Oct 08

CSI: The Seagull (part 1 of 3)

The acronym, CSI, usually stands for “crime scene investigation.” In the next three posts, I will coin a new meaning for CSI – context, subtext and intertextuality. In Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, action occurs offstage, relying on subtext to convey the dramatic action to the audience. Dictionary.com defines subtext as the true meaning of a literary work. YourDictionary.com adds a character’s feelings and motives. Wikipedia includes the “content beneath the dialogue.” Literaryterms.net builds on these explanations with examples and distinguishes four types of subtext. Since Chekhov made a name for himself with this literary device, I will use The Seagull by Anton Chekhov to demonstrate each type of subtext.

Privilege Subtext

With privilege, the audience knows more than the characters in the play. The audience’s privilege begins immediately in The Seagull at the introduction of the four protagonists and their relationships to each other. Arkadina, an accomplished actress, is mother to Constantine and lover to Trigorin, a famous writer. Constantine, an emerging and experimental writer, loves young Nina, feels inferior to his mother and her friends and competes artistically with Trigorin. Nina acts in Constantine’s modern play yet is quick to criticize his writing. She is also quick to fall in love with Trigorin, who longs for love and life more than he really wants it. Trigorin and Arkadina share their passion for art above anything and anyone.

Secondary characters add more complication, conflict and love triangles. As each character shares his or her passions and longings, the foundation for both tragic and comedic missteps is laid.  Masha, daughter of the estate manager, longs in silence for Constantine’s affection and spurns the school teacher’s marriage proposal.  Masha’s mother is in a secret affair with the doctor, physician to Sorin. Sorin, Arkadina’s brother, struggles with his health and slumps over in the final scene as if dead.

Revelation Subtext

The themes of a play make an opportunity for a big revelation at the end. The Seagull’s themes and characters from 1895 continue to be relevant over one hundred years later. During the performance, I identified with many of the characters. In fact, it would be difficult not to relate to at least one if not many of the characters.  Any writer, actor and artist will appreciate the themes of art and life. The deeper threads of theme tread on existentialism, meaning of life and existence. Chekhov portrayed characters of varying sensitivity and awareness. Death flirted with these characters.

Subtext through Promise

One aspect of the author’s promise is that characters change and symbols are fitting for the story. The most changed character in The Seagull is Nina. She begins the play describing herself as the carefree seagull drawn to the lake of her childhood. Nina’s future is uncertain because her father’s marriage leaves her without an inheritance. Trigorin shares his note for a writing idea about a young girl who is like a seagull; she falls in love with a famous writer, who uses and destroys her. If that is not enough foreshadowing, a gunshot fires off stage. Constantine appears and presents a dead Seagull to Nina. He says he will be dead like the seagull in Nina’s honor. Chekhov’s promise will be delivered; Nina and Constantine do not fare well in the play’s ending.

Subtext through Questions

A good plot inspires questions. For example, will Nina run away with Trigorin? How will Constantine and Arkadina react? Is the weather preparing the audience for a change?  How can Nina and Constantine recover?  Which character will die?

The Seagull was a new type of play for 1895, introducing subtext to the theatre. Did Chekhov write Constantine’s criticism as an extension of his own? Did he write his own insecurity as Constantine’s? Or was Trigorin the real Chekhov? Did he observe, write and never live? At these points in the play, Chekhov inserted himself (and every other playwright) into The Seagull. The new translation performed by the Michigan Shakespeare Festival made me an instant fan.

 

 

 

Oct 06

Writer’s Digest Annual Conference 2017 Part 2

Do you remember why you wanted to become a writer?

Lisa Scottoline, the awesome, informative, and funny keynote speaker at the conference, revealed her reason. As a pregnant trial attorney and soon-to-be divorcee, she wanted to stay home with her baby. Taking an extraordinary gamble, Scottoline left her firm and began to write legal thrillers in hopes of making a living as a writer. Surviving on loans and multiple credit cards, she continued to write despite numerous rejections until she finally sold one of her stories. Since then, she has written dozens of legal thrillers as well as some nonfiction books. She also co-authors books with her daughter.

One of her rejections came from an agent who said to her, “I don’t have time to talk to you.” Years later after her many successes, she was at a conference when that agent approached her. Scottoline’s response was, “I don’t have time to talk to you,” as she turned her back on him and walked away.

That response received lots of laughter and applause from the conference attendees.

