Sep 23

The Legend of Sun Breast

crow story, part six.

Sun Breast is a young warrior, a savvy tracker and the Son of the Chief of the Great Nation in the time soon after the long, long winter has passed and the lakes have returned. He is born with hair as bright as fire and with a great fire spot upon on his breast.

As soon as Sun Breast is old enough to keep up with the elders, he becomes a forward-hunter because he is such a good tracker. But mostly, Sun Breast is an adventurer who is always sprinting ahead, beyond where the others can see. He hurries the older braves, almost to the point of their collapse and his boredom. His quest for knowledge cannot be satisfied. Others cannot keep up. He is impatient.

Sun Breast learns all the stories of Spirit Lake, a mythical place where lost spirts are reborn. He is enchanted.

One day, before ten-and-four winters have passed, Sun Breast sets out to find Spirit Lake. He travels alone as he faces the cold winds for several moons. He travels past earth-shaking herds of thick-coats and thick-heads. And past groves full of berries, and hills full of potatoes and turnips. Past so many lakes dammed by beaver and full of turtle.

He eats only what he can pick until he comes upon a huge black bird standing on a log in a clearing. After many nights without meat or fish, he seizes the opportunity, steps from the shadows, and furies his blade with a true aim.

The crow does not take flight. It opens its wings to reveal a burning-red breast that repels the blade and sends it back just as fast.

Sun Breast catches the blade, but it does not cut his hand. ‘How is this possible?’ he asks.

The crow’s breast glows, and he says, ‘you cannot kill your own spirit.’

The young warrior lifts his shirt and shows the bird his own fire mark, which starts to glow for the first time.

‘Why have you traveled so far from your Nation?’

Sun Breast tells him he is in search of Spirit Lake.

The crow says, ‘At Spirit Lake, flesh turns to clay.’

‘I seek not death, only adventure. The legends are many. I want to know if they are true.’

The crow says, ‘Some truths have come before. Some have been lost forever. If you believe they are true, they are true.’

The bird says, ‘my name is ‘Red Crow’ and that the time has come for us to reunite, to travel Grandmother Island as one spirit, unbound.’

Sun Breast removes his shirt and the crow draws long his wings and they face each other a short distance apart. Their two breasts glow red, then yellow, then white as their light reflects off each other, until they shine so bright that shadows are cast in all directions. Until the Sun is gone from the sky. The two breasts slowly dim and fade to ember under a moonless night.

The next morning, Sun Breast awakes with eyes so keen he sees a moth across the field. He hears snakes slither, and the high-pitch songs only the great wings and wolves can hear and sing. He can detect dark movements in the night and feel the wind groan as it passes through the trees. He can taste the slightest scent of fear in the air.

Red Crow awakes the next morning anxious to tell Sun Breast about a dream, his first dream!

For ten-and-two seasons, teacher becomes student and student becomes teacher as each learns the other’s songs, dances and dreams, until they can communicate flawlessly.

Red Crow takes Sun Breast to a tall, tall ridge overlooking the forbidden Spirit Lake, and warns him, ‘No further, or become what you see.’

What he sees is a vast, crystal-clear, frozen lake that falls off the horizon. Above it, colorful lights dance beneath the stars and reflect off the ice. Shadows dance from the thousands of full-coated, full-color clays that stand frozen in time. There are clays of braves who have come before him, and clays of crows, but so, too, clays of fox, owl, wolf, eagle, cicada, turtle and a lean, golden-horned, pale animal he’s never seen before. All, frozen in time.

Red crow tells him, ‘Spirits know many forms and fight many foes. Not all battles are won. Look and see the many spirits who lost. Watch and see their shadows dance together. When two clays become one shadow, their spirit becomes flesh anew on Grandmother Island.’

After three harsh winters have passed, Sun Breast returns to the Great Nation with Red Crow on his shoulder. He no longer has bright hair or a fire spot on his breast, but he is now as tall as three strides are long.

He learns his father has died, and he is now Chief of the Great Nation. And the Great Nation is starving.

Red Crow guides young Chief Sun Breast and his braves to the expanding white forests where trees become canoes and firewood abounds, and to the great hunting plains where the warm-coats roam. Red Crow guides them to soils richened by swollen rivers, and to many distant lands where his people prosper, and live in tipi warmed by fire and fur. The Great Nation survives.

