Friday, September 14, 2012

Home of the North Wind


I just got back from an Alaskan cruise…well, I got home about a week ago. In fact, last Friday, I was in Skagway, which translates as ‘home of the North wind.’

It was windy there, especially by the dock where the Star Princess tied up. Cold, harsh, wind. But the sky was clear and the little town was charming once we got passed the typical cruise line expensive gemstone shops.

You find those in any port the cruise ships dock at. I’m pretty sure the cruise lines have some stake in these places, but like Aaron, the gentle guy who led the tour I took later that day basically said, “Merchants have always taken advantage of those who step off the ships this part of the world. It’s just part of the gig.”

And he is right. Skagway was the gateway to the Klondike gold rush and most of the money was made in town, from those passing through.

Living in California, I’m aware of gold rush history, but it’s different in Alaska. I think it’s because I grew up reading Jack London and fell in love with the struggle and beauty of living in Alaska. Gazing upward at the massive rocky sides that surround Skagway is humbling and to consider what it must have been like to know you had to get over those before you arrived at the gold fields? Man.

Now, I went on this cruise hoping for some renewal of my inner writer. Some story ideas, a sense of renewal to push me forward. In Skagway, I found something. I’m not sure what it was, really. I think it came from the tour of Jewell Gardens and Garden City Glassworks. And Aaron.

I got his jokes. I might have been the only one on the tour who did. When he said ‘ROUS’ in reference to the size of rhubarb that grew in the garden, I got it. (You don’t? Well, think Princess Bride and rodents of unusual size.) He wandered before us in the garden, talking about the plants, what they were good for, inviting us to touch them, taste them…then he turned us over to the glassblowers and I sat so close I could feel the heat off oven every time it was opened.

Several times I found myself walking next to Aaron. His wife worked as a tour guide at the Red Onion Saloon, in town. She gave tours of the renowned former brothel and this was the year the two of them were staying in Skagway for the winter instead of returning to Southern California once the cruise ship season was over.

I envied him. Oh, not the cold and the snow and all of that. But the sense of a tiny community, finding what entertainment they could, surrounded by an extremely hostile environment during a long winter. But oh! The simplicity! The low demanding holiday expectations! The hours of quiet…

Aaron made me think about a character I’d created for my dystopian urban fantasy. Dave, the barista. And a story I had in my head…Dave’s story, started to jell. They two look nothing alike, but the humor, the quiet intelligence, the desire for a simpler life…it started to fall into place.

I hadn’t planned on Dave’s story until I’d written book two, but I think it’s going to leapfrog ahead because it’s right there, dancing in the brain. Dave, the son of two phenomenally intelligent scientists, who rebels and wanders, working Renaissance Faires, organic gardens, playing tour guide at historical sites, dressing in costumes…working as a barista when nothing is available on the circuit. Until the world changes and his parents, who wanted to keep him safe, made sure he survived. But now he has to find his way to where they are, to ask why and demand answers…

At first, I thought I’d have him in Skagway and travel by foot to Yosemite, but later I thought… ‘that is a bit much.’ So, I moved him to Seattle. But I may decide Skagway is doable. I so want to include that little gem…

Am I writing? Not yet. I am brainstorming and making notes. Mom managed to end up in the ER while all of her kids were on the cruise. She’s back home and I’m here, with her, until she’s ready to be on her own. It’s hard to get beyond the day-to-day and work on the actual story, but I’m close…

I know we’ve chatted about stuck times the last few months, and getting it moving again. I believe I’ve found my nudge and thank god, it didn’t require I get a massive kick in the ass.

Skagway was good, cold, but good.

So, do I start this story in Skagway or Seattle? Thoughts? And I need a romantic interest for him…a lost love and an eventual discovery of new love…I was thinking a scientist, just to screw with him… Has travel ever pushed you that extra bit? Or meeting someone who just cried out to be included in a book?

16 comments:

Janga said...

Oh, I love the sound of Dave, Maureen! The cruise sounds wonderful, and I'm so glad it served to inspire your writing. A cruise is much better than a kick. :)

People watching almost always gives me ideas for stories. I found this to be true when I observed students in my classroom, medical professionals in the hospital, and customers in a restaurant. Part of the fun of the process is seeing how all the pieces come together to make a story.

MsHellion said...

I love it when trips or events influence writing! Technically I suppose everything influences writing, but I think being out with other people, doing something you don't normally do just snowballs the effect. :)

I think Skagway isn't that farfetched. A nice place to hide...and then ironically he's forced to come out of hiding!

I don't know if I meet many people who I think, "They must go in my book" but I definitely have conversations that I go, "I want to write this down so I can put it in a book." And I have hte occasional thing jotted. But I'm a dialogue lover more than a people lover. :)

Maureen said...