Scottoline said, “Success now doesn’t prevent me from feeling inadequate as a writer.” That statement was a frequent comment from several of the presenters even after experiencing success as writers. Many writers lack confidence in their own talent.

She states that what prevents her writer’s block is a mortgage. She writes every day and some days are better than others.

Her advice includes the following:

  1. Write drunk. Edit sober.
  2. Live your life and use it for your stories.
  3. Be willing to say ‘No’ to someone who takes you away from your writing.
  4. Write your story regardless of genre; let someone else decide the category in which it belongs.

On Saturday, I attended “Banishing Doubt: What I Wish Someone Had Told Me about Being an Author” presented by Hank Phillippi Ryan. She said writers can’t get rid of their doubts. Several statements she made resonated with me.

  1. You must power through. If you don’t hit a wall, you’re not working hard enough.
  2. Set a goal that is doable. That success will give you confidence to repeat that goal.
  3. Tell yourself that you’re not a bad writer. You just had a bad day.
  4. Be careful of the internet. It sucks your time from writing.

I enjoyed the next session, Danny Gregory’s “Shut Your Monkey! How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Writing Done,” which was presented in an informative and humorous manner. He said the voice in your head is very negative. That voice warns you that writing is too hard and too risky. The voice in your head doesn’t like new things. Worry and fear belong to that voice. Tell yourself, “It’s not my voice.”

Gregory said the medulla in the brain is ready to control us and inject fear into us. It warns you, “Don’t eat that. Don’t wander beyond a certain point.” This keeps us alive and out of danger. Creative people are most susceptible to this fear. Gregory said to draw a monkey face to represent that fear. Then ignore that monkey when he wants you to procrastinate.

Try journaling to move negative dialogue with your monkey out of you head. List your successes and stop focusing on failures. Thomas Edison said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Windy Lynn Harris presented, “Crafting a Strong Short Story.” Harris said that a short story is about one person with a goal. A writer starts with an idea, gives her character a goal, and finds a conflict strong enough to drive the story. The pace is different from longer stories. Because stories are only 1,000 to 8,000 words in length, every word must count.

After taking time for lunch and to rest my overwhelmed brain, I attended the last session on Saturday, “Writing from the Senses and Creating Believable Fiction” by Lauren B. Davis. The writer’s job is not to tell, but to create emotions in the reader.

Davis said that emotions are expressed in five ways:

  1. Sensual reactions in our bodies (fast heartbeat, stomach churns)
  2. Sensual response outside our bodies (wind whipping through character’s hair)
  3. Experience of emotion coming as a vivid burst of awakening (mind’s image of a dog attack)
  4. Flashes of the future (imagining your child’s success)
  5. Sensual selectivity (If you’re in a good mood, you see things one way. If you’re in a bad mood, you’ll see things differently.)

On Sunday, Jane K. Cleland presented “The Art of Distraction: Using Red Herrings to Create Suspense.” Cleland has a short story published in the September/October 2017 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She mentioned that the magazine conducts a contest with a $1,000 prize if your story is published.

“Writers use red herrings to paint the innocent with powers of guilt,” she said. “The red herring also will allow guilt to go free.”

An example of a red herring is when we see the caretaker in the far-off cabin appears to be the killer on the loose. Also, a doctor is believed to be trustworthy except in your story, he is the killer.

“I Hear Voices: The Art of Craft of Distinctive Voice” by Heather Webb was the last session I attended. She said that the voice in a story isn’t necessarily the narrators’. An author’s rhythm is from word choice and word order comes from a writer’s beliefs.

Webb’s suggestions on how to find your voice include the following:

  1. Have confidence in yourself.
  2. Try free writing.
  3. Know your audience.
  4. Use mindful reading to discover what moves you.
  5. Speak differently to different people.

My experience at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference 2017 was everything I expected. Meeting professional and other amateur writers was exciting and fun. Many of us shared stories of our struggles and successes in writing. I look forward to attending another conference in the future.

Oct 05

Resident Evil: Tangled Web — Evolution of an Idea

My love of the written word is the one thing that rivals my love of video games. I have been reading and writing as far back as I can remember. While I have yet to get anything published, I have spent years honing my storytelling craft.

The majority of my writing has centered around fanfiction, which began when I wrote an extensive – but mediocre and nonsensical – series of stories based off the Nightmare on Elm Street films. I started these works of fiction just after the fifth movie was released and I made it up to part 21 before it fizzled.