As time goes on, Chief Sun Breast sends many young brave and young winchinchala in all directions to find and fertilize new lands, and to bring back their riches and their stories. He has born to him many sons and daughters that pass on his spirit to many sons and daughters. Many First Nations are born.

Red Crow fathers many offspring that pass on the spirit to their offspring, and for generations too vast to count, Red Crow’s descendants have acted as guides to easy prey, and as lookouts for all unseen dangers. Descendants can tell when the winds will rise and when the rains will fall, and they can see the path ahead before it arrives. Descendants of Red Crow still roam the Americas today, guiding all First Nations’ peoples and their spirits to richer lands, in this life and the next.

End of story.

It makes no sense to me. Even if Jeremy is a decedent of Red Crow, why us? I’m not Native American. Neither is my wife.

I turn to the book, Crow Stalker, the Man Who Mastered Crows. The life and times of Herman Blackclaw. This, too, is translated by Mr. Seven Blackclaw. All the stories, it says, are transcribed from videotaped interviews done between 1985 and 1987 with his father, in Ojibwa with subtitles. The original tapes are in the Seven Suns museum. You can download videos of Crow Stalker’s interviews, complete with crows. It says to understand the messages you must understand the emphasis that is put on each word or song. And to observe the physical movement of the wings, feet, eyes and their stance. ‘Crow’ is more body language than vocal.

It might be useful to see exactly what crows mean when they bob their heads or dart their stare from one eye to the other. I am curious, but my head is already dizzy from Sun Breast.

Crow Stalker’s biography is much easier to read, even with all the Algonquin and Ojibwa native words. Pictures help a lot, too, so do the images of the old posters and fliers that were used in advance of his appearances from Albany to Winnipeg. These are at least in plain, if ignorant, English.

But I want my first question answered before I delve into this old man’s magic, so I look up his vital statistics.

Herman Blackclaw was born in Joliet, Illinois in the winter of 1887-88. The exact date was not recorded. He was father to seven sons and four daughters from three winchinchala. He died one-hundred-one years later, on August 23, 1989, in Laramie, Wyoming.

‘Laramie!’ I say in a gasp.

One of the unforgettable adventures we took in on our three-month long honeymoon in the summer of 1989 was in Laramie, Wyoming. I don’t remember now if it was before or after Las Vegas, but it was the only night out of eighty-nine nights that we didn’t have indoor plumbing. We slept on bison skin rugs on a dirt-floor in a tipi to experience what life was like in Wyoming in the 1500’s. Some adventure! It rained all night with thunder and lightning that created eerie flashes on the side of our tipi.

I remember it was a cuddly-up-tight kind of a night, and not all the thunderclaps were outside the tent. But recalling that evening now, 28 years later, gives me goosebumps.

end part six.

Phil Rosette

 

Dear readers,

On September 14th, 2017, Phil Rosette passed away after a short bout with an aggressive bladder cancer. This letter is being sent by his son, Jack. Before he left us, I had promised him that I would finish this story on his behalf, in his voice, to the best of my ability. This blog entry, written for the month of September, was the last one that he had written before entering the hospital, and thus, the last completed post for the Crow Story as told by my father. I was anticipating having to write this one out from scratch, until we found this completed draft on his computer. As it turns out, I would have taken a similar approach as my father had to writing out The Legend of Sun Breast, which gives me encouragement for the future of the series. My father never gave me specific instructions to ending the series, only that it could be done in one more post or three more posts depending on a few things. Having read the series over several times now, it will likely be three more posts, as I don’t see a reasonable conclusion happening in a single entry, and I believe my father promised a 10-part series anyway. This will take the story out to the end of 2017.

A few personal notes: the service was held on Tuesday, September 19th, and was well-attended by family, friends, and fellow writers. Phil’s body was cremated, and his ashes will be spread at Brands Hatch race park in Kent, England. If you have not done so already, you can leave your respects here: http://www.desmondfuneralhome.com/obituary/Phil-Rosette/Michigan/1753137.  Phil’s first book, The Freya Project, is available to anybody who wishes to take it – just email me at jackrosette41@gmail.com and I will happily send it to you for the cost of shipping, or I can arrange to bring it to a Deadwood Writers meeting soon. He had left a note here to update everybody on the wedding, so I’ll do that now. My brother and his wife are now happily married, spent their honeymoon out in Canada, and (believe it or not) are now expecting a child. We all wish that Phil could have lived to see his grandchild, but his memory will be passed on through the lessons my brother and his wife will impart.