Morning, Janga! The thing is, I'm not much of a people watcher, generally. In fact, I'm mostly oblivious to how my surroundings can meld into my writing.

I'm not sure if I just don't pay that much attention usually, or what the story is. Seeing Aaron and finding Dave's story behind his eyes wasn't usual for me at all.

I do tend to observe behavior...I don't know!

But Skagway was different. Perhaps the ghost of Jack London wandered that street...

Maureen said...

Hellion - I can see you scratching down lovely bits of dialogue while you travel. Overheard snippets and the like...

With Aaron, I had a character that I liked, but hadn't considered really fleshing him out...and then...there he was, in the flesh and I knew I needed to figure this out!

I need to find a good way to figure out what is humanly possible when it comes to travel from Skagway to Central California... I could always have him find a sail boat and do some of it on the water...

TerriOsburn said...

His love interest must be a hippie free spirit! Freer than he is. Or else you have to go to the other extreme and make her very OCD/scientists almost Bones like. But not that annoying. :)

I've heard Alaska is so gorgeous. I'd only go for the 15 minutes they have moderate temps, but I still enjoy the pictures. So happy to hear this trip got the creative juices flowing.

I'm not a very good people watcher. I tend to watch and dismiss. Or get irritated by a parent ignoring a child. I think I judge and assume and then forget them. I'm more likely to get ideas from something I read. A newspaper article can send my mind off on a story.

I'd say start him in Seattle if you want him to get there by foot, but then a road trip story across Canada with a high strung scientist in tow might be interesting.

Maureen said...

He probably won't meet his new love interest until he's settled in the Yosemite area... This story has to be a two parter. One book, two parts...the before the world changed and then the after the events in books one and two... Not sure how I'm going to do it...otherwise he could be with her during the events of books one and two, but she makes no appearance...

I do find conversations around me a bit annoying. Heard all about this girl's trip to Europe the other day...she had no lower volume with her voice. "...and then! and then! ...you know? ...you know?" I wasn't even sitting that close to her.

TerriOsburn said...

I hate those loud conversations. They're usually saying stuff that makes me want to smack them. LOL!

So he could meet her in the park. Maybe she studies bugs and all the species that are specific to Yosemite.

Maureen said...

I want her to admire his parents as gods...idealize them to such a degree, he wants nothing to do with her. She's gonna grow to realize they weren't perfect, in fact they were terrible parents...through distracted neglect.

She'll grow to understand why he feels the way he feels and she'll help him forgive them...

Maureen said...

Yeah, this girl was terribly annoying. She wasn't trying to get the attention of everyone in the room, she just had no lower volume setting. And she had a voice that carried...

Part of me wanted to glare at her, but she wasn't sitting back, making sure everyone heard her...she was leaning forward, addressing her friend...and we all heard everything.

P. Kirby said...

There were points during my trip to New Zealand where I thought, oh, boy, this place just begs to be the setting for a story. Loved it. Would move there if I could.

But...oddly, I really like writing in my own stomping grounds. I piss and moan about the desert and New Mexico, but it's tempered with fondness. I've noticed that my voice is stronger when the story is set in a place I know well. Probably because I'm not in gah-gah tourist mode, but instead writing from the POV of someone who lives there, knows the place up and down, the good and ugly.

I'm totally a people watcher, although my interest usually lies more with situation and dialogue than the actual person.

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

I've always wanted to take a trip to Alaska so I was so excited to follow along with your pics!

The story and character coming to you this way is fantastic and I'm sure will help fuel real passion into the project. You'll have so much of your own personal senses to pull from. Love it!

Marnee Bailey said...

Dave sounds like a lot of fun, Mo! I think you should follow the muse. If that's what the muse wants you to write next, then you should do what the muse says. (Say Marnee, slave to following the bliss.)

I felt inspired after I was on vacation, that's for sure. SOmething about sitting around, doing my best impression of a vegetable, just gets the brain going. :)

Maureen said...

Pat, I pretty much always end up in California with my books. It's easier to write what I know. Aaron was a native of CA, so if felt natural to observe him.

Maureen said...

Scape, my photos are wonderful! Alaska is an awesome place to visit and I do like setting stuff in the great outdoors and it's hard to find more outdoors then in Alaska!

Maureen said...

Yeah, Marn. Dave is coming first. And who knows, maybe it will work put that it needs to be that way. I could surprise myself...

TerriOsburn said...

I have to write in a place that I know. Or rather, base my fictional towns on places that I know. Have to at least been there. But Pat is right, there are regionalisms and quirks about a place you can only learn from living there. Or maybe knowing someone who lives there and is willing to be interrogated on a regular basis.