My later stories, based off such mediums as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Transformers: Armada, and a lesser known horror film called Phantasm, improved my writing style by leaps and bounds. While I kept coming up with ideas – all-original stories I formulated or fanfiction based on film or TV franchises – I had neither the time or the motivation to put all those ideas on paper. What’s worse, I fell into a serious dry spell sometime between 2011 and 2014; a Transformers fanfiction piece called Sky Dancer I had been writing failed to get an ending as a result. That particular story is still begging for its last ten chapters.

Inspiration found me midway through 2014, but in a way that proved it can sometimes be a fickle creature. Sometime in August 2014, I joined a writing group called Deadwood Writers, and I started a story based off the Resident Evil game series. I had thought that being a part of this group would get me motivated to finish Sky Dancer, but it is possible I needed a change of pace after obsessing over my long-neglected story for several years.

I never intended to write a Resident Evil story despite being an avid fan of the video games. I didn’t have a plan when the idea for the Prologue came to me. I wrote the rough draft of my opening chapter for Tangled Web pretty quickly. I hadn’t even settled on a name for an original character who would serve as one of the leads and a romantic foil for Claire Redfield. I can’t recall why Elliott was the first name that popped into my head before I wrote it down at the end of the Prologue. I imagined I would change it at a later time. Nevertheless, it stuck.

A cover illustration I put together to go with the story. (photo credits at end)

The premise for Tangled Web was fairly straightforward – Claire had been abducted by Wesker, had been held captive for almost two years, and was having a baby when her brother finally found her. Much of the story is filling in what happened during those two years. But for the first few chapters, I was literally making up the narrative as I went along. This resulted in a few tangents that didn’t really have a place in the story. At one point, I planned for Claire’s cat to somehow mutate into a horrific monster. A friend advised me to keep it simple and get to the abduction scene as quick as possible, but a small part of the mutated feline setup still made its way into the story.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started to conceptualize the ending, but I gained more of a focus as I was writing the first act. Once I had figured out the basis of my climax, I had to go back and rewrite several of the early chapters. This led to the addition of a character known as RogueChild, a mysterious figure who sent Claire a vague email “warning” her of the upcoming kidnapping. I didn’t have a clear picture of RogueChild’s role in the story when I wrote the chapter where the character first appeared, let alone who RogueChild would turn out to be. Some of my early and downright ridiculous ideas were that RogueChild could be either Claire’s unborn child or Claire herself come back from the future. At one point, the character’s name was going to be The_Immortal_One instead of RogueChild.

When it came to the chapter where Wesker informs Claire she was exposed to a mutagenic virus, my initial idea was quite different. I had thought about having her be infected with the T-Veronica Virus even though I had seen that premise used in a number of other Resident Evil fanfictions. Inspiration struck again when I watched the anime film, Degeneration, and gave quite a lot of thought to it. It helped that I didn’t see any other works of fanfiction where someone was exposed to the G-Virus and immune to the negative effects. The idea of tackling an idea that had never been explored before was exciting and helped me figure out the exact direction to go with Tangled Web. A great portion of the storyline and the ending was built around this idea.

My next hurdle was hammering out exactly how Wesker would behave toward Claire and Elliott during their captivity. Before I determined the best way to spin it, the scene where Claire finds out she has rapid regeneration abilities played out quite differently:

Wesker stepped around the desk, tracing the surface with one gloved hand as he moved. Claire tensed at his approach. “I never would have dreamed that you, Chris’ little sister, would possess such a rare genome,” he said. “Unfortunately, studies of your DNA can only reveal so much. It doesn’t tell us if you reap any of the benefits of the virus. Specifically, rapid healing.”

Claire jerked spasmodically once Wesker’s words sank in. A protest was on her lips, but Wesker moved too fast. The combat knife that Jessica had been holding was in his hand, and he had Claire’s wrist in a viselike grip before the latter could even process it.

Elliott started to rise from his seat, but Raymond surged forward, forcing Elliott to stay put by pushing down on his shoulders. The blade was drawn swiftly across Claire’s outstretched arm in the same instant, eliciting a scream from her.

When Wesker released his hold on her wrist, Claire withdrew her arm, hot tears escaping her eyes. She pressed her other hand to the gash in an instinctive effort to staunch the blood flow. Elliott echoed the foremost thought on her mind. “You son of a bitch!” Elliott said. Claire looked over at her companion. Even though Raymond had let go of him, he didn’t seem inclined to get up.