Thanks for reading, everybody! Until next month,

-Jack Rosette

Sep 21

Celia Cruz, Afro-Cuban Star!

I’ve always liked Cuban, Mexican and Latin American music. There’s something about the beat and melody that I connect to.

One night, years ago, in Grant Park in Chicago, I heard Celia Cruz sing. It was Labor Day Weekend and the Latin Music Festival went from Sunday, September 5, through Labor Day on Monday, September 6, 1993.

Celia sang on Monday night with the very popular Afro-Cuban band, La Sonora Mantancera. The night was hot and there was a warm breeze coming in from Lake Michigan.

Celia was 68 by that time and her looks had started to fade. But once she began to sing, time stood still. It was magical for me to hear her voice floating out over the crowd.

A few months ago I started watching the telenovela “Celia” on Netflix. It was produced in 2015 by Fox Telecolumbia for RNC Television and Telemundo. The actors spoke in Spanish. There were English subtitles so it was easy to follow.

My main reason for watching the series was to hear Celia sing. I was thrilled at all the times the director dubbed in recordings of the real Celia’s voice when the actress who played Celia began to sing. It was wonderful. And, even better, in almost every episode “Celia” sang my favorite pieces: “Como Fue”, “La Negra Tiene Tumbao”, “Guantanamera” and many more of her greatest hits.

There was a downside to this series. “Celia” is a telenovela after all. In some episodes, there were tears and more tears. Sometimes there were hysterics. And there was Celia’s sister, Noris. She was so evil… I don’t think she had a kind bone in her body. Neither did Simon, her father, who appeared to be as flawed a character as you could find. And, to make things more crazy, there was Lola and all her problems as well as Mario and Raquel.

To top it off, when I went on Wikipedia to check things out, I found that many of these characters didn’t exist in real life. Or, if they did, were actually very nice people. But that didn’t stop the writers from writing Celia’s story their way.

So, if you like Afro-Cuban music and a tear-jerker of a story, “Celia” is the series for you–all 80 episodes!!!

Sep 10

Heaven Fated

Voices. Millions of voices, chaotic noise, buzzed in her head. She couldn’t focus. She was scared. Pain infected everything.

“Paddles! We’re losing her!”

Darkness.

She slowly became aware. The edge of a storm, a line that blends the white and blue horizon into gray, abstract parts seen coming. It’s as if thin fingers rake through the soupy sky, the storm speeding closer, drawing the moisture down. From far away it’s like a calm mist that’s being pulled toward the ground in slow motion. But it isn’t. It’s a brew of thick moisture and tumultuous wind and molecules that come together forming a moving, breathing entity that can’t be controlled.

Whirling air drives people to seek shelter, heart rates gallop at what seem to be unstoppable speeds. Fear is a permanent lattice across the skin, hairs on arms dancing to greet what’s coming. Lightening slices the thick and heavy blackening atmosphere in abstract patterns, the wildness bringing hail, causing debris to rip apart the landscape. It touches lives with a menace only the devil would deliver with glee.

But she hadn’t seen the storm coming, didn’t see what held her now in its grip. She was floating. A stillness that was all wrong. She was all wrong. Something was gone. Missing. What had she forgotten.

Hello? Her lips didn’t move.

The woman tried to wiggle her toes. Still she remained suspended, motionless, trapped in what felt like nothingness. Oh, but she felt fear. Her mind in the soupy thickness of its tendrils. A fear that held her like barbed wire synching ever closer, cutting and slicing. It was the storm just outside her skin and if she moved the barrier holding it back would break and tear her apart.

What had happened before this existence?

Racing panic creeped into her consciousness and she tried to breathe through it but when she went to open her mouth for air nothing happened. Not even her jaw moved. She needed to breathe. Oh, God! This made the storm dance macabre across her skin as if it were laughing at her.

You have to go back,” a voice jarring her said, its echo all around, inside and outside of her, like a pitch fork vibrating through her whole being.

