“She seems warm and cuddly,” said the announcer introducing me at the writers’ workshop reading performance, “but Halleson definitely has a dark side….”  I laughed along with the small audience and proceeded to read my piece based on a newspaper headline Beloved Hairdresser found Strangled and Shot.

Can you see the creature hidden next to where you are standing?
Can you see the creature hidden next to where you are standing?

That short fiction assigned by our writing instructor was nothing compared to the piece on which I am working now. The idea for creating creatures, hidden from human view for centuries and giving them a reason to come forth now, in our time, and engage with humans throughout the world, came before this fiction writing workshop at The Clearing Folk School in Wisconsin. Being in the midst of the north woods of Door County with plenty of time to reflect on where I wanted to take this strange story cemented the desire to see it to completion. So I have begun.

This next novel will be neither fantasy nor science fiction. I, as an author, am too much of a realist for that. The odd characteristics of the roughly three-foot-high creatures introduced in this story are all found in nature and simply come together in a way that we have not seen anywhere else. The situation in which they find themselves is simply an awareness that many of us have, that we had better learn to live with Earth and stop destroying the only home that we will ever be given.

And so comes the dark side. I totally and utterly believe that there is something, a force,  a God if you will, upon which we can draw to find strength within ourselves: to survive, to accomplish, to do the right thing whatever that might be. There is no devil, no Satan, who plots evil. The evil that we see in the world comes from our own inability as an individual and as a species to relate to that higher power to discover the path to harmony among the diversity that will always exist among us. This is the human struggle and it will also be the struggle of the new fictional creatures who have decided to take action for their own sake. They know that their survival as a diminishing species depends completely on what humans do going forward.

How to approach writing such a novel without taking years to do so took some thought. The research involved is daunting. Suddenly, without warning, I was invited to join a well-established book group currently studying short stories. Generally, I run as far as possible from discussion groups because of my dreadful impatience for inane opinions, but caught in a weak moment I accepted.  This changed my entire writing life. We were studying the classic short stories which are different from short fiction, and I saw in them a means to accomplish writing my current novel.

Each chapter for this new book will be a stand-alone story that fits somewhere into the whole. I can create the chapters in any order I wish and release them as e-singles. When coming toward completion of the novel, I can arrange the singles appropriately, add vital transitional chapters and also the conclusion, and publish it as a novel.

The first story is almost finished, and may or may not be a reflection of what is to come. Only time will tell. When the title is chosen, I will let you know where to find it.

I’m excited.

RZH

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