Wesker passed the knife back to Jessica, who promptly sheathed it. He paid Elliott no heed, his gaze remaining on Claire. “My apologies for causing you harm, Miss Redfield,” Wesker said. If his voice hadn’t lacked inflection, she might have considered forgiving him. “But it was necessary. When you feel ready, allow us to see.”

Claire didn’t move her hand. “Go to hell,” she growled before she could stop herself.

Wesker’s hands half-curled into fists. “Do not test me, Miss Redfield. Your friend’s life depends on it.”

Claire closed her eyes. It took everything she had to calm herself. She slowly uncovered her wound, but couldn’t bring herself to look. The blood on her arm and hand was already feeling sticky and made her nauseous. The smug smile on Wesker’s face intensified the ill feeling.

Excella looked pleased as well. “Not even a scratch,” she said. “You are definitely going to be one of our best investments, dear.”

The above scene as initially written didn’t sit well with me. After several days, I determined that Claire would surely be broken if subjected to two years of this kind of torment. And Wesker’s actions contradicted something he stated in an earlier chapter. The revised scene set a far different tone for the story and was one I was much happier with:

Wesker stepped around the desk, tracing the surface with one gloved hand as he moved. Claire tensed at his approach. “I never would have dreamed that you, Chris’ little sister, would possess such a rare genome,” he said. “Unfortunately, studies of your DNA can only reveal so much. It doesn’t tell us if you reap any of the benefits of the virus. Specifically, rapid healing.”

Claire jerked spasmodically once Wesker’s words sank in. When she saw Jessica holding the knife out toward Wesker, Claire shook her head in a panic. “No!”

Elliott started to rise from his seat, but Raymond surged forward, forcing Elliott to stay put by pushing down on his shoulders. Meanwhile, Wesker cocked his head to one side, looking amused by his captives’ reactions. Though Wesker took the knife, he gave no indication that he would use it. “I thought you would know by now that I always keep my word, Miss Redfield. I stated in our initial meeting that I had no intention of physically harming you.” He rotated the knife so that the hilt was facing her. “I leave the choice in your hands. Just know that if you attempt to attack me or my colleagues, there will be serious consequences.” Wesker’s eyes flicked towards Elliott during this last statement to exemplify who would suffer the consequences.

Claire hesitantly took the knife. “And if I don’t heal immediately?” she asked.

“Then I shall see to it you get the necessary medical attention,” Wesker said smoothly.

Claire paused, wondering at the wisdom of playing with fire. “Will I still be useful to you, if this doesn’t go the way you hope?”

Wesker shifted his stance, looking almost bored. She had to wonder if he was being agreeable only to get her to comply. “I will consider sending you and Mr. Gregory back home if you lack any regenerative capabilities.”

Claire watched him in silence for several seconds before casting her gaze downward. She didn’t like the way he worded it, but even a slim chance was better than nothing.

“Claire, don’t,” Elliott said. She looked over at him briefly. Raymond’s grip on Elliott’s shoulders must have tightened; a wince crossed Elliott’s face.

“I have to,” she answered. Claire positioned the blade next to her forearm, her breath coming out in rapid puffs to prepare herself. Before she could lose her nerve, she drew the knife swiftly across her skin. The anticipation didn’t stop her from hissing in pain; seeing her blood welling from the gash made her nauseous. Don’t heal, she thought. Please don’t heal.

Against her will, the wound knitted itself together within seconds. Claire looked away, feeling sick when she realized Wesker was offering her a disinfectant wipe. “To wash away the blood,” he said as an explanation. The smug smile on his face intensified her ill feeling.

Excella looked pleased as well. “Not even a scratch,” she said. “You are definitely going to be one of our best investments, dear.”

As I continued to surge forward with Tangled Web, I began brainstorming the last eight to ten chapters. I eventually had the ending planned down to the last detail, save for one. The aspect that caused me trouble was related to how Wesker would be defeated at the end. I needed him to venture into the caves below his facility, but I couldn’t think of any logical reason why he would go there. Especially if his intent was to take Claire’s newborn child. I can’t go into detail without spoiling the climax of Tangled Web, but I came up with one wicked plot twist in October 2016 that would make the setup work.

If there is one thing I love about fiction stories, it is being surprised by something that you don’t see coming. Plot twists are my favorite thing to incorporate in my own writing. I have at least four or five in store for the final chapters of Tangled Web, all of which have been subtly hinted at throughout the narrative.