What do you mean?” she said inside her head. Her jaw, her voice still not working. Did she want to go back? She wanted to go forward. Something was ahead of her. The woman was sure of it. Whatever it was, it was where she needed to be. A great sadness swelled inside her, pushing and pulling like the tide sluicing over her like she was sand and she would erode more over time finally disappearing into the nothingness that held her.

Flashes snapped in her mind as sadness turned into fear.

Fire. Metal. Hands pulling, voices screaming. No, no, no! She screamed. And then the blackness enfolded her again while the storm still raged. Silence.

You have to go back,” the voice said again. Her mind opened, an aperture letting in the calming voice. She was glad. She didn’t like the storm. Or the dark. She didn’t want to see the awful images in her head. She wanted to forget. Forget the loss, the emptiness that pitted in her belly.

Why?” She asked.

You’ll see. Go back. Go back.” The voice said fading gently, it like hands soothing with a touch. “Go.”

The woman tried to define the voice in her mind. The inflection seemed small and innocent, not touched by the world, the temptation, the agony it could cause. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. She needed to move forward. But the voice said to go back. Should she? What had she forgotten? She couldn’t remember and it made her heart hurt as if a weight kept pressing down on her chest. The weight was growing so heavy that it was crushing her.

I have to go back.

You’ll see.” The voice was a whisper so small she almost didn’t hear it. “It’s important.

What?” The weight pressing down on her was forgotten.

Im…portant.”

The resonating voice suddenly went silent. “Nooooo! Come back. You have to come back and tell me what to do.

Her mind went blank.

With unexpected speed, the weight returned on her chest like anvil after anvil was being dropped on her heart. If she was breathing she would have passed out. But the weight kept getting heavier and heavier. What did she do? What could she do? What was she forgetting? What had happened? Why was she here? She was scared to go back. Pain awaited her if she went back. She knew it. Felt the truth of it in her mind. But the voice said she should go back. But peace lie forward.

Silence enveloped her as her mind whirled and the storm outside of her skin cinched closer and closer. That barrier shrinking into her pores until it burst.

Chaos swirled around her in beeps and whirs, metal against metal. Silver flashes. Silver. A rush of sound overwhelmed her as her eyes opened to bright light, watering as she tried to focus. Voices gave clipped orders and the body she was in screamed through the silent maw of her mouth.

“Miss, can you tell me your name?”

“My baby!” An inhuman keening echoed, bouncing off the walls. Was that her?

“Your name?”

She blinked and tried to concentrate on the face asking the question.

What was her name?

Someone yelled in the bright room. Her breathing was becoming ragged. She couldn’t remember her name. Her head began to turn side to side, her panic increasing. She needed to do something. The people leaning over her began to blur.

“Miss, you have to calm down.” The man over her was holding her shoulders as her mind screamed for her to get off the table, to find the face that matched the voice in her head. The more they pressed the more she panicked. Her body started to shake and spasm. Her arm radiated with pain and hung useless at her side, her legs seemed to be on fire and pain ricocheted tearing through her skin, her bones and her heart.

“Have to go back,” she gurgled nonsense.

“What?” the man said.

She tried again. “Back.” She needed to go back. Back to the voice. Back to the nothingness. Peace.

“What’s your name?”

Her head began to shake back and forth again.

“I need 5mg of Diazepam IV push STAT!”

She saw the doctor take something from someone and he hovered over her. Her eyes widened. She stared at him and his eyes seemed to soften and hers began to close, get heavy.

“You’ll be alright. Everything will be fine.” He reached out and touched her cheek as if time seemed to stop with the motion. “You’ll see.” The man shook his head and blinked.

You’ll see. You’ll see. You’ll see. The words repeated over and over in her head. Where had she heard those words before? Limbs heavy, eyelids drooping she continued to hold the doctor’s concerned gaze as his hands moved over her. There was a burn along with the darkness that was gradually pulling her lids closed. The last words she heard over all the chaos were, “You’ll see.”

*****

Karo, which wasn’t her real name, woke for what seemed to be the hundredth time in the hospital. Her mind identified the noises she’d catalogued over the days she’d remained in the bed with white sterile sheets and cloying smells and noises that were just as unpleasant. The incessant squeak of rubber soled shoes. The knocking wheel of the food cart and the beeps and alarms that were the music dancing along the corridors of the hospital kept her awake too often. And don’t forget the formidably atrocious scent of Pine Sol and urine.

