who are interested, but that’s the direction that my Muse has been tugging me. Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

I find further encouragement in the words of J.K Rowling, “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”

And on the days that I need just a bit more encouragement, I turn to this bit of wisdom from Eric Morgenstern, handwritten and taped near my computer.

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”

My Muse agrees.

 

The Ambassador

DragonCapture

(This is an excerpt from a larger work in progress.)

When I went downstairs with a load of laundry, the last thing I expected to find was a dragon with a book between it’s front feet. It was startling to say the least.

“Listen, do you think you could fix that door so it doesn’t squeal so much?” The dragon asked in a rumbling voice.

“Um, sure.” I replied eloquently as I stood and gawked.

“What are you staring for?” It asked me before gesturing to the piles of boxes marked ‘books’. “You have all this knowledge on my kind, I would think you’d be thrilled to see me.”

“I never expected to actually meet one of you, let alone have a conversation with you.” I stammered. “I’m…”

“I know who you are,” he interrupted me in a deep voice. “I’ve been down here long enough that I know all about you.”

“Why have I never seen you before today?” I asked.

“I didn’t want you to.” He replied. “Your clothes won’t get clean if you stand there holding them. But leave the door open, will you? It hurts my ears every time you open and close it. My name is Barroth.” He said as I stood there a moment longer. He was a classic example of a western dragon. He was the size of a large SUV, with back ridges, large head, dark red scales and a long tail. He was laying on the floor with a book clasped in the claws of his front feet.

I finally remembered my manners. “I’m honored to meet you, Barroth.” I gestured toward the washing machine. “Will that bother you?”

“No, it’s just the door, really.”

With some difficulty, I turned away from him and loaded the machine, added detergent and gently closed the lid.

“You must have questions.” He said from the other side of the room.

 

“Quite a few in fact, but I didn’t want to be rude.” I turned toward him and leaned on the washing machine.

“I suppose I can answer a few.”

“Obviously this is a bit of a shock to me, but I’m thrilled to find you. I thought the only living things down here were rodents.” A shudder raced through me.

“You don’t like them?”

“They terrify me.” I admitted.

“But you’re fine with talking to a large fire-breathing creature.” There was an undercurrent of humor in his statement.

“Yeah, ironic, I know. Can I ask, why my basement?”

“At first, when I was smaller, I needed shelter and the door had been left open. I got bored waiting for the storm to pass and started reading. Long after the storm moved on, I stayed. I read, ate the occasional rodent and got to know you. You intrigued me. I’ve decided you’ll do.”

“For?”

“An ambassador, of course.”

(As I said, this is but an excerpt. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! You can either leave a comment here or email me at dragonquillca@gmail.com)