Though I have a clear vision of how the story plays out, I still have a good amount of deleted material for it – ranging from bits of dialogue that didn’t work to entire scenes that got cut. I have been saving the deleted material in a separate file, which is currently thirty pages. My plan is to share it with fans of the story once Tangled Web is completed.

I have also attempted to write a companion story to Tangled Web called Razor’s Edge, though I never made it past four chapters on that one. It would have addressed the same two years, but largely through the perspective of Claire’s older brother, Chris. Ironically, I have a detailed summary for how Razor’s Edge would have gone, but I couldn’t find time to work on both stories simultaneously. I haven’t decided whether I will continue writing the companion story or scrap it altogether.

I have one other thing planned. I would like to make Tangled Web the first book in a trilogy. I have some ideas on where to go with the potential sequels. There might even be a chance for Wesker and Claire to become an item. Even if the additional stories never pan out, I will still be happy with what I’ve written. Tangled Web has definitely been a challenge for me between writing a complex character like Wesker and having Claire and Elliott build a believable romance while being held prisoner. Even though one member of my writing group feels that I’m wasting my time writing fanfiction, I’m glad I was able to pull off this type of story.

 

photo credits:

https://ae01.alicdn.com/kf/HTB1Irn3SpXXXXbCXFXXq6xXFXXXf/8-10-Month-hot-selling-font-b-Silicone-b-font-Fake-font-b-Pregnant-b-font.jpg

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/aLunebGZhs4/hqdefault.jpg

https://t00.deviantart.net/9IiC3FV_m2i_U_nqDcywpt6Hh6Y=/fit-in/700×350/filters:fixed_height(100,100):origin()/pre00/fd03/th/pre/i/2015/247/2/b/re5_midnight_albert_wesker_by_captain_albertwesker-d47qypg.jpg

https://pre00.deviantart.net/1085/th/pre/f/2013/282/5/a/albert_wesker_and_jill_by_wolfshadow14081990-d6ptx87.jpg

http://nerdreactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Wesker.jpg

https://www.colourbox.com/preview/2580450-with-web-clipping-mask.jpg

Oct 01

Remembering Phil, great author and friend

We began a 20-year friendship that I hold dear inside my heart. We bonded over our love of writing. Phil was always the more dedicated author. He participated in several writer’s groups simultaneously. One time, he insisted that we should form a group that met at noon on a week day. His belief was that authors make sacrifices, and for the small group that we formed, taking time off of work was ours. I requested time off from my boss to make each meeting. Phil made the same requests, for which he gave permission to himself.

In those 20 years, he published The Freya Project, a technology thriller and Seoul Legacy: Orphan’s Flu, an international thriller involving our fears of North Korea, which Phil predicts much of the conflict we see today. That was Phil’s gift. He wrote about cultural settings that exist now and where could they evolve in the near future. If asked about the setting of his stories, Phil often said, “my stories are set five minutes into the future.” Phil did extensive research into his novels that enabled him to turn dense subject matter into compelling prose for a wide readership to get sucked into the drama.

Recently, I reminded Phil about when he asked me to be his publicist for promoting The Freya Project. My job was to get Phil into stores to give talks and sell his book. I did, and in the process I learned so much about the book promotion side of being an author. Phil was passionate about getting his novel out to the public. That 3 to 4-month experience prepared me for when my book came out this year. Everything I do now to prepare, I owe a deep gratitude to Phil.

His latest novel, “Broken String” yet to be publish, takes a compelling look at a family who struggles with the tough decisions around a woman who discovers joyous and tragic news: She’s pregnant and she has cancer. Phil worked on this book, while fighting his own battle. Each chapter that he shared at the Deadwood Writers Group received praise and debate around the layers of conflict faced by the family.

As part of the Deadwood Writers group, Phil drove over an hour from Troy to Northville once or twice a month. He almost always had a chapter or query letter to share for feedback. A Phil ism that the group adopted early on was: “a reader should be able to jump into the middle of a story, and know if the writing is good.” This wisdom, one of many gems, is an important guide to all writers.

Phil contributed a monthly story or article to the Deadwood Writers Voices, our blog. His current serial, The Crow story, will be thankfully continued by his son, Jack. There is more compelling prose to come.

Visit Phil’s writing on his website at http://www.philrosette.com, or  Amazon, or here at Deadwood Writers Voices.

Phil lives on through his stories.

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