“Karo!” The nurse named Nurse Ratchet clapped. “You’re awake.” Karo smiled. For all the pain, she’d suffered so far, Betty Ratchet was the highlight of her days. One, Nurse Betty was not the Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which for some reason she could remember watching, but not where and with whom. Two, she was as sweet as spun sugar and cared deeply for her patients. Whenever she’d come into Karo’s room it brightened like the sun had stepped into the room.

“You ready for physical therapy today, cookie?” Karo laughed and pouted. Betty had started calling her cookie soon after she’d chosen the name Karo.

She leaned over the wheelchair and whispered in Karo’s ear. “I snuck in some sugar cookies from my friend Angel’s bakery.”

“Thanks Betty,” Karo said and grabbed the woman’s hand and held on tight. Try as she might she still couldn’t hold back the tears that escaped. She quickly let go and wiped the unwanted tears away. She’d cried enough. Things were going to change again and she wouldn’t see Betty every day. The woman was her touchstone and kept her grounded. Karo feared letting go. Afraid that she would spiral down again in to a depressive abyss and not be able to get out.

She shook the pain and fear out of her mind. Karo would be positive, consider the future, and try and forget what she couldn’t remember. Instead she recalled the first day she met Betty.

The staff had called her Jane when she couldn’t remember her real name. It made her sad to think she would be called Jane Doe. Not knowing her name, she wanted to pick one to make a new place in her uncharted reality. The police hadn’t found any information in her car. Not a purse, or a registration. The car they had pulled her out of had burned through and through.

The memory of that day burst forward in her mind. A morning in physical therapy, when the pain was so great she could have screamed until her voice was shredded.

“I don’t want to be called Jane,” she’d said to the nurse in floral scrubs. She had white blond hair and a thin but muscled stature. Betty had grabbed Karo’s wheelchair and rolled her out from the first day of physical therapy taking over her case while Karo tried to catch her breath through the lingering pain and depression.

“What do you want to be called, sweetie?”

“Karo.”

When Betty helped her back into bed she’d looked at Karo with a tilt of her head, bright eyes and with arms crossed, she nodded once. “Alright cookie,” she’d said with a laugh. Karo couldn’t help but smile because Karo knew why she’d picked it even if Betty didn’t get it, she seemed to understand.

Karo thought of it now. Cookies. She had been making cookies in the memory. And she was happy. Really happy.

Karo saw herself pouring and measuring. Her hands were smaller, softer, younger, as she held the red and bronze labeled curvy bottle of syrup in her hand. Batter blended together as she stirred over and over folding in the thick syrup. Wrinkled hands, not hers she noted as she looked down at her own, were framed in the snapshot but when she tried to look up to see into the face a pain would slice through her forehead and make her grab the sides of her head. Something was blocking her from the wonderful view.

She hadn’t told anyone about the memory. It was private and hers. No. She wouldn’t share.

As Betty rolled her out of her room for one of the last times Betty spoke about the small town where she grew up. “You’re going to love it, Karo. Angel’s bakery sells the most delicious cakes and cookies and pastries.”

When Karo heard the word angel images of her floating in the storm flooded her mind. Angel. She put away the thought for later. She didn’t have time to think about it right now when she was going in to be stretched like a rubber-band. One that she hoped would find its shape again.

“Even the recipes we concocted when were out of control twenty-somethings Angel still uses on occasion,” Betty continued not sensing Karo’s distress. And then the woman laughed like she was remembering how much trouble she got into and Karo looked at her over her shoulder to see, yes, a wicked smile from the remembering. Karo laughed.

“What kind of trouble did you get into, Betty? You seem pretty uptight and straight-laced to me.” Karo pressed her lips together trying not to laugh herself.

“Oh, you! I’m definitely not all starch young lady.” She whopped her on the head gently.

Before she knew it, they were at the entrance to the TP room.

“Hi Trevor,” Karo said. “I’m ready for your idea of a walk in the park.” Trevor looked up at Betty as she stopped her in front of the padded vinyl covered table.

“Alright miss, let’s see what you got today.” He nodded to Betty as she locked Karo’s ride and Karo gripped the chair handles. Trevor tipped up the foot rests. He was there to support her if she needed it, but didn’t touch her until she stood. Karo gritted her teeth as her skin grafts, not so freshly pink, pulled and stretched unnaturally with the effort.

Trevor helped her up onto the table for the first big push of the morning and then they got down to business.

She looked down at her legs, the burns not as bad as when the emergency bay was the first thing she remembered. Her rescuers had gotten her out in time.

Karo pulled in a slow breath that she released just as slowly so she wouldn’t remember what else they’d told her not soon after she woke up. She touched her stomach, her fingers shaking as Trevor pushed her leg up to give it a good stretch.

His lips pinched a bit when he saw where her hand lay. He looked quickly back down. It was a sadness they shared. He’d lost a child too, but his memory wasn’t faulty. She couldn’t even remember being pregnant. Was the baby’s father important? Did she need to find the man? Did she love this person? She wouldn’t know. She couldn’t remember a damn thing. Her anger she used and pushed it through her limbs too hard. A grunt alerted Trevor to the discomfort and he pulled her back from the edge. Sweat gathered all over her skin and soaked her clothes that Betty had bought her. She kept working the routine as hard as Trevor demanded. Maybe if she could fix her body, her memories would return too.

She shook her head.

“Settle down, Karo.” He sighed, as she brought her leg down for the last time that day.

She wiped some of the sweat and swallowed almost a full bottle of water Trevor handed her.

“I’ll miss you, kiddo.” He sat next to her on the bench. One foot on the floor the other bent and on the table. “I’m glad you’re getting out of here. I hope you’ll find some peace.”

He helped her sit up, her arm sore but okay now. It had only been dislocated.

“You know what you’re doing, where you’re going?”

Karo nodded. “Yeah. Betty’s set me up to work with her friend Angel. One of her employees is going back to school. Angel’s also got a vacant room above the bakery.”

“That’s good. You’ll be happy working with all that goo and sugar.”

Karo laughed.

“Just remember it’s not good to eat too much of what you love. You still need to get into tip top shape to keep up with the healing process. You’re doing great but you’ve still got a lot of therapy in front of you.” He tapped her head and her heart and her knees.

“I’m quite aware of how far I still need to go. At least I have some place to go.” She scrubbed her face with a towel with tired shaking hands. “The police came to visit me again. Officer Clomb was really nice about telling me they never were able to find any information about where I’m from. I wouldn’t have anywhere to go if Betty hadn’t suggested it.”

“You be fine. You’ll see.” She had been looking at her hands lying in her lap when her head snapped up at his words.

“What?” he asked. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good,” she answered shaking her head to clear it just as Betty walked in.

“All finished?” she asked and smiled with a sparkle in her eyes at Trevor. Karo was sure there was something between them. It was the only time Trevor seemed to smile a genuine smile.

“Yep,” Karo replied. She looked up at Trevor his hairs grayed at the tips, and the smile wrinkles ingrained around his eyes. “Thank you, Trevor.”

He didn’t say anything just came over and kneeled to give her a long hug once settled in the wheel chair. He touched her cheek and held it as his stare started to sink into hers as if he wanted to tell her something but couldn’t get the words out, just the emotion. Then he gave her a short peck on the cheek, stood up and took a quick step back. They’d adopted her it seemed and become like her little family. She wiped a tear from her cheek. He smiled, nodded, and went to his desk in the corner and started to write something down.

As Betty rolled her out of the room Karo’s head was down, not paying attention. Her thoughts stuck on a list she was making in her head of the things she would have to do when she moved to the small-town Betty had grown up in. It was only a few miles and minutes away. It would be a fresh start she told herself. She was nervous. Excited. Scared. And then none of that mattered because Betty’s running monologue about things to know about the small town was abruptly cut short. There was a loud crash as they turned a corner. Karo screamed and moaned as her leg met silver metal. Silver. Silver. Silver. Her heart started racing and her mind was struck by a streak of white light reflected off a small silver object moving too fast to get out of the way. Memory twisted with reality as past crashed with present. She whimpered. What was real? She tried to shift away from what was falling toward her but Betty was locking the chair and coming around to her. Karo couldn’t move. Images that blurred one after the other took hold of her as Betty’s voice tried to creep in.

The images fled, metal crashed to the floor along with the man who was carrying it. Crutches met the linoleum and a hand came down on the wheelchair right next to hers. Betty was on the other side. She was asking if Karo was okay and put a hand on the man too also trying to get his attention. Harsh breaths came out of his mouth burrowing heat across her compression bandaged legs. All Karo could see though was the man at her feet bent over her legs holding the wheel chair with white knuckles.

Her voice shook. “Are you okay?”

Dark hair was spread across her lap as people raced from down the hall to help. His breathing was heavy and she noticed his hands again. They gripped the chair as if once he let go he would keep on falling.

She reached out and touched the man’s head. “Hey?” She said and couldn’t help but stroke his hair. It was thick and long with iridescent strands of black scattered with dark browns. It was beautiful and lush.

“I’m sorry,” his words whispered across her skin. Karo shivered she didn’t know if it was from the unexpected pain or the man’s touch.

He looked up and their eyes met. And something inside her settled with inexplicable peace. But it didn’t last long. His gaze bored into hers. It was so dark she thought she was looking into lost caverns deep in the oceans floor, they were that deep of a blue. There was pain there and she wanted to make it to go away.

“Able Prescott, you know you’re not supposed to leave your room!” A nurse was sprinting down the hall alongside another woman.

“Dammit Jacklyn! I can’t stay in that room another second.” When he spoke, his head jerked around and he almost fell in Karo’s lap.

She squeaked when he landed on her again. The pressure uncomfortable because she still wasn’t fully healed.

He moaned and the hand that didn’t have a white-knuckled grip on the chair went to his head and their fingers touched. She sucked in a breath as an energy tingled through the contact. He turned back to her and their eyes met again and held. Her heartbeat tripped up and she asked herself, who was this man. Why did his glance put her at ease?

And within seconds the connection was broken. People moved all around them to get him back to where he had escaped from, she guessed. Her fingers dragged across his jaw, the rough hairs making her tingle again, as he was helped up. Then the woman who had yelled at him was at his side.

“Able! You know I don’t like it when you call me that.” She said in almost a chihuahua growl. Karo looked between the two.

“Step-mother, quit coddling me. I feel like I’m suffocating in this God-awful place.” And as people got him into a chair like hers he really did growl, but more like an alpha wolf. It made her shiver. “Dammit. I can walk.” His head turned slowly back to hers but he turned away when the woman started chirping words at him. He grabbed his head again.

“Obviously you can’t since you were practically laid out in that woman’s lap.”

As their words drifted down the hallway Karo was struck by the feelings that had enveloped her when their fingers touched. She felt less indifferent to her fate. It gave her hope that she would feel something. Less empty. She touched her belly again. She wanted to feel full. And maybe once she started her new life in Buckington doing what she remembered things would be okay. She’d see.

You’ll see.

 

Sep 06

Writer’s Digest Annual Conference 2017 Part 1

Creative energy filled the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference 2017 held in New York City

from Thursday, August 17 through Sunday, August 20. I attended the conference hoping to receive lessons and helpful hints that could facilitate my writing.  The conference fulfilled my expectations. During the registration, I selected buttons that represented the genres in which I’ve focused my creative efforts.

I was delighted to meet Brian Klems, published author of Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl, and the online editor of WritersDigest.com, after he presented the orientation for the conference. During his talk, Klems encouraged attendees to talk to other participants to make meaningful connections. The genre buttons helped us begin conversations.

The first session I attended on Friday was “Perfecting Page One” by Hank Phillippi Ryan. She dissected and analyzed “acclaimed first lines and opening paragraphs” of published authors to “reveal the writing secrets” in those examples. “It’s never a good thing when the stewardess is crying,” is an excellent opening sentence. That beginning peaked my interest immediately.

Hallie Ephron, who writes stand-alone mysteries, presented the next session titled “Writing a Mystery Novel: A Crash Course.” Mysteries deal with “the whodunit, whydunit, and the howdunit.” She noted that mystery genre conventions include a puzzle, bad things happening, a sleuth who has a reason to investigate, rising stakes, a ticking clock, and credible unexpected plot twists. She said that we should write the backstory out of our system. Then put it aside and weave it into the novel when we need to do so. Ephron suggested that if you want to write action, read books by Lee Child.

Jennifer Probst presented “Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance and Navigating the path to Success.” She suggested using real life experiences to sketch out fully developed characters, give characters quirks or weaknesses, push them hard, and make sure the protagonist has a solid growth arc. Probst noted that sex scenes could go anywhere from stolen glances to the pornographic.

“The Thin Line Between Historical Fact & Fiction” by Crystal King, and Anjali Mitter Duva revealed the difference between history books and historical fiction. An historian can’t know the “why” of someone’s motivation for doing something. However, writers of historical fiction can explore the” why” and distort the truth, but the author must have a compelling reason for doing so. Authors must still hold true to the rules and customs of the culture.

Next month, I’ll be writing more about the well-attended conference and noting some common themes of the speakers.

Sep 05

Life is Strange:  A Retrospective Review

Warning:  There are spoilers in this article.

I believe I first became familiar with the 2015 video game, Life is Strange, when I saw a trailer several months before its release.  Though I tend to gravitate more toward third-person shooters, survival horror, or general action games, there was something about the story-driven time-travel mystery game that drew me in.  I was enchanted by Life is Strange right from the start.  From its haunting dream sequence opening, where a tornado is set to destroy the town of Arcadia Bay, to its engaging characters, it felt like I was watching a coming-of-age film that I controlled.

I liked the idea of assuming the role of a teenage photography student named Max who discovers she can rewind time.  She uses this ability to save the life of her childhood friend, Chloe – an act that ultimately has far-reaching and unforeseen consequences.  But more on that later.

One of the first mysteries introduced in the game revolves around the disappearance of high school student Rachel Amber.  This was a plot point that got me invested in the game and gave my imagination a workout on where the story would go.  Most of all, I was excited over the possibility of Max using her time-rewind powers to go back to the day Rachel vanished to discover the truth.

Life is Strange was released as an episodic game, where each chapter was made available throughout the calendar year.  The first installment did such a good job drawing me in that I anxiously awaited the subsequent chapters.  I was introduced to quite a few intriguing characters right off the bat.  This included bullying victim Kate, projectile-magnet Alyssa, and troubled rich kid Nathan.

Above all, it was Chloe that really intrigued me.  Though she initially comes across as a rough-around-the-edges punk with criminal tendencies, she is the character who I gradually grew to love the most.   The more I learned about the hardships she’d been through – from the loss of her father to her deep attachment to the absent Rachel to her antagonistic relationship with her step-father – the more I sympathized with her.

Life is Strange is a very layered video game, which is one of the things I like most about it.  It would seem that Max would have no sweat ensuring that everyone around her has a happy ending, but it gradually becomes apparent that she’s not able to save everyone.  It’s unclear why the universe grants her the ability to change the course of history.  But a good deal of evidence is presented over the course of the game that Max’s frequent use of her powers is upsetting the balance of nature.  Hence, the tornado that’s big enough to wipe out the town and potentially kill everyone in its path.

The final choice of Life is Strange is nothing short of heart-wrenching:  Let Arcadia Bay be destroyed or go back in time and let Chloe die the way she was initially meant to.  As attached as I’d gotten to Chloe by the time the end rolled around, I put myself in Max’s shoes and decided I couldn’t in good conscience sacrifice hundreds of people just for one girl I’d grown fond of.

In all honesty, this is the only video game I’ve played thus far that had me bawling like a baby at the end.  And I’ve played a lot of games in my lifetime.

My main disappointment was that the mystery of what happened to Rachel Amber felt like it was overshadowed by all the other dramas taking place within the game.  Given the extent that the plot revolves around her, I would have liked to see her in the flesh at some point in the story.  The revelation that she’d been killed sometime prior to the beginning of Life is Strange was even more of a letdown.

You might ask what inspired me to write this game review after so long.  News of a prequel game is what did it.  Hearing of a title called Life is Strange: Before the Storm that would go back in time and explore the friendship between Chloe and Rachel Amber definitely got me interested.

I look forward to seeing if the prequel game – set to be released August 31 — matches the emotional resonance of its predecessor.  It will be interesting to see how the story plays out without Max around to manipulate the time stream.  I strongly hope that the game lives up to its promise.

Time will tell – no pun intended.